The decision to secede can be traced to the northern Sudanese government's consistent policy of marginalization of the southern part of the country since Sudan became independent in 1956. The people of the South, who are non-Arab, Christian, and animist, have long felt oppressed by their neighbors in the Arab and Muslim North.
The southern liberation struggle led by the late Dr. John Garang called for a unified Sudan "on a new basis," through a representative government that upheld basic rights and respect for Sudan's diverse peoples in the north, south, east, and west of the country. But when the 1983-2005 civil war ended, a signed North-South peace deal granted southerners the right to a self-determination vote after six years.
When that referendum was held last January, nearly 99 percent of southerners voted for secession of the South, rejecting the hope enshrined in the 2005 peace deal: that unity could be made "attractive" to southerners who had suffered for decades under northern rule.