8 November 2010Progress has been made for the start of voter registration for the Southern Sudan independence referendum scheduled for January, an election official with the United Nations has reported, pledging continued support to ensure that the vote passes peacefully. Speaking yesterday at the official launch of the media campaign for the referendum, Eamon O’Mordha of the UN Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division (UNIRED) recounted the progress made so far. “A lot of activities are going on now at the moment. The [registration] material has arrived, it’s been sent out to the states. The recruitment of the voter registration staff is almost complete. The voter registration centres have been finalized,” he said.“There’s a real tangible sense that things are really happening and moving forward. But very important in terms of preparations is also that the voters themselves start to get involved in the process, and the first step in this is that the information becomes available to the voters. I think it’s very timely that the media campaign now starts, the [Southern Sudan Referendum] Bureau has very good plans in terms of trying to get as much information to the eligible voters as possible.”The referendum – along with a separate vote also on 9 January on whether the central area of Abyei will be part of the north or the south – will be the final phase in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The 2005 pact ended two decades of conflict between the northern-based Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the south.Mr. O’Mordha was joined at Sunday’s launch by the deputy chairperson of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), Justice Reec Madut, and the Government of Southern Sudan’s Minister of Information, Barnaba Marial Benjamin.Mr. Madut expressed his gratitude to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) for the ongoing logistical support it is providing to the voter registration process, which begins on 15 November.“At this point in time, some areas are inaccessible because of the rains,” he said. “But our friends at UNMIS have promised us to help in transporting registration materials to those areas which are inaccessible by road.”Announcing the start of two months of media campaigning, Mr. Madut described “another historic day in our move towards the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” and said the ground rules for the campaign were simple.“There should no incitement; there should be freedom of expression. We are to ensure equal opportunity for all political parties to express their opinions about the two options.”Mr. Benjamin echoed the pledge of the referendum bureau’s chairperson to guarantee freedom of expression for all points of view during the upcoming media campaign.“The Government of Southern Sudan would like to see a referendum that is credible, a referendum that is recognized by the international community, by the members of the region, by our partners in Khartoum and a referendum that we will equally recognize as a government,” he said.