Southern Sudanese independence referendum, 2011
A referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 took place in Southern Sudan from 9 to 15 January 2011, on whether the region should remain a part of Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

 or become independent. The referendum was one of the consequences of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement
Comprehensive Peace Agreement
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement , also known as the Naivasha Agreement, was a set of agreements culminating in January 2005 that were signed between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the Government of Sudan...

 between the Khartoum
Khartoum is the capital and largest city of Sudan and of Khartoum State. It is located at the confluence of the White Nile flowing north from Lake Victoria, and the Blue Nile flowing west from Ethiopia. The location where the two Niles meet is known as "al-Mogran"...

 central government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M).

A simultaneous referendum
Abyei status referendum, 2011
A referendum is due to be held in 2011 in which the residents of Abyei can decide either to remain part of the Sudanese South Kordofan region or to become part of the Bahr el Ghazal region of South Sudan....

 was supposed to be held in Abyei
The Abyei Area is an area of in Sudan accorded "special administrative status" by the 2004 Protocol on the resolution of the Abyei conflict in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the Second Sudanese Civil War. The capital of Abyei Area is Abyei Town...

 on whether to become part of Southern Sudan but it has been postponed due to conflict over demarcation and residency rights.

On 7 February 2011, the referendum commission published the final results, with 98.83% voting in favour of independence. While the ballots are going to be suspended in 10 of the 79 counties for exceeding 100% of the voter turnout, the number of votes are still well over the requirement of 60% turnout, and the majority vote for secession is not in question.

The predetermined date for the creation of an independent state was 9 July 2011.


The prerequisites for the referendum included a census, which was used to define how wealth and political power will be apportioned between regions. The census was the basis of a voter registration process, which was also used for the national elections in 2010, which in turn set the stage for the referendum. The census was delayed three times. Problems included disagreements between the north and south over what they are obliged to do by the Naivasha Agreement, funding difficulties and an enormous logistical challenge. In the south, unmapped minefields from the war continue to make movement difficult, while up to five million Sudanese are nomadic. Up to two million internally displaced person
Internally displaced person
An internally displaced person is someone who is forced to flee his or her home but who remains within his or her country's borders. They are often referred to as refugees, although they do not fall within the current legal definition of a refugee. At the end of 2006 it was estimated there were...

s from the south remain in camps around Khartoum, in the center of the country, while refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

s remain in Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

 and Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

. A further complication results from the conflict
War in Darfur
The Darfur Conflict was a guerrilla conflict or civil war centered on the Darfur region of Sudan. It began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and Justice and Equality Movement groups in Darfur took up arms, accusing the Sudanese government of oppressing non-Arab Sudanese in...

 in Darfur
Darfur is a region in western Sudan. An independent sultanate for several hundred years, it was incorporated into Sudan by Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1916. The region is divided into three federal states: West Darfur, South Darfur, and North Darfur...

 to the west, where civilians who have fled attacks refuse to take part in census out of fear that the government would use the results against them. Darfuri rebel groups are unanimous in their denunciation of the planned census, while the Justice and Equality Movement
Justice and Equality Movement
The Justice and Equality Movement is a rebel group involved in the Darfur conflict of Sudan, led by Khalil Ibrahim. Along with other rebel groups, such as the Sudan Liberation Movement , they are fighting against the Sudanese Government, including the government's proxy militia, the Janjaweed...

 group has threatened to attack any census-taker.

There were disagreements between the National Congress Party
National Congress (Sudan)
The National Congress or National Congress Party ' is the governing official political party of Sudan. It is headed by Omar al-Bashir, who has been President of Sudan since he seized power in a military coup on 30 June 1989, and began institutionalizing Sharia law at a national level...

 (NCP) and the SPLA/M about what proportion of voters will have to be in favour of independence (the NCP wanted at least 75% support required), whether Southern Sudanese living in the north should be allowed to vote, and the post-referendum separation process (including the division of the national debt). Modest progress was made in early September 2010, but disagreements on fundamental points remain.

It is envisaged that "popular consultations" in South Kordofan and Blue Nile
Blue Nile (state)
Blue Nile called Central from 1991 until 1994, is one of the 15 states of Sudan. It was established by Presidential Decree Nº3 in 1992 and is named after the Blue Nile River. It has an area of 45,844 km² and an estimated population of 1,193,293 . The Central Bureau of Statistics quoted the...

, without a clear reference to referendums and/or independence, would raise concerns about the future of these regions.

