- 8,260,490 (according to disputed 2008 census; actual number may be as high as 9.28 million)
- Juba; 250,000
- 644,329 square kilometers (248,777 square miles)
- English, Arabic, Dinka, Nuer, Bari, Zande, Shilluk
- Animist, Christian
Egypt attempted to colonize the region of southern Sudan by establishing the province of Equatoria in the 1870s. Islamic Mahdist revolutionaries overran the region in 1885, but in 1898 a British force was able to overthrow the Mahdist regime. An Anglo-Egyptian Sudan was established the following year with Equatoria being the southernmost of its eight provinces. The isolated region was largely left to itself over the following decades, but Christian missionaries converted much of the population and facilitated the spread of English.
When Sudan gained its independence in 1956, it was with the understanding that the southerners would be able to participate fully in the political system. When the Arab Khartoum government reneged on its promises, a mutiny began that led to two prolonged periods of conflict (1955-72 and 1983-2005) in which perhaps 2.5 million people died—mostly civilians—due to starvation and drought.
Ongoing peace talks finally resulted in a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in January 2005. As part of this agreement the south was granted a six-year period of autonomy to be followed by a referendum on final status. The result of this referendum, held in January 2011, was a vote of 98 percent in favor of secession. Independence was attained on July 9, 2011.
—Text From CIA World Factbook
Take a glimpse at the uncertain world of post civil-war Sudan.
See our roundup of the best guided expeditions in Africa and the Middle East for 2011.
Get inspired with our Ultimate Adventure Bucket List, a collection of 40 trips that range from totally extreme to actually doable.
Travel Photos From Your Shot
Browse Stunning Images of These Natural Marvels
Shop National Geographic
Special Ad Section
Watch as Nat Geo photographers reveal what drives them to create iconic images.