An official of the Sudan’s referendum commission said his organization Wednesday will begin the first in a series of debates between high-ranking representatives of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) ahead of the 9th January referendum.
George Benjamin, a commission spokesman, told VOA the debates will largely focus on the pros and cons of the country’s unity or secession as southern Sudanese prepare to vote whether to be part of the north or secede and become an independent nation.
“The commission is now organizing a series of debates between the supporters of either option of the referendum, which is unity of the country or separation of southern Sudan. So, we will begin these debates as from today between two leading members of the SPLM and the NCP,” said Benjamin.
“Dr. Luka Biong, who is also the minister of council of ministers in the government of national unity in Khartoum, (will debate) Dr. Bakri Osman Saeed, who is a strategist and one of the thinkers and intellectuals of the National Congress Party.”
Critics have questioned the timing of the debate after citing instances where senior officials of the SPLM said the NCP has failed to make unity attractive to southerners.
But, Benjamin said the debate will help prospective voters make an informed decision.
“There is nothing that we can do about this since the commission itself was formed very late and it started its job very late. This is an activity which we have planned sometime ago and which we have to undertake anyway. So, we don’t know how much it can contribute towards shaping the opinions of people. But, it is an activity which is worthwhile undertaking and we have to do it,” said Benjamin.
“The mandate is that there has to be a campaign for either unity or separation. But, how you do that remains to be the work of the commission and the media high committee that was formed by the commission, and it thought one of the ways to inform people is to have debate among people who support either this or that.”
Meanwhile, the live debate is expected to be broadcast nationwide.
The latest polls show that a majority of southerners will choose secession over the country’s unity.