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Sudan Voter Registration Begins Monday

  • Peter Clottey

The spokesman for Sudan’s referendum commission told VOA his organization has resolved all outstanding issues, including controversies surrounding “voter eligibility,” as voter registration across the country begins Monday ahead of the January referendum.

George Benjamin said both the governing National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) have assured the commission of improved security during the 17-day voter registration exercise.

“The registration begins all over the country, both north and south, as well as (those) in the Diaspora, as stipulated in the (Referendum) Act. But, definitely, it looks like, in the Diaspora, in one or two countries, the registration may delay for a day or two just to correct some of the administrative and logistical problems.”

Some southern Sudanese civil society groups have expressed concern that the voter list could be a subject of confusion and fraud.

But, Benjamin said the commission is up to the task of compiling a credible voter registration list ahead of the 9th January referendum. He said that his organization has put in a well thought-out plan to resolve the “delay problems.”

“The days lost will be compensated for at the end because the timetable has been set up in such a way that, after the registration, and after the publication of the first registry, there would be time for complaints.”

The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission has set up about 2,600 registration centers across the country, some of them in the north for southerners who are living there.

The United Nations is providing logistical help, including vehicles to transport voting materials. However, the referendum commission has not said which ethnic groups are eligible to vote.

Civil society groups say that could lead to mistakes and controversy when workers decide who to put on the voter rolls. But, Benjamin said concerns expressed by the various groups are misplaced.

“In fact, the eligibility criteria for who is eligible to vote (are), in fact, very clear in the Referendum Act itself. But, all the same, because this thing was brought to our attention sometime back that there was confusion in the understanding and the interpretation of who is eligible to vote, the legal department of the commission had to develop some simple ways of explanation in simple terms that could be understood easily by the layman,” Benjamin said.

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