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06 Jan 2011 15:22 GMT
Africa(***)s largest country faces a break-up between the predominantly Muslim north and the Christian south
On January 9, 2011, the people of southern Sudan will vote on whether to become an independent state [Peter Moszynski]
The referendum is part of a 2005 peace deal which ended decades of civil war which left two million people dead and many more displaced [Peter Moszynski]
Now, with the South likely to secede, Sudan(***)s borders and history may have to be rewritten [Peter Moszynski]
The Sud is one of the world(***)s largest swamps, covering up to 40,000 square kilometers around the border area between northern and southern Sudan [Peter Moszynski]
For thousands of years grasses and rafts of water hyacinths and papyrus had merged the former shifting labyrinths of channels - a natural barrier to any boat attempting to navigate the Nile [Peter Moszynski]
It was not until 1839 that an Egyptian-sponsored expedition finally broke through - opening South Sudan to slave traders [Peter Moszynski]
In the late 19th century, the Mahdi liberated Khartoum and established a Sudanese government there in the world(***)s first Islamic revolution [GALLO/GETTY]
But soon the British returned, and in partnership with Egypt effectively ruled the country until independence in 1956 [Peter Moszynski]
Even before independence the signs were clear that the South was uneasy with a northern dominated administration [Peter Moszynski]
Sudan(***)s north-south civil war was Africa(***)s longest running civil conflict, flaring first in 1955 [Peter Moszynski]
The South might be rich in oil and farmland, but most benefits have gone to the North, especially to Khartoum [Peter Moszynski]
Khartoum is the modern vibrant capital city of a country which, despite US-imposed sanctions, has in recent years enjoyed one of the fastest growing economies in Africa [Peter Moszynski]
But surrounding the city is a ring of shanty towns referred to locally as the "Black Belt" [Peter Moszynski]
Despite the country(***)s oil-wealth and the booming capital city, the average salary in the North is just $3 a day [Peter Moszynski]
Fifty per cent of the South(***)s population earn less than $1 per day [Peter Moszynski]
Ninety-two per cent of women in the South cannot read or write, and less than two per cent of children who enroll in primary school finish their studies [Peter Moszynski]
Seventy-five per cent of the people in the South have no access to basic healthcare [Peter Moszynski]
The US has put Sudan under sanctions, which is blocking many companies who are keen to capture the country(***)s oil and minerals [Peter Moszynski]
Sudan is home to a number of nomadic tribes, many of whom cross the line of the proposed border to feed and water their cattle [Peter Moszynski]
Each tribe has its own culture, traditions and way of life [Peter Moszynski]
Many southerners believe they are ethnically or religiously distinct from the mostly Arab and Muslim north [Peter Moszynski]
Many in the South hope splitting from the North will give them the opportunity to build a new African nation [Peter Moszynski]
Others fear the referendum and a following secession will spark a bloody battle over the country(***)s resource-rich land [Peter Moszynski]
Many southern Sudanese displaced by conflict are finally returning home [Peter Moszynski]
Now that the South is at peace, many southerners take the chance to escape discrimination and hardship in to find a better life in their homeland [Peter Moszynski]
A year after the military seized power in a bloodless coup, critics appear to have been effectively silenced.
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