Home | News    Wednesday 15 September 2010

Advocacy group warns against ambiguous provisions in South Sudan Referendum Act


September 13, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – An advocacy group warned against ambiguities in the Southern Sudan Referendum Act (SSRA) particularly some provisions dealing with the voter identification and the regulatory role of the Referendum Commission.

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Swearing in of some 50 members of the State High Referendum Committees in Juba, South Sudan Monday, Aug, 23, 2010. (AP)

"Flaws in the process will make acceptance of the result more difficult to achieve, contributing to tension and possibly violence," cautioned Democracy Reporting International (DRI), an independent organisation working to improve democratic, participatory governance, in a report released last week.

The report further warns that the ambiguities in the SSRA could lead to a result perceived by the southern Sudanese as in non-compliance with the CPA. A result in the referendum which is anything other than watertight could be cause for renewed violence between northern and southern Sudan.

The referendum, scheduled for 9 January 2011, should give the southern Sudanese an opportunity to vote to remain as one country with the north, or to form an independent country. This vote was agreed upon in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement - the signing of which marked the end of 22 years of civil war between the north and semi-autonomous south.

The SSRA, defining the rules by which the referendum must take place, was endorsed by the Sudanese parliament last December after heated debates on Southerners born and living in the north after the independence.

The report calls for the adoption of a set of regulations which include: clarification of voters’ identification and neutrality of government bodies and officials from taking part in the referendum campaign.

On voter identification the SSRA should clarify "what is needed to identify oneself for voter registration and in particular whether oral testimony by a competent Chief from the County suffices," the report says.

With regards to neutrality, it stresses the need to make it clear that "government bodies, officials and public authorities should not engage in campaigning for either referendum option".

Although neither the National Congress Party which rules Sudan, nor the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) which rules the semi-autonomous south, have officially stated their position on secession, but officials are making it a poorly guarded secret.

Last month Pagan Amum, the Secretary General of the SPLM in an interview with Ashraq Alawsat, said he could not envisage unity, "unless the [ruling] National Congress Party (NCP), led by President Omar al-Bashir…occupies the south militarily…in which case this will not be unification…but occupation." Pagan was appointed Minister of Peace and CPA implementation in the Government of Southern Sudan on the 21 June 2010. http://www.aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=3&id=21244

Another cause for concern, expressed in the report, is the passage in the SSRA which stipulates that if the minimum 60% participation requirement is not reached, a repeat vote must take place within 60 days.

The report expresses concern about this point for two reasons: firstly, because minimum voter turnout, which is not normally required in referenda on independence, is usually set at 50%; and secondly, because there is no contingency plan for a repeat vote not reaching the minimum turnout figure.

The report cites the Council for Europe’s Venice Commission, Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters, which advises against minimum turnout requirements, "since it risks involving a difficult political situation."

The report further notes that in recent referenda there were no minimum turnout requirements: "The referenda on independence of Eritrea (1993), Timor Leste (1999), and Montenegro (2006) included no turn-out requirement. They all had a. high turnout: of 99%, 98% and 86% respectively." This makes it unclear what purpose the high minimum turnout requirement serves.

However, this figure of 60% was the result of a negotiation between the NCP and SPLM last year, in which the NCP asked for a 90% minimum turnout. http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article32580

It is feared that the minimum turnout rule could be used as a tool by those intending to scupper the referendum - for anti-secessionists, failure to vote will be in some ways, more effective than voting for unity. In theory, if 58% of those eligible to, vote for secession and 1% for unity, unity could be retained, because the 60% minimum turnout requirement would not be achieved.

This will make the electoral register all the more contentious, the report warns.

Vice President of South Sudan government, Riek Machar called last August on voters who feel they may not vote during the referendum to not register in the first place because that would harm the needed turnout.

"Don’t register if you cannot vote," he said.

The report highlights the issue of voter registration, which will be problematic for southern Sudanese eligible to vote in north Sudan and overseas; the referendum has conflicting articles on registration eligibility.

Many of those eligible to vote will be poorly informed about the referendum so media coverage in the run-up will be crucial, the report said. As the SSRA does not make provision for appeals against media coverage, it is unlikely to be balanced.

"EU EOM’s [European Union Election Observation Mission] media monitoring for the April 2010 presidential elections, concluded that public and private media (TV, radio, the printed press) were mostly biased towards the incumbents, both in Northern and Southern Sudan.31 There exists therefore a serious risk that voters will not be exposed to both sides of the argument and critical debate on the two options," notes the report.

With regards to the process of the filling of complaints against the election process, DRI expresses "serious concerns" over the "independence of the judiciary in Sudan in dealing with election cases".

