By Ngor Arol Garang
November 14, 2010 (KHARTOUM) - Southern Sudanese residing in the neighboring country of Uganda are being advised by the regions ruling party not to register to vote in the regions referendum on independence due to take place in January.
- Hundreds of Southern Sudanese march through the streets of Kampala, in Uganda demanding separation from northern Sudan in January referendum on July 5, 2010. (Domtix)
Moses Larco Duku Lomayat, an information officer in the office president of South Sudan, in an email message seen by Sudan Tribune, said that he had travelled to northern Uganda to tell southern Sudanese living there not to register amid fears of pro-unity vote rigging.
He accused officials from north Sudan of issuing national identification cards and other documents required for voter registration to people who were not Southern Sudanese.
If over 40% of registered voters do not turn out when polling begins on January 9 then the result will be declared invalid under the referendum laws passed by the Sudanese parliament.
Voter registration is due to begin on Monday 15 November.
Lomayat said that the northern officials were hoping to register people who would then not cast a vote, increasing the likelihood that the threshold of 60% participation by registered voters required by referendum law would not be met.
In the email Lomayat said:
I had an urgent Mission Trip to Northern Uganda this morning. I left Nairobi very early this morning to Kampala and proceeded to Northern Uganda and back to Kampala few minutes ago. The Mission was to asses and to enlighten our people NOT TO REGISTER. The idea was overwhelmingly accepted by all South Sudanese.
Lomayat wrote that the decision to boycot registration in Uganda by southerners living there was appreciated:
Our entire people of South Sudan who are in Uganda have decided to boycott the Referendum Registration Process; in which they have made a right decision at the right time which is much accepted and appreciated by many people in South Sudan. Once again; their decision is very much appreciated by the all our people across the globe, especially those in Juba.
The Sudanese government in Khartoum is campaigning for a vote against separation, whereas the southern government in Juba led by the former rebels the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) is largely seen as in favor of separation.
Acuil Malith Banggol, SPLM Secretary, for Popular and Syndicated Organizations in southern Sudan in another email seen by Sudan Tribune, on Sunday suggested that south Sudanese in the Diaspora should not register.
He said that if they register but it later proves difficult to vote they could play a part ’against meeting the 60% threshold’ needed for a legitimate result.
Instead of registering he advised southern Sudanese ‘to mobilize the communities and governments hosting you to timely recognize the results.’
The boycott responding to fears of pro-unity vote rigging coincided with press statement by Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, chairperson of the referendum commission that voter registration in Egypt, United States and Australia will be delayed due to the number of complaints received by southern Sudanese living abroad.
The head of the body charged with responsibility of organizing conduct of the exercise also added that in Northern states, prospective voters might have to move to areas with high number of south Sudanese for registration. However, he affirmed that preparations for registration in the south had been completed.
Most voting will take place in the south but southerners living in the north of the country and those living outside Sudan will also be able to vote. Polling centers will be set up depending on whether enough people register to take part in the referendum.
The vote is the culmination of a 2005 peace deal between north and south that ended over two decades of civil war that resulted in the death of two million people according the UN.
Senior members of the government of south Sudan have called for the creation of more registration and polling centers in Sudan and abroad.
With preparations for the referendum way behind schedule, many of the Southern Sudanese, both inside the country have increasingly expressed concerns over the process.