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South Sudan

2011 News of the Year | Despite independence, South Sudan still fears attack from north

Issue: "2011 News of the Year," Dec. 31, 2011

On July 9 the world's newest country was born: The Republic of South Sudan formally declared its independence from the Republic of Sudan after decades of civil war and millions of lost lives. The largely Christian south voted overwhelmingly in January to separate from the officially Islamic north. The Khartoum-based government in the north had waged relentless war against South Sudan until a peace agreement in 2005. Southerners longed for a formal break.

But birth pains and war continued after the jubilant celebration: Conflicts erupted along the disputed (and oil-rich) border between the two countries. By November, an estimated 230,000 Sudanese had fled their homes in border areas, and satellite photos showed Sudanese military enhancing bases near the border after a plane dropped bombs on a refugee camp of 20,000 South Sudanese. After months of optimism, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir conceded the worst fear: a northern invasion that could mean a return to war.

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