The Sudanese government and the United Nations are "alarmingly" unprepared for a scheduled January 2011 referendum on south Sudan's independence, according to a new report from a coalition of NGOs.
The report, released on Wednesday, said that Sudan had missed a number of deadlines to prepare for the referendum, and that the voter registration process had yet to begin.
It urged the referendum's "guarantors" — including the African Union, the US and the European Union — to expand their efforts in Sudan.
"The outpouring of verbal support has not been adequately translated into the necessary diplomatic, financial, and technical resources to enable two free and fair referenda," the report, which was prepared by 24 organisations, including Global Witness, Refugees International and the Enough Project, said.
Lessons from April
Sudan's presidential and parliamentary elections in April were sometimes described as a "practice run" for the southern referendum. International observers said the elections were flawed, particularly the voter registration process.
Omar al-Bashir won what many observers called a flawed election in April [AFP]
But the Sudanese government has learned few lessons from that experience, the NGOs found.
"The elections did very little to put in place a sustainable framework for a more democratic Sudan," their report said.
A commission to oversee the national referendum was approved late last month, and now has less than three months to finish voter registration. In Abyei, an oil-rich region scheduled to hold its own referendum, the commission has not even been established yet.
The NGOs also faulted the United Nations, which has not yet deployed a monitoring mission expected to oversee the run-up to the election.
Oil revenues subhed
Southerners are generally expected to approve the referendum, which would give the newly-independent southern state control of much of Sudan's oil reserves. Oil already accounts for 98 per cent of the south Sudanese government's annual budget.
But that new state will be landlocked, forcing it to reach an oil transport agreement with the north.
"The risks are high... the new country will be landlocked and dependent on Northern Sudan to export its oil, something that Khartoum could refuse or make prohibitively expensive," the report said.
Sudanese officials recently began talks on a "road map" for dealing with the results of the referendum.