News / Africa

Sudanese Head to Polls As Southern Independence Vote Looms

Alan Boswell

Sudanese head to the polls Sunday for what is the first democratic vote in in the country in over two decades. The vote is the final major milestone in a 2005 peace agreement before South Sudan votes on whether to form an independent state.

Political candidates in Sudan have wrapped up their campaigns, and on Saturday South Sudan's capital laid relatively quiet just one day before the semi-autonomous region's first peacetime election in decades is to take place.

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir told reporters on Friday that South Sudanese would vote for him to stay in power because his party of former rebels will keep the hard-won peace. "My message throughout my campaigns has been the maintenance of peace and stability throughout the country. Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the lives of our people have changed tremendously from worse to better and no amount of intimidations can drag us back to war again," he said.

For his final rally, the Southern leader chose the burial site of his revered predecessor, the late John Garang, who founded and led the southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement until his shocking death just months after signing the peace deal.

The key provision in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between Garang's rebels and Omar Hassan al-Bashir's government is a landmark referendum granting Southerners the right to politically separate from Sudan next year. These elections were inserted into the period before the secession vote, but with opposition boycotts and allegations of vote rigging in the north and no strong organized opposition in the south, both ruling parties look set to retain power for the final stages of the peace deal.

Mr. Kiir said that a likely victory for Bashir, who was indicted last year on Darfur-related war crimes by the International Criminal Court, will have little effect on the peace process. "If he wins the elections, he is going to continue as the president of the Republic of Sudan, and the relations between the north and the south will remain the same, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement will continue to be implemented up to the end of the interim period where the people of Southern Sudan will have to go to the exercise of the referendum. So, nothing will change. It will be the same spirit that will continue to implement the agreement," he said.

The lead-up to the polls has been chaotic, as the opposition announced, unannounced, and re-announced a dizzying array of boycotts. Two out of the handful of significant northern opposition parties are still participating in the polls, but most of the rest of boycotting the vote, including most of the South's SPLM candidates running in the north. But, adding to the electoral confusion, Mr. Kiir and other SPLM officials have refused to endorse the northern boycott, saying that it was decided without the consent of the party's top political organ, who only decided to pull out of the presidential race and the elections in Darfur.

Analysts say that the apparent split is a sign that SPLM's south-based leadership has already started looking ahead to the prized referendum. Mr. Bashir had threatened the SPLM that if they refused the elections, he would refuse to hold the Southern independence vote.

The two parties still have not agreed on a finalized border in the case of secession, nor on what is to happen to the revenue from oil produced in the south, where most of Sudan's oil lies.

Two million died during the two-decade conflict between SPLM and Khartoum.

You May Like

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs