Today begins the hard-earned, historic opportunity for the people of Southern Sudan to decide their future. For generations, Southern Sudanese have endured chaos, oppression, conflict, and extreme poverty. The decades-long war between the North and South cost the lives of more than 2 million people and left millions more displaced. This war ended in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the promise that the people of the South would be able to determine whether they wished to remain part of Sudan or become independent. That long-awaited day has finally come.
The United States and countries around the world are watching the referendum carefully, with the expectation and determination that it be conducted peacefully, freely and credibly and that its results will be respected by all concerned parties.
I commend the CPA parties, who with the support of the international community, have made it possible for the referendum to begin on schedule. I salute the men and women of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) who under the exceptional leadership of UN Special Representative Haile Menkerios have provided crucial support to the referendum process and continue to help protect the people of Southern Sudan. I also wish to thank the members of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referenda in Sudan and the thousands of domestic and the international election observers who are active all over Sudan.
The United States is deeply committed to the full implementation of all aspects of the CPA, particularly the unresolved question of the future of Abyei and the many remaining post-referenda issues that must be resolved swiftly and fairly by the CPA parties. As always, the United States remains constantly focused on ending the ongoing conflict and genocide in Darfur where violence has recently intensified, leaving an estimated 40,000 civilians displaced in December alone.
It is my fervent hope that today’s start of the referendum will mark an immutable milestone on the path to enduring peace and development for all of the people of Sudan.