Sudan Sets Referendum Timetable, Violence Fears Continue

Yesterday the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission released a timetable to guide the preparations surrounding the scheduled January 9 referendum on southern independence. Having concrete dates and numbers, however, has not completely relieved observers who fear the possibility of violence.

To look at the preparations in detail, registration will run from November 14 to December 4. Other key dates include December 7, when campaigning begins, and December 31, when “the definitive electoral register is to be completed.” Here’s a look at the logistics:

Voter registration material is being printed in South Africa, while ballot papers will also be printed outside Sudan with security devices fitted to prevent fraud, Reec added.

Polling will take place across Sudan but only those able to prove they come from the south will be eligible to vote.

Voting will also take place in eight other countries — neighbouring Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt, as well as in Australia, Britain, the United States and Canada.

In those countries, the intergovernmental International Organisation for Migration (IOM) will assist the registration process, Reec said.

The current schedule reflects a large delay that came down late last month. With preparations running behind schedule, “The BBC’s Peter Martell in the southern capital, Juba, says the timing for the referendum…is extremely tight.” Commissioners promise the vote will take place on time or after a very brief delay, but Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir has warned that violence may follow any delay. Meanwhile, “progress has been slow in settling a number of issues leading up to” a separate but related referendum in the border region of Abyei. Northern and Southern Sudanese officials are meeting with US mediators in Ethiopia this week to address the situation in Abyei, but they are behind schedule as well.

Small wonder, then, that US and UN envoys are worried about the situation in Sudan. A look at the helpful numbers sheet compiled at the Christian Science Monitor reminds us of the many different moving parts in this system, and the multiple pressures and problems surrounding the referendum.

Al Jazeera English also has a useful video (now a few days old) on the preparations for the referendum:

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