“Arrangements have been completed to assure a smooth and secure [voting] process, and we hope to announce the results within 10 days” after polls close on Wednesday, referendum official Omar Ali Jamie told Sudanese national radio from Darfur.

wpid-480740-darfur.jpgJamie said the ballot was being monitored by observers from the Arab League, the African Union, as well as more than 700 local observers.

Rebel groups operating in Darfur, which accuse President Omar al-Bashir’s government of neglecting the region, believe it would carry more weight as a single administrative unit.

The rebel group Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) has called for a boycott of the referendum. In a statement released Sunday, the SLA called on “all the people of Darfur … to stand with full force to confront the referendum, which leads to fragmentation of the social fabric.”

But the government’s argument that decentralization guarantees more local development was expected to win the vote, even amid concerns that it was not really representative of local opinion.

More than 3 million people had registered to vote in the referendum.

The United States expressed concern that insecurity and inadequate registration of internally displaced Darfuris “prohibit sufficient participation” in the referendum.

“If held under current rules and conditions, a referendum on the status of Darfur cannot be considered a credible expression of the will of the people of Darfur,” the US State Department said ahead of the vote.

Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur, where rebel groups accusing the government of oppressing the region’s non-Arab population have been in conflict with government forces since 2003.

About 300,000 people have died from the fighting or related malnutrition and disease, while more than 2.5 million have been displaced, including more than 100,000 since January, according to the UN.

Al-Bashir recently challenged accusations that the Sudanese army has been bombing and torching villages in Darfur and said the region was at peace.

Source: GNA

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