Salva Kiir took the oath of office as Southern Sudan’s first elected president and promised to use the region’s oil wealth to generate a “rural transformation” in one of the world’s poorest areas.
Kiir, who won 93 percent of the vote for the presidency of Southern Sudan in April 11-15 elections, pledged today to lead the region to a Jan. 9 referendum to decide whether to secede from the rest of the country.
Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party hadn’t done enough to convince voters in Southern Sudan to reject secession, Kiir said at the inaugural ceremony in Juba, the regional capital.
“Our partners in the National Congress Party were not in a hurry to take concrete measures to keep Sudan united,” he said, standing at the mausoleum of John Garang, the founder of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which governs Southern Sudan.
The secession vote is part of a 2005 peace agreement which ended a 21-year war between the north and the south that killed as many as 2 million people.
“Our people want peace, for without peace there shall neither be good governance nor development,” Kiir said. Southern Sudanese wouldn’t accept a delay in the vote, he said.
The referendum commission, which is to organize a new voter registration drive and conduct the vote, still hasn’t been set up. Under the referendum law, a preliminary voter register must be published by Aug. 31.
Oil fields in the south account for most of Sudan’s oil production, which, at 480,000 barrels a day, is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest producer of crude, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
As arranged under the peace deal, the revenue from southern oil fields is currently split between the regional government and Bashir’s administration in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. The sole export route for the landlocked south is a pipeline ending in Port Sudan at the Red Sea. The two sides haven’t reached an agreement on how to divide the revenue after the referendum.
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni was the only sitting head of state in attendance at the ceremony.