South Sudan diaspora votes in Kenya, Uganda

AFP, Sunday 9 Jan 2011

Kenya polls
Southern Sudanese line up to cast their ballots for Southern Sudan's independence referendum outside a polling station in Nairobi, Kenya, Sunday, 9 January 2011. (AP)

Hundreds of south Sudanese from the diaspora started voting Sunday in Kenya and Uganda on the first day of the seven-day referendum on independence for the war-ravaged country.

"It's a great day for all of us, the day we are going to get rid of oppression," said Michael Awuk, a man of about 50 with the south Sudan flag emblazoned on his cap.
He was queueing at the Railways Sports Club, near the town centre, one of two polling stations in the Kenyan capital. The number of people wanting to vote as soon as polling started resulted in some jostling but things soon calmed down.

Peter Goni, 25, who has spent the last 20 years in Kenya, was in the queue long before voting started.

"Today is separation. We are going to get independance. Then there is no need for me to stay here in Kenya, I want to go back to my country," he told AFP.

Out of a total of some 60,000 Sudanese from the diaspora registered to vote, just over 15,000 are in Kenya, some 5,000 in the capital Nairobi and a further 5,000 in the extreme north west at Kakuma refugee camp.

In all, eight polling stations have been set up in Kenya.

In neighbouring Uganda where some 13,000 south Sudanese are registered to vote at 11 polling stations, the same degree of enthusiasm was evident.
"I wanted to be number 1 but in the end I was number 9. I came late because of transport," Michael Mannath, 30, told AFP at a polling station set up in the capital Kampala.

Mannath, who hails from Bentiu in oil-rich Unity State, described himself as "one of the lost boys of south Sudan." He moved to Ethiopia in 1993, then Kenya, and ultimately to Texas, where he works at a Tyson Foods plant.

Although there was an option to vote in Texas, he was not confident his vote would actually count, so he took two months off work, and flew to Kampala to stay with family, to register and vote.

"I prayed to God that I would live to see this day," he said wearing a black suit, white shirt and a black tie.
"This is a day for good clothes. This is a special day for me."

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