With less than three weeks before the holding of the referendum on the status of Southern Sudan, the head of the United Nations panel tasked with monitoring the vote today urged all parties to ensure the credibility of the process.
Benjamin Mkapa stressed during a meeting in Juba with Southern Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar and other government officials that the way in which the referendum results are released and communicated to the public will be critical to determining the overall credibility of the referendum process.
The vote is due to begin on 9 January and run until 15 January, with counting to begin immediately after. Preliminary results are expected to be released before referendum authorities confirm their accuracy and then issue final results.
Mr. Mkapa, the former President of Tanzania and chair of the three-member panel, urged all parties involved in the referendum to play their part to ensure that the results are released responsibly and fairly.
He also called on the governments in Khartoum and Juba to make sure that referendum staff and security personnel are paid so that they can carry out their work during the polling phase.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Mkapa credited the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) and the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB) “for a job well done” in organizing the referendum so far.
“We are confident that all other things being equal – and there are quite a number of things that are not equal – but all other things being equal, we should have a very successful referendum in the south,” he said.
“Among the things that should be more equal are the issuance of enough funding for the payment of staff and for other costs of ensuring that the referendum takes place. I know we have had the promises that it will be forthcoming, but we want that forthcoming to be realized in practice, because we don’t want any hitches that are unnecessary. When all the technical arrangements are so good, you don’t want the human hand to interfere with the outcome that is credible.”
The 9 January vote on whether the south should secede from the rest of the country is in accordance with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended two decades of war between the north and the south.
The panel, which also includes former Portuguese Foreign Minister António Monteiro and Bhojraj Pokharel, the former Chairman of the Election Commission of Nepal, is due to wrap up its current visit to Sudan on Wednesday.