Secretary-General’s Panel encourages Southern Sudanese to register to vote as key phase begins
The United Nations Secretary-General’s panel tasked with monitoring the upcoming referenda on self-determination in Sudan today visited voter registration sites as the critical registration phase kicked off around the country.
Voter registration began this morning at nearly 3,000 sites across Sudan for the referendum scheduled for 9 January next year on whether Southern Sudan should secede from the rest of the country or remain united with it. Registration also began or is due to start in eight other countries with significant Sudanese populations.
The Panel visited several voter registration sites near the capital, Khartoum, after meeting with some of the thousands of Southern Sudanese living at the Mayo (Mandela) camp on the outskirts of the city.
"We saw that, so far, the number of people who have registered is extremely small. Hopefully that will change in the days ahead,” said Benjamin Mkapa, the chair of the Panel.
"But we know from our staff in the field that people have been turning out in large numbers across the south today to register, and that is very welcome. We are also pleased that the registration phase has begun on time.
"We hope that Southern Sudanese, whether they live in the north or the south, will have the opportunity to register so they can take part in the vote on 9 January. We will continue to monitor developments on the ground and later this week we will visit more voter registration centres around the country."
The Panel is playing a good offices role on behalf of UN 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.
The Panel’s first visit to Sudan took place last month. It is monitoring two referenda processes: one on Southern Sudan, and one in which the people of the Abyei Area will vote to remain in the north or become part of the south.
Aside from President Mkapa, a former President of Tanzania, 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. President Mkapa and Mr. Pokharel arrived in Sudan at the weekend and Ambassador Monteiro will join them later this week.