Leader of southern Sudan calls for secession

Associated Press / November 2, 2009

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KHARTOUM, Sudan - The leader of southern Sudan called on his people to vote for secession in an upcoming referendum if they do not want to end up as second-class citizens, as voter registration began yesterday for elections across the country.

Salva Kiir’s first-ever call for the mostly Christian, oil-rich south to split off from the Muslim north could increase tension with the Arab-led northern government and further strain the fragile 2005 peace agreement that ended the more than two decades long north-south civil war that has left more than 2 million dead. The north-south war is separate from the nation’s conflict in Darfur.

“When you reach your ballot boxes the choice is yours: “You want to vote for unity so that you become a second class in your own country, that is your choice,’’ Kiir told worshipers Saturday at a cathedral in the southern capital of Juba. “If you want to vote for independence so that you are a free person in your independent state, that will be your own choice, and we will respect the choice of the people.’’

The civil war ended with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which set up a national unity government, established an autonomous south, and stipulated the holding of a 2011 referendum to determine the future of the south.