South Sudan is voting this week on whether or not to secede from the north. William Finnegan provides context:
Most of the country’s oilfields are in the south, with the only export pipeline running north. An oil-revenue-sharing formula has yet to be worked out. One oil-rich region is in the borderlands, its national assignment undecided. Much of the future border is, for that matter, still vague. Wherever it is drawn, well-armed nomadic herdsmen will cross it at will. Southern Sudan, if that’s what the new state ends up being called, will start life as one of the world’s poorest countries. It is a vast place, which never had much in the way of roads, schools, or hospitals, and then suffered through decades of war. At the moment, the region is united in its determination to secede, to escape its longtime oppressor. Jimmy Carter, Senator John Kerry, and George Clooney are all there, cheering on the referendum. But there are at least two hundred ethnic groups in southern Sudan and, amid general scarcity, an ominous abundance of arms and independent militias. After its moment in the international spotlight passes, the newborn country is going to need all the help it can get.
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