Timeline: Sudan referendum

Key events on the path to Sunday's historic Sudan referendum, in which the semiautonomous region of South Sudan votes whether to become an independent nation.

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    Justice Chan Reec Madut, the chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau, discusses the referendum ballot during a press conference in Juba, southern Sudan, on Jan. 3.
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South Sudan is set to become the world's newest country after a long-awaited referendum Sunday on whether to secede from Sudan.

The landmark referendum is a key part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended decades of war between the Arab-dominated northern government and the rebel forces from the Christian and animist southern region.

Below is a timeline of key events leading up to the vote.

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May 2004

The Sudanese government and southern rebels (the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement) agree to include a power-sharing plan in a peace deal to end two-decade conflict.

January 2005

The Sudanese government and southern rebels sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which includes a permanent cease-fire, plans for wealth and power sharing, and an autonomous government in the south.

July 2005

A Constitution is signed, giving southern Sudan a significant amount of autonomy. Former southern rebel leader John Garang is named first vice president of Sudan. He is killed the following month in a plane crash.

September 2005

A power-sharing government is formed in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.

October 2005

South Sudan forms an autonomous government.

October 2007

South Sudan temporarily leaves unity government, citing a failure to follow the 2005 peace deal.

March 2008

Arab militia and southern Sudanese forces clash in Abyei region, which lies between north and south.

April 2008

Counting begins in national census, one of the requirements for democratic elections and the referendum agreed to in the peace deal.

May 2008

More fighting breaks out in border region, this time in town of Abyei. Abyei is rich with oil, a point of contention in the upcoming referendum.

June 2008

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudanese leader Salva Kiir agree to international arbitration in Abyei.

June 2009

South Sudan’s leader and vice president of unity government warns he is preparing forces for the possibility of another war with the north.

December 2009

Leaders of north and south reach a deal on the terms of the referendum on southern independence, planned for 2011.

January 2010

Bashir says he will accept results of a referendum, even if it leads to southern independence.

April 2010

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir wins Sudan’s first contested presidential election since 1986.

October 2010

The timetable for the referendum is set. The vote is scheduled for Jan. 9, 2011.

November 2010

Voter registration for the referendum begins.

Jan. 9, 2011

The referendum vote on South Sudan’s independence will take place.

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