Tuesday, November 16, 2010

People with disabilities in the Sudan advocate for inclusion in voting, democratic process

From the Sudan Tribune:

JUBA, Sudan -- The Government of Southern Sudan should step up efforts to ensure that the disabled and visually impaired persons in the region fully participate in the January referendum on self-determination, a one-day workshop, organized by the Deng Foundation resolved last week.

While speaking during the pre-voters registration kick-off ceremony, Daniel Deng (pictured), the foundation’s Executive Director decried what he described as deliberate attempts by sections of society to not include disabled persons and those who are visually impaired in major democratic processes.

“It is our mandate to continue reminding people that disability is not inability. The disabled and visually impaired persons need to be actively involved in the forthcoming referendum process, but this can only be possible if they are also included in the various democratic processes it entails,” Deng said.

Citing statistics from the Ministry of Health in the southern government, Deng estimated the number of disabled and visually impaired persons to be about 1.5 million people, although other sources say the figure to be slightly higher. The Deng Foundation Executive Director further appealed to the various UN agencies and other members of the international community to demonstrate willingness in assisting persons with disabilities.

Series of concerns were also raised during the workshop; especially those experienced during Sudan’s April general elections. The majority of participants in the workshop complained of either being duped or forced to vote for candidates who were not of their choices.

James Ocan, a disabled person said that polling centers should be created that can easily be accessed by persons with disabilities in the forthcoming referendum.

Attendees resolved to lobby for the formation of a disability rights action network, an entity which they argued would champion and address the challenges being faced by the disabled and visually impaired persons in the semi-autonomous region.

The one-day workshop, funded by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through its basket fund administered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), attracted over nearly 10 different organizations from Central Eqautoria State.

The basket fund, estimated to the tune of $58m is a pooled contribution from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Norway, the European Union, Sweden, Denmark, France and Australia, has been earmarked for support to the Southern Sudan referendum project.

The Deng Foundation describes itself as a non-profit making organization operating exclusively for educational, cultural and scientific purposes with three-year mission to use dialogues, campaigns and concerts as a means to entertain, educate and mobilize the masses for a national cause.