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Sudan Referendum Commission Rejects Constitutional Lawsuit

The commission organizing Southern Sudan’s Jan. 9 independence referendum rejected a lawsuit seeking to halt the vote on the grounds that the committee violated the law, a spokesman said.

“The procedures were all correct, and all done within the provisions of the law,” commission spokesman George Maker said today in a telephone interview from Khartoum, the capital. The commission issued its response to the lawsuit yesterday, he said.

Sudan’s Constitutional Court has the power to issue a final decision on the referendum process, he said. The vote is the centerpiece of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a 21-year civil war between the north and the oil-producing south. About 2 million people died in the conflict and 4 million fled their homes.

President Umar al-Bashir’s government in Khartoum has urged voters in the south to choose to remain part of Sudan.

Any delay in the referendum risks “a return to instability and violence,” Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir said in September at the United Nations in New York.

The lawsuit was brought by “a group of Sudanese citizens,” Maker said. “I believe it is politically motivated.”

It said the commission violated the schedule provided by the referendum law, passed by the national assembly in December last year, and that two ethnic groups were not allowed to register for the vote, he said.

Both tribes were allowed to register, Maker said.

Voters’ Role

It was “an impossibility” for the commission, which was set up in June, to publish a final voters’ roll three months ahead of the vote as required by the referendum law, Maker said. The final list will be released Jan. 8, a day before the vote.

The commission is aware of other constitutional lawsuits against the process, “but we don’t know how many there are,” Maker said.

Southern Sudanese overwhelmingly favor independence, according to an Oct. 20 study by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, based on 63 focus groups surveyed in 48 locations from Feb. 5 to March 16.

Southern Sudan accounts for as much as 80 percent of Sudan’s 490,000 barrels of daily oil production. Sudan is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest producer, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

More than 3.5 million people registered in the southern region to vote in the referendum, with final figures yet to be released, Maker said. About 116,000 southerners in Sudan’s north and almost 60,000 living abroad registered, he said.

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