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Southern Sudan Independence Referendum, 2011

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A Southern Sudan Independence Referendum occurred on January 9, 2011 in South of Sudan as a part of the peace agreement reached in 2005.

Results show that this measure has been approved by a margin of 99.5 percent with July 9 being the official day the Southern part of the country will declare its independence and be the 193rd country in the world.[1]

Aftermath

Before the results were official, preliminary reports stated that enough ballots were cast in favor of succession to make that the winning side. Preliminary reports at some polling locations showed 97 percent approval of independence, a land slide by any means. Results were officially released February 14th, giving enough time to count all those votes cast over seas as well.[2] Since independence was declared, succession of the South from the North would take place some time in July 2011, though a plan for the process has not been laid out. But many noted that the results will have implications all over the continent.[3]

Background

A presidential election was held on April 11, 2010, this referendum for self determination hinged on that vote occurring. Leaders of the northern section of the country were holding this referendum hostage in a sense to ensure there are no delays to the presidential vote. International organizations had asked for a delay in the presidential vote in order to ensure there was no corruption in the ballot printing or intimidation of opposition candidates. This referendum is a result of the peace agreement between the north and south and if approved would allow the southern portion of the country to secede from Sudan and be their own political entity.[4]

The government was in a race against time, so to speak, to get the January referendum set up and organized before it became too late. The rainy season in the country makes many areas in accessible, the end of August was the deadline to deliver the initial voter's roll to the government. A referendum commission also had not been appointed by August, but the southern government and many international observers had been stressing that the vote would not be delayed. The government of the north had no reason for delaying the commission creation, peace is an unsteady commodity at the moment and any delay was a chance for more violence.[5]

A commission to administer the referendum vote had finally been created by the government in late June 2010. The duty of the commission was to determine who would be able to vote in the referendum as well as registering those who were eligible. The question will be voted only by southerners, but it was complicated by those who live outside the southern border and nomadic tribes that traverse the border regularly. Both governments wanted a smooth vote, so both were trying to facilitate ease during the process.[6]

The NCP, ruling party in the North part of the country, had now come out saying that any promotion of secession by southerners was against the peace agreement and would not be allowed by the government. They stated that the two parties should work together to promote unity and that secession campaigning was not allowed. A recent poll in the south though showed that most residents supported secession and outside viewers believe if the vote was fair that would be the ultimate result.[7]

Presidential Vote

The presidential vote was held amidst controversy at the polls, international workers stated that the vote was not completely fair or transparent, but the elected president said it was official and fair. The Sudan People's Liberation Movement(SPLM), the main opposition force to the current government in power, the National Congress Party (NCP), stated that they would work with the government in order to avoid another civil war. The SPLM noted that they believed there were injustices and the vote was not fair, but were willing to cooperate for peace. The Carter Center and the EU stated that the Presidential vote did not meet international standards.[8] Though some opposition boycotts have arisen in the wake of the election, causing the President to hold the 2011 referendum hostage, stating that if people did not stop boycotting his government then he would not hold the election. International bodies such as the EU and US tried to encourage the President not to cancel the vote, stating that it would be a breach of the treaty and would not be beneficial for Sudan to plunge the country into another war.[9]

Getting ready

The government had set a timetable for the election in January by October 2010. Residents were able to register for a period of three weeks, starting November 14th. Voter registration papers had been printed outside of the country, an attempt by the government to prevent fraud. December 7th was when campaigning for the referendum had officially begun with the President noting that his government would be campaigning for unity. Outsiders warn of instability and potential violence should the vote be delayed.[10]

Bidding had been reopen for a company to print the ballots as controversy was followed when the government had announced their national printing press was going to print the ballots. Some were worried that they would not get printed in time, little time remained until the vote was scheduled and constant warnings about not holding the election on time were being heard more loudly. Though government officials cited that there would not be a delay and printing would go forward as soon as possible.[11] An English company won the bid and set out to print the needed ballots before the deadline. Ballots had begun to be delivered to different parts of the South in early January, many being air dropped due to inaccessible roads in many areas. The election authority stated that all ballot materials would be at their designated locations no later than January 6th, still giving workers time to make sure everything was available for the referendum on the 9th. Only a small portion of the southerners eligible to vote have actually registered, many cite the migratory nature of the herders and yet still hope the week long period to vote will get many more in.[12]

Week long Vote

Residents of Southern Sudan had a week to cast their ballot in this referendum. Voting began on January 9 with long lines seen at many polling stations throughout the south. The was a small skirmish over the boarder during the weekend before the election, but overall international observers were pleased with the relatively smooth process. The feeling of those who voted was elation, many noted in Juba, the southern capital, that they had expected many great changes to occur once succession was official. One observer noted it was reminiscent of the 1960s when many African nations broke free of colonization and held high hopes for their futures.[13]

It had been officially reported that the South had reached the 60 percent threshold to make this vote valid mid week of the election. That meant that at least 60 percent of those eligible to vote had done so, which accounts for around 2.3 million Sudanese people. Still no violence had occurred and observers were happy for that. Long lines continued to be seen at various polling locations.[14]

Additional reading

References