South Sudan Referendum Comes to Kakuma Camp
The Southern Sudan Referendum spread across 8 polling stations in 3 provinces in Kenya, with Kakuma figuring as a major voting center.
2010-11 Winter Quarterly Issue
Kakuma Refugee Camp was a major centre for the Southern Sudan Referendum. Local voting centers were set up by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) in order to serve warehoused Sudanese who have lived in Kakuma since the camp’s establishment for South Sudanese refugees in 1992. Sudanese in Kenya are among almost four million people who were registered to take part in the referendum, which voted on the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 enacted to end two decades of war between the North and South.
Registration began in mid-November and was concluded in December 2010. During this exercise the Southerners were adequately informed on the registration and voting process. To determine the eligibility of registration for Southerners, forms were filled out by applicants at local centers in order to be approved for registration. Awareness and mobilization campaigns were conducted at two registration sites in Kakuma Refugee Camp: Rajaf Police Patrol Base in Kakuma One; and IRC Clinic Two located in Kakuma Three, home to a large Sudanese community.
Civic educators arrived after New Year’s Day and carried out their task of educating voters on their voting rights and how to cast their votes freely.
According to the SSRC some 15,052 South Sudanese living in Kenya had registered to vote for separation on January 9, 2011. “I ask and encourage our people to come out and vote,” stated one SSRC official.
The UN Refugee Agency and aid agencies in Kakuma Camp have created preparedness plans in the event of major post-referendum violence, as some new arrivals from South have already arrived at camp reception centers and have been reported in the communities by refugee Sudanese leaders. An agency staff member who works in shelter provision said that there are few new arrivals from Sudan, and he hoped that peace will prevail. “We are ready at any time. We can serve them as they come,” the staff member commented anonymously.
At the bordertown of Lokichogio on the frontier of Kenya and Sudan, it was reported that tight security measures are being maintained. New arrivals from Southern Sudan said that the border crossing is controlled and that many of the displaced persons at the border are being returned back to vote by the SPLA Army.
Philip Deng, an SSRC Representative in Kenya, declined these accusations and said he was not aware of any such claims but encouraged Southerners to remain in Sudan and continue voting for the Referendum. “We don’t have any problems along the borders and the SPLA knows what is good for their people; people should not have worries and instead remain confident as they cast their votes,” he said in an interview with KANERE.
In Kenya, Kakuma Refugee Camp was leading in the number of registered voters for the Referendum. In Kakuma One, the Rajaf Police Patrol Base reported 2,150 voters, while the center at Kakuma Three (IRC Clinic Two) had 3,375 voters. Elsewhere in Kenya, Nairobi offered two voting centers with a total of 5,235 voters, while Dadaaab Refugee Camp had only 171 voters. As the voting commenced in Kakuma Camp, refugee communities from the South were seen dancing in preparation to vote and hopes of success.
Many had different opinions about the state of their future. “I will vote for separation. Enough is enough now. We need our independence, freedom and liberty,” said M.M.
“Sudan is not a desert like in the north and I had better go back to cultivate crops than live this life at the camp. It’s green jungles, swamps to swim,“ stated D.A.
Some new arrivals from South Sudan were reported at the UNHCR Camp Reception Center, mainly consisting of women and children who were sheltered and relocated to Kakuma One.
At least 60% of Southerners were required to vote for secession in order to secede. Exactly six years after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement took effect, the new beginning in Sudan emerges.