Southern Sudan voters back secession
Southern Sudan's referendum commission said Sunday that more than 99 per cent of voters in the south opted to secede from the country's north in a vote held earlier this month.
The weeklong vote, held in early January 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 two million people.
The head of the commission's southern bureau, Justice Chan Reec Madut, said Sunday that voter turnout in the 10 states in the south was also 99 per cent. He said only some 16,000 voters in the south chose to remain united with northern Sudan, while 3.7 million chose to separate.
In northern Sudan, 58 per cent of voters chose secession, said Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, chairman of the referendum commission. He said some 60 per cent of eligible voters participated.
Southern Sudanese voters in eight foreign countries overwhelmingly supported secession, he said, with 99 per cent support for secession among the 97 per cent of voters who participated.
In the United States, he said, more than 99 per cent of the 8,500 southerners who cast votes chose secession.
"These results lead to a change of situation," said Khalil 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 website said Sunday that 98.8 per cent 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.