Wednesday, 19 January 2011

UN commends Southern Sudan's referendum

The UN Security Council has commended Southern Sudan on the relatively peaceful independence referendum expected to result in secession. But it also called on the north and the south to resolve their differences regarding the Abyei region.

The head of the UN mission to Sudan said the recent tensions in Abyei could lead to long-term instability, and urged the leaders to agree on the region's status. The Council also voiced concern about the ongoing violence in Darfur. Clashes between insurgents and security forces in the western region have displaced an estimate 40,000 people over the past month.

The Council held a meeting, on Tuesday 18th January, to discuss the conduct of the referendum which they thought to have been free, fair and credible. Speaking about the meeting, a US representative, Susan Rice said "The people of Southern Sudan, after decades of war, and more than two million killed, have cast their votes peacefully, and expressed their will."

UN envoy to Sudan, Haile Menkarios, said the clashes between the Misseriya Arab nomads from the north and pro-Southern Dinka Ngok have subsided due to a recent agreement between the Northern and Southern governments. But he also noted that an absence of an official settlement would, inevitably lead to more violence.

"These efforts for reducing tensions and preventing violence can contain the situation. However, the continued absence of a final settlement on the future of Abyei leaves open the possibility of further clashes between the communities," he said.

EU mission's Chief Veronique de Keyser said the referendum was conducted peacefully with few isolated “cases of intimidation" by government security officials at voting centres. Speaking to the press in Khartoum, de Keyser said "If I had to summaries the conduct of the referendum, I would say free and peaceful voting took place, with an overwhelming turnout."

Preliminary results are expected by the end of the month and are most likely to be in favour of secession which would make Southern Sudan an independent nation by 9th July - as stipulated in the 2005 peace treaty between the north and the south.

De Keyser also commended the "courageous political leadership" demonstrated by the ruling parties of the north and south Sudan and added that she was "confident that the free will of the Sudanese people would be respected."

Sources: BBC News, Sudan Tribute, Aljazeera, People's Daily Online

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.

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