Rift Valley Institute

Summary of the report

The self-determination process in Sudan is in danger. With ten weeks remaining before a referendum on the possible secession of Southern Sudan, preparations for registration of voters have only just started.

In Abyei, where a separate referendum is due to take place, they have not yet begun.

The process has been dogged by delays and disputes between the National Congress Party (NCP), which dominates the National Government in Khartoum, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the main party in the Government of Southern Sudan.

The short time now remaining means technical deficiencies in the conduct of the referenda are likely. This will mean that the outcome of the southern referendum - widely expected to be a vote for separation of Southern Sudan from the north - could be disputed, renewing the threat of war.

Earlier this week a critical meeting in Addis Ababa to resolve the impasse was cancelled. An SPLA representative accused the NCP of holding the peace process to ransom over Abyei.

A major report from the Rift Valley Institute argues that a new deal is necessary between the SPLM and the NCP, the two parties to Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The report, Race Against Time, documents the many unresolved problems of the referenda and the technical challenges presented by the compressed timetable for registration and voting. It draws lessons from Sudan's flawed national elections earlier this year.

Postponement of the referenda will not solve the problem, argues Aly Verjee, the report's author. Nevertheless, the SPLM may have to agree to delay the Abyei referendum in order for the southern referendum to stay on track.

'At this final stage,' the report concludes, 'brinkmanship, delay and broken agreements - old traditions of Sudanese politics - threaten to turn the political and technical challenges of the referenda into a national disaster. Only concerted international attention and skilful diplomacy can now bring the process of self-determination in Sudan to a successful conclusion.

' Race Against Time is the third in a sequence of reports on the electoral process in Sudan from the Rift Valley Institute.

The two previous reports are Elections in Sudan - Learning from Experience by Justin Willis, Atta el-Battahani and Peter Woodward (2009) and Electoral Designs (2009) by Marc Gustafson.

The report also provides timelines, a guide to electoral bodies in Sudan, comparisons with other referenda and a comprehensive bibliography of legislative and other current documents.

Race Against Time