By The Citizen Reporter The United Nations Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, has appointed former President Benjamin Mkapa the leader of a special panel to monitor upcoming referendums in Southern Sudan. Other members of the panel, according to information released yesterday by Mr Ki-Moons office, are former Portugal Foreign minister Antonio Monteiro and former Nepal Election Commission chairman Bhojraj Pokharel. According to a United Nations statement, the panels appointment was in response to a request from the government of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) which fought a civil war for more than 20 years. The war ended with the signing of the comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. A referendum to be held next January year to decide whether Southern Sudan will continue to be part of Sudan or become independent will determine the status of the disputed Abyei area. Among other things, the panel will make periodic visits to Sudan in the run-up to and during the referendum to engage with relevant actors, including the parties to the CPA, civil societies and observer groups. The panel will follow key referendum processes as well as the political and security situation. In addition to reporting to the Secretary-General on the conduct of the referenda, the panel will work directly to enhance confidence in the process by encouraging the parties and relevant authorities to take corrective measures to resolve any problems or disputes that may arise Mr Mkapa has ample experience in conflict resolution, especially in the Great Lakes region. He was among former leaders who reconciled Kenya in 2008 following contested election results which the opposition refused to accept alleging that they were rigged. He teamed up with former Namibia President, Sir Ketumile Masire, Mozambiques Joachim Chissano, Zambias Kenneth Kaunda and Graca Machel to reconcile the Kenyans who sealed a deal to form a coalition government. Mr Mkapa was also involved in the reconciliation of the Democratic Republic of Congo when he was President and after leaving office. After retiring in 2005, he was appointed the Africa Union (AU) special representative to DRC, working alongside UN special representative, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. Mr Mkapa is a seasoned journalist, diplomat and politician who was elected the third President of Tanzania in November 1995. Born in 1938 in Masasi, Mtwara Region, Mr Mkapa received his primary and secondary school education in Tanzania. He continued his studies at Makerere University College in Uganda, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in English in 1962. His career began in local administration in Dodoma where he was appointed a district officer in 1962. He became a foreign service officer later that year and in 1966 embarked on a long career in journalism. During the 1960s and 70s he served as managing editor of the then Nationalist, Uhuru, Daily News and Sunday News. His experience in the mass media led to his appointment, in 1974, as press secretary to President Julius Nyerere, under whom he worked for two years. In 1976, Mr Mkapa became the founding director of the now defunct Tanzania News Agency (Shihata). He also became minister for Information and Culture (1980-82) and again minister for Information and Broadcasting (1990-92). President Mkapas equally long diplomatic career included a stint as High Commissioner to Nigeria (1976) and minister for Foreign Affairs (1977 to 1980). In 1982 he served as High Commissioner to Canada and between 1983 and 1984 was Ambassador to the United States of America. He returned home in 1984 when he was again appointed Member of Parliament and minister for Foreign Affairs. In 1992, he served as minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, prior to being elected President in 1995 and Chairman of ruling Chama Cha Mapinduiz (CCM) in 1996. He was re-elected President in 2000 for another five-year term.