According to the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
Comprehensive Peace Agreement
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement , also known as the Naivasha Agreement, was a set of agreements culminating in January 2005 that were signed between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the Government of Sudan...

 (or CPA), in October 2009, the central government of Sudan and the South Sudanese government agreed that turnout would have to be at least 60% of 3.8 million voters would be necessary to validate. In this case, a simple majority vote in favour of independence would result in secession for South Sudan; should the turnout be insufficient in the first referendum, a second one will be held within sixty days.


Sudanese officials have said throughout campaigning that, regardless of their pro-unity or pro-separatist stance, the ultimate aim was a peaceful transition. Vice President Kiir acknowledged his administration had failed to deliver "the dividends of peace," and noted that a campaign to confiscate arms was a solution to maintaining stability.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir
Omar al-Bashir
Lieutenant General Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir is the current President of Sudan and the head of the National Congress Party. He came to power in 1989 when he, as a brigadier in the Sudanese army, led a group of officers in a bloodless military coup that ousted the government of Prime Minister...

 said that the southern region had a right to choose to secede and that the referendum was helpful because unity "could not be forced by power." He also said he would respect the outcome of the vote and support the south. However, he also said that though secession was a right it may not resolve issues for the south: "The stability of the south is very important to us because any instability in the south will have an impact on the north. If there is a war in your neighbour's house, you will not be at peace. The south suffers from many problems. It's been at war since 1959. The south does not have the ability to provide for its citizens or create a state or authority."

Negotiations continue between the ruling parties in the north and south on potential post-referendum arrangements—looking at future issues such as citizenship, security, finance and wealth sharing. Minister of Petroleum Mr. Deng said he fears that an immediate budget cut for the north would ignite a war. "In order to avoid conflict, we could look to a phase-out arrangement whereby you provide the north some [oil] until they get an alternative.” The pipeline to export southern oil currently cuts through the north, and the south has not begun construction on a pipeline that would avoid that route. In an article published by the Washington Post on 21 September 2010, Deng noted that an interim agreement could help both north and south and result in a “win-win”. The northern government said it would assume most of the country's $38bn debt if secession was voted upon.

National campaigns were being held by both parties to address issues of potential clashes ahead of the referendum. President Al-Bashir wanted to reassure and assuage tension surrounding the issue of citizenship rights in the case of south Sudan secession. He said that even if southerners opted for secession, "the sentimental unity and social relations between north and south Sudan will remain standing." Al-Bashir vowed that the rights of southern citizens staying in the north after secession would be safeguarded, saying that his party would not allow anyone to infringe on the rights of southerners in the north, their properties, freedoms and residence regardless of citizenship.

The northern Justice and Peace Forum Party advocated separation of the country citing unity as a "bad forced marriage." Its chairman Al Taieb Mustafa said that the prospective support for the referendum would be "the real independence day for Sudan."

On 8 January, the mood in Juba, the southern capital, and the wider region was said to be jubilant with final pro-secession rallies celebrating independence in advance.

Egyptian and Libyan involvement

Early during the referendum process, an Egyptian proposal was made to have a confederation
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

 between the north and south of the country. However, President Omar al-Bashir said it was not being considered because the issue of the referendum was about "unity or separation. Our brothers in the south are refusing at the moment the proposal of confederation. If the separation was the result of the referendum, the two sides are going to negotiate over the future of relations between them."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak
Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak is a former Egyptian politician and military commander. He served as the fourth President of Egypt from 1981 to 2011....

 and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi or "September 1942" 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011.He seized power in a...

 later went to Sudan to try to assuage the conflict, though both had previously called for the country to stay united. Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit
Ahmed Aboul Gheit
Ahmed Aboul-Gheit is an Egyptian diplomat who was the Foreign Minister of Egypt from 11 July 2004 to 6 March 2011, since the government of Ahmed Nazif took office. Aboul-Gheit previously served as Egypt's ambassador to the United Nations. In December 2005 he began mediating the Chad-Sudan conflict...

 said the meeting sought to ensure the referendum could be held in a "climate of freedom, transparency and credibility, reflecting the will of the sons of the south" and also that both the South and North could strengthen bonds.


Observers and key players feared violence ahead of the South Sudan referendum for a variety of reasons.


It was asked by Mr. Whom if Sudan's oil boom was a blessing or a curse for having failed to better the lives of residents. The majority of Sudan's oil fields are located in the south.


