afrol News, 16 November - Voters' registration has begun in South Sudan, preparing for the 9 January referendum over independence. At the UN, concerns are increasing a non-perfect referendum may cause renewed warfare.
The registration of voters for the upcoming referendum started yesterday all over South Sudan at a total of 2,600 registration centres. A massive turnout has so far been reported. But as less than two months' time remains for the referenda, critical issues such as the vote in the north-south disputed oil-rich province of Abyei are still unsolved.
The many unresolved issues have made the UN and other guarantors of the 2005 north-south peace agreement increasingly nervous. The UN Security Council therefore today urged parties to the peace pact to take urgent action to ensure the holding of "peaceful, credible, timely and free referenda that reflect the will of the people of South Sudan and Abyei."
Southern Sudanese are slated to vote on 9 January on whether the south should secede from the rest of the country and also to determine the final status of Abyei, an oil-rich area in the centre of the country, as set out in the 2005 "Comprehensive Peace Agreement".
The UN Security Council underlining the need to make "rapid progress" on a way forward for Abyei's referendum, outstanding peace agreement issues, and on resolving critical post-referendum issues such as security, border, citizenship, currency and natural resources. These, since 2005, have been the main issues of conflict between north and south, and could at any time spark an armed conflict.
Also UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, present at the Council meeting, expressed great concern, adding that it was a "moment of critical importance" for the Sudanese people and for the sub-region, as the people of Southern Sudan prepare to exercise their right to vote on their future.
"To ensure that the referendum is conducted in an orderly fashion and that the Sudanese people peacefully accept the outcome, it is imperative that the process be credible and transparent, and that it reflect the aspirations of the population," Mr Ban said. The UN therefore had sent a large number of election facilitators to South Sudan, but was also in the process of increasing its peacekeeping troops.
But an increased UN presence in South Sudan could in no way guarantee a peaceful outcome of the referenda. The Security Council therefore urged all parties to fully cooperate with the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). This included ensuring "full, unhindered access and freedom of movement for UNMIS personnel and equipment, and for the delivery of referenda materials."
Mr Ban added that "the commitment of the international community cannot supplant the willingness of the parties to meet their responsibilities. The government of Sudan, the government of Southern Sudan and the referenda commissions must rise to this challenge." Especially, all parties needed "to refrain from inflammatory statements," he urged.
Not only the talks about a solution for Abyei are running late, local observers hold. Even the logistical preparations for the referendum in South Sudan have been marred by delays. The referendum preparations are far behind schedule, they hold.
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