Does the map below look strange? Believe it or not, Sudan could be split along these lines in a few short months.
In Darfur in the west, under the terms of the Darfur Peace Agreement, the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority is an interim authority governing the territory made up of important independence groups, and in 2010 (or more likely 2011), the permanent status is to be determined by a referendum. The people in Darfur will then have the choice between either the amalgamation of the three current states of Darfur into a single autonomous region of Darfur, with a constitution and regional government, perhaps similar to Kurdistan in Iraq, or maintenance of the status quo.
Southern Sudan is scheduled to hold an independence referendum in January 2011, not to become an autonomous region, but to become an entirely independent state. A simultaneous referendum may also be held in three border regions — Abyei, Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile.
The exact metrics for the threshold for independence, who is eligible to vote, and how to vote, are all issues that will have to be finalised before the vote, but regardless of what happens, many observes believe that the vote will overwhelmingly be for independence.
These referendums were agreed on many years ago, but have recieved precious little press coverage in the broad condemnation of Sudan over the years because no casual observers expected that the vote would actually happen. At this point in the process, independence for the south looks almost inevitable, and we may have to get used to a new state in Africa, as Sudan, the largest country in Africa and the largest country in the Arab world (and 10th largest country in the world), is cleaved by popular referendum.