23 August 2010 – Members of the 10 state referendum high committees that will help organize the historic January 2011 referendum in Southern Sudan were sworn in today in Juba in the presence of Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) Chairperson Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil.
Dignitaries attending the ceremony included Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan Haile Menkerios, members of the resident diplomatic corps, and representatives of UN agencies as well as various international organizations.
Consisting of five members each, the state-level high committees will be responsible for appointing subsidiary bodies at the state and county levels and overall administration of the referendum process.
"We are facing a historic task which is very complicated and very difficult," said SSRC Chairperson Khalil. "We need to devote all our energies and approach it with open minds and in good spirit."
Mr. Menkerios assured the assembled referendum officials and invited guests that the SSRC and its state-level committees would enjoy the full support of the United Nations.
"This is the beginning of the final stage in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Southern Sudan and Abyei," he noted. "We have a full mandate from the UN Security Council to support the efforts of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and that of Abyei, once it is formed, to fully carry out the conduct of the referenda in a free, fare and transparent manner."
Preparations for the referenda, which will determine whether Southern Sudan remains united with the north or separates and if Abyei wishes to be a part of north or south, are well behind schedule. Voter registration should have taken place in July of this year and the materials for that exercise have not yet been approved.
The SSRC chairperson urged the newly installed state high committee members to take their responsibilities seriously.
"On your shoulders rests the bulk of the work," said Mr. Khalil. "This is a milestone in the process, and you are responsible for your state and the subsidiary committees that you will have to appoint."
A two-day workshop for committee members that was held prior to the swearing-in ceremony discussed referendum activities, international organizations, lessons learned from the general elections of last April and anticipated challenges associated with the upcoming vote.