News Africa

Friday 23 February 2018

Sudan set to split in two after weekend peace vote

Maggie Pick in Juba

ANALYSTS are predicting that Africa's largest country will split in two after a referendum which gets under way this Sunday.

South Sudan, which is predominantly Christian, is expected to vote around 99pc to secede from the Arab north which will also give it a majority of Sudan's oil riches.

The vote, which is likely to lead to the world's newest nation, is the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended a north-south civil war that began in the 1950s and killed two million people.

Organising the vote in the impoverished south, where many are herders and nomadic and where only 15pc of people can read and write, was an enormous challenge.

Almost four million voters were registered over the last several months, including 116,000 southerners who live in Sudan's north and 60,000 in eight other countries.

To be on the safe side, more ballots were printed than the number of registered voters. More than 7.3 million ballots were sent to Southern Sudan for distribution to more than 2,600 polling sites, in places ranging from the slowly up-and-coming southern capital of Juba to remote cattle herder hamlets of a few huts.

Anyone who has a parent or ancestor from a southern tribe can vote, as can anyone whose parents or grandparents have been in the south since January 1, 1956.

Southerners will be using ballots that are much simpler than the long list of names and symbols they were confronted with at polling stations when national elections were held in April. This time, the ballot simply shows two images: one of a lone hand that represents independence and the other image depicting two clasped hands representing unity.


The south's ruling party has educated the population on what each symbol means so there will be no confusion.

Top officials have even taken to greeting one another with a high five -- to show two separate hands -- instead of a handshake.

The EU will have 104 observers and experts. The Carter Centre is deploying more than 100 observers. Former US President Jimmy Carter himself, along with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and US Sen John Kerry and actor George Clooney, a Sudan activist, will be present for the referendum.

Irish Independent

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