Carter, Annan in Juba to Observe Referendum, Call for All Parties to Respect Outcome

High profile Sudan watchers and influentials are descending on southern Sudan for the long-anticipated referendum. Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter arrived in Juba as part of the observer mission directed by the Carter Center. They used the attention generated by their trip to urge the governments of both northern and southern Sudan to ensure that the rights of all voters are respected.

“I hope that [Presidents Bashir and Kiir] will continue to call for calm and ensure that all those who wish to vote, and who are eligible to do so, can vote freely,” said Jimmy Carter in a statement issued by the Elders. “Most importantly, the outcome of the referendum must be respected by all,” he said.

“This is an enormously important moment for the future of Southern Sudan, for Sudan and for Africa as a whole,” Kofi Annan said in the statement. “I urge the governments in the north and south to ensure that the people can voice their aspirations in a peaceful and transparent environment and that the democratic outcome of the vote is respected.” He also emphasized the importance that the international community maintain a “coherent and unified approach” during the vote and support reconstruction post-referendum.

The pair is hosting an event at a primary school-turned voting station tomorrow in Juba, and Enough will be there to report on their impressions from the first day of polling.

If you’re interested to pose your own question to the visiting dignitaries, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof announced his plan to host via his blog an online forum with President Carter. Starting Monday, Kristof and Carter will answer readers’ questions submitted in the comments section of this post.

Southerners go to the polls Sunday in Sudan and in eight countries around the world. Voting is scheduled to last a week.