Tens of thousands of people across Southern Sudan went to the polls Sunday to vote in a historic referendum on a whether to allow Southern Sudan to become a new independent nation.
President Obama wrote in an Op-Ed Sunday, “Today — after 50 years of civil wars that have killed two million people and turned millions more into refugees — this is the opportunity before the people of southern Sudan.”
Election officials say voter turnout across the nation was 20 percent on Sunday, the first day of the week-long poll, but heavy in Southern Sudan.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center has deployed 100 observers for the referendum, said no problems have been registered.
“There has been no evidence of intimidation,” said Carter. “There has been no evidence of illegalities. There has been no evidence of improprieties. It has all been done in a completely admirable and perfect way, so far as we can ascertain.”
He said he was confident the entire process would be open, free and fair.
Civil servant Nyapa Along left her family in Malaysia two years ago to help southern Sudan. She voted in Juba.
“I am very happy that at last we reach the final step to our freedom,” said Along. “We, as the southern Sudanese people, we came all together, all our different tribes. We are looking forward to bringing peace, freedom to our southern Sudanese people.”
Along urged all southern Sudanese to come together to ensure the effort does not fail.
At Juba University, Professor Simon Monoja said he was voting for the first time in his 60 years of life. “I was looking forward to this day, and thank God it has happened and I have done it,” said Monoja. “So I can go and lie down and if death comes, I will die peacefully.”
Voting is to continue until Saturday, with preliminary results expected in the following weeks. The official tally is due next month.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised the vote, but warned of many challenges remaining, such asdemarcation of the border between north and south, and clashes in the disputed Abyei region. He urged both sides to resolve these quickly.
(Source: VOA News)