Tally confirms Sudan split
Celebrations fill south; unrest grows in north
JUBA, Sudan – Sudan will split into two countries later this year, officials announced Sunday, marking the climax of a decade-long peace process meant to end 50 years of conflict in Africa’s largest country. But political protests raised questions about the north’s stability.
Southerners celebrated their upcoming independence with dancing, but anti-government protesters in the north clashed with police, reflecting a wave of popular anger that has swept across the Arab world in recent weeks.
Student-led demonstrations against Omar al-Bashir’s regime in Sudan’s northern capital, Khartoum, are the latest protests against authoritarian governments that began with Tunisia and have since spread to Egypt and Yemen.
Southern Sudan voted 99.57 percent for separation in the Jan. 9-15 referendum on independence, poll officials announced on Sunday in Juba, the southern capital. Added to a smaller pool of Southern Sudanese voters living in the northern region and across the globe, the final tally for separation is 98.83 percent, according to the referendum commission’s website.
“These results lead to a change of situation: that’s the emergence of two states instead of one state,” Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, the head of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, announced in Juba.
The referendum was the core provision of a U.S.-brokered 2005 peace deal that ended the second of two long civil wars fought between Sudan’s mostly Muslim Arab-ruled north, and its non-Muslim and ethnic African south. More than 2 million people died in the wars, mostly southerners, and more than twice that number were displaced.
With the referendum nearing, tension had remained high between Sudan’s northern government under al-Bashir and the former rebels in the south. World leaders feared that the vote could bring the country back to civil war.
These concerns have subsided as al-Bashir, under heavy international pressure, promised to recognize the result and the referendum began on time with few incidents.
“What is left (is) just formalities,” said Salva Kiir, leader of southern Sudan, speaking after the announcement of the results in Juba, congratulating his people for choosing independence. “You have already said it and done it.”
As southerners celebrated, northern Sudanese police beat back student-led protests against rising food prices and al-Bashir’s regime, which some blame for the country’s partition and economic difficulties. The youthful crowds, which gathered in pockets of hundreds in several locations in Khartoum and in other university towns outside the capital, aimed to replicate the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.