New Country forming? For jubilant voters in S. Sudan, new country nears
JUBA, Sudan—Men and women walked to election stations in the middle of the night Sunday to create a new nation: Southern Sudan. Some broke out into spontaneous song in the long lines. And a veteran of Sudan’s two-decade civil war, a conflict that left 2 million people dead, choked back tears.
“We lost a lot of people,” said Lt. Col. William Ngang Ayuen, who was snapping pictures of camouflaged soldiers waiting in long lines to vote. The 48-year-old turned away from his comrades for a moment to maintain composure.
“Today is good for them.”
Thousands of people began casting ballots Sunday during a weeklong vote to choose the destiny of this war-ravaged and desperately poor but oil-rich region. Because only 15 percent of southern Sudan’s 8.7 million people can read, the ballot choices were as simple as could be: a drawing of a single hand marked “separation” and another of clasped hands marked “unity.”
Long lines snaked through the southern capital of Juba. In rural areas, tribesmen carrying bows and arrows walked dirt paths from their straw huts to one-room schools to vote.
Almost everyone — including Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir, who has been indicted for war crimes in the western Sudan region of Darfur — agrees that the mainly Christian south will secede from the mainly Muslim north.
“We are saying goodbye to Khartoum, the capital of old Sudan. We are coming to have our own capital here in Juba,” said Tom Drani, a 48-year-old motorcycle taxi driver. He predicted 100 percent support for independence or something close to it.