Tue, Feb 01, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Southern Sudan opts to secede

‘STRUGGLE CONTINUES’:Several thorny issues must be resolved between now and July, when Southern Sudan said it will declare its formal independence

AP, JUBA, SUDAN

A girl holds a Southern Sudan flag on Sunday during the announcement of the preliminary results of the independence referendum in Juba, Sudan.

Photo: Reuters

Southern Sudan’s referendum commission said more than 99 percent of voters in the south opted to secede from the country’s north in a vote held earlier this month.

Sunday’s announcement drew cheers from a crowd of thousands that gathered in Juba, the dusty capital of what may become the world’s newest country.

The week-long vote, held early last month and widely praised for being peaceful and for meeting international standards, was a condition of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a north-south civil war that lasted two decades and killed 2 million people.

The head of the commission’s southern bureau, Justice Chan Reec Madut, said on Sunday that voter turnout in the 10 states in the south was also 99 percent. He said only about 16,000 voters in the south chose to remain united with northern Sudan, while 3.7 million chose to separate.

In northern Sudan, 58 percent of voters chose secession, referendum commission chairman Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil said. He said about 60 percent of eligible voters participated.

Southern Sudanese voters in eight foreign countries overwhelmingly supported secession, he said, with 99 percent support for secession among the 97 percent of voters who participated.

In the US, he said, more than 99 percent of the 8,500 southerners who cast votes chose secession.

“These results lead to a change of situation,” Khalil said after he read the results. “That change relates only to the constitutional form of relationship between north and south. North and south are drawn together in indissoluble geographic and historic bonds.”

Referendum commission officials did not announce an overall percentage total for all votes cast. The commission’s Web site said on Sunday that 98.8 percent of voters chose secession, but noted that the figure may change.

If the process stays on track, Southern Sudan will become the world’s newest country in July. Border demarcation, oil rights and the status of the contested region of Abyei still have to be negotiated.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the conduct of the election, but said much still needed to be done.

“We are still very much concerned about post-referendum issues — border security, citizenship, wealth sharing, demarcation, popular consultations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States and most importantly the status of Abyei,” he said while addressing African leaders at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Government of Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit also gave remarks at the results ceremony, speaking mostly in Arabic.

“We are still moving forward,” Kiir said in English. “The struggle continues.”

Kiir thanked Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for his leadership and for “making peace possible.”

Kiir said the south will declare independence on July 9, but not before.

“We are not going to put down the flag of Sudan until July 9,” he said.

The event marked the release of the first official primary results from the self-determination vote. The results will not be finalized until this month.

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