Southern Sudanese poured into polling stations on Sunday morning to cast their votes in a historic referendum on southern Sudan’s independence.
JUBA, Sudan — Southern Sudanese poured into polling stations on Sunday morning to cast their votes in a historic referendum on southern Sudan’s independence.
The lines were packed, thousands of people long, and many voters had been standing in place since 2 a.m.
The referendum is expected to pass by an overwhelming margin, and though the voting will continue for the next week, many people said they wanted to cast their ballots on Sunday.
“Today will go down in history,” said William Lukudu, who arrived before dawn at a polling station in Juba wearing a natty gray suit, bright green shirt and purple tie. “I didn’t want to be left out.”
The referendum ballot has two choices, unity or secession. For Mr. Lukudu, the choice was simple. Secession. That seemed to be the unanimous feeling among the large crowds: after decades of civil war and marginalization and oppression at the hands of Sudan’s Arab rulers, people here said they wanted their own country.
“I’m voting for separation, 100 percent plus,” said Susan Duku, a southern Sudanese woman who works for the United Nations. “I feel like I’m going to a new land.”
Salva Kiir, the president of southern Sudan, which has been semi-autonomous since a peace treaty was signed in 2005, cast his ballot Sunday morning as the polls opened.
“This is the historical moment the people of south Sudan have been waiting for,” he said. He spoke at a polling station near the tomb of John Garang, who is considered the father of southern Sudan’s modern liberation movement. Mr. Garang died in a helicopter crash in 2005, just months after signing the landmark treaty that set the referendum in motion.
Mr. Kiir, who was close to Mr. Garang, said, “Dr. John and all those who died with him, I can assure you that they did not die in vain.”
If the referendum passes, southern Sudan will declare independence in July. Several unresolved issues remain, including demarcating the disputed border and striking a deal to share revenues from Sudan’s oil, most of which comes from the south.
Let's keep Sudan in our thoughts and hope that the vote goes through peacefully.