Salva Kiir, President-designate of the new state which has hitherto been southern Sudan, can take pride in the success of the referendum on secession from Africa's largest country. The provisional results, announced recently, show the expected landslide for separation, with a pro-secession vote of nearly 99 per cent. The week-long process was remarkably peaceful, and only 33 out of the 2,600 southern polling stations had their results quarantined, mainly for minor infractions relating to the electoral rolls. The fact that about two million southerners living in the Muslim-majority north refrained from voting for fear of rigged counting in their areas does not invalidate the result, and in any case those voters would almost certainly have been in favour of secession. About 120,000 of them have already anticipated the partition and moved back across the border, and more are likely to follow. Muslims in the largely Christian and animist south, for their part, are moving northwards. So far, fortunately, the migrations have been free of violence.
Mr. Kiir and his fellow-citizens will face formidable problems. Their country, which is due to come into being in July 2011, has 80 per cent of undivided Sudan's oil, but the pipelines run across the north to Port Sudan. The south will want more than its current half-share of the revenues but Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is likely to insist that the new regime in Juba share the €28-billion national foreign debt. Secondly, the 5.6 million southerners have almost no infrastructure; there is only one hospital, and the sole bridge across the region's 1200-km stretch of the Nile is in the capital. The south's functioning industries produce nothing but drinking water and beer. As for politics, the President-designate has persuaded local warlords to cooperate. But questions persist about the role of the Sudan People's Liberation Army in the new state; there will soon be tens of thousands of ex-soldiers looking for work. Furthermore, the status of Abyei, the oil-rich border region, is still undecided, as the local referendum on whether or not to join the south was derailed by deadly clashes. The new country already enjoys de facto recognition; Egypt's state airline now flies to Juba, and water-sharing negotiations with Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda can be expected to start soon. That should also remind Khartoum that it will need good relations with its neighbour. This partition gives southern Sudan a new lease of life.