Two referenda were scheduled to take place in Sudan on 9 January 2011: one in which the people of Southern Sudan would vote for either unity or secession, and another in which the people of the Abyei area would vote to remain in the north or become part of the south.
The referenda were stipulated under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), reached in 2005 by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) which ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan.
In July 2010 the two parties requested that the UN Secretary-General form a monitoring panel to enhance the credibility of the referenda and their acceptance by both Sudanese and the international community. The referenda remained a Sudanese-run process but the panel used the “good offices” role of the Secretary-General to encourage the two parties to resolve any significant problems that emerged before, during or after the vote.
The panel was independent of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), which provided technical, logistical and security assistance to the staging of the referenda.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July 2011 following the referendum on self-determination. However, the two countries continued to feud over several unresolved issues, including the delineation of the border, control of the disputed territory of Abyei, and, more recently, tariffs charged by Sudan on South Sudan for the use of a pipeline and port to export oil.
Benjamin Mkapa (chairperson) is a former President of Tanzania (1995-2005). Before that he served as his country’s Foreign Minister between 1977 and 1980 and again between 1984 and 1990. He was a member of the Panel of Eminent African Personalities, along with Kofi Annan and Graça Machel, which mediated a resolution to the post-election crisis in Kenya in 2008. He also facilitated, along with former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the negotiations that resulted in the signing of the 23 March 2009 agreement that curtailed the fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
António Monteiro is a former Foreign Minister of Portugal (2004-05). He has also served as Portuguese ambassador to France (2001-04; 2006-09) and as its Permanent Representative to the UN (1997-2001). He was elected Vice-President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2000 and chaired the Security Council on two occasions in 1997 and 1998. He has also served as the UN High Representative for the Elections in Côte d’Ivoire.
Bhojraj Pokharel is the former Chairman of the Nepalese Election Commission (2006-08). During that time he oversaw the historic 2008 Constitutional Assembly elections. He was also associated with the National Referendum Commission of Nepal in 1979, and he has served in a number of government positions in the ministries of health, home affairs and local development.