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Explainer: Independence of South Sudan

  • Image: A supporter of independence for southern Sudan
    Goran Tomasevic  /  Reuters
    A supporter of the referendum on southern Sudan's independence adjusts a banner on top of a car during a rally in Juba on Jan. 5. The referendum, guaranteed by a 2005 peace deal between north and south resulted in secession.

    The Republic of South Sudan will be founded on Saturday, July 9, the climax of an internationally brokered peace process that ended decades of civil war between north and south Sudan.

    The republic will become the 196th country in the world, the 193rd member of the United Nations, and the 55th country in Africa, according to the southern government.

    It will open 34 embassies and consulates worldwide and may establish more than 50 over time, officials say.

    Here are some facts about South Sudan and its steps to statehood:

    (Source: Msnbc.com research, The Associated Press and Reuters)

  • Peace deal

    Image: Southern Sudanese citizens
    Str  /  Reuters
    Southern Sudanese citizens chant slogans and hold placards as they march in the streets in support of the independence referendum in Juba.

    Northern and southern Sudan have fought for all but a few years from 1955 to 2005, over ethnicity, religion, ideology and oil. The war claimed 2 million lives and destabilized much of the region.

    A 2005 peace deal guaranteed a referendum six years later, when southerners would choose whether to stay part of Sudan or break off and form their own nation. In January, more than 98 percent of southerners voted to secede.

    The peace agreement expires July 9, the day the new nation will declare its independence.

    Sudan's government has warned 10,000 UN peacekeepers deployed to the region to leave on that day.

  • Independence Day

    Image: South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and Sudan
    GORAN TOMASEVIC  /  Reuters
    South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir review an honor guard at the airport in Juba in January.

    An independence ceremony will be held at the Garang Memorial site in the capital Juba, where former southern leader and rebel hero John Garang, who signed the peace deal with northern President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, is interred.

    • The Independence Day celebrations will include raising the new South Sudan flag and singing the new national anthem, which is being taught to southerners in Juba.
    • The southern government says more than 30 heads of state from Africa and around the world will attend. Bashir has been invited, according to southern officials. A confirmed list of attendees is not yet available.
    • Thousands are expected to take to the streets of the new capital, and similar celebrations will be held in all the south's 10 states.
    • Southern President Salva Kiir will be sworn in during celebrations for a four-year term. The Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly will be reconstituted by the president as the National Legislative Assembly.
    • A new "transitional constitution" will come into effect July 9, subject to final approval by the parliament. A number of cosmetic changes have been made to the current charter, such as removing references to a unity government. A series a new powers have also been granted to the president.
  • Sudan

    Image: Burning homes in Abyei, central Sudan
    Stuart Price  /  UNMIS via EPA
    A photograph released by the United Nations shows home burning in Abyei, central Sudan, after a May 21-22 attack by northern Sudanese forces.

    Facts include:

    People: Sudan has a population of about 44 million. The north is mostly Muslim, while the south is populated by black Africans who are mostly Christian and animist. Dozens of languages and dialects are spoken. Northerners mostly speak Arabic, but the official language of South Sudan will be English.

    Land: Sudan is Africa's largest country geographically, about one-quarter the size of the United States. South Sudan alone is roughly the size of Texas. Many of Sudan's neighbors are volatile countries; along its borders are Libya, Eritrea, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Sudan's long, porous borders are easily crossed by rebel groups.

    Economy: Sudan is one of Africa's largest oil exporters, and the sale of crude is its chief foreign exchange earner. The oil fields are mostly in the south but the pipelines to take them to the Red Sea run through northern territory. Agriculture employs 80 percent of the work force; Sudan exports products like cotton, grains, livestock and fruit.

    History:  A rebellion first began in the south in 1955, the year before Sudan gained independence after joint British-Egyptian control. Fighting lasted until a 1972 peace agreement, which failed to resolve the fundamental issues.

    Fighting resumed in the early 1980s, and about 2 million people died over the next two decades. The 2005 peace agreement granted the south autonomy for six years, at the end of which a referendum on independence was held.

    Rebels in the western region of Darfur province and in the northeast also have rebelled against Sudan's Khartoum-based government, accusing it of concentrating wealth in the hands of a politically privileged Islamist elite and ignoring development in outlying regions. U.N. officials say up to 300,000 people have died in Darfur since 2003 and 2.7 million have been forced from their homes because of the conflict

  • South Sudan

    Capital: Juba

    Head of state: Salva Kiir

    Population: 8.26 million

    Religion: Mostly Christian and traditional beliefs

    Economy: Oil accounted for about 98 percent of the south's total revenue in 2010. About three-quarters of Sudan's roughly 500,000 barrels per day of oil output comes from the south, but the pipelines all pass through the north, which has the country's only refineries and sea port.

    Oil is the lifeblood of both northern and southern economies. The current arrangement, which splits revenues from southern oil about 50-50, expires when the south declares independence.

    Poverty, people
    Despite being endowed with oil, up to 90 percent of the southern population lives below the poverty line, surviving on just a half a dollar a day.

    Southern Sudan has the highest infant-mortality rates and the lowest education indicators in the world. One child in 10 dies before its first birthday and fewer than 1 percent of girls complete primary education.

    World assistance
    In May, the European Union allocated 200 million euros for southern Sudan to support the government's forthcoming 2011-13 development plan. Since 2005, the EU has committed development assistance of over 665 million euros to Sudan, with more than 45 percent dedicated to the south.

    In 2009, Sudan received $2.4 billion in official development assistance from donors.

  • Sudan (north)

    Capital: Khartoum

    Head of State: Omar Hassan al-Bashir

    Population: 31 million (without the south)

    Religion: Mostly Muslim

    Economy: Oil revenues for the united country accounted for more than 50 percent of domestic revenue and more than 90 percent of exports in 2009.

Interactive: Sudan referendum


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