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Carter Center Congratulates Success of Southern Sudan Referendum, Encourages Steps to Strengthen Future Elections

CONTACTS: Khartoum: Sanne van den Bergh +249 911 714 041, 
Juba: Maggie Ray +249 955 314 925, Atlanta: Deborah Hakes, +1 404 420 5124

The Carter Center congratulates the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement partners, and the Sudanese people on the announcement of the final results of the referendum on the self-determination of Southern Sudan. The results indicate overwhelming popular support for the secession of Southern Sudan, and their announcement marks the successful conclusion of the referendum process. The Center's observation mission finds that the referendum provided a credible expression of the will of the Southern Sudanese people and has been broadly consistent with international standards.

A Carter Center statement released on Jan. 17 provided a preliminary assessment of the referendum process to that point. This statement covers the subsequent period, focusing in particular on ballot counting, the tabulation of results, and data processing and finalization of results. The Center's overall assessment is that these processes were conducted in an orderly, professional manner, with few irregularities.

While the Center had sufficient access to these final processes and acknowledges the tight timeline the commission was working under, some of the procedures for data processing and the review or auditing of results were not adequately explained to stakeholders, including procedural steps to review referendum center results that indicated inconsistencies between voter registration and turnout. For future elections, the election management body should distribute such procedures widely with all electoral stakeholders, while using adequate and transparent safeguards so that irregularities in results are identified, and where needed audited. This will be particularly important in future races where the winning margins could be closer than during the referendum.

Finally, the Center is concerned about the reports of several incidents of intimidation that occurred in the South during the referendum, which while rare, contravene Sudan's domestic and international human rights obligations.

Going forward, The Carter Center urges all parties to redouble their efforts to resolve outstanding bilateral issues during the remainder of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement interim period, which ends in July 2011, including an agreement on oil and water resources, the national debt, the relocation and reintegration of security forces to the North and South, and outstanding issues related to south-south reconciliation.  It is also particularly important to resolve issues relating to citizenship and the rights of southerners in the North and northerners in the South.

In the current post-referendum period, the Center is very concerned about the recent arrests and detention of demonstrators without charge in Khartoum and clashes between southerners within armed units in Upper Nile and between the SPLA and armed groups in Unity and Jonglei states, which have led to dozens of deaths, including many civilians. The building of genuinely democratic states in Sudan requires the protection of democratic political space and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Center urges the authorities in both Khartoum and Juba to ensure the full protection of these political rights and freedoms.

Background on the Carter Center Mission

The Carter Center has maintained a field presence in Sudan throughout the entire referendum process. For the balloting period, the Center deployed more than 100 observers to monitor voting and counting in Sudan and the eight countries where Southern Sudanese diaspora participated.  The Center's referendum delegation was led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, former Prime Minister of Tanzania and Judge on the East African Court of Justice Joseph Sinde Warioba, and CEO and President of The Carter Center Dr. John Hardman.

Currently, the Center has 16 long-term observers in Sudan to report on post-referendum processes and to monitor and report on the postponed elections in South Kordofan and the Popular Consultations in Blue Nile.

The Carter Center assessed the referendum processes in Sudan based on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Interim National Constitution, Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan, Southern Sudan Referendum Act, and Sudan's obligations for democratic elections contained in regional and international agreements. The objectives of the Center's observation mission in Sudan are to provide an impartial assessment of the overall quality of the referendum process, promote an inclusive process for all Southern Sudanese, and demonstrate international interest in Sudan's referendum process. The Carter Center conducts observation activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles of International Election Observation and Code of Conduct that was adopted at the United Nations in 2005 and endorsed by 35 election observation groups.

Read the full statement (PDF) >


The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife,
Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not for- profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. For more than 20 years, The Carter Center has worked to improve health and prevent and resolve conflict in Sudan. Please visit to learn more about The Carter Center.

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