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Southerners not able to register

As the referendum date approaches, concerns over voter eligibility heighten and fears of mass migration trouble both North and South.

Haitham Nouri, Saturday 27 Nov 2010
Sudanese registration centre
Reuters: A registration poster of the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) is seen at a registration point in Khartoum 17 November 2010. Southern Sudanese living in the north and eight other countries outside of Sudan will have the right to vote in a 9 January 2011 referendum on southern independence.

Southern Sudanese nationals living in Uganda have received death threats in case they register for the referendum on the right to self determination, Sudanese officials said. This development which could obstruct the voting process was denied by the government of the South.

Officials added that employees working for the International Organisation for Migration have also received threats likely to obstruct the 9 January referendum.

The referendum commission, based in the Sudanese capital, said they were reviewing reports indicating that the threats came from activists in the south of Sudan who fear potential vote-rigging.

Media reports from the north of Sudan described weak registration turnouts by southerners living in the north.

Reports said that of the half a million southerners living in the north only 9 thousand have registered their names in centres set up by the commission.

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the north has accused its partner in the south, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Sudan (SPLM), of preventing southerners in the north from registering their names. The NCP alleges that the SPLM has sent text messages via mobile phone to southern Sudanese residents in the north on grounds that they want to expose “any non southern names from registering in the referendum”.

Salah el Melieh, speaking on behalf of the south of Sudan communication office in Cairo, denied such rumours alleging such reports were “ill motivated rumours aimed at diverting attention away from the referendum or obstructing it.”

 “The government of the south has no presence in the North”, said el Melieh, adding, “All we want is for the southerners to express their views freely.” He also said that employees at the referendum commission and the International Organisation for Migration will begin registration in Cairo next week.

It is known that the number of southerners eligible for participation in the referendum, in and outside Sudan, amount to five million voters who have registered their names in 2794 centres, of which 2629 are based in the South. The registration will extend to 4 December according to a time table published on the website of the SPLM.

A report published earlier on the SPLM website mentioned that voting centres in the South register an average of 180 voters per day.

Meanwhile, southern provinces have opened the door for thousands coming from the north to participate in the referendum driven by increasing concern regarding possible forceful migration or harassment should the voting be in favour of separation.

The Wehda province in the south which received 17 thousand southerners from the north sent messages during the first half of November to international relief organisations asking for aid to feed those numbers which international reports describe as hungry and isolated in their camps.

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© 2010 Ahram Online.