Sudan voter turnout over 60 percent

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Sudan voter turnout over 60 percent

Post by BLACK on Thu Jan 13, 2011 1:04 am

JUBA, Sudan: More than 60 percent of registered voters already have cast ballots in an independence referendum, crossing the threshold needed for the vote to be valid if it creates the new country of Southern Sudan as expected, a southern official said Wednesday.

The south's secession would split Africa's largest country in two and deprive the north of most of its oil fields, though Sudanese President Omar Bashir has said he will let the south go peacefully.

Ann Itto, an official with southern Sudan's ruling Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement, told journalists on Wednesday that nearly 2.3 million voters had cast ballots so far, surpassing the 60 percent of registered votes needed to ensure the outcome's validity.

Some 2 million people died in a two-decade war between north and south Sudan that ended in 2005 with a peace agreement that allowed for the referendum on independence.

The weeklong vote has been jubilant, though the future of the desperately poor region remains uncertain. The entire France-sized region has only 50 km of paved roads. Because only 15 percent of Southern Sudan's 8.7 million people can read, the ballot choices were a drawing of a single hand marked "separation" or another of clasped hands marked "unity."

Southerners have long resented their underdevelopment, accusing the northern government in Khartoum of taking their oil revenues without investing in the south.

Independence won't be finalized until July, and many issues are yet to be worked out. They include north-south oil rights, water rights to the White Nile, border demarcation and the status of the contested region of Abyei, a north-south border region where the biggest threat of a return to conflict exists.

Northern and southern leaders called two crisis meetings to resolve a surge of violence in border regions that has marred the plebiscite. Violence in Abyei has killed at least 30 people in recent days, officials have said.

Some southern leaders have accused the north of arming the nomads to disrupt the referendum in a bid to keep control of the region's oil — an accusation dismissed by Khartoum.

An underlying cause of the recent fighting has been the unresolved status of Abyei, claimed by both Arab Misseriya nomads and the Dinka Ngok people, associated with the south.

Misseriya and Dinka leaders met Wednesday in Kadugli, the capital of the surrounding state of South Kordofan. "We will see if they can reach an agreement ... Without hope you can't live," said Deng Arop Kuol, chief administrator of Abyei.

"They will talk about the killings ... the cattle taken between the two sides, migration routes, issues of arms that are breeding conflict," said Kuol, a southerner.

On Sunday, a higher level meeting including Sudan's national and southern interior ministers and regional leaders would discuss the recent deployment of 300 southern police officers in Abyei, seen as a major cause of recent fighting, said Kuol.

A UN source said the Misseriya had suspected the new police were southern soldiers coming in to claim the region.

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