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Sudan 'agrees framework' for referendum as voter registration begins

media Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) Chairperson Mohamed Ibrahim … Reuters

North and south Sudan have agreed to settle key issues such as border demarcation and trade barriers ahead of a January referendum on southern independence, the African
Union said on Monday. Negotiations "concluded successfully" between the ruling National Congress Party of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement, said an AU statement.

The announcement was made as voter registration for the referendum kicked off across the country and abroad, launching a process which could lead to the partition of Africa's largest country.

Registration centres opened at 8:00 am local time at the start of a two week process during which some five million southern Sudanese are called to add their names to the electoral list, referendum commission spokesman George Benjamin said.

In the southern capital Juba officials were awaiting the arrival of the president of the semi-autonomous region, Salva Kiir, who was expected to set an example by registering early.

Meanwhile vehicles carrying officials using loudhailers roved the streets to urge people to register en masse and to blare out music with the evocative message: "We are heading to the promised land".

"It is an historic moment for south Sudan, I am hurrying to register so I can vote in the referendum," said Gabriel Aleu, a Juba youth of about 20 years old.

Those aged 18 or over belonging to a tribe established in the south on or before January 1, 1956, the date of Sudan's independence from Britain, are eligible to vote.

However, the referendum commission has not drawn up a definitive list of southern tribes and many southerners do not have official documents proving their origins.

Voters are set to decide on 9 January whether southern Sudan wants to remain with Khartoum or become independent.

The referendum in southern Sudan and the oil-rich Abyei region straddling north and south are part of a 2005 peace deal that ended a two-decade-old civil war in Sudan which left an estimated two million dead.






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