Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - The African Union (AU) Observers have certified South Sudan’s secession vote “free, fair, credible and a true reflection of the democratically-expressed will of the South Sudanese voters.”
In its preliminary statement on the conduct of the vote, which could lead to the creation of Africa’s newest country and pave the way for the independence for Somaliland, the AU said the referendum was conducted in a safe and peaceful environment.
African Union Commission President Jean Ping, says the successful holding of the vote could see the introduction of a new "principle of self-determination" as a banner for a push for independence by countries whose unilateral independence had never been recognized because of the organisation's principle of respecting borders inherited from the colonial era.
Excited Southern Sudanese voters flooded voting centres across their vast semi-autonomous region, chanting slogans of separation and freedom and saying the vote was their first step into the future of freedom from domination by the north.
Early results from Kenya, one of the eight international voting centres worldwide, showed Tuesday that 99.2% of the Southerners living there voted for separation.
The results were announced by a representative of the South Sudan's Referendum Commission in Kenya, Deng Philip Achuoth, who said at least 14,835 people voted out of the 15,062 registered in Kenya.
Praising the conduct of the vote, the AU observers said “There was massive deployment of police, military and security intelligence personnel nationally and at all polling stations to ensure safety."
The observers, however, regretted incidences of violence and deaths which occurred near the north-south border, mainly targeting Southerners returning home.
At least 30 people were said to have been killed in clashes around the North-South border region in the disputed territory of Abyei, which was expected to conduct a separate referendum on whether to become part of South Sudan or the north.
The AU called for restraint, saying both sides should maintain peace and stability.
The Southern Sudanese voters went to the polls on 9 January to decide whether to declare independence from the mainly Arab North as part of an international peace agreement signed in Nairobi on 5 January, 2005.
They were required to either vote for unity with the north or secede. For the secession vote to count, a simple majority of at least 60 percent of the voters were required to have cast their ballot for the entire process to become valid and its outcome binding.
AU observers said the voter turnout in most of South Sudan hit 80% but decried the low voter turnout registered in Northern Sudan, where the mood was largely against the vote.
South Sudan’s Referendum Commission has also certified the process as successful, noting that no particular violations were recorded.
Vote counting started on 15 January, just hours after the five-day long voting, celebrated by a majority of the Sudanese, who turned out in numbers.
“The voter turnout was massive in almost all States in Southern Sudan. However, voter participation in the north was notably low. By the fourth day more than 80 percent of registered voters in Southern Sudan had cast their votes, and voting time had to be extended to accommodate long queues on the first two days,” the Observers noted.
They also noted that campaign tools, including banners, posters, flyers, television and radio broadcasts were used intensively to sensitise and mobilize the voters.
-0- PANA AO/VAO 18Jan2011