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Jimmy Carter Expects Credible, Free, Fair Sudan Referendum

Former US President Jimmy Carter visits a polling station in Juba in southern Sudan, 13 Apr 2010 (file)

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter told VOA he has been assured by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir that his ruling National Congress Party (NCP) will accept the outcome of the south Sudan referendum.

Mr. Carter also expressed confidence that the ongoing referendum that could split Africa’s biggest country into two will be transparent, credible and, in his words, totally free and fair.

“I think he [Mr. Bashir] speaks accurately for the government of north Sudan. And, he made it very clear to me personally, and in public statements in Juba and in Khartoum, that the north will accept the results even if it does mean complete separation of the 10 southern states into a new nation,” said President Carter.

“There is no doubt that the northern government will accept the results of the referendum peacefully.”

Polling stations are scheduled to remain open until Saturday. An estimated 4 million people will decide whether to remain part of the north or secede and become an independent nation.

U.S. diplomats have praised the vote, which has seen a good turnout despite violent clashes that have left dozens dead and many injured.

A southern Sudanese official says Arab tribesmen ambushed a bus carrying voters in South Khordofan state Monday, killing 10 people and wounding 18 others.

At least 36 people have been killed in recent clashes, with fighting heaviest in the disputed Abyei district, at the border between northern and southern Sudan.

Former President Carter said southern Sudanese have been jubilant since voting began Sunday adding that the referendum will meet international standards.

“It will be credible, it will be transparent and it will be totally free and fair. I don’t have any doubt about that based on the first three days of observation here, because everyone in the south, the overwhelming number of voters, is deeply dedicated to making sure that there are no questions raised about the legitimacy of the choice that they are making.”

Mr. Carter also encouraged leaders of both the NCP and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) to work together to ensure peace and stability despite the outcome of the referendum.

“My advice to both north and south, to the presidents and leaders of the two countries, is to continue to work with each other harmoniously, that the international community helps when possible. Trust the mediators to give you some good proposals and avoid, in any case, any outbreaks of renewed conflict,” said President Carter.

Mr. Carter is joined by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Tanzanian Prime Minister Joseph Warioba, and John Hardman,
Carter Center president and chief executive officer, are leading the Carter Center's international observation delegation that is monitoring
the referendum.