Sudan poll continues amid Abyei clashes

January 10, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 10 – Polls opened for the second day of voting in Southern Sudan\’s historic referendum to determine whether the region will become an independent nation or continue to be part of the larger Sudan.

The week-long exercise kicked off largely peacefully but more clashes in the disputed border region of Abyei left at least 33 people dead in three days according to reports by the AFP news agency.

At the Nairobi Railways Club, which serves as one of the eight referendum polling centres in the country, the atmosphere was festive with voters queuing for hours outside polling stations.

"As you can see they are proud to stand with all the sun and all the heat until the time they will cast, their vote. I am voting for separation and being independent for the first time in our life," said Ms Rubina.

Apart from the two polling stations in Nairobi, there are six across the country including Turkana, Eldoret and Kitale.

To some the significance was almost emotional, "this is a historic moment of my life… I thank God that I am here," Mr Denk shared with Capital News.

"Today is my birthday because of my vote I (will) get a new country," said another voter.

The Railways Referendum Centre Electoral Supervisor Jor Deng Deng said that turnout on Monday was still very high and said he was confident that all the registered voters would be able to vote by Saturday when the exercise is expected to end.

Polls closed at 5pm on Sunday but from Monday, voting hours would
be extended until 6pm.

Officials ruled out the early closure of centres as referendum rules provide for the centres to be open until the 15th.

A total of 3.9 million southerners registered for the historic exercise while some 60,000 registered south Sudanese voters are in Kenya.

The referendum was promised in a 2005 peace deal ending a civil war which has raged on and off since 1955, fuelled by oil and ethnicity, between the mostly Muslim north and the south, where most people follow Christianity and traditional beliefs.

The war left two million dead and displaced four million people.  Southerners view the poll as a new beginning after decades of strife and perceived repression by northern Sudan.


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