Upcoming Sudanese elections must be free, fair and credible, UN chief stresses

7 April 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on all parties in Sudan to ensure that next week’s national elections are free, fair and credible, while voicing concerns about security and logistics for the polls – the first of their kind in 24 years.

During the elections, scheduled to be held from 11 to 13 April, voters will be able to choose a national president, a southern president, local and national assemblies, and governors. The polls are seen as a benchmark in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which was signed in 2005 to end the long-running north-south civil war.

“I call on all concerned to ensure that the electoral environment is conducive to the holding of free and fair elections that are acceptable to the Sudanese people,” Mr. Ban writes in his latest report on the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), which was made public today.

UNMIS has been assisting the Government and the National Elections Commission (NEC) by providing technical and logistical support to enable timely conduct of the elections and by advising and encouraging the Commission, the Government and all other parties to address concerns that may jeopardize their credibility.

Mr. Ban’s report, which covers the period from 19 January to 20 March, comes amid press reports that the main political group in the south, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), will boycott the elections and that the European Union has withdrawn its electoral observers from the strife-torn region of Darfur due to security concerns.

“While we respect the right of candidates and political parties to reach their own decisions, we continue to encourage all Sudanese political actors to recognize the importance of dialogue, for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, Marie Okabe, told a news conference in New York today.

“We encourage the Government of National Unity, the Government of Southern Sudan, and the National Elections Commission to ensure that the elections credibly reflect the will of the Sudanese people,” she stated.

The Secretary-General voices concern in his report about security in southern Sudan and Darfur during the electoral period. “In particular, the limited capacities of the Southern Sudan Police Service, including the overall level of training, the shortage of vehicles and the lack of communications equipment, will pose a challenge to the Government of Southern Sudan’s ability to provide security during elections,” he states.

Another challenge arises from the fact that the NEC has plans to establish polling stations with more than 1,200 voters assigned to them, which will pose a significant difficulty in terms of the time allocated for voting, notes the Secretary-General.

In addition, he states, it is unclear whether the ink supplied to each station to mark voters will be sufficient for such high numbers.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ban says “significant” challenges remain in the preparation for the January 2011 referenda on southern secession and on the status of the disputed, oil-rich area of Abyei.

“Although the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement have shown increasing political will to address referendum-related issues, they have made little concrete progress in establishing arrangements that would be required no matter the outcome of the referenda,” he writes.

In February the Presidency of the Government of National Unity issued a resolution urging the parties to the CPA to assure the Sudanese people that the parties will reach agreement on the post-referendum arrangements, preferably before the conduct of the referendum in 2011, and to mobilize support from and agree on a well-defined role for the international community.

“The parties to the Agreement have not, however, agreed upon a structure, mechanism or timetable,” Mr. Ban laments.

In addition, political disagreements within the Government of National Unity have contributed to delays in the appointment of posts in the Southern Sudan and Abyei Referendum Commissions, hampering progress on technical preparations for the referenda.

“I cannot overemphasize the importance of both effective technical preparations for the referendum voting process and a workable agreement on post-referendum arrangements,” states the Secretary-General.

“With less than 10 months remaining before the referenda, delays in addressing any of the major outstanding issues are likely to have serious repercussions for the entire peace process,” he adds.

In his report, Mr. Ban also recommends a one-year extension of the mandate of UNMIS, until 30 April 2011, and notes that the mission will face key challenges with regard to referendum preparations, security in the south, and capacity-building in the UNMIS areas of operation in the upcoming period.

[original]

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