8 November 2010 – The Southern Sudan referendum's media campaign was officially opened at public events in Khartoum and Juba yesterday.
Speaking at the Juba event, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission's (SSRC) deputy chairperson Justice Chan Reec Madut hailed the start of the two-month-long media campaign as "another historic day in our move towards the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement" and promised to do everything possible to ensure that the conduct of the long-awaited vote in January 2011 is "free, fair and transparent."
Flanked by the Government of Southern Sudan's Minister of Information Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin and Eamon O'Mordha of the United Nations Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division (UNIRED), Mr. Madut described the ground rules for the upcoming media campaign as simple.
"There should no incitement, there should be freedom of expression," he said. "We are to ensure equal opportunity for all political parties to express their opinions about the two options (of unity with or separation from the rest of Sudan)."
Mr. Madut also serves as chairperson of the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau, and he thanked the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems for providing the bureau with a Cessna Caravan 200B airplane to facilitate movement around the country's ten southern states.
He expressed his gratitude to UNMIS for the ongoing logistical support it is providing to the voter registration process, which is scheduled to start on 15 November.
"At this point in time, some areas are inaccessible because of the rains," he said. "But our friends at UNMIS have promised us to help in transporting registration materials to those areas which are inaccessible by road."
Dr. Benjamin echoed the pledge of the referendum bureau's chairperson to guarantee freedom of expression for all points of view during the upcoming media campaign.
"The Government of Southern Sudan would like to see a referendum that is credible, a referendum that is recognized by the international community, by the members of the region, by our partners in Khartoum and a referendum that we will equally recognize as a government," he said.
Mr. O'Mordha recounted the progress made thus far to prepare Southern Sudan for the beginning of voter registration next week. Registration materials have been distributed to the region's ten states, recruitment of registration staff has been nearly completed and registration centres have been identified.