Bashir in South Sudan ahead of vote

January 4, 2011 12:00 am

, JUBA, Sudan, Jan 4 – Sudanese President Omar al Bashir on Tuesday landed in the city of Juba, to a red carpet welcome, where he was scheduled to acquaint himself with the final vote preparations ahead of Sunday\’s referendum.

According to local Sudanese media, Mr Bashir is also expected to hold meetings with senior government officials of Southern Sudan including the President of the Government of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, and possibly discuss the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The Sudanese leader, who enjoys constitutional responsibilities over both the Northern and Southern parts of Sudan, has in the past indicated that he will accept Sunday\’s vote outcome which will determine whether or not Southern Sudan gets independence from the north.

"Our acceptance of the final results will not be withdrawn or hesitated about because peace is the ultimate goal in our relationships with our southern brothers, even if they choose a path other than unity," he said.

In a speech delivered in northern Gezira state last week, Mr Bashir pledged to help build a secure, stable and "brotherly" state in the south if it votes for independence.

He was greeted, on his arrival, by Mr Kiir, senior southern politicians and a guard of honour from the combined armed forces of north and south Sudan.

"His recent conciliatory statements have pleased a lot of people. We have asked our public to be courteous, welcoming and kind, because there is no competition here," said southern information minister Barnaba Marial.

Hundreds of well-wishers gathered outside the airport, while a heavy security presence was deployed in Juba, where armed soldiers were seen patrolling the streets.

Posters erected by non-governmental civil society groups at the entrance to the airport served as a reminder of the expected outcome of the referendum.

"We welcome you back to celebrate the independence of south Sudan," read one. "Welcome to the 193rd (world) state," ran another.

On Monday, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga urged the people of Southern Sudan to deliver a decisive vote that would leave no room for doubts and disputes after the vote outcome.

In a message sent through Cabinet Minister James Orengo, Mr Odinga said Kenya was prepared to take and live with the results of the referendum but was keen on a decisive vote which would be decided by the people of Southern Sudan.

In the event that less than 60 percent of the region\’s people turn out to vote, another referendum will be held within the next 60 days. But if turnout is 60 percent or more, a simple majority vote in favour of independence will result in the split of Sudan.

So far reports indicate that close to four million people, in the south, have registered for the referendum which is a key plank of the 2005 north-south peace deal that ended a devastating 22-year civil war.

During the said war some two million people were killed and another four million displaced.



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