Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his special envoy for Kyrgyzstan have welcomed the peaceful and orderly conduct of the constitutional referendum held yesterday in the Central Asian nation, noting the good turnout for the poll despite the recent violence.

Miroslav Jenca, who is head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), was in Kyrgyzstan during the vote, which was held in the wake of the clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks that erupted in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad and other towns earlier this month.

The violence displaced at least 300,000 people within Kyrgyzstan and sent an estimated 100,000 others across the border to neighbouring Uzbekistan. Many of the refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have reportedly begun to return to their places of origin last week.

The recent clashes are the latest unrest to hit the country following the violent uprising in April that ousted former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

At a meeting with Interim President Rosa Otunbayeva, Mr. Jenca appreciated that the referendum was conducted “smoothly and without major incidents in such difficult conditions,” according to a statement released to the press.

He took note of the preliminary assessment of international and local observers who have stated that despite certain shortcomings the process was largely transparent.

“He was encouraged by the fact that despite the tragic events in the recent past and remaining challenges the turnout was solid,” said the statement. “This clearly demonstrates the aspiration of the Kyrgyz people for peace, stability and democracy.”

Noting the report he received from Mr. Jenca, the Secretary-General told reporters in New York he was “encouraged” by the peaceful conduct of the referendum and the good voter turnout.

Mr. Jenca added that the successful referendum is an important step towards promoting the rule of law and establishing legitimate and democratically elected government in the country.

The UN has provided technical support to the referendum process and constitutional reform, and it will continue to advise the Government on constitutional reform, the building of democratic institutions and the organization of the general election planned for this northern autumn.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the situation on the ground during yesterday's referendum appeared to be calm, with no security incidents reported by midday.

The number of displaced persons remains unclear, according to OCHA, which added that the official number of refugee returns remains at some 75,000, and the overall estimated number of IDPs in Kyrgyzstan remains at 300,000.

Yesterday, a cargo plane chartered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) arrived in Osh, carrying 800 family-sized tents and 7,000 blankets. Another emergency airlift will take place today, bringing 40 tons of aid, including jerry cans, plastic sheets, kitchen sets, blankets and a portable warehouse.

Accra / Ghana/ Africa / Modernghana.com