16 November 2010 – The atmosphere prevailing throughout Sudan's 10 southern states on the first day of voter registration for the region's January 2011 referendum was"orderly and peaceful", according to a top southern official.
Speaking at a press conference today in Juba, Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB) Chairperson Justice Chan Reec Madut said that "more than 95 per cent" of the region's 2,630 registration centres had already started operations, and pronounced the referendum process to be "on track".
"You may have seen the jubilation that attended yesterday's registration in Juba," said Mr. Madut. "After that I traveled to Torit, and the whole town was out dancing and singing in the street."
He acknowledged that long queues had formed outside many registration centres in Juba on Monday morning and promised to recruit more staff to accelerate the pace at facilities located in major southern cities.
Mr. Madut, who also serves as deputy chairperson of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, told reporters that registration had opened in all eight foreign countries where Southern Sudanese expatriates were authorized to vote in next year's referendum except Egypt.
In contrast to the high turnout seen in Juba and Torit on Monday, Mr. Madut said the number of eligible Southern Sudanese who went to registration centres in North Sudan had been "very low". He declined to speculate on the reasons behind that trend.
The bureau had not yet received any preliminary figures on the total number of voters who registered across Southern Sudan on Monday. SSRB member Achier Deng Akol said he had received reports indicating that 5,000 voters had already registered in the Central Equatoria State county of Yei alone.
Mr. Akol said there were no plans to extend the registration period for the relative handful of centres that did not open on Monday as scheduled.
Mr. Madut noted that some registration center staff had not yet been paid and did not receive any water supplies on Monday.
"We were quite surprised because money had been sent to the state referendum high committees for that purpose," he said. "There is no excuse why people have not been paid, and if the (high committee) chairpersons are sitting on the money or doing something else with it, we need to find out."