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August 23, 2010

Sudan Referendum Commission Chairman Seeks Successful Vote Despite Delays

by Peter Clottey

The chairman of Sudan’s Referendum Commission said his organization is working to ensure the scheduled January 9 vote is successful, despite sharp disagreements that have led to delays in some of the activities of the commission.

Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil said the referendum commission has invited several international poll observer groups from the African Union, European Union and United Nations to monitor the referendum in Sudan’s semi-autonomous south.

“As a matter of fact, everything that can be done without the secretariat has been done since we have appointed the Juba (south Sudan’s capital) Bureau, which is the main executive organ of the commission in Juba in the south. In the meantime, work is going on in the preparation of the budget and in the signing of the protocols with a number of international organizations, USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), U.N. and the EU,” he said.

The scheduled January referendum, which forms part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, will enable residents in the south to decide whether to secede and become an independent nation or remain part of Sudan.

Analysts say sharp disagreements over the secretary general position of the referendum commission between the dominant National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) have led to frequent delays in the preparations ahead of the vote.

Chairman Khalil denied that the SPLM has agreed to allow the NCP to name the secretary-general of the referendum commission.

“That’s not true. As far as I’m concerned, neither the SPLM nor the NCP names the secretary-general. All this is just confusion. This is a purely technical matter neither party has got anything to do with it. I have made a survey of a number of people eligible for the post,” Khalil said.

He attributed the delay in naming the secretary-general of the referendum commission to what he described as the SPLM’s parochial and a confrontational stance.

Officials of the SPLM have insisted that the secretary general should come from the semi-autonomous south after President Omar Hassan al-Bashir named Khalil as chairman of the referendum commission.

Khalil told VOA the commission is making adequate preparations to ensure a credible vote.