South Sudanese choose secession so far

Asmaa El-Husseini in Juba, Sunday 9 Jan 2011

Many Sudanese in the south have already cast their ballots for secession as the first day of the South Sudan referendum closes

Sudan referendum
A South Sudanese woman feeds her baby as she lines up at a polling station during the referendum in Kadugli (Reuters)
A few minutes after the polling station opened its doors, John Oren hurried to cast his ballot in South Sudan's secession referendum that commenced today.

Oren had been waiting all night in front of the station with hundreds of others who consider referendum day as "the best day of their lives".

“I have been waiting all my live for this day. My vote is a corner stone in building our independent state,” Oren told Ahram Online.

The referendum began Sunday and will run for seven days featuring ballots with icons showing two hands clasped together for a unity vote and a single hand for secession. Some 3.8 million south Sudanese are eligible to vote.

Oren voted at a poll station that was set up at the burial site of John Garang, the former leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army who died in 2005 helicopter crash.

At the same polling station, South Sudan President Salva Kiir voted in honour of Garang.

“I wish John could be here with us today to see how happy the people are in the polling station” said Rebecca Neynedak, Garang’s wife, who came to vote with her three children wearing t-shirts bearing Garang’s picture.    

Neynedak urged all southern Sudanese to participate in this historic event and to better the future of their children.

By afternoon the weather in Juba become very hot, but that was not an obstacle for old Albair Robert Samuel who is in a period of convalescence after surgery but insisted on casting his ballot.

“My dream is to see an independent southern state before I die, and we almost there,” Samuel said.  

In many polling stations in Juba people queued in long lines to cast their ballots. Most the voters who spoke to Ahram Online said they would vote for secession. Most believed that having their own state would guarantee for them freedom they would not get while united with the north and ruled by President Omar Al-Bashir's regime.

“The referendum is a celebration for all of us have already decided to be independent from the north. Al-Bashir's policies led us to the dark, so want to see the light through a new state” said Eli Edward who came to vote for secession in honour of her husband who was killed during the civil war.

Southern Sudanese citizens who fought in the civil war find the referendum a reward of years of suffering and discrimination.

Wearing military uniform, young Dod Dunne Garang took permission from his commander to vote in the closest polling station. He said was ready to give his life to protect the ballot.

“This is a little thing we could offer to the women who lost their husbands in war. Secession will be good for all of the people here,” he said.

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