Secretary-General’s Panel arrives in Sudan on eve of voting in Southern Sudan referendum
Members of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Panel tasked with monitoring the upcoming referenda on self-determination in Sudan have arrived in Khartoum to begin a critical visit on the eve of voting in the referendum on the future of Southern Sudan.
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. 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,” said Benjamin Mkapa, the chair of the Panel and a former President of Tanzania, upon his arrival in Khartoum this evening.
“We urge everyone who has registered for the referendum to vote so that the will of the people can 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 the United States.
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. 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 one 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 it 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 the 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.