Voting Begins in Sudan's Historic Referendum

Published on Sunday 9th January 2011

Southern Sudanese are voting in a historic referendum on independence, giving voters a choice between staying united the the rest of Sudan or breaking away to form an independent country.  The region is widely expected to choose independence. South Sudan President Salva Kiir called the vote a "historic moment" for his people. Thousands of Sudanese lined up through the night to be among the first to vote Sunday in the week-long referendum. Nearly 4 million voters have been registered for the election, which is part of the 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between the Muslim majority north and the mainly Christian and animist south. Dignitaries from around the world, including former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, and former president Thabo Mbeki of South Africa are in the country to observe the vote.  They are joined by hundreds of monitors deployed across the region.Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has pledged to accept the results and help the south, no matter the outcome.The U.N. Security Council has 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 south, but the poll was put off because of disputes over who would be eligible to vote.South Sudanese officials said Saturday clashes between rebels and the army along the dividing line with the north killed at least nine people.  


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