Monday, 17 January 2011

Incoming South Sudan referendum results suggests secession

An SSRC official showing a vote for secession in north Darfur

Southern Sudan's independence referendum came to a close on the evening of 15th January, and early results already coming in suggest the vast majority have voted for independence from Sudan.

The chairman of the Southern Sudanese Referendum Commission (SSRC), Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil said that more than 80per cent of eligible voters in the south had participated, along with 53per cent in the north and 91per cent of voters living in the eight other countries hosting polling stations. 60per cent of registered voters had to cast their votes in order for the poll to be considered valid.

He said the referendum would be considered "a good result by any international standard."

Full results of the poll are not due until next month, but preliminary results are already trickling in from around the 3000 polling stations in Sudan. The Sudan Tribune has reported that at the Ngor voting centre in Torit, in south Sudan's Eastern Equatoria state only seven votes were cast in favour of unity, while 1718 voted for secession.

Results in Juba appear to be similarly one-sided: early results show that of stations already reporting 20,012 people voted for secession, while 270 voted for unity.

Not all results have been so clear, however. In north Sudan's Greater Omdorman area, for example, where 35 polling stations were located, 4838 people voted for secession while 4420 voted for unity.

Polling also took place in eight countries outside of Sudan: Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the UK and the US. Voters in Australia have been given extra time to cast their votes in areas where flooding has hampered the process.

Voters in the UK, the only site in Europe, have reportedly voted 97per cent in favour of secession. Federico Vuni, the SSRC official in charge in London, announced on 16th January that 626 votes were cast in favour of secession, with only 13 for unity.

Similar results were obtained in Canada, where voting took place in Toronto and Calgary, and in Egypt.

US President Barack Obama has welcomed the vote, saying "The sight of so many Sudanese casting their votes in a peaceful and orderly fashion was an inspiration to the world and a tribute to the determination of the people and leaders of south Sudan to forge a better future."

"We urge all parties to continue to urge calm and show restraint as the parties work to complete implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” he added.

Washington has promised to remove Sudan from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism by July if it recognises the result of the vote. The US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration met with foreign minister Ali Karti in Khartoum to discuss with him the future of bilateral relations following the referendum's conclusion.

Karti told reporters after that he hoped for more dialogue on normalising ties and said that more meetings would be held in mid-February to continue discussions. He cautioned, however, that putting new conditions on normalising ties, including Darfur conflict resolution, would not be accepted.

Meanwhile Southern Sudan leader Salva Kiir made his first public address since the vote on Sunday, 16th January, speaking in a Catholic Cathedral in Juba. He urged people to forgive the north for the killings that happened during the civil war that lasted for more than 20 years.

"For our deceased brothers and sisters, particularly those who have fallen during the time of struggle, may God bless them with eternal peace," Kiir said.

"And may we, like Jesus Christ on the cross, forgive those who have forcefully caused their deaths."

An estimated two million people died in the war between Khartoum and rebel groups, most prominently in the south, and millions more were displaced. The independence referendum is the culmination of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005, which ended the civil war.

For more information on the Southern Sudan independence referendum, please see Menas Borders, here.

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