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It's official: South Sudan set to secede with a 99.57 percent vote

South Sudan's long-awaited independence referendum produced an overwhelming turnout of 99 percent among voters in the south, one of the poorest and least developed regions on earth.

By Maggie FickCorrespondent / January 30, 2011

A Southern Sudanese man dons a hat and flag of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement during the announcement of preliminary referendum results in Juba, southern Sudan on Sunday. Referendum officials indicated that over 99 percent of all voters cast ballots in favor of southern independence.

Pete Muller/AP

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Juba, South Sudan

Cheers and spontaneous dancing broke out as the first official announcement of results from South Sudan’s independence vote was made in the oil-rich region’s capital by members of commission that organized the referendum held earlier this month.

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"The vote for separation was 99.57 percent," said Justice Chan Reec Madut, head of the southern bureau of the Referendum Commission, after reading the vote tallies for “unity” and “secession” for each of the south’s 10 states. Mr. Madut was referring to the results for the south, while Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, the head of the Commission, announced the results from polling in northern Sudan and in eight countries that held voting for South Sudan’s far-flung diaspora population.

Six of the ten southern states registered a 99.9 percent vote for separation, with the lowest vote in favor of secession came in at 95.5 percent in Western Bahr al-Ghazal state, which borders Darfur. The long-awaited referendum produced an overwhelming turnout of 99 percent among voters in the south, one of the poorest and least developed regions on earth.

In northern Sudan, voter turnout was only 60 percent, and a modest 58 percent of voters – southerners who live in the north – were in favor of the oil-rich south breaking away. Many southerners opted to leave their lives and work in the north to move home ahead of the referendum, and the United Nations says it expects another 100,000 southerners to make the north-south journey within the next month. More than 190,000 southerners have flooded back into the south since early October, though the most recent arrivals were not able to participate in the referendum, since they had not registered to vote in either the north or the south.

Diaspora voters

In the eight countries, including the United States and Egypt, where southerners cast votes, 99 percent chose independence for their homeland. In the US, 99 percent of the 5,800 voters voted for secession, at polling stations set up in Boston, Seattle, Omaha, and Washington, among other locations.

Before announcing the numbers for the ten southern states, Madut said that his fellow southerners “consider self-determination the centerpiece” of the 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of north-south war.

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