South Sudan ex-rebels hail valid independence vote

South Sudan`s ruling party said that the 60% turnout threshhold required for a landmark independence vote to be valid has been reached after just three days of polling.

Last Updated: Jan 12, 2011, 18:04 PM IST

Juba: South Sudan`s ruling party said
on Wednesday that the 60-per cent turnout threshhold required for a
landmark independence vote to be valid has been reached after
just three days of polling.

The former rebel Sudan People`s Liberation Movement
cited its own estimates for the achievement which has to be
officially confirmed by the South Sudan Referendum Commission
that is organising the week-long vote.

But there were long queues at polling stations again
today as voters responded to calls from the party for a "100
per cent turnout," although the shine was taken off the
jubilant mood in the south by deadly tensions over the
flashpoint district of Abyei on the border with the north.

"The mark that would make the referendum valid is
past," said senior SPLM official Anne Itto.

"The 60-per cent threshold has been achieved but we...
are asking for a 100-percent turnout."

Referendum commission spokeswoman Suad Ibrahim said
the SPLM`s boast was plausible. "It`s quite possible. It could
even be higher," she said.

Ito called on those who had not cast their ballots to
do.

"Voting is an honour to those who sacrificed their
lives so we can have this choice today," she said, referring
to the devastating 1983-2005 civil war with the north in which
an estimated two million people died.

"It is a great opportunity that will not happen
again."

Loudspeaker trucks criss-crossed the potholed dirt
tracks of Juba urging voters to respond to the call.

"It is important that you go out to vote, have your
cards with you. You have only three days more, freedom can`t
wait," the hailers intoned to the accompaniment of loud
African music.

The shine was taken off the party mood by the deaths
of 10 southerners returning from the north for the referendum
in an ambush by heavily armed Misseriya Arab tribesmen on
Monday.

The attack was the latest incident in an upsurge of
violence over Abyei, a disputed district on the north-south
border where the nomadic Misseriya are engaged in bitter
clashes with pro-southern Dinka farmers over the its future,
which have claimed at least 33 lives since Friday.

Sudanese Interior Minister Ibrahim Mohammed Ibrahim
was due to hold talks with Misseriya leaders in Abyei today
after South Kordofan provincial governor Ahmed Mohammed Harun
made a controversial visit to the UN-patrolled district on
Sunday.

PTI