A senior official of Oxam
A senior official of Oxam

A spokesman for Oxfam, an international aid organization has called on officials of the UN Security Council currently in Sudan to focus on helping to resolve key outstanding issues and protect civilians from harm ahead of south Sudan?s scheduled 9th January referendum.

Alun McDonald said uncertainty surrounding whether the referendum will be held on time according to the stipulations of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) could lead to violence.

?With less than 100 days until the referendum is supposed to take place, there is still an awful lot to do before then and many of the key issues are still not resolved, for example, the agreement on who is even going to be eligible to take part in the referendum and vote. Many of the referendum commission haven?t been set up yet. There hasn?t been much progress on figuring the border between north and south.?

In a press release, Oxfam expressed concern about threats to civilians as tensions rise around the referendum period, adding that at least 188,000 southern Sudanese have already fled their homes due to violence this year.

Sudan?s referendum commission has scheduled 14th November to begin the voter registration exercise ahead of the referendum. But, Oxfam said the newly announced timetable gives just a few weeks to register voters across southern Sudan, adding that the logistical challenges for the referendum are enormous.

Spokesman McDonald said the Security Council took an important step by visiting Sudan at the ?most crucial period? ahead of the referendum.

?On the referendum, the Security Council is definitely moving in the right direction by visiting Sudan at this time?is definitely showing it?s treating the matter importantly (and) giving the referendum the attention that it deserves. What needs to happen is that with less than 100 days to go that kind of attention needs to be stepped up.?

Oxfam also urged the Security Council to ensure that the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) implements its mandate to protect civilians ahead of, during and following the referendum.