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JEREMY HOBSON: Today is the second day of a week long referendum asking people in southern Sudan if they want independence from the country’s government in Khartoum. The vote is part of an agreement ending years of civil war and the referendum carries big economic implications for both the north and the south.
The BBC’s James Copnall joins us now from Khartoum. Good morning.
JAMES COPNALL: Good morning.
HOBSON: So give us a sense of the mood there in both the north and the south as this historic vote continues.
COPNALL: I think the mood in the south could only really be described as euphoric. Southerners have waited in some cases decades — gone through two very bitter civil wars. The second one of which costs 2 million lives and now they feel they have their chance to decide their future which will almost certainly be independence. The mood in the north is much more downbeat — people coming to the realization that a large part of their country and indeed of their economy is about to split away. They love to say that Sudan is Africa’s biggest country — 1 million square miles. Well, not for much longer.
HOBSON: And it’s also one of Africa’s biggest oil producers. What are the economic implications here?
COPNALL: Potentially the implications are very damaging for northern Sudan. The south accounts for almost three quarters of Sudan’s oil. That oil and revenue is going to disappear from northern banks, the one consolation for the north is that the economic infrastructures go through the north. The refineries, the pipelines, so they’ll probably be some sort of deal between both sides on economic grounds. But the northern economy will take a real blow, already the finance minister said that they won’t be able to pay subsidies on food staffs and other imported goods to help out a beleaguered population. And the south, well, it will have to diversify away from oil, which represents about 97 percent of its revenue because oil is slated to run out in 20 to 30 years.
HOBSON: The BBC’s James Copnall in Khartoum, Sudan. Thanks so much.
COPNALL: Thank you.
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