South Sudanese vote overwhelmingly for secession

AFP– The once sleepy south Sudan town of Juba that hopes to become the world’s newest national capital opted 97.5 percent for independence, preliminary results from a landmark vote showed on Wednesday.

Full preliminary results from a number of the south’s 10 states even showed landslides for secession as high as 99 percent.
In Lakes state, centred on Rumbek town which served as rebel headquarters during a 1983-2005 civil war with the north, 298,216 of the 300,444 votes cast were for independence, a whopping 99.924 percent of the total.
Just 227 opted to remain united with the north — 0.076 percent of the total — with the balance made up by blank or invalid ballots.
In Central Equatoria state, which includes the regional capital Juba and is the south’s second most populous, 449,321, or 98.2 percent of the 457,452 votes cast were for secession against just 4,985, or 1.09 percent for unity.
In Western Bahr al-Ghazal state, home of another of the south’s three big cities, Wau, 153,839 of 162,594 votes cast were for secession, 94.6 percent of the total. There were just 7,237 votes for continued union.
In Unity state, the south’s main oil-producing area, with 472,000 votes collated, organisers reported more than 471,000 votes for independence and a mere 91 for unity.
In Torit county, a wartime rebel bastion in Eastern Equatoria, 66,436, or 99.67 of the 66,652 votes cast, were for secession against 90, or 0.14 percent, for unity.
In Juba, cheers and applause rang out as the head of Juba county referendum sub-committee, Timon Wani, announced the result, which he hailed as a “historic event”.
There were 211,018 votes cast for independence for the mainly Christian, African region, against just 3,650 for continued unity with the mainly Arab, Muslim north, Wani said.
“This is a great result,” said Mohammed Lowala, who was among the crowd.
“You cannot get a decision more clear that the south wants to be free than 97.5 percent,” he said. “The people of Juba county have spoken for independence and I am sure that the rest of the south will follow.”
“We know the result is for separation because that is what everyone wants,” said William Moro, waiting for the result. “But hearing the results announced to make it official will be very exciting — to have the piece of paper to show the north.”
The final result is not expected before next month after the state results have been collated at regional level and added to those southerners who voted in the north or in eight countries of the diaspora.
“Now the ballots are being moved to the 10 state capitals of the south — many have already arrived,” said Aleu Garang Aleu, a spokesman for the Southern Sudanese Referendum Bureau, which is running the vote in the south.
“We are being methodical to make sure all the rules are respected — and that takes time, of course.”
Officials across the south’s 10 states were busy collating their final returns from the week-long referendum to determine whether the impoverished, war-ravaged region is be recognised as the world’s newest state in July.
In the south’s most populous state Jonglei, which is also one of its most war-ravaged, referendum officials were still waiting for the ballots to be brought in from the counties to being compiling the state’s preliminary result on Thursday.
Southern leaders have warned against any premature celebration or triumphalism that might undermine hopes of a velvet divorce from the north after five decades of conflict and there were no organised celebrations of the results beginning to flow in from the states.
“The opinion polls indicate that the south will definitely vote for a state of their own but we must still wait for the final result,” information minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said on Tuesday.
“Don’t dance and beat drums and celebrate before the baby is born in case there may be a miscarriage.”