To ensure full cooperation between Upper Nile State authorities and UNMIS in conducting Southern Sudan's upcoming referendum, representatives of the two bodies met in Malakal on 7 July.
[Scheduled for 9 January 2011, the referendum will determine whether Southern Sudan continues its unity with the north or secedes.]
Speaking to participants, Melut County Commissioner Akuol Teng Diing stressed the importance of good cooperation between UNMIS and county authorities in preparing for the vote at the county level.
UNMIS Malakal Administrative Officer Thadeus Boyle said the mission would need support in setting up referendum offices. "UNMIS is asking for full support from the county authorities to identify and set up referendum locations in each county."
Out of 64 locations the mission had already identified in the entire south, some 28 were in Upper Nile, noted UNMIS Engineer Oluwadare Taylor-Pearce. "But this number is still expected to grow."
UNMIS Malakal Acting Head of Office Alfred Zulu said UNMIS would assist by sending staff to each county to identify people as referendum officers for voter registration. "UNMIS staff will also assist in referendum civic and voter education."
Highlighting the importance of Radio Miraya for the referendum, Renk County Commissioner Deng Akuei noted that roads linking different areas may be inaccessible in preparing for the vote.
"But almost everybody in South Sudan has radio, so UNMIS can spread the referendum civic and voter education through Miraya radio. It would be useful if UNMIS could build radio relay stations in each county in South Sudan," Commissioner Akuei said.
Welcoming UNMIS staff in his county, Balliet County Commissioner Joseph Maker Diing said, "We will ensure the security of UNMIS staff who will be deployed to our county. You (UNMIS) are doing an important thing for the benefit of South Sudan people, so we will support you."
Maiwut County Commissioner Galuak Liphoth said his area may have no buildings available for the referendum office. "But we have land where you can build a building there ... we will give the land in any location that you want."
The meeting ended with a commitment between UNMIS and county authorities to have close and direct interaction in the near future and they begin to prepare for the referendum.
Attending the event were the 14 commissioners of Ulang, Nasir, Balliet, Manyo, Panyikang, Maban, Fashoda, Akobo, Longechuk, Melut, Akoka, Maiwut, Renk and Malakal counties.