afrol News, 17 January - Both the UN and international election observers hail last week's referendum on independence in South Sudan as a success. Meanwhile, the counting of the ballots has already started in Juba.
The UN panel tasked with monitoring the referendum on the future status of South Sudan already yesterday said it was "satisfied" with the polling, which had lasted for a week and ended on Saturday. The UN panel concluded the process had been well organised and enabled the people of the region to express their will freely.
The panel, headed by former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, again confirmed that the 60 percent voter turnout threshold for the referendum to be valid had been met. The presence of over 22,000 Sudanese and international observers helped make the process transparent, the members of the panel said, adding that staff at referendum centres "coped admirably with the very high turnout."
Mr Mkapa's spokesman added the process of transmitting the results from nearly 3,000 referendum centres to county and state levels, and then to South Sudan's capital, Juba, and Khartoum, the national capital has started. It would take several weeks before the final, official results are known, they added. The results are not expected before mid-February.
"While the Sudanese would want to know the outcome of the referendum quickly, we urge the people of Sudan to be patient and be aware that only the results announced by the referendum authorities are official," a statement from the UN panel said.
Officials in Juba however today reported that the vote tabulation process has started and was going well. International election observers are present in all stages of the process.
So far, these observer teams, which include the US Carter Centre, the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU) and the Arab League, so far are hailing the process as free and fair. The EU monitoring mission in Southern Sudan today issued a largely positive preliminary verdict on the referendum.
The EU team of 104 election observers concluded the process so far has been "peaceful and credible". While there had been fears of turmoil and violent clashes, the Europeans had been positively surprise about the peaceful and transparent organisation of the poll.
EU mission leader Véronique de Keyser at a Khartoum press conference added that her mission had been impressed by the high voter turnout. Observers had seen queues of voters everywhere they had gone.
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