The first complete results from the referendum in Sudan suggest that the people of the south have voted overwhelmingly to form a separate nation.
According to the referendum commission, more than 99 per cent of those polled voted to secede from the north. If the result is confirmed, Southern Sudan is scheduled to become an independent nation on 9 July. The final results are expected to be announced in mid-February.
Voting in January was largely peaceful, free and fair. Following two decades of civil war that killed two million and made four million flee their homes, this was a big step forward in the peace process. But huge challenges remain.
“Critical issues between the north and south such as citizenship, border demarcation, and sharing of oil revenues are yet to be resolved,” says Vincent Bolt, CAFOD’s representative in Sudan, “And the contested area of Abyei, where 40 people died in January, has yet to vote.
“What’s more, almost 200,000 southerners have left the north in the last three months. Many of them have arrived in the south with almost nothing. We’ve supported our church partners in providing people with emergency household kits – but this is one of the poorest areas in the world, and we have a huge task ahead in ensuring justice and well-being for the people.”