By Dr James Okuk
November 6, 2010 (SSNA) — I have been following this matter with keenness and now finally the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission has requested officially the Presidency approval in Khartoum to delay the polling date of the referendum from 9th January to another date ahead before July 2011. The main reason they cited are:
1) there is too much to be done and the time remaining in the referendum countdown is very short;
2) the budget for facilitating the work of the referendum has not fully been allocated and this has made the commission helpless to do much that is required from them within the given short time.
Obviously, this request comes after our GoSS President, H.E. Salva Kiir, gave the commission Chairman a green light during their meeting in Khartoum ten days ago that his concerns would be looked into positively when the commission submits a written request to the Presidency. H.E. Kiir was also reported in the media saying that the GoSS has no money to offer as the required budget to the Referendum Commission and it is up to Southerners to tax their salaries and gives it as a contribution to the commission so that it could achieve its work in time, otherwise.
Also from my own reading, what the written requests stated implicitly is that the commission members are not working as a team because of politics of “unity-separation” affiliations that has affected them too much to the extent that some of them spent sleepless nights in nightmares of what will happen to the current united Sudan and what will be the situation of the separated South Sudan. Thus, the commission spokesman has resigned, the SG may resign and others who are affiliated to the NCP may follow suit too as they fail to force the Chairman, Prof. Khalil, to resign after making his work within the commission very difficult through oppositions and sabotages. And since our very own people from Southern Sudan have been given only subordinate positions within the commission, they are already finding themselves helpless to help the situation as their northern colleagues continue to fight each others as an attempt to collapse the Commission, and automatically delay the conduct of the Referendum.
What is it that can be done to avoid the Referendum commission collapse as the polling date nears and as the CPA interim period counts down very fast?
1) Accept the postponement of the polling date as requested by the SSRC but only up to 9th April 2011 to avoid any mess in the rush hour, but while continuing with other referendum process like voter registration, campaigns, publication of voters name, correction of the miswritten voters name and inclusion of the missing ones, preparation of the voting centers and making them known and with ballot boxes and papers availed in time with protection from UN forces, and training of SSRC officials for results management and credibility.
2) Amend the Southern Sudan Referendum Act (2009) to avoid any legal loopholes and critical objections on the referendum conduct and results.
3) Not to attempt conducting a unilateral referendum for Southern Sudan in Juba.
There is already good news that USA International Development (USAID) and the United Nations officially handed over voter registration materials to the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) in Juba on Friday, October 29, and in Khartoum on Saturday, October 30. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the USAID in collaboration with the UN funded the design, procurement, and delivery of the registration books and cards that will be used to register voters for the referendum. They are also providing technical assistance for administering the referendum; promoting and enabling civic participation (through civic and voter education, media assistance, and domestic observation support); and international observation. In addition, they are supporting the provision of office space and equipment for the SSRC, and assistance with the training of voter registration workers. These are positive steps that should never be spoiled by the possible collapse of the Referendum commission if serious measures are not taken now than later.
Viva South Sudan as struggle of the independence continues!!!
Dr James Okuk is reachable at email@example.com