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Sudan Tribune

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Unity State legislative assembly re-opens after South Sudan referendum

By Bonifacio Taban Kuich

March 6, 2011 (BENTIU) – The state legislative assembly for Unity State in South Sudan open its second session of 2011 on Friday, in Bentiu the state capital for the first time since the run of referendum on self determination.

The assembly closed before the conduct of the South’s referendum on independence in January, which saw the region overwhelmingly vote to secede. The South will become officially independent in July.

Representatives were given the time off in order for them to mobilize voters in their constituencies.

During the opening the speaker of Unity State’s assembly, Simon Maguek Gai Majak, said he appreciated the role played by some MPs towards Unity state having the highest number of voters registered the highest percentage of votes for secession in comparison to other states.

In Unity state 497,477 people, 99.98 percent of registered voters, opted for separation.

Maguek thanked MPs for their role in the achievement of South Sudan’s secession.

The plebiscite was agreed as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the former rebels who now govern the south, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The deal ended over two decades of bitter civil war in which two million died.

A number of civil society organizations, state ministers, advisors and commissioners attended the ceremony. Unity State governor Taban Deng Gai extended his best wishes to all members of parliament and also commended their work on the referendum.

Governor Gai said that without the commitment of the state MPs and local radio, Unity state would not have led both voter registration and votes in favour of secession. He called upon all citizens to work hard in order to help develop and build peace in the state.

Gai said it was important to open universities in the state improve illiteracy and ignorance among citizens. The governor noted that if university education was provided more widely in the South it would save people money as it would be cheaper than travelling to countries like Kenya and Uganda to pursue higher education.

He added that dropout rates for girls at some schools had become high in Unity State. Gai urged parents to allow their girls to study to counter illiteracy and the ideology that girls are seen in terms of potential wealth through dowries.

Governor Gai said that South Sudan must work towards becoming a peaceful nation. As well as conflict over land and cattle the region also has militias and rebels fighting the government.

Gai called upon his officials to work hard to encourage soldiers under the command of renegade Gatluak Gai to defect and be integrated into the South Sudan army (SPLA). He also extended this option to southerners who are part of the Sudan Armed Forces, the country’s regular army controlled from Khartoum.

He said that some had already joined the government and he expected them to be integrated into the SPLA, South Sudan Polices Services and Prison services.