Close to 99 per cent of south Sudanese chose to secede from the north in a landmark January 9-15 referendum,according to the first complete preliminary results announced today.
Earlier partial results had put the outcome of the vote beyond doubt but official figures were announced publicly for the first time during a ceremony attended by president Salva Kiir in the southern capital Juba.
The discreet leader,who is to steer southern Sudan to statehood in July after overseeing a six-year transition period,said the more than two million victims of the1983-2005 civil war did not die in vain.
Chan Reec,the chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau in charge of polling in the south,said a whopping 99.57 per cent of those who voted in the south chose secession.
Turnout in the south stood at 99 per cent and only 16,129 people voted for Africa’s largest country to remain united,said Reec,whose announcement was met by cheers from the crowd.
Mohamed Khalil Ibrahim,who chairs the overall referendum commission,said 58 per cent of southerners residing in the north and 99 per cent of overseas voters chose to break away.
“The results just announced are decisive,” he said.
Updated figures published on the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission’s website and accounting for 100 per cent of ballots cast in both the north and the south gave secession an overwhelming 98.83 per cent of the vote.
Kiir said he was not surprised by the almost unanimous decision to secede.
“I assured you southerners would vote over 90 per cent and now you have proved me right,” he said after the results were announced.
The former rebel commander paid homage to the victims of the war.
“We will never forget them and they will remain in our history,” he said in front of diplomats and officials at former rebel leader John Garang’s mausoleum.
“I want to assure them and their families that these people did not die in vain,” he added.
The revered Garang died in a plane crash shortly after signing the January 2005 peace agreement that ended more than two decades of conflict between the black Christian-dominated south and the mainly Arab Muslim north.
The emotional week-long referendum,which saw huge lines of dancing and praying voters form outside polling stations long before dawn on the first day of voting,was the centerpiece of the peace deal.