As you may know, in January, the people of South Sudan voted on whether or not to stay united to the North. The official results have just been announced; South Sudan is to become the world’s newest nation in July this year.
98.83 per cent of voters from the south chose to secede from the north. The results, displayed at an announcement ceremony in Khartoum, revealed that out of 3,837,406 valid ballots cast, only 44,888 votes, or 1.17 per cent, favoured the status quo of unity with the north.
The event in the Sudanese capital was attended by Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, and Salva Kiir, the southern leader. Both led armed forces in the civil war that ended six years ago leaving more than two million people dead.
The two countries are economically interdependent: southern Sudan, which is rich in oil, cannot export its oil resources without using a pipeline that runs through the north.
Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, urged the governments in both Sudan and South Sudan to “build on the momentum generated by the successful conduct of the referendum to reach an agreement on post-referendum arrangements, including Abyei”, the oil-rich region to which both sides lay claim.
In Juba, the southern capital, small celebrations have been taking place.
“This is our day for freedom. We are ready to celebrate all night long,” Santino Machar, a student, was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
“Today I don’t fear war anymore, it is the past … Our leaders have made friends with the north, but for me, I can never forgive them for what I have seen,” Riak Maker, 29, told the Reuters news agency.
“I don’t hate them now, but I never want to see them again.”
Haru Mutasa, a reporter with Al Jazeera, said: “It was expected that most Southerners would vote to separate from the North, but the overwhelming numbers of people who did so is amazing for people here in the South,” she said.
“The results show how desperately and urgently people here have wanted to split. The main hope for the people is that perhaps if they govern themselves they will be able to develop a region that they feel has been neglected for many decades by officials in the North.
“It is going to be a huge challenge for the officials and time may be against them. People here have high expectations, they want schools, they want hospitals, they want basic services like running water – this takes money and help from the international community.”
Sudan is almost entirely dependent on oil revenues and has struggled to find other sources of incomes.
Al-Bashir is still being sought by the International Criminal Court over charges he orchestrated genocide in Darfur.
St Josephina Bakhita, Pearl of the Sudan, pray for your people as they negotiate the ways ahead.