Southern Sudan will form newest African nation


February 7th, 2011

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Omaha, NE – Southern Sudanese refugees are celebrating in Omaha. The official results are in, and a long-awaited vote for independence has been recognized.

The Makuach family traveled from Des Moines, Iowa to vote for independence at a polling site in Omaha (Photo Robyn Wisch)

Southern Sudanese refugees streamed in to Omaha last month to vote in a referendum to decide whether Southern Sudan would split from its government in the North. A government headed by President Omar Al Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Monday, the vote was made official. 98% of Southern Sudanese voted for independence, and Bashir announced he would accept the results. Gatwech Noriar is a Sudanese native and caseworker with the Southern Sudanese Community Association in Omaha. He said he hopes the world remains tuned in to Sudan, to ensure the split occurs peacefully and fairly.

“I think the world right now is focusing on the problem in Southern Sudan,” he said. “Keep your eye on what’s going to happen in the South. I think that’s a crucial point is that the pressure from the western world is just keeping people to do that.”

Omaha is home to, by many counts, the largest population of Sudanese refugees. It was also one of a handful of cities that hosted voting sites for the referendum, and saw the highest turnout in the country, with over three-thousand ballots cast. Noriar said he expects many refugees in Omaha and around the country will want to return home.

“If they have a nation today…they have a good feeling that they can go back again to their own country and celebrate and enjoy their own freedom,” he said.

In a statement, President Barack Obama said the United States will officially recognize Southern Sudan as an independent, sovereign state. He also called on the Northern government to end the ongoing violence in Darfur, and pledged to review Sudan’s designation on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. The President called the vote a critical milestone in a peace agreement that ended over 40 years of civil war in that country. And he said “while the road ahead will be difficult, those who seek a future of dignity and peace can be assured that they will have a steady partner and friend in the United States.”

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