An overwhelming majority of Southern Sudanese — nearly 99% — voted to split from the north, preliminary results show.
Sudan’s north and south have been at war for two decades in a conflict that left 2 million people dead.
The referendum on whether to declare independence from the government based in the north is part of a peace agreement six years ago that helped end the conflict. The war pitted a government dominated by Arab Muslims in northern Sudan against black Christians or animists in the south.
A majority of Sudan’s oil reserves are in the south, another flashpoint in the war.
Several million voters cast ballots, including expatriates in the United States and seven other countries.
Southern Sudan would become a new nation in July if the vote is validated and no other obstacles emerge.
Should the split succeed, the two sides will have to address various issues, including currency, citizenship, national debt and how to divide the majority of oil reserves found in the south. The Abyei region — which straddles the border between the region — remains a disputed area between the two sides.
The vote was organized by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, which included members from the north and the south.