Sudan independence vote chief slams donors

KHARTOUM - Foreign donors have held up preparations for a referendum on south Sudan’s independence by not transferring money to the organisers and wasting money on pointless grants, the head of the organising commission said on Sunday.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Mon 15 Nov 2010, 10:16 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:13 AM

Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil lashed out at international groups a day before southern voters were due to start registering to take part in the Jan. 9 vote.

The referendum is the climax of a 2005 north-south peace deal which ended Africa’s longest civil war and most analysts believe the south will vote to secede. Years of bickering delayed planning for the vote which began in July, three years late.

Khalil said the timetable was so tight there was no margin for error as southerners begin on Monday to register to vote.

He criticised the international community for not giving funds directly to the referendum commission as the law required.

“The party which has not availed us of any useable money so far is the international donors,” Khalil told reporters.

The national government had paid the commission 9 million Sudanese pounds ($3.8 million) and the semi-autonomous southern government 10 million pounds. But he said international partners were not even consulting the body on much of their work.

“They give us finished goods, materials just as you cater for a minor. You don’t give a minor cash in case they should misuse it but give them finished goods and services which, incidentally, we resent.”

The US development agency (USAID) said it had budgeted up to $50 million to help with the referendum but confirmed it would not pay any money directly to the commission. British Development Minister Andrew Mitchell said no one but the Sudanese government should pay cash directly to the commission.

Khalil said the international community had appointed mostly non-Sudanese contractors and experts without seeing if there were competent Sudanese to do the same job. He said they had appointed a US law firm which made incomprehensible regulations based on the referendum law. The commission finally had to find a Sudanese firm to do the job.

“This is an utter waste of money,” he said, adding the commission had been delayed by six weeks in moving into its offices because of the delay in funds from the donors.

Khalil said the commission had asked the presidency to make a decision on whether to stick to the tight timetable.

“We said to them that the schedule is very, very tight, pushed to the maximum and it does not have any margin for error, like trucks (carrying voting materials) crashing,” Khalil said. “We are working night and day.”

The southern ruling party has rejected any delay to the Jan. 9 vote, fearing it could spark violence which they might not be able to control by expectant southerners.

Sudan’s civil war claimed some 2 million lives and had raged on and off from 1955. Differences over oil, ethnicity, religion and ideology fuelled the conflict.

Khalil said registration would start on Monday in Sudan as planned but would be delayed a few days in Egypt because of a communication breakdown with the government. It would also be delayed in the United States and Australia because southerners there had asked for more registration centres.

Registration will last for 17 days.

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