/ 7 January 2011

Sudan ready for independence vote, say organisers

Sudan Ready For Independence Vote

The commission organising the landmark vote on South Sudanese independence, which is due to open on the weekend, said on Friday that preparations were “absolutely complete”.

“Preparations are absolutely complete — the ballots arrived at all of the centres all over the south,” commission spokesperson George Mater Benjamin said.

“We have coordination with the United Nations. They are giving us small planes to distribute the ballots.”

Speaking in the capital, Khartoum, earlier, former US president Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Centre foundation has deployed poll observers across the south, congratulated the South Sudan Referendum Commission on overcoming the “great difficulties” it had faced.

The ‘final’ march to freedom
“They had great difficulties, with the late selection of members and some funding problems. So we are pleased to congratulate Dr Khalil and his team,” Carter told a news conference, after meeting commission chairperson Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil and former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

The commission spokesperson said that an official ban on any further campaigning would come into force at midnight. “The rallies will finish tonight,” he said.

During the day, hundreds of dancing south Sudanese took to the streets of the regional capital, Juba, to celebrate what they called the “final march to freedom” ahead of the week-long independence referendum, which opens on Sunday.

A marching band led the parade, all wearing T-shirts with the slogan: “We are going,” and an image of two hands snapping chains wrapped around them.

Behind them came schoolchildren dancing on the roof of a truck carrying giant speakers, blaring out the tune: “Yes to separation, no to unity.” — AFP