UN Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referenda in the Sudan concludes first visit
The two referenda on self-determination in Sudan can still take place on schedule by 9 January, but only if all parties immediately step up their efforts to ensure there is a credible vote, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referenda in the Sudan said today as it concluded its first visit to the country.
The three-member panel travelled to Khartoum and Juba during their five-day visit, meeting with President Omar al-Bashir of the Government of Sudan, President Salva Kiir of the Government of Southern Sudan, as well as senior officials from both governments, members of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and Bureau, the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the Abyei Administration, the UN, the diplomatic corps, observer groups and civil society representatives.
The panel’s chair Benjamin Mkapa said that while he welcomed the assurances given by the parties to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement of their commitment to the referenda process, he was deeply concerned about the lack of progress on several fronts, less than three months before Sudanese are due to vote.
Voter registration is yet to begin and the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and Bureau urgently need money to hire and train staff and pay for basic equipment and materials.
Mr. Mkapa called on the Government of Sudan and the Government of Southern Sudan to provide funds so that the commission and bureau can carry out their work.
He also expressed deep concern about the situation in Abyei, where a referendum commission is yet to be formed.
Abyei is “crucial for peace and stability in Sudan. The situation on the ground there is reported to be very tense. We are aware of the ongoing efforts of the parties to find an acceptable solution. Another round of talks is taking place later this month. It is vital that they succeed.”
The panel has the task of playing a good offices role to help ensure the successful conduct of two referenda slated for 9 January 2011: one in which the people of Southern Sudan will vote for either unity or secession, and another in which the people of the Abyei area will vote to remain in the north or become part of the south.
Mr. Mkapa stressed that the panel is not in place to run the referenda, serve as an observer mission or certify the results.
“This is a Sudanese-owned process, and the primary responsibility for ensuring that the referenda are credible lies with the Sudanese themselves.”
Mr. Mkapa, former Tanzanian President, is joined on the panel by António Monteiro, former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Portugal, and Bhojraj Pokharel, former Chairman of the Nepalese Election Commission. Their next visit to Sudan is expected to take place in November.