JUBA, Sudan, Sunday
Voters in Southern Sudan opted, overwhelmingly, to create the world’s newest state, partial results posted outside polling stations in Juba showed on Sunday.
There was no way of knowing how representative the results from the city’s larger polling stations were of the vote around Juba, let alone of Southern Sudan as a whole, in the landmark week-long referendum, which ended on Saturday.
The final result, which will determine whether the south breaks away to become the world’s 193rd UN member state in July is not expected before next month.
But loudspeaker trucks criss-crossed Juba urging south Sudanese to turn out en masse for a huge party to celebrate the expected secession.
Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir yesterday joined worshippers at Juba’s Roman Catholic cathedral Mass in praying for the nation-in-waiting.
“We offer a prayer of gratitude for the peaceful voting in the referendum,” the priest told the congregation.
“We present these votes to God who will bring change through His people.”
Outside a polling station set up in memory of veteran rebel leader John Garang, policeman John Gadet read the partial results and proclaimed: “We have done it, we have won, we are free!”
The results posted for the station’s D section recorded 3,066 votes for secession to just 25 for continued union with the north.
Juba University polling station recorded 2,663 votes for independence to 69 for unity. A station set up in a school in the city’s Hay Malakal neighbourhood reported 1,809 votes for secession to just 75 for unity.
The school is almost alone in Juba in still teaching in Arabic, the language of the Khartoum government, as the region has gradually switched to English as its language of instruction.
“Secession. Secession. Secession,” the polling station’s returning officer had repeatedly intoned into the night as he carefully unfolded each ballot paper cast.
The count was conducted by torchlight, creating an almost religious atmosphere in the small classroom.
Each vote was passed for checking to two other polling station staff and shown to domestic and international observers. There were a dozen at Hay Malakal.
The referendum commission’s chairman, Mr Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil, hailed the “most peaceful” election he had ever seen in Sudan.
Meanwhile, Iran has said it is unhappy over the likely division of Sudan, but added it would respect the policies of south Sudan if it becomes the world’s newest state.
“We will not be happy over the division of a large Islamic country,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Fars news agency.
“But if they eventually decide to divide Sudan, we will pursue balanced, respectful relations with regard to policies the new leaders in south Sudan will declare,” Mr Mehmanparast said.