Home | News    Thursday 6 January 2011

Ethiopia: Preparations for S. Sudan referendum finalized, observers deployed

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

January 5, 2011(ADDIS ABABA) – Thousands of southern Sudanese in Ethiopia have been given orientation on how to vote on Sunday’s independence referendum vote, the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) liaison office in Addis Ababa said on Wednesday.

“We have dispatched GoSS teams to three polling stations to orient voters on how to cast their votes and they are now ready to properly give their votes” deputy head of mission, David Dang told Sudan Tribune.

According to the GoSS office, some 10,500 South Sudanese living in neighboring Ethiopia have registered the plebiscite that was agreed as part of a 2005 peace deal between the dominant parties of Sudan’s north and south.

Ethiopia is one of eight countries where Out-of-Country Voting (OVC) is taking place. The others are Australia, Canada, Egypt, Kenya, the United Kingdom, Uganda and the United States.

The GoSS office has called on all registered voters in Ethiopia or Sudan to come out for vote.

The southern Sudanese official said he has no doubt that outcome of the vote, which begins on January 9, will be in favor of separation from the north.

“We are sure 99% of voters are in favor of session; what we are not sure is of the remaining 1%” he said adding “regardless of final results the government of south Sudan is ready to accept outcome.”

Under Sudan’s referendum law a 50% plus 1% vote in favor of separation is needed for the region to secede. A turnout of over 60% of registered voters is needed for the vote to be valid.

The referendum, a vote promised in a 2005 peace deal, which ended decades of north-south civil war, will allow people from the oil-rich south a chance to decide whether they should secede to create a new state or remain in a united Sudan.

In Ethiopia, referendum polling will take place from January 9-15 from 8:00AM to 5:00PM Monday to Saturday and from 8:00AM to 12:30PM on Sunday.

Sudan Tribune has learnt that the Carter Center, the African Union and the UN have deployed observers in Ethiopia,

The GoSS office in Addis Ababa said, the Ethiopian government has deployed security in all three polling stations.

Southern Sudanese have fought two civil wars against the northern Sudan over identity, religion, the south’s oil and water resources as well as economic and political marginalization.

The 2005 peace deal stipulated that both sides would attempt to make the unity of Sudan attractive but with only three days until the vote takes the south’s ruling party the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) has campaigned for separation.

There are concerns that the referendum could trigger renewed conflict between the north and south – two million people died in the most recent civil war – but a peaceful vote seems possible with both north and south pledging to accept the result.

This week Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir pledged to help his "southern brothers" and said he would honor vote of the people.

A team of British researchers recently published a study estimating that a return to the north-south conflict in Sudan would entail costs in excess of $100 billion.

Sudan’s Christian south, which is also home to traditional African beliefs, have fought two civil wars from 1955- 1972 and 1983-2005, with the predominantly Islamic north. The most recent was Africa’s longest civil war and forced four million people to leave their homes according to the UN.

As well as fleeing to the north, many southern Sudanese sought safety in neighboring countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.