Submitted by Diana Harper
Last week, voter registration for the January referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan came to a close in Sudan after a process described as peaceful, well-managed, and participatory. To see first-hand what voter registration was like, USAID staff captured video at the registration kickoff in Juba, the regional capital of southern Sudan, and Torit, the capital of Eastern Equatoria state. U.S. Consul General in Juba Barrie Walkley encouraged southern Sudanese to register: “It is your decision, whether it’s for unity or for separation. The decision is yours.”
During Sudan’s 22-year civil war, 2 million people died and 4 million were driven from their homes. The referendum on whether southern Sudan will become an independent country or remain part of a united Sudan is a key provision of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army that finally ended the devastating war. Two major components of the agreement have already been completed: a national census in 2008 and national multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections earlier this year.
As part of efforts to promote peace in Sudan, USAID is supporting a free and fair referendum process. In particular, USAID is:
- Providing expert advice, training, and office space for the Sudanese commission in charge of carrying out the referendum
- Delivering critical materials such as voter registration books and cards, training manuals, and polling kits
- Training voter registration and poll workers
- Educating voters about the referendum process through mass media and community outreach
- Funding registration and voting for the Sudanese diaspora in eight countries
- Supporting observation by both Sudanese and international organizations
Voter registration in Sudan was held from November 15 to December 8. Registration in eight other countries with large southern Sudanese populations will be completed by December 22. The referendum is scheduled for January 9-15, 2011.
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