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Contingency aid delivery under way in south Sudan ahead of referenda – UN official

Contingency aid delivery under way in south Sudan ahead of referenda – UN official

Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos briefs journalists on her recent trip to Sudan
Relief agencies are stockpiling supplies in areas of Southern Sudan where there might be possible mass movement of people as a result of the referenda on the self-determination of the region, which is scheduled for early January, the top United Nations humanitarian official said today.

“Work is already ongoing in Sudan to preposition humanitarian assistance near potential hot spots in Southern Sudan and in the border areas,” Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters in New York after returning from a six-day visit to Sudan.

On 9 January the people of Southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the rest of the country, while on the same day the residents of the central area of Abyei will cast their ballots to decide whether to join the south or become part of the north.

The referenda will be the final phase in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the 2005 pact that formally ended two decades of war between the northern-based Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the south.

On the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their villages of origin, Ms. Amos stressed that people have the right to go back or to settle in alternative locations of their choice.

“But the conditions need to be appropriate and their safety and security must be guaranteed,” said Ms. Amos, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“Ensuring that the returns take place in a free and principled manner is of course the responsibility of the Government,” she pointed out, adding that the small-scale return of IDPs to their villages is already happening in the troubled region of Darfur.

She reiterated her call to authorities in Sudan to facilitate unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to people in need, without regard to political, ethnic or religious consideration.

“I hope that in the coming months our relationship with the Government of Sudan, the Government of Southern Sudan and state authorities will be strengthened and will yield a well-coordinated provision of humanitarian assistance where and when it is needed,” Ms. Amos said.

In a related development, the UN panel monitoring the referenda today visited voter registration centres in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, on the first day of registering those eligible to vote in January.

“Today we visited several sites in the greater Khartoum area to get a sense of how voter registration is progressing on the first day. We saw that, so far, the number of people who have registered is extremely small. Hopefully that will change in the days ahead,” said Benjamin Mkapa, the chairperson of the panel, after visiting sites near Mayo camp on the outskirts of the city.

“But we know from our staff in the field that people have been turning out in large numbers across the south today to register, and that is very welcome. We are also pleased that the registration phase has begun on time,” said Mr. Mkapa, a former president of Tanzania.

“We hope that Southern Sudanese, whether they live in the north or the south, will have the opportunity to register so they can take part in the vote on 9 January. We will continue to monitor developments on the ground and later this week we will visit more voter registration centres around the country,” he added. The voter registration is scheduled to conclude on 1 December.

The members of the Panel have also met with the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, African Union officials and representatives of the international community and had briefings from UN officials assisting with the referendum process.

Later this week they are scheduled to travel around the country, including to Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, and Abyei, to talk with key stakeholders and see more voter registration sites.