In response, the advocacy group suggests that "Provision should be made for decisions and regulations adopted by the Commission to be challenged in court e.g. as regards the compatibility with the Act [SSRA], or concerning voters."

As the referendum begins the report describes the role of observers as "crucial for the transparency of the process". The SSRA does not stipulate that referendum observers are to be given access to the result aggregating levels of the process.


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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 15 September 2010 04:27, by Ahmed Chol

    Dear all:
    One can see that there are clear evidences that the north is trying to hold onto the south by iron fist. But this will keep Sudan in list of failed states until Jesus returns. There will be a series of civil wars that will ensue. All resources will be converted towards military hardware instead humane purposes.

    Bashir and his NCP think that they will win peace with military force and this is idiotic. Neither in Uganda nor in Darfur has the peace been achieved militarily. This concerted effort by NCP that they will attained all they want in the South by force will be a short cut to hell for the Islamic regime.

    For sure Khartoum will flaw the referendum with fake names since they are printing the ballots. They may even import spooky boxes filled with fake names and they will claim this as boxes for Southerners in diaspora. Sudan will face years of war because nobody holding a gun in the South will give his gun to the Islamist terrorists who once shelter Bin-Laden. In case of a forced unity there will be another rebellion. That rebellion will be a Anya-nya III} as you can guess.

    Bashir has this false hope that he will devastate the South with his newly bought Chinese and Russian warplane but the truth is that the war will be more complex than his demented and uneducated brain can think. Darfur Rebels will advance from west towards Khartoum. The Eastern rebels will do the same too and the South will do to Khartoum what a Cat has never done to a rat.

    Ahmed Chol, the future commander of Anya-nya III

    repondre message

    • 15 September 2010 06:49, by Gatwech

      Ahmed Chol,

      Khartoum’s wareplanes will not damage buildings in the South because we don’t have buildings like them. What we have are grass-made tukuls, forests and rivers. They will only waste their military hardware before a no-fly zone is declared all over the South.

      Pagan Amum should not be thinking of NCP military recapturing the South and occupying it. That scarrying tactic against separatists should not be applied by our politicians.

      I know we will defeat the North militarily in a short period of time. Believe me, it will not take three months to defeat the North.

      Ask me how do I know that???

      What ever evil thing the NCP will try to achieve in the referendum, we will resort to UDI and defend our land.

      Khartoum is brewing for multi-front war in Sudan that will make Somalia’s chaos look like a child’s play.

      Believe me........

      repondre message

      • 15 September 2010 10:49, by alvin ajou

        dear sons of south sudan

        if you are patriotic enough and fully committed to south sudan independence like me, then report yourself to the SPLA GHQs to arm you if you are currently not a soldier because it is the only way we can get our land from arabs. just contact me at ajouhiphop@yahoo.com and i will tell you what to do.

        repondre message

    • 15 September 2010 14:53, by Padiet Deng Alony

      Ahmed Chol

      this is my second time to write to you about Anyanya 3, there is no what so called anyanya 3 SPLA still to finish the mission as SPLA not anyanya 3

      You mean that all will return back to Bonga, Bilpam and other trainig centers and resume the offend. you mean you will run to the bush and leave, Juba, Malakal, Wau and the whole 10 southern states which are now under SPLA control and run to the bush.You are dreaming of some thing that will never ever happen.

      We will fight jallab while we are in our states depending them.

      If they bomb us in our cities we will also bomb them in Khartoum etc.

      What do you thinks.

      Remember Mazlum Battalion.

      repondre message

      • 16 September 2010 03:43, by Ahmed Chol


        Anya-nya III will come when sudan is united and the Spla is integrated into SAF according to cpa. Don’t you see Anya-nya III coming out of this situation if you are not blind?
        Ahmed Chol, the future commander of Anya-nya III

        repondre message

  • 15 September 2010 07:42, by paul baak anyaar

    We want any absurdity ironed out, any possibility of manipulation minimized, any violation punished, any delay avoided, any perpetrator of violence prosecuted, and any obstacle to our freedom "REMOVED."

    repondre message

    • 16 September 2010 15:43, by Atem Deng malek

      We have to make sure that all citizen of southern Sudan have right to vote for Independence of their own land to make them free in their country.

      And that is why we do say that separation of southern Sudan will be determine by community of southern Sudan. we don’t need our people to continue with salve in their own country. Because Sudan originally is a land for black people in the history of Sudan.

      And it is aright for the community of southern Sudan to vote for separation because SPLM fought for the freedom of their community in southern Sudan.

      We still saying community oyee struggle oyee SPLM oyee.


      repondre message

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