The Southern Sudanese diaspora in Ethiopia has voted almost unanimously in favor of the South’s separation from the North.
It’s a small sampling of voters, but the result was an overwhelming 99 percent show of southern Sudan’s desire for independence. Of 7198 votes cast by southern Sudanese at three polling centers in Ethiopia, 7137 were for secession from the north, 26 were for unity, and another 36 were either invalid or unmarked.
Southern Sudan Referendum Commission chief in Ethiopia Opiew Obang Kwot announced the tally. He says a similar result is expected when the overall figures are released next month.
"The announcement is only for Ethiopia, but the rest of the announcement will be on February 9th for all Sudan,” Kwot said. “It’s the day everyone will know whether the vote is for secession or unity."
Though the outcome was a foregone conclusion among voters comprising mostly southern Sudanese refugees, Kwot says the strong turnout and the nearly unanimous result is nevertheless heartening.
"It showed the people of southern Sudan will be on our side, [after] suffering a lot and children and mothers have died because of this civil war,” Kwot added. “So that’s why they decided for southern Sudan to get independence. So that is the reason why you get a big attendance for people to come and vote for secession."
The votes were counted by the International Office of Migration, which oversaw the balloting in Addis Ababa and in two rural areas in Ethiopia with large southern Sudanese refugee populations. The ballots will be forwarded to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, for inclusion in the overall totals
The referendum was one of the final components of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace agreement that ended decades of civil war in Sudan. A number of difficult post-referendum issues still remain to be solved, but if all goes according to the CPA outline, southern Sudan is on track to become Africa’s newest country in early July.