Talks on resolving the status and of the eligibility criteria for voters in the disputed Abyei
The Abyei Area is an area of in Sudan accorded "special administrative status" by the 2004 Protocol on the resolution of the Abyei conflict in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the Second Sudanese Civil War. The capital of Abyei Area is Abyei Town...

 region broke down in October 2010, although both the central ruling NCP and southern SPLM said their respective teams "will meet again in Ethiopia toward the end of October to continue their discussions. The parties continue to commit themselves to their mutual goal of avoiding a return to conflict."

Didiri Mohammad Ahmad, an NCP official, said it was "not possible" to hold the referendum on the future of Abyei on time, and it could be delayed for months or be settled without a vote. He added that "We agreed that in the next talks we will try to look for other alternatives."

Sudan’s Defense Minister, Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, suggested the vote may have to be postponed. "According to the reality on the ground...border issues and Abyei must be resolved within the framework of one nation because doing so in the framework of two countries open[s] the door for foreign interference. The referendum is not a goal but a tool to consolidate and promote security and stability. This [UDI] is illegal and will not be recognised by the African Union or the other [organisations] because it would contradict the peace agreement and its procedures." Sudan's UN ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman told the Security Council that "It is evident that any attempt to conduct the plebiscite before achieving an acceptable settlement between the two parties [in Abyei] will mean only a return to war." The United States said it was working to avoid the "danger" that would follow the failure to hold the referendum.

The government Sudan asked the UN for the printing of ballots for the referendum as diplomats and the electoral commission warned of any further delay would miss the deadline to hold the election.

Abyei was not finalised for the vote.

Bishtina Mohammed El Salam of the Misseriya, who dominate the region along with the Dinka tribe, said he would not accept Abyei's seceding and joining the south even though the latter favoured secession. "If the Dinka take this decision – to annex Abyei to the south – there will be an immediate war without any excuse. We think they should be reasonable and think about it. They should know that those who are pushing them to take that decision will not give them any back-up."

South Kurdufan and Blue Nile

The status of the Nuba Mountains
Nuba Mountains
Nuba Mountains is an area located in South Kordofan, Sudan. The area is home to a group of indigenous ethnic groups known collectively as the Nuba peoples. In the 18th century, Nuba Mountains became home to the kingdom of Taqali that controlled the hills of the mountains until their defeat by...

 region of South Kurdufan
South Kurdufan
Southern Kordofan is one of the 15 wilayat or provinces of Sudan. It has an area of 158,355 km² and an estimated population of approximately 1,100,000 people . Kaduqli is the capital of the state...

 and Blue Nile
Blue Nile (state)
Blue Nile called Central from 1991 until 1994, is one of the 15 states of Sudan. It was established by Presidential Decree Nº3 in 1992 and is named after the Blue Nile River. It has an area of 45,844 km² and an estimated population of 1,193,293 . The Central Bureau of Statistics quoted the...

 is more complex as ethnic data is less clear.

In the Blue Nile, African ethnic groups such as the Berta
Berta people
The Berta or Bertha are an ethnic group living along the border of Sudan and Ethiopia. They speak a Nilo-Saharan language that is not related to those of their Nilo-Saharan neighbors . Their total Ethiopian population is about 183,000 people....

, Anuak and Koma
Koma is a 2004 Hong Kong psychological thriller directed by Law Chi-Leung , starring Karena Lam and Angelica Lee.-Plot:The movie begins with a young woman, who attended a wedding party held in a hotel and became drunk, waking up in one of the hotel rooms; only to realize in horror that her kidney...

are dominant in the Southern part. The northern part, however, has an Arab majority, although the enclave of Ingessana in Tabi Hills is mostly Animist and was targeted by the northern forces during the civil war. The total population stands at 832,112 according to the Election Commission. During the 2010 provincial elections, the NCP won 29 out of the 48 seats, while the SPLM won 17 seats. In the National Assembly elections, the NCP won 6 out of the 10 seats, while the SPLM got 4. However, the SPLM accused the NCP of fraud. The separate gubernatorial election was won by the SPLM candidate, who polled almost 5% votes more than his NCP rival.

