Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the 2005 deal that ended the lengthy civil war between the north and the south of Sudan, voters in the south are supposed to vote on January 9, 2011, to decide whether their region should secede and form the world's newest country. The civil war, which lasted 22 years and during which an estimated 2.5 million southerners died, was fought over several issues: the central government's long-standing neglect of Sudan's periphery; the excessive concentration of jobs, wealth, and public services in the region known as the Arab triangle, along the northern part of the Nile River valley; the government's brutal attempts to impose Arab culture and Islam on the south, where Christianity and traditional religions prevail; its persistent refusal to grant the south any autonomy (except for a brief period in the 1970s); and its exploitation of the south's resources, particularly its oil, to fill government coffers. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was signed by Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, and John Garang, the leader of the southern rebellion, who was killed in a helicopter crash soon after the deal, was intended to correct some of these problems. It gave the south its own semiautonomous government and an independent standing army and required the upcoming referendum on secession. But now Khartoum's stalling tactics are threatening to delay the vote, with potentially disastrous consequences.
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