5 January 2011 - Members of the UN Secretary-General's panel tasked with monitoring Southern Sudan's upcoming referenda on self-determination arrived in Khartoum today to begin a critical visit on the eve of voting.
The three-member panel will travel around the country this month as they monitor the polling, counting and aggregation of results phases of the referendum. They will also meet with key stakeholders, including senior officials from the Government of Sudan, the Government of Southern Sudan, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, international and domestic observer groups, the diplomatic community and others.
"We are on the eve of a historic moment for the people of Southern Sudan," said Benjamin Mkapa, the panel's chair and a former president of Tanzania, upon his arrival in Khartoum this evening. "This vote is the culmination of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which brought an end to a conflict that caused so much misery and cost so many lives."
Mr. Mkapa urged all who had registered for the referendum to vote, so that the will of the people could be expressed. "We hope that the voting will be peaceful and orderly and we call on voters to be patient if the queues are long or if there are logistical challenges."
Voting begins on 9 January and is scheduled to continue until 15 January. It will take place in both northern and southern Sudan and in eight other countries with significant diaspora populations -- Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the United Kingdom and United States.
The panel, which operates completely independent of the UN Mission in Sudan, is playing a good offices role on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to strengthen confidence in the Sudanese-led referenda process, and encourage the parties and relevant authorities to resolve any significant problems or disputes as they emerge. This will be its fourth visit to Sudan since October.
The panel has the task of monitoring the processes for two referenda -- one on the status of Southern Sudan, and another on the status of the Abyei Area. In its previous statements the Panel has noted that it has grave concerns about the situation in Abyei, and has urged the communities to resolve their problems peacefully.
Mr. Ban formed the panel after the parties to Sudan's CPA requested a UN monitoring body to help enhance the credibility of the referenda and therefore ensure the acceptance of their result by the people of Sudan and international community.
Aside from President Mkapa, the panel's members are António Monteiro, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, and Bhojraj Pokharel, a former Chairman of the Election Commission of Nepal.