International

As Southern Sudan Prepares To Vote, Some Background

Southern Sudanese rally on the streets of the southern capital Juba, Dec. 9, 2010 i i

hide captionSouthern Sudanese rally on the streets of the southern capital, Juba, on Dec. 9, marking the one-month countdown until a landmark independence referendum is due. The vote could see Sudan's autonomous and mostly Christian south break away from the predominantly Arab and Muslim north.

Peter Martell/Getty Images
Southern Sudanese rally on the streets of the southern capital Juba, Dec. 9, 2010

Southern Sudanese rally on the streets of the southern capital, Juba, on Dec. 9, marking the one-month countdown until a landmark independence referendum is due. The vote could see Sudan's autonomous and mostly Christian south break away from the predominantly Arab and Muslim north.

Peter Martell/Getty Images

One of the stories to watch this weekend will be the independence vote in Southern Sudan.

NPR's Frank Langfitt, who has been covering the story, reported on Morning Edition today that "the week of polling [which starts Sunday] may be the easy part.  If Southern Sudan votes for independence — as expected — huge challenges lie ahead."

Among them: "Southern Sudan is nearly the size of Texas, but has hardly any paved roads. Corruption is rampant and illiteracy hovers around 60 percent."

Then there's the potential for violence from militias loyal to leaders in the country's north and south. NPR's Michele Kelemen reported earlier this week that U.S. diplomats are optimistic that things will go smoothly.

The PBS NewsHour has a Q&A about the vote posted here. Jonathan Temin, senior program officer on Sudan at the U.S. Institute of Peace, tells the NewsHour that "likely will be some local violence around the referendum process, as Sudan can be a violent place, but what will be essential is not allowing that local violence to escalate and become politicized. Ultimately, it is up to the leaders in northern and southern Sudan to ensure that doesn't happen."

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