Some 4 million Southern Sudanese voters began casting their ballots Sunday in a weeklong referendum on independence that is set to split Africa's biggest nation in two. "This is the historic moment the people of southern Sudan have been waiting for," said South Sudan president Salva Kiir as he cast his vote.
The mainly Christian south is expected to secede from the mainly Muslim north. The referendum is part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a two-decade civil war in which more than 2 million people died.
Voters can mark one of two choices - a single hand for independence or two clasped hands for unity.
After the polls end next Saturday, local polling stations will start tallying and posting results as more than 4,000 local and foreign observers watch. Final results expected next month.
Full independence will not take place before July 9, when the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, expires and a new agreement must take its place.