Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sudan Government Approves Commission for Southern Referendum in January

Radio France Internationale (Paris)

Sudan: Govt Approves Commission for Southern Referendum

28 June 2010

Sudanese MPs have agreed a long-awaited commission to oversee a January referendum on independence of the country's oil-rich south. The body will be headed by former foreign minister, Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil. Although the commission clears a path for the vote, many logistical problems remain.

Within six months, the commission must register voters and prepare electoral lists. This is no small task considering April's general election was marred by accusations of fraud.

Legislators had earlier this month rejected the composition of a referendum commission proposed by President Omar al-Beshir's National Congress Party (NCP) and the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

One of the nine members was rejected due to his affiliation to a political party. The Sudanese presidency then put forward a new list of commissioners, replacing the disputed commissioner.

A researcher at the Rift Valley Institute, Eddie Thomas, told RFI that unlike in the general election, regional origins will be an important factor in determining the voter lists for the referendum.

"The commission has recently completed a voter registration for the election, but a new list needs to be developed for the referendum, and that is because there is a criterion of eligibility linked to ethnicity which was not part of the eligibility for voting in a general election," Thomas said.

"That will be a very difficult task for the commission to decide who outside South Sudan is eligible for voting and there may be some problems that emerge in that part of the registration because it is so complicated."

Voting observers from the the European Union on Monday urged the commission to act swiftly and ensure a well-organised referendum, a plebiscite promised under a 2005 peace accord.

"They have to start as early as possible ... [They are under] time pressure," European Union vote monitoring chief Veronique de Keyser told journalists in Khartoum.

A separate referendum will take place simultaneously in the contested oil-rich region of Abyei where residents will have to decide whether they want to be part of north or south Sudan.

Editor's Note: You can hear Eddie Thomas, Rift Valley Institute researcher

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