Beijing (AFP) Feb 1, 2011
China said Tuesday that a referendum in southern Sudan, in which voters overwhelmingly chose to secede from the north, was an "important step" towards a lasting peace in the oil-rich country.
Nearly 99 percent of south Sudanese voted to separate from the north in the landmark January 9-15 referendum, according to full preliminary results released Sunday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing welcomed the result and viewed the vote as an "important step towards implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement" -- but not the end of the process.
"To realise lasting peace and stability in Sudan is the ultimate goal," Hong said.
"China is ready to work with the international community and the relevant parties to continue to play a positive and constructive role in realising the long-term peace and stability and development of Sudan."
The referendum was a key plank of the 2005 peace agreement that ended a devastating 22-year war between the mainly Muslim north and Christian-dominated south, in which about two million people died.
China is a key supporter of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who spearheaded the north's efforts during much of the civil war and is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in the Darfur region.
Beijing is also a key military supplier to the regime in Khartoum and the biggest buyer of the country's oil -- but the majority of Sudan's oil fields are located in the south.
The former rebels who could lead the south are closer to Western countries which offered them aid during the conflict.
earlier related report
The march coincided with heightened violence in the region with 12 Senegalese soldiers killed since December 27.
It took place in the city of Kolda, 700 kilometers (430 miles) south of Dakar, bringing together civilians, former soldiers and their wives.
It was organised by the International Association of Peacekeepers created five years ago to promote peace in the Casamance.
Demonstrators were received by the governor of the Kolda region, Mubarak Seck, to whom they handed a memorandum.
"The situation we have experienced in Casamance throughout the years hurts us. We lose brothers, be they rebels or soldiers, in addition to civilian casualties," said Oumar Balde, a leader of the Association.
Seck told protesters: "The search for peace must be registered in our actions...Development can not be achieved without peace."
An armed rebellion for independence has been underway in the Casamance, separated from the rest of Senegal by Gambia, since 1982.
Sporadic outbreaks of violence persist despite a peace accord signed in 2004, and negotiations are hampered by the MFDC being split into different factions.
With its famed stretches of white beaches and lush forests, tropical Casamance could be Senegal's richest agricultural and tourism area, but it has been ravaged by the fighting.
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Nigeria religious war boosts poll tensions
Kano, Nigeria (UPI) Jan 31, 2011
Dozens of people have been reported killed in renewed fighting between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria's troubled north, heightening fears the bloodshed will worsen as Africa's most populous nation braces for divisive elections in April. At least 35 people have been slain in the flash-point city of Jos over the last few days, police reported. Military forces in the region were ordered ... read more
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