The Nuba Mountain was home to some 1,000,000 ethnic Nuba during the 1980. A total of 99 different tribes used to live in this region. When the civil war broke out during the late 1980s, the Nuba aligned with the SPLA. The vast majority of Nuba were taken as prisoners of war and forcibly relocated to camps in North Kordofan and Khartoum. When the fighting ended, only about half the population survived. The rest either surrendered and moved north or were killed during the fighting. After the signing of the peace accord, some of the Nuba returned to the mountains, but the tribal elders refused to re-admit them into the tribes as they feared the abductees (mostly young men) were too Islamised. They were finally allowed back into the tribal fold after a 6 month long re-education camp.

The SPLA controls four counties in Southern Kordofan: Lagawa, Kadugli, Rashad and Dilling. In 2005, the Arab dominated West Kordofan was merged in to South Kordofan, resulting in Arabs gaining a majority in the new province.

The 2008 census reported the total population of South Kordofan at 1,406,404 (though the SPLA claims many ethnic Nuba living in remote regions were not counted). This figure includes the Abyei region and it is not known how many are Nuba, Ngok and Baggara. During the 2010 National Assembly election, the NCP won 13 out of the 17 seats, while the SPLM won 4 seats. The gubernatorial elections were postponed to 2011.

During the 2010 Presidential elections, the NCP received 69.3% of the votes in South Kordofan and 56.6% in Blue Nile, while the SPLM received 18.5% of the votes in South Kordofan and 32.7% in Blue Nile.

Ahmed Harun of NCP defeated Abdelaziz al-Hilu of the SPLM in the 2011 South Kordofan Gubernatorial elections. Harun received 201,455 votes compared to Hilu's 194,955 votes. NCP won 33 seats in the legislature to SPLM's 22 seats. SPLM refused to acknowledge the results, accusing the NCP of voter intimidation and electoral fraud.

Religion and tribes

Religion was also expected to significantly influence the referendum. Christian commentators have noted that there is a "climate of chronic discrimination against Sudanese Christians
Christianity in Sudan
Christianity has a long history in Sudan, starting from Roman times.-History:Christianity reached what is now northern Sudan, then called Nubia, by about the end of the first century after Christ....

 and other minorities." For some, religion was not the issue, while other southerners objected to alleged "Islamisation." Black Sudanese had also claimed to have faced racism
Racism in Sudan
Racism in Sudan is a complex matter due to the racial mixture of various populations. The name Sudan comes from "al-Sudan" or "land of the blacks". Sudanese Arabs are among 600 tribes live there, few times elements of their society view "blacks" with disfavor. Sudan has been in the Arab League...

 which affected their choice.

President Omar al-Bashir said dual citizenship would not be allowed. According to the CPA, 20 percent of civil service jobs were reserved for southerners, which would then be lost if the country splits.

Questions were also asked about the status of tribes such as the Nuba and Misseriya of South Kordogan that inhabit the border regions with South Sudan.


When questioned in a poll 97% of South Sudanese answered that they would be voting for independence.

An early poll of 1,400 individuals was carried out by a coalition of civil society organizations in Southern Sudan prior to the January referendum, indicating that 97 percent of voters would likely vote for secession. According to John Andruga, chairman of the coalition, 100 percent of respondents in the states of Unity
Unity (state)
Unity, sometimes known as Western Upper Nile, is one of the 10 states of the African nation of South Sudan. It has an area of 35,956 km². Unity, is inhabited predominantly by two ethnic groups, the Nuer and the Dinka ....

 and Eastern Equatoria would vote for secession. A similar survey carried out one year prior by the US-based National Democratic Institute
National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs is an organization created by the United States government by way of the National Endowment for Democracy to channel grants for furthering democracy in developing nations. It was founded in 1983, shortly after the U.S. Congress created...

 had indicated that 90 percent of voters would vote for secession.


Authorities in both the north and south of Sudan have been accused of harassment and intimidation against the media in order to avoid dissenting coverage. Rights groups warned the media could be slapped with further restrictions.

The Youth and Sports Minister, Haj Majid Suwar, of the National Congress Party
National Congress (Sudan)
The National Congress or National Congress Party ' is the governing official political party of Sudan. It is headed by Omar al-Bashir, who has been President of Sudan since he seized power in a military coup on 30 June 1989, and began institutionalizing Sharia law at a national level...

 (NCP) suggested the government "may not recognise the results" and would "talk to ... the USA and the UN and the AU and say that the Sudan People's Liberation Movement didn't fulfill the CPA Comprehensive Peace Agreement
Comprehensive Peace Agreement
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement , also known as the Naivasha Agreement, was a set of agreements culminating in January 2005 that were signed between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the Government of Sudan...

