A group of election observers led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Monday that they found Southern Sudan's recent referendum on independence from the north to have been credible.
A group of election observers led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Monday that they found Southern Sudan’s recent referendum on independence from the north to have been credible.
Carter’s observation mission also praised Sudanese for their patience and commitment during the weeklong vote, which ended Saturday. U.N. and EU missions have also said the vote was largely peaceful and legitimate.
The referendum was part of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between the largely Christian and animist south and the mostly Muslim north. The south is expected to vote overwhelmingly for secession, splitting Africa’s largest nation. But the two regions will continue to depend on each other – the south has most of Sudan’s oil, but the north has the infrastructure to export it.
“The referendum process to date is broadly consistent with international standards for democratic elections,” the Atlanta-based Carter Center said in a statement, noting that “with the exception of a few isolated incidents, polling was conducted in a peaceful and orderly environment.”
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The Carter Center first sent observers to Sudan in August to begin watching the referendum process. Carter and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan led the Carter Center’s observation mission and visited polling stations in the southern capital of Juba and the northern capital of Khartoum. More than 4,000 domestic and international observers watched the vote.
Early results indicate a landslide choice for secession among the more than 3.25 million Southern Sudanese who cast their vote. Tallying began shortly after polls closed and continued through the night, as polling staff made piles of votes for “secession” and “unity” by lantern light at stations under trees and in schoolrooms.
At a church service on Sunday in the southern capital of Juba, southern president Salva Kiir prayed for forgiveness and healing for the 2 million who died and countless Sudanese who suffered through the war.
There were some isolated clashes in the disputed border region of Abyei during the polls, and the Carter Center noted that “the specter of conflict and insecurity will remain a daily challenge that many Sudanese will have to confront” regardless of the outcome of the referendum. The region remains home to many militias who answer to neither side.
Carter earlier said he expected the Khartoum-based government to honor the poll’s results and U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday congratulated the Sudanese people for successfully carrying out the referendum and called the peaceful and orderly voting an “inspiration to the world.”