The United Nations today welcomed the decision by Sudanese electoral authorities to extend the voting period in the country’s historic elections until Thursday to allow them to deal with the many technical challenges that have emerged during the ballot.
“The UN also hopes that this will enable more Sudanese voters to cast their vote, especially in areas and constituencies where the technical errors caused delays to the voting process or where voters have been unable to determine which polling centre they are registered in,” Martin Nesirky, a spokesperson for the Secretary-General, told reporters in New York.
The extension by the National Election Commission (NEC) came after some Sudanese and international observers complained of technical problems, including ballots being sent to the wrong polling stations and registers missing voters’ names.
The polls – which began on Sunday – are meant to be symbolic milestone in a country recovering from a decades-long civil war between the north and the south, in addition to the conflict in the western region of Darfur.
The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has been providing technical assistance and logistical support to the NEC, at its request, and has emphasized that the elections are a Sudanese-owned and operated process.
Top UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have stressed the need for peaceful and credible elections, noting their importance for Sudan and the international community.
For the first time in 24 years, people in Sudan are electing a national president, as well as a president of the southern region, state governors and members of national and local assemblies. The vote is also a necessary step before a referendum can be held next year on the south’s possible secession.
Meanwhile, Mr. Nesirky confirmed today that four police officers serving with the joint African Union-UN peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) remain missing.
“UNAMID is working very closely with the Sudanese authorities to enable their safe return,” he told the press.
The two male and two female police advisers from South Africa were last seen around 4 p.m. local time Sunday as they left their team site close to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, for a seven-kilometre journey to their private accommodation.
Ibrahim Gambari, the head of UNAMID and the Joint Special Representative of the AU and UN in Darfur, has said the mission is deeply concerned about the peacekeepers’ well-being.