16 January 2011 - The UN panel monitoring the Southern Sudan self-determination referendum expressed today its satisfaction that the process had allowed the people of the region to freely express their will.
Welcoming yesterday's conclusion of referendum polling, the UN Secretary-General's Panel on the Referenda congratulated in a statement the people of Sudan who made the vote possible, on schedule and peaceful.
Much credit went to the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) and the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB), which overcame serious time and resource constraints, said the panel, which operates completely independent of the UN Mission in Sudan.
Moreover, the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) summoned the courage and political commitment required to ensure that the peace process they embarked upon would be fulfilled by having the referendum take place as stipulated in the Agreement. They are to be commended for this achievement, the statement said.
During the week of polling, the panel's three members visited referendum centres in eight states, and panel staff monitored the process in all southern states and across the north. The presence of over 22,000 Sudanese and international observers helped make the process transparent, according to the statement. Staff at referendum centres coped admirably with the very high turnout.
The panel expressed its satisfaction with the process based on its observations, those of its staff in the field and from accounts conveyed by various interlocutors in Sudan.
The process of transmitting results from nearly 3,000 referendum centres to county and state levels, and then to Juba and/or Khartoum, has started, but it will be some weeks before the final, official results are known. While the Sudanese would want to know the outcome of the referendum quickly, the panel urged the people of Sudan to be patient and be aware that only results announced by the referendum authorities would be official.
The panel urged government authorities and the SSRC to make every effort to ensure that all citizens were kept well-informed of progress towards the final results. It called on the media and political forces to report on progress in a responsible manner.
The panel also stressed the importance of the protection of civilians in weeks ahead. Southerners living in the north and northerners living in the south must be able to go about their daily lives in safety and dignity. The panel called on all sides to play their part to ensure the security of the population.
The panel has the task of monitoring the processes for two referenda -- one on the status of Southern Sudan, and one on the status of the Abyei Area. It is not in place to run the referenda, serve as an observer mission or certify the results.
The panel is playing a good offices role on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to strengthen confidence in the Sudanese-led referenda process, and to encourage the parties and relevant authorities to resolve any significant problems or disputes as they emerge.
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.
The panel is comprised of 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.