Sudan: The Elders call on all parties to ‘respect the will of the people’

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Wednesday, 8 December, 2010

With one month to go until South Sudan votes on whether to secede from the North, The Elders call for a peaceful, timely and credible referendum and urge the international community to engage with all parties to prevent possible violence, both during referendum and in the coming months.

8 December 2010
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One month before the referendum on self-determination is due to be held in Southern Sudan, The Elders call on Sudanese leaders and the international community to ensure that this historic event takes place in a peaceful, timely and credible manner, and that the results of the vote are respected.

The Elders – a group of eminent global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela – say that the will of the people must be respected during and after the referendum in January 2011. The Elders urge Sudanese leaders to come to an agreement regarding the citizenship status of Southern Sudanese in the North, in the event of secession. The international community must put measures in place to monitor and protect civilians and to engage with all the parties to ensure that violence does not occur, both during the referendum and in the coming months.

The Elders emphasise the need for a credible and sustainable solution to the deadlock over the referendum for self-determination of the Abyei Area, which was meant to take place simultaneously with the referendum in Southern Sudan. In the absence of a negotiated agreement between all interested parties, the situation in the oil-rich Abyei region is volatile and could be a flashpoint for future conflict.

Desmond Tutu


Desmond Tutu, chair of The Elders said:

“This is a critical time for the people of Sudan and the African continent. I pray that voting will be peaceful, but if things go badly, it’s likely that there will be further conflict. We have to do all we can to prevent that. The people have suffered enough. The signatories and international guarantors of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) have special responsibility to ensure the referendum is carried out fairly and peacefully, as a critical element of the peace plan.”

Jimmy Carter


Former US President Jimmy Carter said:

“We call upon the signatories of the CPA and the referendum authorities to hold the referendum in a genuine, credible and transparent manner, so as to respect the aspirations of the people of Southern Sudan, and help Northern and Southern Sudan work together to build a peaceful future. No matter the outcome of the referendum, the people of Northern and Southern Sudan will remain close partners.”

Graca Machel


Graça Machel, children and women's rights activist, said:

“It is crucial that the will of the people is respected. Sudan’s leaders throughout the country should protect and uphold the rights of all voters, including the rights of those who are casting their votes outside Sudan. All registered voters should be able to participate without obstruction.”

Kofi Annan


Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said:

“As the countdown to the referendum continues, we want to remind the international community of the importance of adopting a comprehensive and unified strategy – backed by clear international leadership – addressing the many challenges in Sudan, preparing for the referendum and negotiating post-referendum issues.”

Mary Robinson


Mary Robinson, former Irish President and UN Commissioner for Human Rights said:

“Southern Sudan needs sustained support from international donors in order to continue to build and strengthen the capacity of government and state institutions, whether it secedes from the North or remains part of a unified Sudan. There also has to be a place for women to participate openly and meaningfully in helping to shape the future and in building the conditions for peace and reconciliation.”

Lakhdar Brahimi


Former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi said:

“Whatever the outcome of the referendum in Southern Sudan, the world should continue to engage the government in Khartoum as well as the government in the south and support all representative political forces to help fulfill the promise of democratic transformation in the entire country. It is equally important that the international community does not neglect Darfur and works more diligently with all genuinely representative forces there, including civil society, to work out a sustainable solution to the conflict which continues to affect the well-being and safety of people in the province and beyond.”

About The Elders

The Elders are Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu (Chair). Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi are honorary Elders.

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Read more about the Elders’ work on Sudan.
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