Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sudan Referendum 101

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sudan Referendum 101

Article excerpt

South Sudan votes Sunday in a historic referendum for its own independence. After decades of war with the North, the region looks set to secede.

What is South Sudan's referendum about?

Sunday's referendum is a vote on whether to make the semiautonomous region of South Sudan fully independent from the rest of the country.

After decades of war between the Arab-dominated government in the north and southern rebels, a 2005 peace deal between laid out a plan for powersharing between the north and the south and also a provision for a significant degree of southern autonomy, culminating in Sunday's referendum on whether the South wants to officially secede.

On Sunday, South Sudanese are expected to vote for their homeland to become the world's newest country.

Why is there going to be a referendum? Why not stay unified?

Fundamentally, the desire to separate comes from deep religious and ethnic divides between the North and South of Africa's biggest country.

Northern Sudan is mostly Arab and Muslim, while South Sudan is predominantly non-Arab with a mix between Christian and animist faiths.

Sudan's Bashir softens tone in rare visit to semiautonomous South

The tensions boiled over into a brutal two-decade civil war that began in the 1980s and officially ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. There is still great enmity between North and South and distrust over how oil revenues from the oil-rich south are being split.

Who votes in the referendum?

Only South Sudanese who registered during the registration period can vote in the referendum.

Most South Sudanese live in the south, but some remain in northern Sudan and many live in other countries as refugees. Registration took place in the following countries: Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the UK, and the US. South Sudanese living in those countries may also vote. In the US, there are polling places open from Jan. 9-15 in Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Nashville, and Boston. …

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