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Ethiopia: Thousands of southern Sudanese turning up to register for referendum

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

November 19, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) – Thousands of southern Sudanese in the neighboring country of Ethiopia have turned up to register as voters for the 2011’s referendum on south Sudan’s possible independence, the liaison office of south Sudan government declared in the capital Addis Ababa on Friday.

The registration of southern Sudanese voters commenced on Monday, November 15, at more than 3000 domestic centers, divided between 2,635 centers in south Sudan and 165 centers in north Sudan, according to the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRC), the body organizing the plebiscite.

High turnout of voters has been reported in large parts of south Sudan for the politically sensitive vote which is the final stipulation of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between north and south Sudan. Most observers say the vote is likely to split Sudan in two.

Ethiopia, which shelters nearly 45,000 Sudanese refugees, is among eight countries designated by the SSRC as out-of-country voting stations. The rest are: Australia, Canada, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA).

“Voters registration for South Sudan’s referendum is well underway since Monday at two registration stations, one in the capital Addis Ababa and a second one in Gambela region” David Dung, the deputy head of foreign mission of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), told Sudan Tribune.

Although Dung said that he did not have the exact number of those who registered in the camps so far but he expressed optimism that all eligible voters would turn up to register in the days to come.

He further specified that 5000 southern Sudanese had registered so far registered as voters in Addis Ababa and that more are expected to catch up.

“In Addis Ababa up to 5,000 voters have already registered and elsewhere at the refugee camps in Gambela and Benshagul regions, we expect another 15,000 to register” David Dung said.

Sudan tribune has learned that few numbers of domestic and international observers are observing the process in Addis Ababa.

The southern Sudanese official said that the registration process, which is being carried out in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), is hitherto proceeding peacefully.

“It is going smoothly and IOM is closely watching the process and is providing us [with] necessary assistance for the successful completion of the voters’ registration,” Dung assured.

(ST)