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.
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Mr. Khalil, a 90-year old northern Sudanese lawyer, had a noticeably somber tone has he announced the results, particularly in comparison to Madut, a southerner who is the deputy chief justice of the south’s Supreme Court. In his remarks, Khalil focused on the future relations between north and south.Skip to next paragraph
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“These results lead to a change of situation, that’s the emergence of two states instead of one state,” this prospect provoking applause from the crowd of southerners. “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.”
At a press conference held in the southern capital of Juba during the referendum, Khalil told reporters that the likely split of his country did not please him. On Sunday, he struck a more optimistic tone, saying that “if the example of the referendum is any use, we should entertain hope that we will be able to settle the unsettled issues in the six months remaining ahead before the emergence of the nation state of Southern Sudan.”
Speaking after the announcement, southern leader Salva Kiir thanked Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for his leadership and for “making peace possible.” He said that the southern government would stand with Bashir as the split of north and south looms ever closer. Mr. Kiir made clear that 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.
Kiir noted the importance of reaching an agreement with the Khartoum government on outstanding north-south issues including the future status of the contested border region of Abyei. The southern president was set to travel later Sunday to Addis Ababa for the African Union summit, which President Bashir is also attending.
In the run-up to Sunday’s announcement, Kiir issued several public calls to his people to act carefully in any celebrations they might hold after results were made official, urging restraint and forbidding “celebratory gunfire.”
After Kiir’s remarks, the crowd that had swelled to a few thousand broke into an impromptu dance party at the outdoor area where they had learned that their vote would yield independence in less than six months. The area is also the burial grounds for the late southern war hero, Dr. John Garang.
Swaying to the upbeat music crackling from speakers and the drumming of musicians in traditional garb, smiling southerners celebrated peacefully and joyfully.
In Khartoum, the scene was reportedly different, with police beating and arresting student protestors who are demanding the resignation of their government, apparently channeling the ongoing uprising in neighboring Egypt.
As Sudan moves ever closer to splitting in two, it remains unclear whether Khalil’s vision of north and south remaining connected, with intertwined fates, will be preserved.