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People clap during the announcement of the preliminary results of voting in Sudan on Jan 30. South Sudan overwhelmingly voted to split from the north in a referendum intended to end decades of civil war, sparking mass celebrations. ((Tim McKulka/Reuters))

Election officials say the final results from last month's vote in Southern Sudan show that more than 98 per cent of the ballots were cast for independence.

The results mean that Southern Sudan will become the world's newest country in July. Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir said Monday he accepts the outcome of the vote.

The two sides must still negotiate citizenship rights, oil rights and border demarcation.

A country yet to be named  

Two decades of war between the predominantly Muslim north and rebels in the Christian-animist south killed at least two million people before a 2005 peace agreement was reached. Residents are jubilant to have their own country at last, though much work remains. 

Southern Sudan Quick Facts

Status: autonomous region of Sudan.

Capital: Juba.

President: Salva Kiir Mayardit (since 2005).

Location: bordered by the Central African Republic, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia, as well as the northern region of Sudan.

Area total:  644,329 sq. km (29% forest).

Population: 8,260,490  (Sudan Census, 2008).

Population density: 13 per sq. km.

Median age: 18 years.

Literacy rate: 27% (males 40%; females 16%), persons 15 years and over.

Poverty: Half the population live on less than the equivalent of $1 a day.

Livelihood: Crop farming and animal husbandry are the main source of livelihood for 78% of households.

Major cash crops: Sorghum, maize, rice, sunflower, cotton, sesame, cassava, beans and peanuts.

Cattle: 11,735,000 head in 2009.

(Sources include Statistical Yearbook for Southern Sudan 2010 and Poverty in Southern Sudan.)

 

Decades of war and poverty have kept Southern Sudan in a decrepit state, and its 8.7 million people live in one of the least developed regions in the world. The United Nations says a 15-year-old girl here has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than finishing school. An estimated 85 per cent of the population is illiterate.

Adding to the challenges, the prices of some everyday goods like sugar, soap and cooking oil have increased by more than 50 per cent in recent weeks.  

"The list is long," said Athai Peter, 25, as he stood at a job advertisement board outside a UN agency on Monday. "The roads are so poor in many places that we have very high food prices." 

A new currency must be established. Diplomatic missions need to be opened. And a country name must be chosen.  

Critical negotiations still must be held with the north to decide on citizenship rights, oil rights and even the final border demarcation.

The U.S. national intelligence director warned last year of a possible new mass killing or genocide in Sudan over the referendum. That no longer looks likely. Sudan President Omar al-Bashir on Monday backed the final results and said he wanted to be the first to congratulate the south on its new state.  

Al-Bashir's remarks seemed designed to help ensure a continuous flow of southern oil through the pipelines in the north. About 98 per cent of Southern Sudan's budget comes from oil revenue.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday that Southern Sudan's indepedence will be recognized by the United States in July.

In a statement, Obama congratulated the citizens of Southern Sudan for "a successful and inspiring" referendum.