Southern Sudan Voters Remember Long Civil War
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
We've been reporting this week on preparations for a referendum that could create a new nation in Africa. Voter registration kicked off yesterday in Southern Sudan. Many people plan to vote for independence from the north. They would form the new nation. They have vivid memories of a civil war that left an estimated two million people dead. Here's NPR's Frank Langfitt.
FRANK LANGFITT: Among those waiting to register.
MARKO BOL TONG: Marko Bol Tong.
LANGFITT: Tong, a high-school student, is spelling out his name to the registrar. He presses his thumb on an ink pad and then on his registration card. Tong was among the first to show up this morning. His father was a captain with the southern rebel forces and fought the north during the civil war. Tong says, for him, the referendum vote is deeply personal.
BOL TONG: My father was in army and he was killed in 2001. And he was shot dead. At that time, I was 12 years old. When you don't have your father, it will affect your life.
LANGFITT: Without his father's income, Tong says he couldn't attend classes. At 21, he's still in his junior year of high school.
BOL TONG: I really miss my father. And If possible, I'm going to vote for separation. I'm going to vote because I don't need my children to suffer like me.
LANGFITT: Voters went to more than 2600 registration sites across Sudan yesterday. In some places in Juba, registration seemed to take forever.
MEL GARANG: The line is going very slow. It's too slow.
LANGFITT: Mel Garang runs a hotel in town. He took off from work to register. Garang has been here for more than an hour. But he says he's staying until he gets his registration card.
GARANG: There is no way. Even if it's here 10 days, we will stand. You know, we are not going anywhere, because this is our only chance and it is a golden chance for us.
LANGFITT: Registration was slow because only one person was allowed to register people per center. Otherwise, registration standards aren't very stringent. People are supposed to provide some official I.D. to prove who they are. But in a country that went through two decades of civil war, documentation can be hard to come by. People can use United Nation's refugee documents. Or a community leader at the registration center can identify people by sight.
DUKU F: I'm Duku Francis, the chairperson of this center.
LANGFITT: But Francis said using someone to identify local people has limits.
FRANCIS: You're supposed to have an identifier. And at the moment, the subcommittee, the referral subcommittee hasn't sent us any identifier.
LANGFITT: Rabie Adbdulatti Obeid, a leader in the ruling National Congress Party, said the North will watch the referendum closely to make sure it's free and fair.
RABIE ADBDULATTI OBEID: If the referendum conducted, and we discover that there was rigging, this will definitely create a lot of problems.
LANGFITT: What will you do?
ADBDULATTI OBEID: If there's something wrong, nobody will force us to accept it. It will not be acknowledged by the north.
LANGFITT: Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Juba, South Sudan.
INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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