Ed Note: multimedia journalist Jonathan Shuler sent these pictures to UN Dispatch from around Juba, South Sudan today. Here’s Jon:
When I arrived at Garang Monument in Juba for the opening ceremonies of Southern Sudan’s long awaited secession vote, I was greeted by thousands of voters anxiously waiting for polling to begin. The line started inside the massive complex and flowed outside; snaking down the quarter-mile long block and back again. It was only 7:15 and people had been waiting since one that morning.
Once voting started, the process was fairly straight forward, if not slowed down by checks put in place to prevent voter fraud: a necessary step and the reason the polls will be open for an entire week. While most polling stations only had the capacity to check one person’s voter registration at a time, people waited patiently in Sudan’s hot, dry, January sun for the chance to participate in the future direction of the region.
I asked an older man farther back in line if he would be ok if didn’t get to vote today. “We have been fighting for this day for more than twenty years!” he said, “I can wait a little while more.”
Voters wait at the polls
A woman votes
Lining up to vote
Sen John Kerry and U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Scott Gration