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Southern Sudan Referendum on Secession: Post-Plebiscite Report

- February 9, 2011

We are pleased to welcome back “Cameron Wimpy”:http://people.tamu.edu/~cwimpy/, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Texas A&M, with a post-election report on the Southern Sudanese referendum on secession as part of our continuing series of “election reports”:https://themonkeycage.org/election_reports/. He was in Southern Sudan during the referendum as an observer while simultaneously conducting survey research. He also “blogged about his impressions of Southern Sudan and the referendum process.”:http://people.tamu.edu/~cwimpy/blog and wrote a pre-election report on the “South Sudanese referendum”:https://themonkeycage.org/2011/01southern_sudan_referendum_on_s.html for The Monkey Cage.


As widely expected, Southern Sudan overwhelmingly chose secession from the north, a union that has officially lasted 55 years as one independent state. There was little violence, and the international observing groups ruled the referendum free and fair. This is all quite amazing given the history of the country and the uneasy environment in the lead-up to the vote. This report focuses on the results of the vote and the remaining timeline before southern independence.

As for the vote totals, 99.57% of Southerners voted for secession. Other polling centers included eight diaspora countries and southerners living in the north. The totals for the diaspora countries were 98.55% for secession while the northern polling center reported a total of 55.65% for secession. This leaves the final vote at 98.83% for secession and 1.17% for unity. These results are displayed in the chart below. In all, a total of 3,851,994 Southern Sudanese voted out of 3,947,676 registered making a final turnout of 97.58% at the 2,893 polling locations. This information is from the “Southern Sudan Referendum Commission official results”:http://www.ssrc.sd/SSRC2/index.php.


The voting went smoothly in most locations. The major dark spot on the process was the unsealed fate of the “Abyei region”:http://www.africanews.com/site/list_message/32798, and the “subsequent violence”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12150292 among the groups living there. Otherwise most voters were quite jubilant, and many had tears. This was one of the more amazing scenes that I witnessed, but it was not entirely unique:


Almost all of the voting took place on the first day, with many voters standing in line for more than 12 hours before. The remaining six days saw voters trickle in a few at a time, and the lines were all but gone. Most voters thought it was an important statement to vote as early as possible. It is not every day that a vote can help create a new country and possibly reshape the layout of a continent.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 calls for a six-month interim period after the completion of the plebiscite. This puts the likely date for a declaration of independence around 9 July. Among the issues of border demarcation and oil revenue sharing discussed in my “previous report”:https://themonkeycage.org/2011/01/southern_sudan_referendum_on_s.html#more, are deciding on a governing structure and representational system. There is far from a consensus on what these should be, and divisions are already starting to form among southerners over how soon to plan for the first election after independence. The current autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) will steer the course for most of these processes, and it is reasonable to assume that it will continue governing the region for some time.

Preliminary results were released on 30 January, and the final results were announced on 7 February, which allowed for a brief period of possible appeals. Since the results went unchallenged, South Sudan is on the road to independence, and the world will have 193 independent nations (as recognized by the UN). Further concerns about interference by the government in Khartoum were alleviated Monday when “President Omar al-Bashir”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7502973.stm “officially accepted the outcome”:http://www.voanews.com/english/news/africa/Bashir-Accepts-South-Sudans-Secession-115475174.html. The future of Abyei, other border regions, Dafur, and the North (“which has experienced some spillover from Arab protests in Egypt and Tunisia”:http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/Africa-Monitor/2011/0201/Sudan-s-protests-triggered-by-long-term-economic-political-frustrations) remain unclear.