Southern Sudan leader treads on dangerous ground

By Branko Brkic 2 November 2009

The leader of Southern Sudan has gone out on a limb in calling for independence before a national referendum, which is due in 2011. The words of Salva Kiir are likely to antagonise the governing north of the country, as public officials have been careful to preserve the notion of unity between north and south. The possibility of calling a referendum for secession was part of a 2005 deal that ended 21-years of a bloody civil war. But first Sudanese have to partake in a 2010 national election to see if the referendum can indeed be held. There’s lots of argument over the threshold that would validate a referendum, with the more populated Arab north wanting a 75% “Yes” vote. The less demographically endowed, but oil-rich south, wants 50% plus one vote, as the Christian and animist southerners fear being swamped by their northern compatriots. Read more: BBC, International Crisis Group