|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives | Search|
Issue 467 -- 8th-14th January 2011
Southern Sudanese Excited about Independence Vote
Juba, Southern Sudan, January 8, 2011 (SL Times) – Excitement is building in southern Sudan for the historic independence referendum that begins Sunday and is expected to split Africa's largest country in two.
Hundreds of southern Sudanese marched in the regional capital of Juba Friday, singing, dancing, and chanting slogans calling for an independent south Sudan.
Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency said the number of southerners who have returned from northern Sudan to vote has nearly doubled since last month, to 120,000.
The vote was promised in the 2005 Peace Agreement that ended Sudan's civil war between the Muslim majority north and mainly Christian and animist south.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, and Hollywood actor George Clooney are all in Sudan for the vote.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir told TV channel al-Jazeera Friday that southerners who live in the north could maintain certain rights and benefits if the south votes to secede but added they could not hold dual-nationality.
Earlier this week, Mr. Bashir helped to ally fears that violence could break out after the vote by saying the north will “celebrate” the south's independence if that is what voters choose.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Friday praised officials in northern and southern Sudan for their efforts to ensure a peaceful vote.
U.S. Senator John Kerry told reporters in Khartoum that he will push for improved ties between the United States and Sudan if the independence referendum goes smoothly.
Earlier this week, the U.N. Security Council expressed “deep concern” about the lack of an agreement on the future of the oil-producing Abyei region. Abyei was scheduled to hold a separate referendum Sunday to decide whether to join the north or the south, but the poll was put off because of disputes over who would be eligible to vote.
The disputes have sparked fears that no matter the outcome of the southern independence referendum, Sudan could still plunge back into civil war.
The U.S. Carter Center is sending 100 observers to monitor the vote in Sudan and at overseas polls. U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, is also in the African nation to demonstrate the support of the Obama administration.
The U.N. refugee agency said an average of 2,000 people per day have been heading south for the referendum. Nearly 4 million southern Sudanese are registered to vote in the week-long poll.