Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and other members of a group of global statesmen known as The Elders on Tuesday praised South Sudan’s landmark independence referendum.
“This referendum was a remarkable expression of hope by the people. I was very moved by their determination to vote; some walked for days to do so,” said Tutu in a statement issued by The Elders.
“Everyone who took part should be praised for ensuring that voters were able to exercise their rights freely. I applaud the people for their peaceful participation and their remarkably high turnout to vote.”
Final results announced on Monday showed that 98,83% of Southern Sudanese had voted to secede from the North, paving the way for the declaration of a new state in July.
The January referendum was the centrepiece of a 2005 peace deal that ended a devastating 22-year conflict between the largely African Christian South and mainly Arab Muslim North.
‘We shouldn’t turn away from the North’
Former United States (US) president Jimmy Carter, who oversaw an observer mission to Sudan with fellow Elder and former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, said in the statement that the North should not be overlooked.
“While the world will join the people of Southern Sudan in celebrating the birth of Africa’s newest country, we should not turn away from the North where challenges of poverty, conflict and human rights abuses remain of great concern,” said Carter.
The two Sudans would remain dependent on each other, said Annan, who called on the international community and neighbouring states to support their efforts to work together.
“Without peace in the North, the South will not be able to address many of its development challenges. At the same time, development in the South is a prerequisite for economic and political stability in the North,” he said.
The Elders is a grouping brought together in 2007 by former South African president Nelson Mandela. — Sapa-AFP