By Michael Eddy, Democracy and Governance Team Leader, USAID/Sudan
JUBA—Here at the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB) data center, staff are hard at work processing results forms of the votes cast in the referendum on southern Sudan’s self-determination, which concluded January 15 after seven days of voting. Voters had two choices—unity with northern Sudan, or secession.
“All the truth will come out from this office, and we have made sure it is accessible to the observers,” SSRB Chairman Justice Chan Reec Madut said of the data center, which he called the most important part of the SSRB, the Juba-based bureau of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC). “We made clear everything should be done in a very transparent way and we share it with the people,” he added.
The data center, which employs 47 Sudanese staff members, was established with support from USAID through the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). Technical experts from IFES and the United Nations Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division (UNIRED) work in close collaboration with data center staff to support their work.
Data center Director Benedict Lagu—the son of Joseph Lagu, Sudan’s former Vice President and former Ambassador to the United Nations—returned to southern Sudan in 2009 from the United States, where he lived for 19 years. He studied computer science in Iowa and was a professor of information technology at Elizabethtown Community College in Kentucky. He is now director of management information systems at the Southern Sudan Electricity Corporation, but was released from his position for three months to run the SSRB data center.
Results forms from 2,638 referendum voting centers across southern Sudan began arriving at the data center January 18, two days after the polls had closed. Staff enter the data into a database, which verifies voting center information such as the number of eligible voters, processes the forms, and aggregates the results.
After the results from all 2,638 referendum centers in southern Sudan are aggregated, the SSRB will announce provisional results of the ballots cast in southern Sudan—estimated at more than 3 million. Those results will be transmitted to a Khartoum data center, which is currently processing results from voting centers in northern Sudan and the eight other countries where voting occurred (Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The SSRC is scheduled to announce preliminary results by January 31 and final results by February 14.
“It’s a very emotional thing for our people,” Justice Chan said. “They never thought they’d have this opportunity.” He added that the data center will create an archive of the results forms once they are entered. “These are documents that have something to do with the destiny of the people of southern Sudan,” he said. “We want to keep them for the people who will come after us.”
Support for the data center, including the database software and staff training, is just one aspect of USAID’s comprehensive assistance for the referendum, which is part of a broader assistance to help maintain peace and improve lives in Sudan.
You can follow results of the referendum vote as they are posted by the SSRC: http://southernsudan2011.com/
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