SPLM delegation's legal expert tells southern Sudan diaspora how to vote in the referendum

(Calgary, AB, NSV) - Lawrence Korbandy, SPLM legal expert and part of the SPLM high level delegation to Canada, informed South Sudanese in Calgary on August 8 during a meeting with Sudanese community in Western Canada on how to be legally prepared for the upcoming self-determination referendum slated to take place on January 9, 2011. The audience frequently burst into the good old SPLM/SPLA revolutionary songs. But when the time came for briefing on the legal aspects of referendum process, the hall fell dead silent for every minute detail of it.

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Lawrence Kurbandi, SPLM Legal Expert, making a point during the public forum in Calgary, August 8, 2010. (Photo: by the New Sudan Vision)

“I’m not going to talk about emotions,” warned Korbandy, a law guru appointed by the SPLM late Chairman, Dr. John Garang in 2005, as one of the seven legal experts to advise the SPLM on the complex process of CPA implementation.

 “I wish I were a politician,” he jokingly said to a thunderous laughter. A gubernatorial candidate in Western Equatoria State for nomination on SPLM ticket in the last elections, Korbandy may know how to talk like a politician or how to whip up emotion in his audience. However, his talk did not require the emotion generating wit exuded by his comrades because of the nature of his topic.

Right to vote in the referendum in January 2011

Korbandy was a key part of the SPLM delegation to drum up awareness about legal requirements needed for South Sudanese in the Diaspora to successfully vote in the referendum in January 2011.

 “I am a bit concerned about your right to vote,” Korbandy said in a composed tone to a warm applause. “Read the South Sudan Referendum Act 2009. Do your homework before emotional decisions.” He wants the voters in the Diaspora to register and vote. "If you know you will not vote, do not register," he said, stressing out the importance of voting as the key goal of the process.

The referendum is mandated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the 21 years war between the North and the South, and it is defined by the South Sudan Referendum Act passed by the Sudanese National Parliament in 2009.

Korbandy emphasized on three legal aspects of the referendum process, which include (1) familiarization with the South Sudan Referendum Act 2009 (2) registration to legally qualify to vote, and (3) knowing institutions that can help with identification of Southern Sudanese in Diaspora, particularly those without nationality identity documents.

 Registration requires a potential voter to present nationality identity documents such as passports and nationality certificates. However, many South Sudanese in the Diaspora have no Sudanese identity documents as they fled the country and became refugees during the 21 years war. In the event that a South Sudanese has no national identity documents, Korbandy said it is important to know institutions that can help identify one in order to be registered to vote during the referendum. Some of these institutions include the UNHCR, IOM and Sudanese community based organizations. UNHCR and IOM can be asked to produce records that can certify that a potential voter is a southern Sudanese. Sudanese community organizations can provide written testimonies that a potential voter is a south Sudanese.

At least 20,000 potential voters to qualify as a voting centre

For Korbandy, the most important part of the registration process is voting “centers.” In the Diaspora, a place is required by the law to have at least 20, 000 eligible voters to qualify as a centre. If this requirement is not met, eligible voters are required to travel to the country’s capital, Ottawa, to register to vote. Calgary is often dubbed as the capital of Sudanese Canadians because of having the largest number of Sudanese in Canada, and may be able to qualify as one of the voting centers. However, Canada is a large country with potential south Sudanese voters scattered across its provinces and territories many hours of flight and days of driving away from Ottawa.

Korbandy is concerned about legal complications of the process as he is with the logistical ones. Audience agreed with him that it is going to be difficult because not every voter has financial and logistical resources to travel back and forth to Ottawa during the registration and referendum. Concern was raised that the referendum commission should provide resources to facilitate travel to the capital or reduce the number of voters required for a place to qualify as a centre.

International Standards

According to Korbandy, South Sudanese have an elected government that is charged with meeting international standards to secure a respectable position in the hosts of nations should the voters decide in January for a new country. Respect for human rights, respect for international treaties and recognition of the right of a citizen to choose are some of the international standards to meet. South Sudan has already stipulated a comprehensive bill of right, one of the most basic elements of international standards expected of a modern state, in its 2005 interim constitution.

 If the South chooses separation in January, there is a concern that citizens living on both sides of the new borders would become stateless and vulnerable to many things including potential violation of human rights such as the right to property and right to life, among others. For Korbandy, both the north and the south in the event of separation should do every thing possible to respect the right of citizens to choose where to live, as this is one of the international standard expected of modern nations. This issue may be dealt with easily by both parties.

However, the Nile Water Agreement of 1959 and Sudan national debts may generate a huge controversy. They are part of the post referendum arrangement negotiations currently under way between Khartoum and Juba. The River Nile is the lifeblood of the countries of the Nile Valley. However, Egypt controls its water through a colonial agreement of 1929, which was revised again in 1959 to allow Sudan to have some share of Nile water. The new state in the south is expected to equally share in the Sudan’s Nile water share of the 1959 agreement. 

Khartoum expects the South to take parts of the national debts if it separates. However, Korbandy and his comrades told the audience that the loans were used for either military purposes or development goals in the North.  There was almost a uniform sentiment among the audience in the hall that there is no ground for the South to share the national debts, which stands at 35 billion US dollars. Due to this circumstances, the South may choose not to take part of the debts because none of the money was used for the benefit of the region. The South may either take some share if it is allowed to equally share the national assets acquired using the loan money.


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