Early Sudan returns heavily for secession; government prepares to lead

Jan 21, 2011

A polling staff member demonstrates the choices
on the ballot for South Sudan’s referendum on
independence,“unity” or “secession.”
(Photo: UNDP)

Juba – Nearly 99 percent of South Sudanese have voted for secession in a closely-watched referendum, according to provisional returns released Friday, 21 January.

The week-long referendum, which ended on 15 January, is part of the process to implement the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended two decades of civil war between the north and the south. Sixty per cent of the nearly four million voters registered to take part in the referendum needed to vote for the outcome to be valid.

The results were released on a web site published by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission.

The Government of Southern Sudan has been working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to build up the essential functions necessary to provide basic services to its citizens in the post-referendum period.

“If the government lays the foundation for a state that can deliver basic services, then the likelihood of security, stability and development sharply increases,” said Joe Feeney, head of the UNDP office in Juba, the capital of the autonomous region. 

Last year, the government started designing its strategy to take Southern Sudan forward from the referendum, so that it can provide vital services to its people and establish basic security and the rule of law as it begins the process of building a state.

Together with UNDP and international partners, Southern Sudan’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning has identified its core government functions that must be operational by summer 2011.

The six areas identified as core functions critical to the government’s success are: executive leadership; security; rule of law; management of public finances; public administration; and management of natural resources.

UNDP is the government’s leading partner in four of those areas: strengthening executive leadership, establishing the rule of law – including by supporting the new Southern Sudan Police Service – and introducing transparency and efficiency in the management of public finances and public administration.

In those sectors, UNDP is improving the administration’s ability to govern by providing technical advice, trainings and access to experience from other countries – especially those in Africa, which have gone through similar challenges.

“Transparency, efficiency and security are crucial to build strong foundations for a capable government,” said Feeney. “To put those safety nets in place, we’ve brought in accountants, economists, treasurers, engineers, police trainers and other professionals to Southern Sudan, who are working side-by-side with local civil servants until they’re ready to take over entirely.”

With assistance from the Government of Canada, UNDP has placed more than 100 of its staff and United Nations Volunteers – mostly from neighboring countries – in all levels of government, from the Office of the President to local governments in Southern Sudan’s 10 states.

In the state of Central Equatoria, for example, an improved financial management system introduced by two UNDP advisors has already helped the government to organize the construction of more than 100 wells, schools and health centers.

“Our main objective is to prevent the influx of people into towns by bringing services like water, roads, health centers and schools to their villages instead,” said John Ijino Lako, Director-General of the Ministry of Finance of Central Equatoria. “We need financial advisors from UNDP to sit with our staff until they’re well trained in spending money against approved budgets and in line with government rules and regulations.”

With US$10 million from the Government of Norway and in partnership with the East African regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), UNDP is now preparing to deploy 200 more civil servants from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda to expand the capacity of the administration. Even with this deployment, however, the Government of Southern Sudan will need more support.

In addition to advising the Government, UNDP is helping to build facilities for local institutions and provide them with computers and other needed equipment.

As part of its support for the creation of a stable, peaceful Southern Sudan where people have access to basic services, UNDP also played a critical role in the organization of the referendum.

Forming the UN Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division in collaboration with the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan, UNDP made major contributions to registering voters, setting up polling stations and training their staff, obtaining voting ballots, and managing voter education programmes and other activities critical to a successful referendum process.

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