Friday, January 7, 2011



Jan 7, 2011Nairobi/Juba, Sudan -

Sudan is Africa's largest country, sprawling over 2.5 million square kilometres and sharing borders with nine countries.

The population is just over 43 million, according to latest United Nations estimates, around 8 million of whom live in the autonomous Southern Sudan.

The north is mainly Muslim, while Christianity and Animism predominate in the south.

The northern government, based in Khartoum, is headed by President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes carried out in the restive Western Darfur province.

Al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup and was voted back into office in 2010 elections.

Salva Kiir has been the leader of the south since independence hero John Garang was killed in a helicopter crash shortly after a 2005 peace deal brought an end to the second north-south civil war to have hit Sudan since independence from joint British-Egyptian rule in 1956.

Sudan's conflicts ran from 1956-1972 and 1983-2005 and killed over 2 million people.

Sunday's independence referendum for the south was enshrined in the peace deal.

Sudan is Africa's third-biggest oil producer, producing around 500,000 barrels per day - much of which goes to China.

The oil money helps underpin the economies of both north and south, contributing heavily to a Gross Domestic Product of 54.68 billion dollars, according to 2009 World Bank figures. Agriculture remains crucial, providing around 30 per cent of GDP.

Gross national income per capita is 1,220 dollars, according the 2009 World Bank estimates.

The south remains hugely underdeveloped, with little transport network to speak off and many people living in poverty.