19 December – A top UNMIS official pronounced the mission to be technically and logistically ready for the referendum scheduled to begin on 9 January 2011 during a two-day visit to Western and Northern Bahr El-Ghazal states that ended today.
"We are prepared to support the process to be held as of 9 January," said Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) Jasbir Singh Lidder. "There is no reason to believe it would be delayed."
Mr. Lidder was heading an UNMIS delegation which met with government officials and senior officers of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
UNMIS Wau area coordinator Ibrahima Ndiaye described the visit as a fact-finding mission aimed at getting updated information on security conditions in the vicinity ahead of next month's referendum.
Delegation members also visited sites of recent aerial bombardments near Kiir Adhan and Timsaha that were allegedly committed by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) aircraft. (SAF officials have denied the accusations.)
The DSRSG met with Aweil North County Commissioner Kuol Athui Hal, who said that about 1,500 people had fled the Kiir Adhan area and taken refuge in the county seat of Gok Machar after last month's bombings.
Mr. Hal said one child died and another eight people were wounded during the air attacks. "At this time, people (have gone) back to their area, and things are quiet and peaceful following the deployment of SPLA forces."
The November bombardments targeted a bridge spanning the Kiir River. Mr. Lidder urged SPLA commanders assigned to the contested border area to continue exercising restraint to ensure that the long-awaited referendum on self-determination went forward on schedule.
The DSRSG also met with Northern Bahr El Ghazal Governor Paul Malong Awan in the state capital of Aweil and discussed ongoing initiatives to promote peace and reconciliation among various communities living along the border between North and Southern Sudan.
Mr. Lidder also visited SPLA command post headquarters in the Western Bahr El-Ghazal community of Timsaha, which has been bombed on at least four separate days since the start of this month.
He reminded SPLA officers about their responsibility to guarantee unhindered movement of UNMIS military observers to remote corners of Southern Sudan.
"We are here by the invitation of both parties to the CPA to assist in the implementation of the peace process peacefully and on time," the DSRSG said. "We need you to let our staff move freely and to provide security."
Mr. Lidder noted that the location of Timsaha is indisputably located in Southern Sudan, in contrast to the Kiir Adhan area which is claimed by both Khartoum and Juba.
"These bombings are well inside (the south), and both sides have been told to curtail it," he said.
Acknowledging that UNMIS had not maintained much of a physical presence in the vicinity of the bombing sites, the DSRSG said the mission was planning to carry out a more permanent physical deployment in the near future.