This graphic outlines the steps that were necessary to achieve a peaceful, on-time referendum for Southern Sudan, and the progress made from October 2010 to the start of polling on January 9 to achieve that goal. The United States worked closely with the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), and international partners to achieve successful completion of all of these steps.
On January 8, 2011, the SSRC announced the final total number of registered voters in Sudan and eight other countries as 3,932,588. This includes 3,755,512 registered voters in southern Sudan, 116,857 registered voters in northern Sudan, and 60,219 registered voters in the eight countries in which Diaspora are able to vote. The SSRC also declared that a total number of 2,359,553 votes are needed in order for the referendum to be declared legal. According to section 41(2) of the Southern Sudan Referendum Act “the Southern Referendum shall be deemed legal if at least 60% of the registered voters cast their vote.”
In a December 15 statement, The Carter Center reported that registration was “credible” and “a strong step toward successful conduct of the referendum.” Similarly, the UN Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referendum noted that the process “should help prepare the ground for a credible referendum on 9 January 2011.” At the start of polling, the independent international observer missions of the African Union, The Carter Center, the European Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and the League of Arab States released a joint statement congratulating the CPA parties, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau for their efforts to organize the referendum process.
The SSRC and Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau overcame an extremely short timeframe and significant logistical challenges to complete preparations in Sudan and ensure that polling could begin on time. Similarly, the International Organization of Migration worked in the eight diaspora countries to make accelerated preparations for polling. The SSRC hired over 15,000 referendum workers for registration and polling and, with international assistance, trained those workers and procured the necessary registration and polling materials. Finally, in cooperation with the UN, the SSRC oversaw the dispatch of materials to referendum centers in both Sudan and in the eight designated countries for out-of-country voting.
The Southern Sudan referendum is one of the most observed electoral processes to date. The SSRC accredited approximately 600 international and 8,000 domestic observers for the polling period. The Arab League, African Union, The Carter Center, European Union, IGAD, and UN Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referendum all sent missions to Sudan to observe polling; the Carter Center and European Union also observed voter registration.
The SSRC last month approved rules and regulations for polling and counting. Immediately following the close of polling on the final day of voting, each Referendum Center will count its ballots and post the results outside the center. Results will be manually aggregated at the county and state levels, while a results database will tabulate results on a regional level (southern Sudan, northern Sudan, and Diaspora) using results reports from each Referendum Center. Following the aggregation and tabulation of southern Sudan, northern Sudan, and Diaspora results in the database, the SSRC will announce preliminary results. There will then be a short period for appeals, after which the SSRC will make the final results announcement.
International agencies and donors, including the United States and the United Nations, have provided substantial support for the referendum process through technical, logistical, and material assistance. Both the Government of National Unity (GoNU) in Khartoum and Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) in Juba have also disbursed some funds for the process, although far less than requested by the SSRC. Both governments need to ensure there is adequate funding for the SSRC and SSRB to finalize their operations, in particular so they can pay all referendum workers.
The United States continues to believe that an on-time, peaceful Southern Sudan referendum whose results are respected offers the best hope to advance peace and stability across Sudan. The United States will continue to engage with all parties toward the ultimate goal of a more peaceful and stable Sudan.