The biggest story in Sudan is that the south voted overwhelmingly for independence. That was the speculation when the voting began January 9, but interim tabulations that became available the last week of January all but confirmed it. One preliminary tabulation estimated that over 95 percent of southerners voted for independence (or secession, as the national government in Khartoum calls it). Official results will be published in mid-February, but the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) is already referring to itself as Southern Sudan. Once the official results confirm that the southerners voted for independence, then Southern Sudan will become a new and separate nation in July 2011. However, the dispute over oil-rich Abyei remains unresolved. The southerners are arguing that Abyei belongs to them and that an independence referendum will confirm it. A few southerners are asking the national government to go ahead and take its medicine and transfer the region to Southern Sudan by decree. A decree isn't likely. If the northerners stall or thwart a referendum in Abyei, that's a bad sign. But at the moment the north seems to have accepted the reports that independence will occur. Peace is good for the oil business, and the northerners like the royalty money from the oil fields just as much as the southerners.
February 1, 2011: Protests against the government of President Omar al-Bashir are occurring in Sudan's capital, Khartoum. The government claims that the protestors are influenced by the anti-government protests that are occurring in Egypt. On January 31, police cracked down on one demonstration led by Sudanese students.
January 28, 2011: The GOSS said that it now has ten transport helicopters, and that this is the beginning of a new Southern Sudan Air Force.
January 16, 2011: Election monitors in Southern Sudan said that the referendum was conducted with surprisingly little trouble and disturbance. Many southern Sudanese and many international organizations (especially medical and food aid NGOs) feared that violence could erupt during the voting. Several election monitors reported that polling indicated that the southern Sudanese favored independence in overwhelming numbers. Over 60 percent of voters had to participate in the referendum for it to be binding. Observers reported that the 60 percent figure had been exceeded.
January 15, 2011: A faction of what used to be the Eastern Front rebel organization announced that it would ally with the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The Federal Alliance of Eastern Sudan (FAES) rejected the peace agreement that the Eastern Front signed with the government in 2007. A FAES statement said that the government of Omar al-Bashir needs to be replaced. A FAES spokesman said that the JEM and FAES merged in order to demonstrate that together they are a national movement.
January 14, 2011: The Dinka Ngok tribe and the Misseriya tribe reached an agreement to end their long-running confrontation in the disputed Abyei region. The centerpiece of the agreement is a promise by both sides to pay blood money to the survivors of individuals killed in last year's violence. They have also agreed to arbitrate cattle grazing disputes. Where Abyei belongs after southern independence, however, is not resolved. The Dinka believe Abyei belongs in Southern Sudan, the Misseriya favor the north.
January 10, 2011: The southern Sudan military (Sudan People's Liberation Army) reported that 30 people were killed in fighting in the Abyei region. A group from the Misseriya tribe attacked a village with artillery and anti-tank weapons. 20 policemen serving in the North-South joint police unit in the village were killed. One report claimed that an illegal pro-national government militia participated in the assault. A Misseriya leader claimed that ten Misseriya cattle herders will killed by the police. He also said that the police were dominated by southerners who intended to push the Misseriya out of the region so that southern Sudanese could take control of the region.