|The final electoral list is due on January 5, four days before the referendum of the future of southern Sudan [EPA]|
Registration for the forthcoming January 9 referendum on the future of the semi-autonomous south Sudan has ended.
Referendum organisers announced on Wednesday that more than 3 million voters signed up in the south and 76,000 in the north.
The registration process started on November 15 for a two-week period but it was extended by one week due to high demand in the south and also to encourage a bigger turnout by southerners living in northern Sudan.
According to UN estimates, about five million south Sudanese were eligible to register for the vote, including those settled in the north and abroad.
There were 2,794 voter registration centres across the country of which, 2,629 were in the south. Registration numbers in the north and abroad were low.
Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, South Sudan Referendum Commission [SSRC] chief, said that the number of people who had registered to vote matched the estimates.
“If we consider the problems we encountered during the registration period, I think the percentage is not bad. It is about 40 percent of the expected number. In the south it is more than 60 percent and in the diaspora it is near that percentage, may be around 40 – 50 per cent,” Khalil said.
He added that if all of the registered voters go to the polls on January 9 then “the turnout would not be bad and could be considered as representing the view of south Sudan.”
South Sudan’s ruling party [SPLM] had said on December 4 that southerners were determined to vote on January 9 despite a request by the SSRS for a three-week delay.
In one registration centre in Khartoum, officials beleive that many southerners living in the capital will not go to the polls as they are likely to return to southern Sudan for the actual day of vote.
Hassan Meki, Chancellor of International African University told Al Jazeera from Khartoum that, “There is a negative response in the north of Sudan amongst the southerners, and there is a silent majority from the southerners boycotting this referendum.”
The final electoral list is due to be published on January 5, four days before the vote.
North and south Sudan signed a peace deal in 2005 after more than two decades of war, with an independence referendum on whether the south secedes or
remains part of a united country as a central component.
What lies ahead?
The US State Department, on Tuesday, recognised the significance of the referendum which could partition Africa’s largest nation.
Most analysts expect a majority to vote to secede.
The semi-autonomous southern government has encouraged southerners to return to register and vote in the referendum, fearing fraud in the north.
As January 9 approaches, tension continues to escalate with accusations of voter intimidation and bombings along the still contested north-south border.
The referendum could see Sudan’s autonomous south break away from the north.
Some northern ruling party [NCP] officials warn that the south is not ready for independence and could descend into internal conflict if it became independent next year with political and tribal rivalries running deep between southerners.