SG panel welcomes referendum announcement

8 Feb 2011

SG panel welcomes referendum announcement

7 February 2011 - The UN Secretary-General's panel monitoring Sudan's referenda welcomed today's official announcement on final results of Southern Sudan's referendum, which showed that an overwhelming majority of voters had opted for secession.

The referendum's outcome reflected the free will of the people of Southern Sudan in a process that as a whole was free, fair and credible, meeting assessment criteria in the Southern Sudan Referendum Act, the panel said in a statement.

"This includes an appropriate environment and security conditions for the free exercise of the right to self-determination," the monitoring body said. "It also includes freedom of expression, the participation of domestic and international observers, freedom of assembly and movement, and voter education about the process."

The panel also noted a high degree of transparency in the referendum process and that civil society organizations were able to participate extensively. The tone of both the media coverage and public statements from senior

government officials also improved as the voting phase neared.

Despite political uncertainty and some security incidents during the referendum period, and sometimes inadequate efforts to inform voters about their rights and options, the panel concluded that voters were able to express their will freely.

It commended parties to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement - the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - for "demonstrating the courage and political commitment so that a key milestone in the peace process has been reached".

The monitoring body noted, however, that the parties' work would continue, calling on them to build on the constructive relationship they had developed to quickly reach lasting agreement on post-referendum arrangements.

The panel regretted that the referendum on the status of the Abyei Area, which was to be held simultaneously with the Southern Sudan referendum – had been delayed.

"A referendum commission (for Abyei) is yet to be established and there is still no agreement on who would be eligible to vote," the statement said. "The period has also been marked by deadly clashes in the area, which have only further complicated the situation."

Urging the CPA parties to seek a solution to Abyei as soon as possible, the panel called on the people of the area to display patience and tolerance as they waited for a resolution.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon formed the panel after the CPA parties requested a UN monitoring body to help enhance the credibility of the referenda and therefore ensure acceptance of their results.

Members of the monitoring body include Chairperson Benjamin Mkapa, a former President of Tanzania; António Monteiro, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal; and Bhojraj Pokharel, a former Chairman of the Election Commission of Nepal.