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Sudan: UN monitors discuss self-determination referenda with southern leader

12 October 2010 – A United Nations panel monitoring the January referenda which will decide whether Southern Sudan secedes from Africa’s largest country discussed security and other key challenges with the region’s leaders today.

The three-member panel, appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and led by former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, held a 90-minute discussion with Salva Kiir, President of the Government of Southern Sudan and First Vice-President of Sudan, in Juba, the regional capital, as they continued their first visit to the country.

After the talks, which covered issues ranging from how to make the referenda as free and fair as possible to security arrangements during campaigning to how to deal with the key post-referenda challenges, Mr. Mkapa told reporters he believes credible elections can still be held by the scheduled date of 9 January.

“What is required is the cooperation of all the parties – both in the national Government as well as the southern Government – but also the support of the international community in clearing up those particular hurdles that require financial or technical provisions,” he said.

“If that is done, given the goodwill and the honour that the CPA signatories are required to observe, there’s no reason why January 9th will not be successful and mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the people of the Sudan,” he added, referring to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement ending two decades of warfare between the northern-based Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the south.

The referendum on self-determination in Southern Sudan is the final stage in the CPA, while a second referendum is being held on the same day in the oil-rich Abyei region to decide whether it belongs to northern or southern Sudan.

The panel, which will make periodic visits to Sudan in the lead-up to and during the referenda and report back to the Secretary-General, also met with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in both the national capital, Khartoum, and Juba, where they received a briefing from senior UN officials on latest developments on the ground there.

Mr. Ban formed the panel last month at the request from the parties to the CPA, who sought a UN monitoring body to help enhance the credibility of the Sudanese-led referenda and ensure the acceptance of their result by their constituencies and the international community.

Asked whether he had any message for the people of Southern Sudan, Mr. Mkapa replied: “I would say that they should follow the process closely. When registration starts, they should register. When the civic education about the terms of the referendum is given, they should listen carefully, weigh the chances and vote according to their conscience. And I’m quite certain that, inshallah, almighty God will guide them on the right path.”

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