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Voting Continues in South Sudanese Referendum

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Southern Sudanese officials say at least 30 people have died in clashes along the border with northern Sudan as the second day concluded in the region’s week-long referendum on independence. Election officials say voter turnout was 20 percent on Sunday, the first day of the week-long poll.

The lines of voters outside polling stations across southern Sudan on Monday were mostly shorter than on opening day.

Nevertheless, thousands of people turned out for the referendum that is to decide whether southern Sudan remains with the north or secedes to become Africa’s newest state.

Civil servant Nyapa Along left her family in Malaysia two years ago to help southern Sudan. She voted in Juba.

"I am very happy that at last we reach the final step to our freedom," said Along. "We, as the southern Sudanese people, we came all together, all our different tribes. We are looking forward to bringing peace, freedom to our southern Sudanese people."

Along urged all southern Sudanese to come together to ensure the effort does not fail.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center has deployed 100 observers for the referendum, said no problems have been registered.

"There has been no evidence of intimidation," said Carter. "There has been no evidence of illegalities. There has been no evidence of improprieties. It has all been done in a completely admirable and perfect way, so far as we can ascertain."

He said he was confident the entire process would be open, free and fair.

Another observer, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, also praised the vote, but warned many challenges remained.

"The referendum is a first step and the real hard work begins after that and that you, as Sudanese, have to stand together and work together to build your society and your nations," said Annan.

He said important issues remained, such as demarcation of the border between north and south, and clashes in the disputed Abyei region. He urged both sides to resolve these quickly.

At Juba University, Professor Simon Monoja said he was voting for the first time in his 60 years of life. "I was looking forward to this day, and thank God it has happened and I have done it," said Monoja. "So I can go and lie down and if death comes, I will die peacefully."

Voting is to continue until Saturday, with preliminary results expected in the following weeks. The official tally is due next month.

Article by Scott Bobb, VOA News