Now it’s official. With nearly 99 percent of people voting in favor of secession in last month’s referendum, southern Sudan is now on course to become the world’s newest country on July 9. The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission announced the official results today in Khartoum.
As news came out of the official count, the White House and State Department rolled out statements congratulating the people of southern Sudan. President Obama said in a statement that the United States intends to recognize southern Sudan as a sovereign country and urged Sudan’s leaders to “ensure that this historic moment of promise becomes a moment of lasting progress”:
As I pledged in September when addressing Sudanese leaders, the United States will continue to support the aspirations of all Sudanese—north and south, east and west. We will work with the governments of Sudan and Southern Sudan to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition to independence. For those who meet all of their obligations, there is a path to greater prosperity and normal relations with the United States, including examining Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. And while the road ahead will be difficult, those who seek a future of dignity and peace can be assured that they will have a steady partner and friend in the United States.
Secretary Clinton, in a statement, reinforced the president’s view on incentives, providing further details about what benchmarks must be met:
Removal of the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation will take place if and when Sudan meets all criteria spelled out in U.S. law, including not supporting international terrorism for the preceding six months and providing assurance it will not support such acts in the future, and fully implements the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including reaching a political solution on Abyei and key post-referendum arrangements.
Anticipating today’s announcement and in response to the SSRC’s preliminary results, Enough and partners in the Sudan Now campaign issued a statement late last week congratulating the parties on the smooth voting process but also taking the opportunity to press for continued U.S. engagement. Enough’s John Prendergast said:
"This historic referendum lays the groundwork for a real opportunity for peace in Sudan. President Obama said that for normalization with the U.S. to occur, there has to be peace in all of Sudan. We hope his administration lives up to that pledge and continues to enhance its efforts for peace in Darfur and the South."