Sudan’s ruling northern party warned it may not recognise the result of a January 9 southern referendum on independence if problems with registering voters were not resolved.
The vote marks the final stage of a 2005 peace process between the north and south of Sudan which ended Africa’s longest civil war, and most people expect the south to vote to secede.
However, the northern National Congress Party (NCP) said low registration of southerners living in the north would affect the credibility of any outcome. The NCP blamed the southern ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), for telling southerners in the north not to register.
“The SPLM is using tools to pressure and threaten and terrorise people not to register and this means … that the whole referendum will not be free and fair and transparent,” senior NCP official Rabie Abdelati told Reuters.
“If this behaviour continues by the SPLM … this will not lead to an atmosphere conducive to holding the referendum and … the results will be affected,” he said. “This will ultimately lead to non recognition not only by the Sudan government but by the whole international community.”
Two SPLM officials, who declined to be named, confirmed to Reuters that it had told southerners in the north not to register, saying they feared the NCP could manipulate results there. However, the SPLM publicly denied this was official party policy, instead accusing the NCP of intimidating southerners.
The referendum commission has estimated that around 5.5 million southerners may be eligible to vote, including 500,000 in the north and another half a million abroad.
The NCP believes many southerners in the north may vote for unity whereas a majority in the south will vote to secede.
Khartoum governor Abdel Rahman al-Khidr said that only about 1,000 southerners registered in the capital on November 15, when registration opened. Since then the daily numbers had decreased in Khartoum, where most of those eligible to vote in the north live, he said.
The NCP made a formal complaint to the referendum commission on Monday about southerners being prevented from registering in the north and south.
The referendum commission confirmed the turnout in the north was “very low” but declined to give numbers. Registration will last for 17 days from November 15.
But the commission organising the vote said it had received no complaints from anyone being prevented from registering.
“Nobody came to the commission to say he or she was prevented from registering,” said spokesman George Makuer. “Probably someone was prevented only if they did not meet the criteria to register,” he added.
More than 60 percent of southerners who register must turn out to vote for the result to be valid.