Sudanese referendum peaceful, smooth in first day

January 10, 2011 10:02 am 

KHARTOUM, Jan. 10 — The South Sudan referendum which started early Sunday in north and south Sudan and eight overseas countries, is witnessing an intensive turnout in the south and a weak one in the north. However, no incident has interrupted the polling progress in its first day, contrary to what has been anticipated.

The calmness and stability of the polling process could be attributed to the commitments voiced by the two Sudanese partners, the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), to sustain peace and implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which has managed to survive six years of difficulties and disputes before arriving to its final stage.

"The smooth and peaceful polling process is another message to the world that the people of Sudan are civilized and committed to their agreements," Abdalla Ali Masar, Sudanese presidential adviser, told Xinhua.

"Presently the north and south need to preserve security and stability during the referendum and after. The two sides are committed to sustain peace and they have to establish positive relations and safe neighborhood after the referendum resulted in separation of south Sudan," he added.

The polling centers in Sudan on Sunday opened their doors to around four million voters in north and south Sudan and eight overseas countries to vote to decide whether the region should remain united with the north or secede.

The first several hours in south Sudan referendum saw low turnout at the polling centers in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, but the process proceeded smoothly and calmly despite the concerns over eruption of violence as for sensitivity of the process which is largely believed that it would lead to division of south Sudan.

The referendum was stipulated by the CPA, inked between north and south Sudan in January 2005, which ended a two-decade civil war between the two sides and left over 2 million people dead.

The polling centers in south Sudan amounted to more than 2,600 and around 17,000 local observers together with 1,200 foreign observers participate in monitoring the referendum to assess the process.

The final result would be announced by the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) from its headquarters in Khartoum on Feb. 15, 2011. According to South Sudan Referendum Act, at least 60 percent of the registered voters must cast their votes for the referendum's validness, otherwise the result will not be legal and there will be a re-vote.

The polling process is scheduled to last for seven days and would be extended for an extra week if necessary, while the referendum result would be decided by a majority of 51 percent voters.

All speculations indicate that the southerners would vote for the separation of the region, and everybody is reassured that there would not be any war between north and south Sudan.

The Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in his visit to Juba last week declared that though he supported unity, he would be the first to recognize the option of the southerners.

The officials in south Sudan government also affirmed that the relations between north and south Sudan would remain good in case of separation, particularly that the two parts are linked with deeply-rooted social and cultural bonds.

Barnaba Benjamin, Minister of Information for south Sudan government and spokesman on Saturday said in an interview that the coming south Sudan state, in case of separation, would not be hostile to north Sudan and it would never seek for war.

"The CPA was basic means to achieve peace, so separation of south Sudan will never lead to war. If a south Sudan state was established, it will not be hostile to the north. We are preparing to launch talks to ensure good neighborhood and resolve all outstanding issues through negotiation, dialogue and joint cooperation," he said.

He further stressed that the bonds between north and south Sudan would prevent any confrontation between the two sides, saying that "there are many connections to bring us together with the north and we will work to strengthen them to be two friendly countries and maintain good relations. There will be the longest borderline around 2,000 km between us, and we need cooperation."

However, there are still many outstanding issues consisting a barrel of gunpowder which could explode at any moment, particular in the country's disputed oil-rich area of Abyei which could disturb the relatively calm country.

A referendum was supposed to be conducted at Abyei coincident with the south Sudan referendum to decide the affiliation of the area to the north or south Sudan, but the NCP and the SPLM failed to agree on who have the right to vote in the Abyei referendum. (PNA/Xinhua)

ALM/ebp

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