Southern Sudan referendum "fully" prepared: official

21:37, January 05, 2011      

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The southern Sudan referendum to be held in the country's south, north and eight foreign countries is now fully prepared for the historic day on Jan. 9, a referendum commission official told Xinhua Wednesday.

Hassan Gadkarim, the overseas operations director of the commission, is in charge of the preparation process in the 15 states of the north and foreign countries, including Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia, the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia.

"All the electoral materials have been sent and shipped to polling centers in Sudan and overseas. The materials are in safe places. So now we are ready for the operation," Gadkarim said.

The commission has established links between polling centers in the north, south and overseas. All the centers are now ready to receive voters. If any problems occur, they will be reported immediately and the guidance will be sent there to solve the problems accordingly, he said.

A referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan is scheduled to be conducted on Jan. 9 as stipulated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) inked between north and south Sudan in 2005, which ended a two-decade civil war between the two sides.

Organizers said almost four million people in the north, south and eight foreign countries have registered to vote. Among them, 60,000 live overseas -- most of them refugees who fled the civil war, and another 116,000 voters are in the north.

Officials said polling materials have been flown by the United Nations to remote areas of southern Sudan, where more than 95 percent of voters are living. Many observers believe the referendum is likely to split Africa's largest country into two.

The commission has pledged itself to guaranteeing a transparent, fair and credible referendum. International and local observers will watch the whole process. The commission holds meetings with international partners and experts frequently every week to discuss the progress.

"We are open. We have nothing to hide. The process is a moral and legal exercise," Gadkarim said.

As for security concerns, Gadkarim said so far the commission hasn't encountered problems.

"We have enough and sound security plans. We also cooperate with our partners like the UN to protect polling stations and materials," he said. "The referendum will be held securely to the end."

There were concerns that Sudan's poor infrastructure and lack of time for preparation could caused logistical and transport difficulties, which were feared to delay the referendum and blocked voters' access to polling station.

But Gadkarim said all these problems have been overcome through good plans and laborious work.

"Now we are to enter the peak of the polling process. Judging from the past experience and the present situation, we are welcoming the most important moment with more confidence and assurance," he said.

Source: Xinhua
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