Facts and figures about South Sudan, which became the world's newest country on Saturday:
THE LAND: Sudan is currently the largest country in Africa but on Saturday will lose the Texas-sized south, which becomes its own nation. South Sudan shares a 1,300 mile- (2,100-kilometer-) border with northern Sudan. South Sudan also will border Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Central African Republic and Congo.
THE PEOPLE: The south's population is disputed. A 2008-09 census found that it had 8.26 million, but the southern government argued that the south has between 11 million and 13 million. Of more than 200 ethnic groups, the majority practice traditional or indigenous faiths and Christians remain in the minority. The percentage of southern Muslims is much smaller, though immigrants from the north who practice Islam are well represented in the southern capital.
CHALLENGES: It is one of the least developed regions in the world, where an estimated 85 percent of the population is illiterate. The U.N. says a 15-year-old girl in Southern Sudan has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than finishing school. There was only a mile or two of pavement in its capital just a little over a year ago. Food prices have soared in recent months and unemployment is high: Many southerners are self-sustaining cattlekeepers or farmers, while others subsist off small sales of tea and other goods.
THE ECONOMY: Sudan is sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest oil producer, and the south should assume control of more than 75 percent of the daily oil production of 490,000 barrels. But negotiations between north and south over the future of the oil industry — worth billions per year — are mired in dispute.
Oil earnings have accounted for about 98 percent of the south's budget the past six years, and the government has said diversifying its economy is a priority. The southern government recently called for the U.S. to lift its sanctions on Sudan, which currently prohibit U.S. companies from investing in the country.
Reserves of copper, gold, and tin could prove to be an asset to the new country's economy but could spark further problems with the north. Vast tracts of arable land in the south are ripe for commercial agriculture, and watchdog groups have warned of the risk of "land-grabbing" by foreign investors due to the lack of regulation by the young government.
HISTORY: Sudan gained independence from Britain in 1956 after descending into internal north-south conflict in 1955, which southerners linked to unequal colonial policies over more than a century of British-Egyptian rule.
The first southern rebellion against Sudan's Arab-ruled north burned from 1962 to 1972 and resulted in a peace deal that largely did not satisfy the south's desire for autonomy. War between north and south resumed in 1983, when the Sudan People's Liberation Army launched a violent struggle that would last until 2005, claiming more than 2 million lives and forcing an estimated 4 million southerners to flee their homes.
The internationally-brokered Comprehensive Peace Agreement called for a six-year interim period in which a semiautonomous government would rule the south until a January 2011 self-determination vote. The referendum passed nearly unanimously in favor of secession.
Tensions have flared since the vote, raising fears that the partition may leave many unresolved issues that could stoke further conflict between the two regions after the split, particularly along its disputed north-south border.
INDEPENDENCE: The southern government says 30 African heads of state will travel to Juba for Saturday's independence festivities. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice are also expected to attend.