It will be a miracle if Sudan’s southern referendum on independence takes place on time, said the head of the commission planning the vote which is expected to divide Africa’s largest country.
Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil told reporters the timetable was very tight and announced a delay of one day for voter registration, which will now begin on November 15.
He said the commission had received no funds from the UN Development Programme to finance the vote, although the UNDP has said it has provided more than US$7 million for the project, Reuters reports.
“Holding the referendum on time will need a miracle because of the difficulties and tight timeline,” he said, adding that the commission was meeting new obstacles daily as it struggled to hold the vote on January 9, 2011.
“Our plan is to open the registration centres on November 15 — the one-day delay is because we expected the materials to arrive in Khartoum on October 23 but they were delayed by one day.”
Sudan’s northern defence minister said earlier this month that the vote might have to be delayed because of logistical problems. The southern government rejects any delay.
The referendum is the culmination of a 2005 north-south peace deal which ended more than two decades of a civil war which claimed some 2 million lives, mostly through famine and disease.
Many fear a delay in the vote could lead to violence among southerners, who see the plebiscite as their only chance to exercise their right to self-determination.
Khalil said the commission had received no funds from donors and only small amounts of cash from the national government and the semi-autonomous southern government, causing problems in hiring some 10,800 polling staff.
“The last report of the UNDP (UN Development Programme) said they have provided us with US$7,168,000 in support of the referendum commission but we don’t know anything about this nor have we received anything — not even US$100,000,” he said.
The overall budget for the vote has been estimated at more than US$370 million. Time is running short to transport the voter registration forms to the remote south, where there is little infrastructure, and to train polling staff before the complicated registration procedure, which is based on ethnicity.