South Sudan votes for secession

More than 99 percent of voters in Sudan's south chose to separate from the north in a plebiscite intended to end decades of civil war, a referendum official said on Sunday announcing preliminary results.

"The vote for separation was 99.57 percent," Chan Reek Madut, the deputy head of the commission organising the Jan. 9 week-long referendum told cheering crowds in the first official announcement of results.

Those results did not include the votes in north Sudan and the eight countries where the southern diaspora voted, a small proportion of the electorate.

The commission's website reported on Sunday the overall vote including southerners living in north Sudan and other countries was 98.83 percent, but added that this could change.

Final results are expected to be announced early next month.

The vote was promised in a 2005 peace deal which ended decades of north-south conflict, Africa's longest civil war which cost an estimated 2 million lives killed, forced 4 million to flee and destabilised the region.

Five of the 10 states in Sudan's oil-producing south showed a 99.9 percent vote for separation and the lowest vote was 95.5 percent in favour in the western state of Bahr al-Ghazal which borders north Sudan.