Results of the referendum
Final results of the January 9 referendum that will decide the fate of South Sudan, as accorded by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), reflects an overwhelming desire of the southern Sudanese people to secede from their northern counterparts.
Despite fears that Khartoum might employ disruptive measures, such as violence and vote rigging, the vote was largely peaceful and has received widespread acclaim from a number of observers as being free and fair and free of any major irregularities.
Voter turnout was well subscribed, with 98% registered voters posting their ballots. This figure far exceeds the 60% threshold required for the vote to be valid.
While voting was open to all Sudanese living in the South, those in the diaspora could only vote in eight countries. Locally, only 16 129 people out of 3,7-million voted unity over secession. Of the 70 000 southerners living in the north, 58% voted for secession, although many chose not to vote for fear that their vote would be manipulated.
The only region in south Sudan to vote in favour of unity was that of southern Darfur in which 63% of the voters opted to stay with the north.
To the surprise of many, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the controversial President who opposed secession, received rare praise from observers for accepting the referendum result and calling for “brotherly relations” with the south. Bashir has subsequently accepted the result and recognises the South's intention of creating an autonomous State.
Southern leader Salva Kiir, however, has urged the south to remain calm until July 9, the date at which the CPA expires and South Sudan will officially become autonomous. Kiir has called on followers to respect the agreement and to not declare independence just yet. He has said that the journey has just begun, in reference to the numerous challenges that still remain in ensuring autonomy from the north.
Ensuring southern independence is the first obstacle in an array of challenges that face Africa’s newest country. The country now faces the daunting task of grappling with internal governance issues in one of the continents most underdeveloped territories. Service delivery and poverty alleviation remain serious issues that require immediate attention.
Relations with south Sudan’s northern neighbours remain contentious, particularly with reegard to the issue of oil revenue sharing. While most of the unrefined oil is situated in the south, the north has the sole capacity to refine and export it. Oil relations thus remain high up on both the north and the south’s agenda.
The region of Abyei remains in the balance as a planned referendum on its status did not materialise and the area remains in limbo. Border demarcation and water security are also two issues that need to be resolved.
To echo the sentiments of Kiir, the journey for South Sudan has just started. The road ahead for the newly formed country is a long and treacherous one. In a region that has been marginalised for generations, as well as going through Africa’s longest civil war, the challenges it faces seem insurmountable.
The negotiations between the north and the south in the lead up to the expiration on the CPA will be pivotal to the potential birth of a new African state.
Mail&Guardian. South Sudanese vote en masse for secession. February 4, 2011.
AllAfrica. Sudan: Lakes States welcomes referendum results. January 30, 2011.
Polity. Sudan: pre referendum report. (January 9, 2011).