Voter Registration Begins for Sudan Referendum

Voter Registration Begins for Sudan Referendum
# 16 November 2010 04:54 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Voter registration has begun in Sudan ahead of a January referendum to decide if the nation’s south will become an independent country, APA reports quoting “The Voice of America”.

Speaking in the southern capital of Juba Monday, Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir called on people to register "en masse," noting that the referendum will only happen once.

Cars fitted with megaphones blaring pro-independence songs drove through Juba calling on people to register to vote.

The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission has more than 2,600 registration centers in the south and an additional 165 in the north. Registration will also take place in eight foreign countries.

The commission has not clarified which ethnic groups are eligible to vote on January 9, leading to concerns that mistakes could be made when election workers make decisions on who is qualified to register.

The referendum is a central part of the 2005 peace deal that ended Sudan’s north-south civil war. A separate referendum scheduled for the same date is to decide whether the oil-producing Abyei is part of the north or the south.

Meanwhile, the African Union says leaders from the north and south have agreed on a framework for settling key issues ahead of the referendums. The agreement also says that in the event the two regions split, they will allow free movement of people and trade across the border.

Observers have warned that preparations for both referendums are running far behind schedule. The United States suggested last week that the sides find an alternative to the Abyei referendum.

North and south have accused each other of building up weapons and troops along their border ahead of the January referendum. However, defense ministers from both sides have vowed that there will be no return to war.

The chief of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, UNAMID, warned Sunday that north-south tensions could spill over into the western part of Sudan, including Darfur.

Ibrahim Gambari said the people of Darfur and those trying to keep the peace have enough security problems without complications from other parts of Sudan.

Gambari said that old alliances between south Sudan’s ruling party (the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) and some groups in Darfur may be rekindled and further complicate the situation in Darfur.
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