At least nine people have been killed after fighting broke out between rebel militias and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) – the south’s army – a day before South Sudan votes in a referendum on its independence.
AP - Two rebel groups clashed with Southern Sudan’s military ahead of the region’s historic independence referendum, leaving at least nine dead. A top security chief said Saturday he suspected the groups were trying to depress voter turnout in some areas, though most analysts expect a peaceful vote.
The weeklong referendum begins Sunday and is likely to see Africa’s largest country split in two. In order for the referendum to pass, a simple majority must vote for independence and 60 percent of the 3.9 million registered voters must cast ballots.
IN PICTURES: REFERENDUM COUNTDOWN
A woman shows the symbols for the two choices on the South Sudanese referendum ballot: an open hand for separation (left), two hands together for unity (right). ©AFP
A giant screen in Juba's centre counts down the days, minutes and seconds left before polls open. © Melissa Bell
The flag of South Sudan already flies in Juba. There is no doubt as to which way Sunday's vote will go. © Melissa Bell
The memory of decades of war gives way to dancing in Juba, just days ahead of the referendum poll. © Melissa Bell
Southern army spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said forces loyal to rebel leader Gatluak Gai attacked SPLA forces overnight Friday and into Saturday in Unity State, an oil-rich area bordering northern Sudan. Aguer said six rebels died in the exchanges.
Starting Sunday, southern Sudanese will cast simple, illustrated ballots at polling stations under thatched roof shelters in the remote and impoverished countryside and in Juba, a city of simple concrete houses and mud huts that got its first paved roads only in recent years.
Date created : 2011-01-08