An independent commission representing the governments of Sudan and its autonomous southern region has started to register Southern Sudanese people living in neighbouring Ethiopia.

The provisions being made by the Southern Sudanese Referendum Commission (SSRC) are designed to enable the large amount of Southern Sudanese residing in Ethiopia to vote in the Sudanese referendum scheduled for between 9 and 15 January 2011.

Three voting centres have been set up in Addis Ababa, as well as in Gambella and Asossa in southern Ethiopia near the border with Sudan. So far over 10,000 Southern Sudanese living in Ethiopia have registered.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is assisting the SSRC in establishing out-of-country registration and voting (OCV) in the eight countries with the greatest presence of Southern Sudanese people: Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, Canada, the US, the UK and Australia.

Voters are divided into three categories: those from one of the indigenous ethnic communities who were resident in Southern Sudan on or before 1 January 1956 can vote in any of the referendum centres abroad.

The other two categories include those who can trace their ancestry to one of the region