" by allowing open campaigning and the withdrawal of their soldiers from southern areas. He also said that the potential borders between them would have to be drawn up pending redeployment of the SPLM's forces to the 1956 border.

Salva Kiir, the president of the southern region and the first vice president of Sudan, said that the referendum's timing was important as there was "a risk of a return to war in case of delay or denial of this exercise, and it would be on a very massive scale."
Kuol Deim Kuol, the spokesman for the SPLM's military, accused the NCP of "just looking for a pretext of starting war" and called Suwar a "war monger."

Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accused the SPLM of breaching the terms of the peace deal, and warned of a return to conflict if the disputes were not settled before the referendum. Despite that, he said he was committed to holding the referendum, but insisted on settling differences over the shared border and how to share oil, debt and Nile river water.

The NCP accused the SPLM of discouraging southerners who were living in the north of the country from registering, as the SPLM threatened not to recognise the referendum if its demands were not met. Southerners in the North were reluctant to vote because of fears of being uprooted from their homes. Muslims in the border provinces of the South also expressed fear of a campaign of violence that could be unleashed as a consequence of the referendum. Many feared a return to civil war
Second Sudanese Civil War
The Second Sudanese Civil War started in 1983, although it was largely a continuation of the First Sudanese Civil War of 1955 to 1972. Although it originated in southern Sudan, the civil war spread to the Nuba mountains and Blue Nile by the end of the 1980s....

, should the referendum fail because of the increasingly heated rhetoric. Along with Chad, Sudan sought to secure the border area ahead of the referendum.

In addition to warnings of civil war, it was also read that a possible civil war could involve the Lord's Resistance Army
Lord's Resistance Army
The Lord's Resistance Army insurgency is an ongoing guerrilla campaign waged since 1987 by the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group, operating mainly in northern Uganda, but also in South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo...

 and bring Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

 into the conflict.

Despite rifts amongst Southern parties, more than 20 parties ironed over their differences to put a show of unity before the referendum. Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal also said the referendum could "reignite violence...rather than bring peace," while he said the vote must be "fair and free."

The United States extended sanction against Sudan on 1 November 2010 in order to pressure the government to stick to the referendum deadline. The US then offered to drop Sudan from an US list of state-sponsors of terrorism if the two referenda were held on time and the results were respected. They again partook in statement before the referendum in lauding al-Bashir's statement to respect the vote.

Following concerns from the UN about delays, representatives of both regions affirmed a commitment to hold the referendum on time; a media campaign was also launched to raise awareness and increase the turnout.

Minni Minnawi, the only Sudan Liberation Army faction signatory to the Darfur Peace Agreement
Darfur Peace Agreement
There have been two Darfur Peace Agreements that have been signed between the Government of Sudan and Darfuri rebel groups which have intended to end the conflict that is taking place in the Darfur region of the Republic of Sudan.-Abuja Agreement :...

, quit the agreement and resigned his post as Special Advisor to the President, saying the deal had failed. He consequently moved to Juba in the south saying the referendum would be successful as southerners "reject the policy of this [Khartoum] government" and the north would then be a "failed state." In return the government declared Minnawi an "enemy" and closed his Khartoum office.

In December 2010, the Constitutional Court agreed to carry out an investigation into a petition filed by local lawyers seeking the dissolution of the electoral body that was organising the referendum.

Despite calls from the government in south Sudan that northerners living in the south should be protected, some northerners who were uncertain of their future in an independent state started heading north.

External precedents

Questions were asked if a positive vote on the referendum would set a precedent for other secessionist movements on the African continent. An Al Jazeera English analysis said a few reasons for seeking secession were: a lack of expertise by post-colonial political elites in governing their respective countries and managing natural resources; the impact of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 where many African countries took sides, rendering sovereignty ineffective; tribal prejudices and preferential service that dominate African politics; failure of governments to provide basic freedoms such as guaranteeing full citizenship for all.

Citing these examples, it asked where such a precedent for secession
Secession is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. Threats of secession also can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.-Secession theory:...

 could lead: East Sudan and Darfur, Nigeria or South Africa. As two important members of the African Union
African Union
The African Union is a union consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established on 9 July 2002, the AU was formed as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity...

 the latter two could be reluctant to support a new independent southern Sudan as a recognition thereof could "send a very clear message to these groups in their struggle for autonomy."


