Results confirm vote for Southern Sudan split (Lead, changing dateline)

Monday, February 7, 2011

NAIROBI - Southern Sudan has overwhelmingly voted to split from the north and create the world’s newest nation, official results released Monday showed.

Earlier, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir said he accepted the south’s decision to become an independent state.

January’s referendum was enshrined in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the mainly Muslim north and Christian and Animist south.

The official announcement in Khartoum confirmed an earlier statement by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, which showed 98.83 percent of almost 4 million voters had opted for independence.

“Today we received these results and we accept and welcome these results because they represent the will of the southern people,” Arabic broadcaster al-Jazeera quoted al-Bashir as saying on state television prior to the announcement.

“But we are committed to the links between the north and the south, and we are committed to good relations based on co-operation,” he said.

While the poll was generally peaceful, more than 70 died during fighting between northern and southern tribes in the restive border region of Abyei as voting took place. Dozens of people were killed at the weekend when soldiers clashed in Southern Sudan’s Upper Nile State.

More than 2 million southerners died and 4 million were displaced in Sudan’s 1983-2005 north-south civil war, which was essentially a continuation of the 1955-1972 conflict that followed independence from joint British and Egyptian rule.

Many issues remain to be resolved after the referendum, including the final demarcation of the north-south border, which bisects Sudan’s oilfields and leaves most of the precious commodity in the south. The status of Abyei also has to be decided.

Southern Sudan is reliant on a pipeline running through the north to get its oil out through the Red Sea, meaning both sides have a stake in peace.

While southerners are elated at the prospect of independence, aid agencies say the impoverished region faces huge challenges. Southern Sudan has only a few dozens kilometres of paved road in a country the size of France and has appalling development indicators.

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