Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA) and World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Joint Statement on the South Sudan Referendum 2011
January 2011 In 2005, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Kenya and an interim governance arrangement set up, the stage was set for the end of nearly five decades of civil war. The CPA set in motion the process that led to the Referendum in 2011, the most crucial part of the Agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The Referendum was held to decide whether Southern Sudan remained united to the greater Sudan, the Arab North, or secede as an independent state. The Referendum was held from January 9th to 15th January 2011 in Southern Sudan as well as eight overseas countries - Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt, UK, Canada, US and Australia – making it nothing short of historic!
The Sudanese Church, a vital part of civil society, invited the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), a global body representing 600 million evangelical Christians, and the Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA) to be involved in the process of rebuilding Sudan as part of the “Kejiko 2”, an important dialogue between the Church and the Government of Southern Sudan. It was against this backdrop that AEA and WEA jointly undertook to send teams of international observers to the Referendum. This statement is issued pursuant to their initiatives in observing the South Sudan Referendum.
AEA/WEA applied to the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) for accreditation. This was granted and subsequently a team of observers was sent to Sudan and the host country Kenya. In addition, Uganda, Ethiopia and Egypt, mainly through the National Evangelical Fellowships (NEFs), facilitated teams of observers to over fifty (50) different polling stations. The teams observed polling conditions that included confirmation of registration by the voters, polling documentation, ballot papers and polling booths. Similarly the teams witnessed polling taking place in urban and rural settings, including army camps, SPLM camps and even a lepers’ community in the heart of Juba!
3.Findings and Observations
Representative of evangelicals we observed the following;
v The Referendum was conducted in a peaceful manner to a large extent and for this we give glory to God
v As preliminary results are received from the different centers around the world we note the high numbers of voters who turned up to vote, well over the 60% threshold required to validate the exercise
v That the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) undertook to conduct and did conduct the Referendum in a fair and free manner, and were generally efficient, organized and well prepared. For this they should be congratulated
v That the SSRC did organize the referendum cognizant of all people groups i.e. the elderly, sick and physically or otherwise challenged, that SSRC did cater for each of these categories thus the voice of the Southern Sudanese in Sudan and the Diaspora was well noted,
v That SSRC and the contracted agency, The International Office of Immigration (IOM), did facilitate access to the polling stations through provision of free transport in some areas therefore enabling even those far from the polling stations access the same in good time,
v That IOM did provide and ensure an adequate supply of voting materials at all times as well as provision of technical support to the Referendum Staff,
v That host countries did provide and ensure adequate security at all times at the polling stations; overnight security was provided for the ballot boxes awaiting conclusion of the exercise and tallying of the votes,
v That adherence to the set guidelines was strictly adhered to. The guidelines concerned opening and closing times, press freedom, accreditation of all international and domestic observers, orderliness within the station, clear identification of all staff, valid voter registers as well as ballot papers
v That SSRC did take into consideration community concerns and fears; in Uganda, stations were mainly situated outside the capital city for security to ensure safety of voters and ballots,
v Failure to agree terms on implementing the referendum for Abyei, due to be held simultaneously with the Southern Sudan Referendum. This failure must be held partially responsible for subsequent violence and instability in the Abyei region.
As Sudan and the world at large await the official announcement of the results, we urge the international community to continue in prayer for South Sudan. Several issues are emergent;
v The ongoing conflict in Abyei – over 20 reported dead; this continues to be a great area of concern and outstanding issues must be resolved as soon as possible
v Managing the very high expectations post referendum - communities and individuals have very high expectations post referendum and it is feared that failure to meet these expectations could lead to unrest and possible tension
v Provision of basic services i.e. education, sanitation, food, shelter to the millions of returnees. As scores of people make the southward relocation, access to basic service has already been stretched to the maximum, yet more continue to pour in through the ports and border points
v Volunteers - this could be either short or long term volunteers to work alongside the staff with the different development and mission agencies in Sudan in attending to the humanitarian crisis, the provision of Non-Food Items (NFIs) and medical care among others,
v Trauma Counseling - as communities seek to settle down to nation building, the effects of twenty-one years of conflict cannot be underestimated. Much effort will be required in post conflict management and peace building
Aiah Foday-Khabenje Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe
General Secretary/CEO of AEA International Director of WEA