Dear all

As you may have heard, the Abyei referendum will take place on the 26-28 of this month. It is organised by the community and not supported, financially or otherwise, by either Sudan or South Sudan, although the Ngok hope that South Sudan and other countries will recognise the results. That it is taking place at all is a triumph of grassroots democracy. Many senior leaders preferred a declaration by the 9 chiefs to the complexities of organising a referendum exercise without external support. The international community preferred that the Ngok did nothing at all!

Hannah and I have been accredited as observers and have been meeting with officials, visiting referendum centres, watching registrations take place, and asking lots of questions! We will publish a full report when the process is complete. So far, however, everything looks thorough, comprehensive, well-organised and inclusive - technically excellent. I have made further comments on twitter at @tim_flatman

From a personal point of view it is wonderful to see the whole community gathered and working on a single objective. Diplomats have returned from Russia, Turkey and elsewhere to take part; legal officials and government workers who happen to be Ngok have come from all over South Sudan and are working night and day to make this work - and it is doing, at least so far.

I have attached the declaration made by the Ngok conference that inaugurated the process, in case you have not already seen it and would like to read more.

Please pray for:
Wisdom, strength and patience for all the officials involved in the technical aspects of the process
The 26-28, when voting will actually take place - that it will go smoothly and everyone who is eligible and wants to participate will be able to
Protection - that any attempted attack aimed at disrupting the process will fail
The response of South Sudan and the wider international community - that this process will be judged on its merits and not automatically rejected, and that even if it is not immediately recognised by many nations, recognition by some would lead to a breakthrough

Love and solidarity

Tim and Hannah