14.01.2011 Sudan


14.01.2011 LISTEN

13 January - The United Nations panel tasked with monitoring the long-awaited referendum on the future status of Southern Sudan continued visiting polling centres in the region today, the fifth day of the week-long exercise.

Members of the panel, headed by former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, met with referendum authorities and voters in the states of Nile, Upper Nile and Lakes today.

“We are here to witness the voting taking place and, looking at all the arrangements, I hope the people of Southern Sudan can express their will in a free and transparent manner and for a successful conclusion and peaceful acceptance of the results,” said Mr. Mkapa, who was in the town of Shendi in Nile state.

Speaking to a group of sultans and traditional leaders at a school in Shendi, he said he has taken note of the concerns of those who wish to stay in the north.

“In conversations with Government leaders in both the north and south, we have stressed the importance of lives and property of southerners in the north and northerners in the south,” he stated.

The referendum, which began on 9 January and is scheduled to finish this Saturday, is being held in line with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the 20-year civil war between north and south.

Sixty per cent of the nearly 4 million voters registered to take part in the referendum have to vote for the outcome to be valid. Preliminary results are expected to be announced by 2 February and, depending on whether appeals are submitted to courts or not, the final result on whether the south secedes or remains part of a united Sudan will be declared on 7 or 14 February.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 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.

In addition to 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.