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Results of Sudan referendum set for early February

From Isma'il Kushkush, For CNN
Southern Sudan Referendum Commission chairman Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil speaks during a press conference in Khartoum.
Southern Sudan Referendum Commission chairman Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil speaks during a press conference in Khartoum.
  • The South Sudan Referendum Commission was formed last year
  • It organized a referendum on whether to split Southern Sudan from a government based in the north
  • Final results are expected in early February

Khartoum, Sudan (CNN) -- The preliminary results of a referendum on an independent Southern Sudan will be announced in the next few days, with final results as early as February 7, the national commission that organized the vote said Tuesday,

The South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), which was formed last year by President Omar al-Bashir, said the preliminary results will be announced Saturday in Juba in Southern Sudan and on February 2 in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.

"If there is no appeal, the final results will be announced on February 7," said Justice Chan Reec Madut, deputy chairman of the commission.

"But if there is an appeal or appeals, they have to be discussed, and the final announcement will then be on February 14."

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South Sudanese voted in a weeklong referendum in early January on whether to form an independent state.

Preliminary results show 99% voted for independence with most of the count in the south completed.

The commission faced three challenges during the referendum process: the legal aspect of the referendum itself, time and finances, according to commission chairman Muhammad Khalil.

"In these kinds of situations, where there are political negotiations, there is a lot of give and take," Khalil said, "and this reflected on the law."

"The law itself was framed in an unclear way with much repetition. ... It was shaky," he said.

Nevertheless, Khalil said, the referendum commission, which includes southern Sudanese and northern Sudanese members, worked easily together, "making decisions in accord."

Khalil said the commission did not have much time to conduct its work.

"It was conceived by those who signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that the referendum process would take 42 months," he said. "By the time the referendum commission was established, we had four months."

The referendum on whether to declare independence from the government based in the north is part of a 2005 peace agreement that helped end a two-decade-long war. The war pitted a government dominated by Arab Muslims in northern Sudan against black Christians or animists in the south. The conflict left about 2 million people dead.

Funding was also a challenge for the referendum, Khalil said.

"The international funding was generous but not made available for Sudanese expertise," he said.

"If we had more funding, we would have included more Sudanese experts to give the referendum an added national face."

Both the federal government of Sudan and the government of south Sudan had committed themselves to funding the referendum with 400 million Sudanese pounds (about $160 million), Khalil said, but the commission only received 26.6 million SDG in the north, and 60 million SDG in the south.

Madut also pointed to "logistical difficulties" in the south during the referendum.

"We used human porters who delivered material on their heads to transport the materials and kits to the counties."

However, Madut said, the high turnout was historical.

"It is something that has never happened in Sudan; in fact some say it never happened anywhere."

Madut said once the counting is done, the rest will be up to the politicians.

Issues such as borders, the future of the oil-rich border district of Abyei, citizenship rights and how to manage international debts are yet to be resolved.

"We were able to finish in five months what was supposed to be done in three years," he said.

"So unless we are told to come back ... we we would like to take a beautiful vacation."