Former American President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan
Kofi Atta Annan is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2006...

 and former Tanzanian Prime Minister Joseph Warioba led the Carter Center
Carter Center
The Carter Center is a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter. In partnership with Emory University, The Carter Center works to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering...

 international observation delegation. US Senator John Kerry
John Kerry
John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited Southern Sudan three times during the referendum period, including during polling. George Clooney
George Clooney
George Timothy Clooney is an American actor, film director, producer, and screenwriter. For his work as an actor, he has received two Golden Globe Awards and an Academy Award...

, who is supporting the Satellite Sentinel Project (using satellites as a conflict early warning system for Sudan), also made visits to Sudan during the referendum period. Several major regional organisations deployed international observers, including the African Union
African Union
The African Union is a union consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established on 9 July 2002, the AU was formed as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity...

, the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, the League of Arab States and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development
Intergovernmental Authority on Development
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development is an eight-country regional development organization in East Africa. Its headquarters are located in Djibouti City....

 (IGAD). These organisations issued a joint press statement on the first day of polling.

Domestic observation organisations also deployed Sudanese men and women to observe the process, these included the Sudanese Network for Democratic Elections (SuNDE), the Sudan Domestic Elections Monitoring Programme (SuDEMOP) and the Sudanese Group for Democracy and Elections (SuGDE). Other national civil society organisations were also accredited as observers.

Normally, the UN does not deploy electoral observers, however, in response to a request from the parties of the CPA, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referenda in the Sudan was established. The panel is composed of three senior officials, former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa
Benjamin Mkapa
Benjamin William Mkapa was the third President of the United Republic of Tanzania and former Chairman for the Revolutionary State Party .-Biography:...

, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal António Monteiro, and Bhojraj Pokharel, a former Chairman of the Election Commission of Nepal
Election Commission of Nepal
The Election Commission of Nepal is the body responsible for monitoring elections, as well as registering parties and candidates and reporting election outcomes, in Nepal. It was born out of the 1950 revolution in Nepal, and was established in law in 1951, although it has been changed somewhat by...

, who are appointed by and report to the UN Secretary-General. The panel made periodic visits to Sudan during the referendum period and is supported by field reporting officers and stakeholder-observer liaison officers.


Registration for the vote started on 15 November with Salva Kiir's appeal for registering en masse. Many of those who fled South Sudan
South Sudan
South Sudan , officially the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country located in the Sahel region of northeastern Africa. It is also part of the North Africa UN sub-region. Its current capital is Juba, which is also its largest city; the capital city is planned to be moved to the more...

 during the civil war returned in the months and weeks leading up to the referendum, with some southern politicians trying to have them play a role in swinging the vote towards independence. Almost four million citizens registered before the deadline on 5 December; as the stream of returnees continued unabated, however, many arrived too late to register for the referendum.


Voting on the referendum began on 9 January 2011. On 12 January, after three days of voting, representatives of the SPLA/M announced that, according to their estimates, the 60 percent turnout threshold required for the referendum's validity (corresponding to around 2.3 million voters) had been reached. Official confirmation came later the same day, when the referendum commission released a statement announcing that turnout would "exceed" the required 60 percent threshold. Jimmy Carter expressed his belief on 13 January that the referendum would likely meet international standards for both the conduct of the vote and freedom of voters. The United Nations reported that preliminary results would be expected by 2 February 2011, with final results expected within the following two weeks.

According to preliminary counts reviewed by the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

, consisting of 30,000 ballots in 10 polling stations, the sample had a 95% turnout with 96% in favour of secession, 3% in favour of unity and the rest invalid. Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, chairman of the referendum commission, said 83 percent of eligible voters in the south and 53 percent in the north had voted. The South Sudan Referendum Commission affirmed the validity of the vote, however the vote was still ongoing at the time.

As voting ended, Sudan again vowed to recognise the result.

Diaspora voting

Southerners living in Darfur
Darfur is a region in western Sudan. An independent sultanate for several hundred years, it was incorporated into Sudan by Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1916. The region is divided into three federal states: West Darfur, South Darfur, and North Darfur...

 were given the opportunity to vote in the referendum from special polling stations as some tribes advocated unity and others supported separation with a possible ominous precedence for Darfur itself. Polling stations were also set up in eight countries with large southern Sudanese populations, namely Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States. In the United States, where an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 southern Sudanese reside, polling booths were opened in eight states: Virginia, Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas, Tennessee, Nebraska, Arizona and Washington. Similar polling booths were set up in the Canadian cities of Calgary and Toronto, to cater to the south Sudanese population there; an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 Sudanese live in Canada, about 2,200 of whom had registered to vote in either of the two cities.

