Taken together, the Republic of North Sudan and the newly-created Republic of South Sudan make up the largest landmass in Africa.
Prior to July 9, 2011, the two countries were run by a unity government that consisted of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the political arm of the former southern rebels, and the northern National People's Party (NCP).
This was only an interim measure, established under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that brought years of bloodshed and civil war to an end. One of the provisions under the CPA was to give the South the chance to vote for secession from the North — which they did, overwhelmingly, on January 9, 2011. Governing North and South Sudan as a single country was always going to be problematic, given the religious and cultural distinctions between the two regions.
North Sudan is typified by a predominantly Muslim population, unified by a common belief in Islam, whilst the South brings together a multifaceted Christian and animist society.
The British, when they governed Sudan, made certain that the two regions were kept separate. But, when negotiations started on granting the colonies independence, it was generally agreed that the poorer South would not be able to survive without being bound to the North. This decision had tragic consequences.
Now that the chord binding the North and South has at last been severed, it remains very uncertain what the future will hold for the two sovereign states. One thing is clear — in both Khartoum, the capital of the North, and Juba, the capital of the South, people are optimistic about the future.
For all the differences between the North and the South, many similarities remain. This is unsurprising since the two countries share such a close history with one another.
This is why the decision has been made to cover both countries in a single guidebook. Where differences occur, they will be pointed out in the relevant sections.
The two countries may diverge over time as they go their separate ways. The two governments say that they want to retain close ties with one another, but it is inevitable that more and more differences will start to emerge as the 193rd member of the United Nations forges its own way in the world.