Sudanese diaspora in Europe vote for secession
The first official count of Sudan's referendum has been announced, with the country's diaspora in Europe overwhelmingly voting for secession.
Voters cheered as the results declared that more than 97% of the 640 voters had been in favour of a new state.
The referendum was part of a peace agreement signed with north Sudan in 2005, ending decades of war.
Full results of the vote - which ended on Saturday after a week-long poll - are not expected until next month.
The vote is widely expected to see the south choose for separation from the north.'Dancing'
In a hall opposite parliament in London where the count was taking place, votes were held up one by one and placed in piles: Secession, Unity, Unmarked or Invalid.
Sudan's Historic Vote
- Voting: 9-15 January
- To pass, there must be a 60% turnout, plus a straightforward majority in favour
- Vote is a condition of the 2005 deal to end the two-decade north-south conflict
- Most northerners are Arabic-speaking Muslims
- Most southerners are Christian or follow traditional religions
- Oil-rich Abyei area to hold separate vote on whether to join north or south
- Referendum could divide Africa's largest country
- Final result due 6 February or 14 February if there are appeals
- South would become continent's newest nation on 9 July 2011
- National anthem and flag chosen, but not new country's name
Voters had made an often long and expensive journey to Britain to exercise their choice.
Finally, just before midnight, the official in charge of the polling station, Federico Vuni, read out the results.
"I hereby announce the results of this polling station in the referendum of (on) the future status of Sudan," he said.
"Number of invalid ballots: zero; number of unmarked ballots: one; number of votes for unity: 13; number of votes for secession: 626".
Men and women embraced, they danced, they waved the flag of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) - the rebel movement that had fought so long for this moment.
If this result is any indication of the wider southern Sudanese community, it will not be long before Sudan is divided - and a new state emerges in the south.
Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.
Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.
The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.
Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.
Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.