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Department of Political Affairs

Sudan – Secretary-General's Panel


After almost forty years of conflict in Sudan, the people of Southern Sudan went to the polls in January 2011 for a crucial referendum on their region’s secession from the rest of the country. The UN’s wide-ranging assistance to the process included a panel formed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and supported by the Department of Political Affairs. The Panel played a ‘good offices’ role to strengthen confidence in the process.

In the 9 to 15 January 2011 vote, the people of Southern Sudan opted for secession. Another referendum was also envisaged on whether the border area of Abyei retains a special administrative status in Sudan, or becomes part of Southern Sudan. This referendum has not taken place.

The January 2011 vote was Sudanese-led and a key phase in implementing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon formed the Panel in September 2010 after a joint request by the CPA’s two parties. They sought a UN monitoring body to help build confidence in the referenda processes, support the work of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and help ensure that the referendum is conducted in a free and fair environment.

The Panel consisted of three members and was chaired by Benjamin Mkapa, former President of Tanzania. The other members were António Monteiro, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, and Bhojraj Pokharel, former Chairman of the Election Commission of Nepal.

The Panel's members made periodic visits in the lead-up to, during and after the Southern Sudan referendum. Travelling around the country, the panel and its staff monitored the voter registration, polling, counting and aggregation of results phases of the Southern Sudan referendum. The panel met with key stakeholders, including senior officials from the Government of Sudan, the Government of Southern Sudan, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, civil society organizations, observer groups, and the diplomatic community.

The Panel reported to the Secretary-General through the Department of Political Affairs. It was independent of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) with its 9000 troops, and of the UN Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division (UNIRED). As UNMIS and UNIRED provided technical, logistical and security assistance to the referendum, they were not in a position to monitor the process itself.  The Panel was not an electoral observation mission. That role was carried out by international observers representing a variety of governments and organizations, such as the African Union and the European Union.


Press Releases

UN panel hails South's vote for independence 7.2.2011

SG Panel: Important referendum challenges remain 22.12.2010

SG Panel: Referendum registration encouraging 22.11.2010

UN referenda panel concludes first visit 15.10.2010