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Statement by Secretary-General’s Panel after the announcement of the final results in the Southern Sudan referendum

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UN Press Release

7 February 2011

Statement by Secretary-General’s Panel after the announcement of the final results in the Southern Sudan referendum

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referenda in the Sudan welcomes today’s official announcement of the final result of the Southern Sudan referendum, which shows that an overwhelming majority of the voters have opted for secession.

The Panel believes that the referendum’s outcome reflects the free will of the people of Southern Sudan and that the process as a whole was free, fair and credible.

Its judgment is based on assessment criteria detailed in the Southern Sudan Referendum Act. This includes an appropriate environment and security conditions for the free exercise of the right to self-determination. It also includes freedom of expression; the presence and participation of domestic and international observers; freedom of assembly and movement; and voter education about the process.

The Panel found that the referendum process was marked by a high degree of transparency and that civil society organizations were able to participate extensively. The tone of both the media coverage and the public statements from senior government officials also improved as the voting phase neared.

In spite of political uncertainty and some security incidents during the referendum period, and sometimes inadequate efforts to inform voters about their rights and options, the Panel concludes that voters were able to express their will freely.

The Southern Sudan referendum process is now complete. The Panel commends the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, its Bureau, and all their staff for overcoming numerous challenges to administer the referendum successfully. We also commend the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the UN Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division (UNIRED), other international electoral advisers, donors and observer groups, both national and international, for their able assistance in achieving this goal.

The Panel congratulates the people of Sudan for their discipline and patience, which ensured the process was peaceful and on schedule.

The parties to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement - the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement - deserve credit for demonstrating the courage and political commitment so that a key milestone in the peace process has been reached.

Their work is not over. The Panel calls on the parties to build on the constructive relationship they have developed to quickly reach a lasting agreement on post-referendum arrangements so that the peoples of Northern and Southern Sudan can live together side by side in cooperation, security and dignity.
The Panel also stresses the continuing importance of the protection of all Sudanese civilians, whether Northerners or Southerners.

The Panel regrets that the referendum on the status of the Abyei Area – which the CPA required to be held simultaneously with the Southern Sudan referendum – has not been held. A referendum commission is yet to be established and there is still no agreement on who would be eligible to vote. The period has also been marked by deadly clashes in the area, which have only further complicated the situation.

The Panel urges the two parties to the CPA to seek a solution to Abyei as soon as possible, and it calls on the people of the area to display patience and tolerance as they wait for a resolution.

***

The Panel is tasked with monitoring the processes for two referenda: one on the status of Southern Sudan, and one on the status of the Abyei Area. The Panel has played 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 to the CPA and relevant authorities to resolve any significant problems or disputes as they emerged.

Mr. Ban formed the Panel after the CPA parties requested a UN monitoring body to help enhance the credibility of the referenda and therefore ensure the acceptance of their results.

The Panel is comprised of: Benjamin Mkapa, a former President of Tanzania; António Monteiro, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal; and Bhojraj Pokharel, a former Chairman of the Election Commission of Nepal. President Mkapa serves as chairperson of the Panel.

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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