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Sudan referendum voters overwhelmingly in favor of secession

An overwhelming 98.8 percent [SSRC materials] of voters in Southern Sudan's Independence Referendum last week voted in favor of secession according to preliminary results released Saturday by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission [official website]. The poll results are not yet final, as election officials will reportedly quarantine some results after voter turnout in ten Sudanese counties exceeded 100 percent and thousands of votes have yet to be counted [Xinhua report]. The final numbers will be announced between February 7 and 14, but the majority of experts believe that, even with the quarantined votes, the secession of Southern Sudan is inevitable [AP report]. According to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) [UN report], the ten states of Southern Sudan may form a new nation if voter turnout for the referendum exceeds 60 percent and 50 percent of voters approve of independence. If the South does secede from the North, the world's 193rd country will be announced on July 9 in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan.

In September 2010, a human rights expert told the UN that Sudan was not prepared [JURIST report] for the referendum. Mohamed Chande Othman, a Tanzanian judge and independent expert on the Sudan human rights situation, presented a report [text, PDF] to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] in Geneva warning that Sudan did not have the necessary infrastructure in place and cited major setbacks, including the suppression of free speech and of the press, restrictions on other civil and political rights, and inadequate protection of society due to a lack of well-trained police officers, prosecutors and judges. The report also stated that there are unresolved issues, including border demarcation, residency and voter eligibility, as well as the lack of a referendum commission in the contentious region of Abyei in southern Sudan. Experts had feared that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) [party website] of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] would try to stop the election because, depending on where the border is drawn, it could result in as much as 80 percent of the nation's oil reserves landing in the new southern state.

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