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UN panel on Sudan referenda in the country to review preparations

UN panel on Sudan referenda in the country to review preparations

From right: Benjamin Mkapa, António Monteiro, and Bhojraj Pokharel – members of the Secretary-General’s panel on Sudan
The United Nations panel tasked with monitoring the forthcoming referenda on the self-determination of Southern Sudan arrived in Khartoum today for a series of meetings with officials involved in preparations and other key stakeholders.

It is the panel's third visit to Sudan since October and members are scheduled to hold meetings with senior officials from the Government of Sudan, the Government of Southern Sudan, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), international and domestic observer groups, as well as and diplomats.

“The process of voter registration for the Southern Sudan referendum that just concluded was transparent and largely peaceful and orderly,” said Benjamin Mkapa, the chair of the panel and a former President of Tanzania, upon his arrival in Khartoum.

“Momentum is building towards the vote on 9 January and preparations remain on course. Now we are in the exhibitions and appeals period, which is an important phase in the process, but we hope it can be concluded speedily and the vote can take place on time in a peaceful and successful manner,” he said.

The panel is playing a good offices role on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to strengthen confidence in the Sudanese-led referenda process, and to encourage the parties and relevant authorities to resolve any significant problems or disputes as they emerge.

The people of Southern Sudan will vote on whether the south should secede from the rest of the country, while the final status of Abyei will be determined in a separate vote, as set out in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended two decades of war between the north and the south.

Mr. Ban formed the panel after the parties to the CPA requested a UN monitoring body to help enhance the credibility of the referenda and ensure the acceptance of their result by their constituencies and the international community.

Aside from Mr. Mkapa, the panel's other members are António Monteiro, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, and Bhojraj Pokharel, a former Chairman of the Election Commission of Nepal.