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Carter Center Finds Southern Sudan Voter Registration Credible, Strong Step Toward Referendum Despite Some Weaknesses


In Sudan: Sanne van den Bergh +249 911 714 041
In Atlanta: Deborah Hakes +1 404 420 5124

Carter Center Preliminary Statement on Voter Registration Process for the Southern Sudan Referendum. Read the full statement (PDF) >

In a statement issued today, The Carter Center reported that although the voter registration for the Southern Sudan Referendum on self-determination faced several logistical, procedural, and security challenges, the process was generally credible and represents a strong step toward the successful conduct of the referendum.  At the same time, the Center noted that the ultimate success of the voter registration process will depend on the final stages of completing the voter list.
Carter Center observers reported that referendum centers generally opened on time and with appropriate materials across Northern and Southern Sudan, and that Southern Sudanese have had adequate opportunities to register.  The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB), and their subsidiary bodies worked hard to support the smooth operations and timely opening of registration centers across Sudan, with officials responding appropriately to most of the challenges that arose during the registration period. In the overwhelming majority of locations, registration was conducted in a peaceful environment, with the notable exceptions of security incidents in Akobo and Kiir Adem.  Carter Center observers also noted a few isolated incidents of intimidation, but did not report any systematic attempts to undermine the process. Although the identification and appeals processes did not always adhere to the voter registration regulations, the vast majority of Southern Sudanese were able to participate in the registration process. 
As the population of Sudan moves closer toward the final phase of implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), it is critical that key political issues are resolved. Most significantly, the two CPA parties should urgently resolve the ambiguity surrounding the future of Abyei and the citizenship of nationals in both Northern and Southern Sudan before the referendum. Also important is the inclusion of the entire Sudanese population in the debates surrounding unity or secession. The possible secession of Southern Sudan is an issue of critical significance to the future of the country, and all segments of Sudanese society should become actively engaged in the process. 
The Carter Center noted the following key issues during the voter registration process that should be addressed urgently to facilitate a smooth and peaceful referendum.

  • Both the Government of Sudan and the Government of Southern Sudan should denounce any intimidation tactics and emphasize their commitment to a free and fair referendum that accurately reflects the will of the Southern Sudanese people.
  • Referendum administration bodies, government, and civil society actors should urgently intensify voter education to advise registered voters where polling will take place in areas where the referendum centers were mobile or were moved. Voter education efforts should also inform the population about the one-week voting period to ensure voters do not overload referendum centers on the first day, and also about the expected timeline for the announcement of results to calm anxieties that could arise during the long results tabulation process.
  • The referendum administration should make contingency plans to address possible shortages of materials and problems with retrieving data from remote referendum centers during polling.
  • The referendum administration should also take steps to ensure that all referendum staff is paid so that the polling process is not interrupted due to discontent over lack of payment.
  • The SSRC and SSRB should ensure that sufficient additional staff is hired to facilitate the smooth management of the polling process.
  • More women should be hired as referendum center staff ahead of polling to promote greater participation of women in the referendum process.
  • Steps should be taken to expedite accreditation for domestic observers and to clarify the role of political party representatives in the referendum process.
  • Actors in Northern Sudan should refrain from recording the names and registration details of persons when they come to vote as it is often perceived as intimidating.
  • Representatives of the international and domestic media should act with sensitivity and responsibility when reporting on the referendum process.

The Carter Center observed the voter registration for the Southern Sudan referendum on self-determination from Nov. 15–Dec. 8, 2010.   Across Sudan, more than 50 observers made approximately 1300 visits to referendum centers in 24 out of 25 states. The Center also deployed 26 observers to the eight nations where out-of-country registration was conducted. These observers visited a large majority of the overseas registration centers.  The analysis and recommendations included here are based upon the direct observations of the Center's observers. Final conclusions about the voter registration will depend on assessment of the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the voter registry, including effective resolution of complaints.  
In response to an invitation from the SSRC, The Carter Center initiated its referendum observation activities in Sudan in August 2010, subsequently deploying long-term observers in September. The Center assesses the referendum process in Sudan based on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Interim National Constitution, Southern Sudan Referendum Act, and Sudan's obligations for democratic elections contained in regional and international agreements, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In total, Carter Center core staff and observers form a diverse group from 28 countries. 

The objectives of the Carter 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 Center's full report (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. The Carter Center began working in Sudan in 1986 on the Sasakawa-Global 2000 agricultural project and for more than 20 years its health and peace programs have focused on improving health and preventing and resolving conflicts in Sudan. Please visit to learn more about The Carter Center.

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