Polling for the Southern Sudan Referendum started on January 9, 2011. This represents a historic step towards completion of Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Speaking to reporters, Barrie Walkley, the U.S. Consul General in Juba, said, "As you may know the referendum...last[s] seven days. We probably expect that it will take another fourteen days to get all the results back in and to have them certified."
Walkley explains, "It is an area the size of France. It is larger then Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi combined and yet there are only fifty kilometres of paved road in the entire area, and all of those are inside of towns. There are no paved roads outside of towns, so getting the polling materials out to the sites is remarkably difficult. It will be achieved by helicopter, by motorcycle, people carrying things to remote areas."
Secretary Clinton, in her statement on the referendum, said, "Significant progress has been made in recent months towards preparing for the referendum, including the successful completion of voter registration and other technical arrangements. Going forward, the work of the many domestic and international observation and monitoring groups will be crucial and we look forward to their assessment."
In an Op-Ed for The New York Times, President Obama said, "Over the next week, millions of southern Sudanese will vote on whether to remain part of Sudan or to form their own independent nation. This process -- and the actions of Sudanese leaders -- will help determine whether people who have known so much suffering will move toward peace and prosperity, or slide backward into bloodshed. It will have consequences not only for Sudan, but also for sub-Saharan Africa and the world."
U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration discussed the expectations for, as well as implications of, the referendum in this video. You can also find information about the referendum on the Office of the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan's Facebook page.