9 January 2011 – The historic Southern Sudan self-determination referendum was proceeding smoothly so far, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) in Sudan Haile Menkerios said today in the Eastern Equatoria capital of Torit.
Visiting the area to tour polling centres and meet with Governor Louis Lobong, the SRSG began by speaking with voters and polling centre staff at the Torit Day Secondary School and Torit County Headquarters.
"So far so good," said Mr. Menkerios. "The process is going on well and peacefully, the security is good."
The SRSG was accompanied by UNMIS Regional Coordinator David Gressly and a contingent of international journalists.
The Eastern Equatoria capital has a special significance for many southern voters, as Sudan's first civil war dates back to a mutiny staged there by Southern Sudanese soldiers assigned to the Equatorial Corps in August 1955 just months before the end of British colonial rule.
Torit County commissioner Felix Otuduha said that voting in all 358 polling centers had started on schedule at 8 a.m. No reports of irregularities that marred the April 2010 general elections had been reported as of Sunday afternoon.
About 700 people had cast their ballots at Torit Day Secondary School polling centre by mid-afternoon. The centre's chairman, Gilbert Afam Folajo, expressed confidence that the 2,109 voters assigned to the school would exercise their franchise before the final day of balloting scheduled for Saturday, 15 January.
Governor Lobong, who met with the SRSG for 30 minutes, reported earlier in the day that turnout was also running high in the rest of the state's counties. A total of 46,274 residents of Eastern Equatoria registered to vote in the referendum.
"I cannot express the happiness I am feeling," said Leandro Modi Lomoro, a 64-year-old retired health care employee after he cast his ballot at the secondary school voting station. "Today is the first day for the people of Southern Sudan."
Mr. Menkerios commended the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and its Juba-based bureau for organizing an orderly and incident-free voting process.
The SRSG doubted that any of the handful of armed clashes that occurred in Unity State and the disputed Abyei region during the final run-up to Sunday's voting would have an adverse impact on the overall referendum process.
"The UN will continue to monitor the process and will try to help where necessary, especially in assisting the police in the provision of security," he said.
The SRSG is scheduled to visit Western Bahr El-Ghazal, Northern Bahr El-Ghazal and Unity states on Tuesday.