Almost four million sign up for south Sudan vote

2011-01-04 07:14

Juba - Almost four million people have signed up to vote in southern Sudan's independence referendum due to begin on Sunday, with more than 95% of them in the south, organisers announced on Monday.

"By the latest tomorrow (Tuesday) all the ballot papers will be in the centres," said Chan Reec, deputy chair of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission.

"We are really 100% prepared for the great day."

The registration process was launched on November 15 for a two-week period but extended by one week because of high demand in the south and to encourage a larger turnout by southerners living in northern Sudan.

Voter registration also took place in eight other countries - neighbouring Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt, as well as in Australia, Britain, the United States and Canada.

Those eligible to vote in the referendum include permanent residents of south Sudan since 1956, when the country gained independence from Britain, and those who can trace their ancestry to an established south Sudan tribe.

But Reec said the commission was still waiting for funding from the national government in Khartoum.

"I still trust the government of Sudan will still deliver on its pledges and obligations," said Reec, who said the commission had so far received 51 million Sudanese pounds from the southern government, as well as other funds from international donors.

"If it doesn't, it will still go down in history as one good thing that the referendum was done without a penny from Khartoum," he added.

North and south Sudan signed a peace deal in 2005 after more than two decades of civil war, with an independence referendum on whether the south secedes or remains part of a united country part included in that deal.