Sudan's elections face big challenges, says UNMIS

17 Aug 2009

Sudan's elections face big challenges, says UNMIS

The National Elections Commission (NEC) faced tremendous challenges in organizing Sudan's first multi-party elections in more than 20 years, UNMIS Chief Electoral Affairs Officer Ray Kennedy said on 5 August.

Speaking at a Khartoum press conference, Mr. Kennedy said these challenges included the size and physical landscape of the country as well as weak infrastructure in large parts of it.

He also pointed to the challenges of organizing elections for six offices at the same time as well as time pressures the NEC was under, with the election law being passed two and a half years late and establishment of the NEC itself taking far longer than envisioned.

"The success of these elections will require the combined efforts of the NEC, the United Nations system, and the broader international community, but more importantly, it will rely on the Sudanese people themselves, who in the long run will determine if this is a peaceful and acceptable process."

To support the poll, UNMIS had over 100 staff on the ground, with teams in Khartoum, El Fasher, and each of the 10 states of Southern Sudan, Mr. Kennedy said. "By late September, we plan to have election support teams in each state in the north as well, as we respond to the NEC's request for support in all 25 states."

The mission was advising on the development of operational and logistical plans and procedures for voter registration, nominations, polling, counting, and the tabulation and announcement of results, the election officer said.

Based on a request from NEC to assist with logistics, UNMIS had asked for additional helicopters to help move registration materials, voter education materials, ballots, and ballot boxes around the country. "According to our calculations, we could be asked to assist with the transportation of 7.5 million kilograms of election material," Mr. Kennedy said.

The mission was also working with election observation organizations to ensure that international observers monitored the poll, and with civil society groups to ensure citizens had at least a basic understanding of the complex process.

UNMIS and UNAMID were working with the police to develop and implement training programmes on election security, Mr. Kennedy added. The UN Development Programme was managing funds from donor countries and purchasing materials required for voter registration and the elections.