23 December 2010 – As the Southern Sudan self-determination referendum rapidly approaches, the Upper Nile State Referendum High Committee and UNMIS completed a two-day training on polling and counting today in Malakal.
A training-of-trainers exercise, the activity was attended by 46 participants from the state's 13 counties, who will go to their respective areas to share information they have learned with their colleagues.
"You must be impartial and not intimidate anybody during the polling and counting," State Minister for Information and Communication Peter Lam Both told the gathering during yesterday's opening ceremony in the state capital.
"Your responsibility is to allow room for those who are registered to vote," the minister added. "We need the referendum to be free, fair and transparent."
Also attending were Malakal County Commissioner Chougi Abaj Ajang and State Referendum High Committee Acting Chairperson James Daniel Chuang.
Commissioner Ajang noted that commissioners' duties were to provide a conducive environment for voters. "We shall provide transport means for the people who are living far from the voting centers."
Committee Acting Chairperson Chuang said the registration process in Upper Nile State had been peaceful, with no registration centers recording objections to the preliminary voter register.
Between 10 and 17 December, all registration centers in Southern Sudan were expected to display a preliminary register for registered voters to examine. Voters could then report errors or object to the inclusion of people failing to meet voter eligibility criteria to their state high committees.
Training participant Sebit Akukwan from Malakal County said he was now aware of the polling process and ways in which to relate to voters during the seven-day polling period.
In closing remarks, Mr. Chuang urged participants to implement what they had learned in their counties. "If you have any doubt about the Referendum Act please ask somebody else so as to avoid chaos."
Southern Sudanese are expected to go to the polls on 9 January 2011 to vote for continued unity with the north or separation.