JUBA, Sudan — The commission organising Sudan's January 9 referendum on southern independence said on Friday it has extended voter registration by one week, but that the date of the plebiscite remains the same.
"Southern Sudanese people now have until the 8th of December to register," commission member Achier Deng told reporters in the southern capital Juba.
"The time frame has been revised but it will not compromise the date of January 9," Deng added of polling day.
"The time frame is tight, but there are days here and there that can be saved," he said, explaining that the registration period had been extended for "technical reasons."
Southern Sudanese began registering for the referendum on November 15, a key phase in the lead-up to the historic vote. The registration process had been due to end on December 1.
About five million south Sudanese are eligible to register for the vote, including those living in the north and an estimated 500,000 to two million who live abroad, according to UN estimates.
The referendum commission said this week that it has registered more than 1.3 million southerners to vote in the south. However a UN official said the registration rate remained "extremely" low in the north.
President Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party filed a complaint with the commission earlier this week charging that several registration centres in the north were often situated far from the southern communities living there.
The NCP also claimed that southern Muslims with Arab names had been prevented from registering.
There are 2,794 voter registration centres across the country, 2,629 of them in the south.
In Cairo, two of three designated centres opened on Thursday, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission's Mary Isaac told AFP, a day after observers from the Carter Centre expressed concern about the delayed opening Egypt's referendum centres.
The US non-governmental organisation said voter registration had begun in all of the other seven overseas countries where out-of-country voting is being conducted.
Those eligible to vote in the referendum include permanent residents of south Sudan since 1956, when the country gained independence from Britain, and those who can trace their ancestry to an established south Sudan tribe.
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