A town hall meeting sponsored by the Upper Nile State Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and the state's High Committee for elections was held in Melut County for representatives of political parties and civil society on 12 March.
Opened by County Commissioner Thon Jauth Boll, the meeting was organized to address various issues relating to the upcoming general election in April. It drew 30 participants from four political parties operating in the Upper Nile state counties of Maban and Melut.
The meeting received support from UNMIS, the UN Development Programme and the International Organization for Migration.
"We expect this meeting to be a successful one because all political parties and civil society representatives from Melut and Maiwut are participating," said Upper Nile State Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Buruach Uluch Akolaton. "The participants will take the message of (no) violence during the election and pass it on to their people."
Topics of discussion included the role of the state's Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, basic principles of democratic transformation, the promotion of a peaceful electoral process and the guaranteeing of voters' rights.
"People should have a positive attitude towards the elections because it is everybody's responsibility to make them successful," said UNMIS Civil Affairs Officer Abdulrahman Kamara. "It is important that UNMIS supports the election implementation so that the election in Sudan will be conducted in a free and fair manner."
Thabo Abosh Ajang of the Upper Nile State High Committee for elections told participants that voters in Southern Sudan would be issued a dozen voting cards that would be deposited in four separate boxes.
"Each box is proposed for three voting cards," said Ms. Ajang. "The first box is for President of the Sudan, President of Southern Sudan, and state governor. The second box is for national geographical constituencies, women's list and party list. The third box is for Southern Sudan geographical constituencies, women's list and party list. The last one is for state geographical constituencies, women's list and party list."
Responding to a question from the floor, Ms. Ajang assured participants that disabled voters would be allowed to cast ballots with help from their family members.
Similar town hall meetings will be held later this month in the Upper Nile State counties of Renk and Nasir counties, with the expectation that political party representatives will subsequently convey to their supporters the importance of fostering a peaceful atmosphere throughout the three days of balloting scheduled for next month.