The residents of southern Sudan have voted overwhelmingly to split off from the northern part of the country. Pending final results and a peaceful process, South Sudan will be the newest nation on the planet, though it may not ultimately choose “South Sudan” as its name; the alternative “Nile Republic” sounds more appealing to potential tourists.
Formal independence would occur on July 9.
While the northern regime has pledged to support an amicable separation, several issues could cloud the process. There’s strife in the Abyei border region. Most of the oil reserves are in the south, which is inhabited mostly by Christians and animists, while the population of the north is primarily comprised of Arab Muslims. The status of the many southerners living and working in and around the northern capital, Khartoum, is uncertain; and many are heading south, worried about the possibility of the north falling under Sharia law. And the regime in the north is weak anyway—the country is about as close to a “failed state” as any nation on Earth, and there’s concern that the new nation may be another failed state in the making.
But among many in the south, where over 98% of voters have cast their ballots for separation, the mood is cautiously upbeat.