Members of the Sudanese diaspora have been split as to their support for or against separation; members of some tribes advocate unity, while members of other tribes supported separation. Some Canadian Sudanese have called for a boycott of the referendum, accusing the International Organization for Migration
International Organization for Migration
The International Organization for Migration is an intergovernmental organization. It was initially established in 1951 as the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration to help resettle people displaced by World War II....

, which was tasked with operating the vote in that country, of "being influenced by the government in Khartoum." Calgary-based journalist Mading Ngor of The New Sudan Vision dismissed these claims as "a conspiracy theory," adding "It's a very fragmented community here along tribal lines." Although over 99% of those in the south voted for independence, 42% of those who lived in the north at the time voted for unity.


Several days before voting began, the SPLA/M
Sudan People's Liberation Army
The Sudan People's Liberation Movement is a political party in South Sudan. It was initially founded as a rebel political movement with a military wing known as the Sudan People's Liberation Army estimated at 180,000 soldiers. The SPLM fought in the Second Sudanese Civil War against the Sudanese...

 and a rebel faction led by Lieutenant General George Athor
George Athor
George Athor Deng, who holds the Sudan People's Liberation Army rank of Lieutenant General, is a SPLA dissident and also a former unsuccessful 'independent' candidate for the leadership of Jonglei State, Sudan. Jonglei State is one of the more influential states in South Sudan...

 in Jonglei State agreed to a ceasefire agreement after nearly a year of fighting, meaning a halt to military operations, troop movement and recruitment by either side. The agreement was seen as important for a "peaceful voting environment".

The day before voting began, at least six people were killed in clashes between South Sudan security forces and a pro-Khartoum Sudan militia in Unity state. One person was also killed in clashes between the Misseriya tribe and police in Abyei. The SPLA/M said the fighting started a day earlier because of the Misseriya. One day into the vote, on 10 January, a further 6 people were killed in clashes near Abyei, bringing the total to 30 dead in that region.


As of 15 January, Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale was created in 1975 as part of Radio France by the Government of France, and replaced the Poste Colonial , Paris Mondial , Radio Paris , RTF Radio Paris and ORTF Radio Paris...

 reported that the Sudanese central government in Khartoum had begun to recall ambassadors named by the SPLA as part of the CPA and had stopped shipping material for passports to Juba. Sudan also became the first state to recognise South Sudan.

President of the United States Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 said the result of the vote were "inspiring" as voters decided "their own future [and marked] another step forward in Africa's long journey toward justice and democracy". He also said that the United States would recognise South Sudan's independence when it is formalised in July.

Salva Kiir met the leaders of the Polisario Front
Polisario Front
The POLISARIO, Polisario Front, or Frente Polisario, from the Spanish abbreviation of Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro is a Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement working for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco...

 Mohammed Abdel-Aziz at an African Union summit. Abdel-Aziz congratulated Kiir for on a successful referendum process. He lauded "the wisdom and courage" of people of South Sudan people for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and expressed his hope that post-referendum arrangements and agreements could be finishing in the interim period before statehood. He also briefed Kiir of the Western Sahara
Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to . It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly...

's process to a similar referendum.


The precedence of the vote was seen as important because most African states' borders were decided during colonial times which resulted in a heterogeneous mix of religions, ethnicities and cultures. The Organisation of African Unity, however, refrained from redrawing boundaries for the fear that wars of secession could be sparked.

Post-electoral issues

New names for an independent country were being suggested, with South Sudan being controversial as it does not offer a break from Sudan. Over 12 names have been suggested. These names include: Nile Republic, Kush Republic and Azania.

The SPLM proposed naming the country South Sudan, with Nile Republic and Cush as other possibilities. The decision still has to be approved by parliament.

Amongst the issues to be handled by a new government are job creation.


The Minister of Cooperatives and Rural Development Jimmy Lemi Milla was shot dead in his office along with his bodyguard in an apparent personal feud.

See also

  • East Timorese independence referendum, 1999
  • Montenegrin independence referendum, 2006
    Montenegrin independence referendum, 2006
    The Montenegrin independence referendum was a refe­rendum on the independence of the Republic of Montenegro from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro that was held on 21 May 2006.The total turnout of the referendum was 86.5%...

External links

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