By Julius N. Uma & Bonifacio Taban Kuich
December 14, 2010 (JUBA) - A total of 3,275,577 people, representing 96% of eligible voters have registered in Southern Sudan ahead of the region’s independence referendum on January 9, according to officials from the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB).
- Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau officials, headed by Justice Chan Reec Madut (Center), announces regitration results for South Sudan’s independence referendum at a media forum organized by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry in Juba, South Sudan. Dec. 14, 2010 (ST)
This figure, according to Justice Chan Reec Madut, the SSRB Chairperson, still excludes results from 114 registration centers, which he said have remained inaccessible due to persistent communication problems.
Madut said in the next two to three days they are hope to receive the final reports from these areas. These include Upper Nile 2 centers, Unity State 2 centers, Warap State 22 centers, North Bar-el-Gazal 5 centers, Central Equatoria 1 center, Eastern Equatoria 22 centers.
In northern Sudan 116,890 Southern Sudanese have registered for the vote, which is likely to see Africa’s largest country split in two.
“We are on course and remain confident that the referendum will take place as scheduled on January 9, 2011. As usual, we shall regularly update our people on the progress being made especially concerning the actual numbers of registered voters once the referendum commission has obtained all results,” Justice Chan Reec told a press conference held in Juba, the South Sudan capital.
Voter registration officially ended on December 8, in the 2,623 and 165 registration centers established in the south and north of the country respectively.
He said the exercise was conducted peacefully with the exception of an incident in Nasir, Jonglei state, where a referendum official was shot and killed. However, Madut said that this had no connection to his role working for the states referendum committee.
Regarding the bombing of northern Barh-el-Gazal in southern Sudan by the northern army during the registration process, confirmed on Monday by the UN, Madut said that this shoiuld be left to politicians to resolve.
Madut said four million ballots have been printed in the United Kingdom. He expects them to arrive in Juba by the end of the week in order for distribution throughout Southern Sudan to begin before December 21.
The SSRB chairperson said that he belives the vote will go ahead on schedule on January 9, despite the delays including the funding of the bureau and and the Khartoum-based Southern Sudan Referendum Commission.
The widely-publicized registration exercise, also encompassed southern Sudanese living in the Diaspora.
DIASPORA REGISTRATION FIGURES UNVEILED
According to Justice Chan Reec, also deputy Chairperson of the referendum commission based in Khartoum, Diaspora voting has officially closed, with the exception of Egypt and the US where the start was delayed for technical reasons.
As such, he added, voters in Egypt and the US have until December 18 and 22 respectively to register.
However, Justice Chan Reec announced that 9,431 have registered in Australia; 2,294 in Canada; 2,985 in Egypt; 7,370 in Ethiopia; 15,021 in Kenya; 13,291 in Uganda; and 654 people in the UK.
Meanwhile, the SSRB Chairperson has dismissed the recently filed National Congress Party (NCP)-backed lawsuit against the referendum commission, describing it as “frivolous and baseless”.
Last week, a pro-government website reported that the Supreme Council for Peace and Unity filed a lawsuit with the constitutional court, claiming that the South’s ruling SPLM controls the performance and work of the SSRC and the SPLM. The law suit also alleged that the commission had acted contrary to the interim constitution and the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
Reacting to this, Justice Chan Reec said, “The law is very clear on the referendum. How can someone now emerge to say the referendum commission is operating illegally? These are simply frivolous and baseless moves aimed at derailing the smooth conduct of the referendum.”
Beatrice Khamisa, the SSRB official in-charge of finance and administration also told the press conference that the training of trainers (TOT) for the plebiscite was nearing conclusion.
The training, she added, tackles issues pertaining to the voting processes and procedures to equip staffs from all across all 10 southern states with the skills and expertise they need to conduct the referendum.
The referendum on the self-determination of the southern population is a key part of Sudan’s 2005 Comprehensive Pace Agreement (CPA), which ended over two-decades of a bloody civil war between Christian dominated south and the north, which is governed by Islamic Sharia Law.