Sudan, Africa's largest country, is in the final run-up to a critical referendum on independence for the oil-rich south in January 9, 2011 that seems certain to split the war-scarred state. For many, there is a fear that the split between the North and South could birth a new religion conflict between the two sides: the north, dominated by Arab Muslims, and the south, predominantly Christians.
The Great divorce is scheduled for this January 9, 2011, as part of the peace agreement that was signed in 2005 to end the two decades civil war in which an estimated 2 million people lost their lives. Sudaneses all around the globe ended their registration last month with an estimated 3 million people registered and ready to cast their votes. Despites all the tension generated by the current regime in Khartoum led by President Omar al-Bashir, it appears that Sudaneses are ready to vote for the split of the largest Africa's country.
The Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which has run the south since the 2005 pact was signed, declared at the weekend it wouldn't accept a delay "even for a single day."
Battle for the Oil
Some three-quarters of Sudan's oil production of 500,000 barrels a day come from the south. Oil accounts for 98 percent of the South's budget source. Under the 2005 pact, this revenue is shared between the two sides but that could stop if the south secedes.
The United States is leading diplomatic efforts to ensure that the referendum takes place on January 9 as scheduled, without any unnecessary delays from the Khartoum's regime. To entice a peacfulsplit, the United States are offering to remove Sudan from the State Department's list of sponsors of terrorism as early as mid year 2011 if president Omar al-Bashir allows the highly charged referendum to go ahead without interference. Sudan landed on the black list in 1993 when it allowed itself to be a safe heaven for Osama Bin Laden. The United States incentive packages contains more than just the removal from the black list, but also other profitable activities such as debt relief, ending of sanctions and normalization of relations.
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