AU chief lauds Sudan's preparations for post-war polls

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- The African Union (AU) said Thursday it was delig hted at the formulation of an independent National Electoral Commission (NEC) to oversee Sudan's first major elections in several decades due in 2009.
AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping said the Sudanese parliament's approval of t he members of the electoral team was a major milestone in efforts to turn Sudan i nto a "truly democratic country" in line with the requirements of the comprehens i ve peace accord.
Sudan has not held elections in decades, as the country has been under military rule.
However, elections are anticipated in 2009, signaling the end of the war in the Southern Sudan region, which lasted for more than 21 years.
Southern Sudanese adults, especially those in the 50-plus age bracket, do not re member participating in any form of elections in their lifetime.
However, CPA signed in Nairobi on 9 January, 2005, set a time-frame for election s in the Sudan.
The elections might also be a referendum on the touchy issues that have consiste ntly divided the North and the South and would mark the official end of the war b etween the Northern and the Southern Sudan, which have been jostling for full co n trol.
Under the 2005 peace accord that ended the war, Southern Sudan has a semi-autono mous government with limited powers to engage directly with other foreign govern m ents.
The Southern Sudan also has its own legislative body and a cabinet, with more th an 10 state governments, including the one in the disputed territory of Abyei, w h ich had its own government formed just months ago after nearly three years of po l itical wrangling.
Ping said in a statement that he was pleased the Sudanese politicians agreed on the setting up and the appointment of the members of the electoral body.
He pledged the commission's support to the peace efforts in the Sudan and also u rged the new electoral team to ensure the polls due in 2009 are conducted in a m o re transparent, free and fair manner.
"The African Union stands ready to provide assistance to the NEC to ensure that the newly established commission carries out its mandate successfully," he assur e d.

20 november 2008 15:08:00

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