The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended Sudan's civil war gives Southern Sudanese the opportunity to vote next January on whether they want to secede from the north and create their own country. The credibility of this historic election will depend in part on thorough and professional election observation during the pre-, post- and election day periods to help ensure that the referendum is carried out in a transparent way.
Following its successful observation in April of Sudan's national elections, the Sudanese Network for Democratic Elections (SuNDE) is observing registration and voting for the referendum. SuNDE, a coalition of more than 75 nonpartisan civil society organizations, released a statement Nov. 13 assessing the pre-election process so far.
The group noted progress in preparations for the registration process, which began Nov. 15 and will last 17 days. SuNDE observers reported that registration materials were sent to referendum centers across the country — polling locations where people can also register to vote — across the country and staff were trained in many locations.
The group's chairman, Lony Ruot, also thanked the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau for giving SuNDE a letter affirming that SuNDE's observers could be present in referendum centers starting from the first day of registration. "Conducting the referendum in a transparent manner with a high level of citizen involvement will help build public confidence in the process," he said.
But SuNDE also cited several troubling aspects of the referendum process thus far including:
- The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission's (SSRC) failure to issue rules, regulations and guidelines for the registration process in a timely manner, causing voter education activities to start late and compromising the ability of organizations to receive accreditation in a timely manner.
- The late publication of referendum center lists that had not yet been widely disseminated to the public, making it difficult for voters to know where to register.
- SSRC's failure to adequately clarify eligibility requirements for voters, specifically how referendum center officials would determine whether an applicant is Southern Sudanese, leaving the registration process open to potential manipulation.
SuNDE observers are trained and ready to observe in 60 of the 79 counties in Southern Sudan and, with the assistance of the Sudanese Group for Democracy and Elections (SuGDE), a partner network in northern Sudan, are prepared to deploy in Khartoum and the 14 northern states during the registration process and on polling days.
- SuNDE and SuGDE statement on the exhibition and objections process»
- 2011 Southern Sudan referendum voter registration statement»
- SuNDE releases statement on voter registration process»
- SuNDE statement on the eve of the voter registration process»
- Southern Sudan citizens share their views on the referendum»
Pictured above: SuNDE observers attend a training on observing the registration process.
Published November 22, 2010. Updated Dec. 22, 2010