Washington: President Barack Obama said
Sunday the world is watching as voters in southern Sudan go to
the polls in a weeklong referendum that`s expected to split
the troubled African nation into two parts and create the
world`s newest country.
Writing in The New York Times, Obama said that not
every generation has the opportunity to ``turn the page on the
past and write a new chapter in history.``
``Yet today after 50 years of civil wars that have
killed two million people and turned millions more into
refugees this is the opportunity before the people of southern
Sudan,`` he said.
The south, which is mostly Christian, is expected to
secede from the mainly Muslim north, dividing Africa`s largest
country in two.
Obama said the vote and the action of the leaders of
Sudan will help determine whether Sudan will ``move toward
peace and prosperity, or slide backward into bloodshed.``
The referendum, he said, will have consequences not
only for Sudan, but also for sub-Saharan Africa and the world.
Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan who`s facing
charges for alleged genocide and war crimes in the western
Darfur region, has vowed to honor the outcome of the vote and
let go of the oil-rich south. His government tried for years
to derail the referendum now taking place under massive
``Now, the world is watching, united in its
determination to make sure that all parties in Sudan live up
to their obligations,`` Obama said. ``As the referendum
proceeds, voters must be allowed access to polling stations;
they must be able to cast their ballots free from intimidation
The south is one of the poorest regions in the world
and the people who live there have long accused the northern
Arab-dominated government of taking their oil revenues and not
putting anything back.
``A successful vote will be cause for celebration and
an inspiring step forward in Africa`s long journey toward
democracy and justice,`` Obama said.
But, he cautioned, lasting peace in Sudan will demand
far more than a credible referendum.
He said the peace pact agreed to in 2005 must be fully
implemented and that border disputes need to be peacefully
Obama also said there can be no lasting peace until
the situation in Darfur is resolved. He said that the
government of Sudan must live up to its obligations and stop
the attacks on civilians in the region.