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On Sunday, millions of southern Sudanese began voting in a referendum for independence as required in the 2005 peace agreement with the Muslim-majority national government in Khartoum.

The high expectation could be seen in the faces of many and the excitement could be felt in the air as women sang and danced around a voting center in Nairobi, Kenya. Old age and sickness did not deter people from casting their ballot. Elizabeth Nyuon, 66, sat in the sun, patiently waiting to vote.

Thirty-year-old Jacob Akol traveled from the coastal city of Mombasa to Nairobi, Kenya, a distance of more than 290 miles, to vote in the South Sudan referendum.

He was at the polling center at Thika Road by the time the station was opening at 8 a.m. on Sunday. His reason for making that long journey: "I don't want future generations to live under the same terrible conditions that we have lived in!"

Like many other southerners, Akol has a personal experience of how the war in Sudan has affected millions. His father, uncle, and cousin were killed in war by "armed men from the north of country." He fled his home and has lived in Kenya as a refugee for more than a decade. He says that his mother died of natural causes because of the lack of medical infrastructure in the South.

He had been in the voting queue for more than 8 hours by the time Christianity Today spoke with him in the scorching heat of the day. And like many others who had also traveled from far and wide, he was not going to give up until he cast his ballot, "so that we can have our own country."

He has high expectations that things will be better with the South becoming a separate state: "Before, we suffered persecution as Christians, but now we are going to be free from imposed Shari'ah law." ...

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Southern Sudanese Head to Polls
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