South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 peace deal that ended Africa's longest-running civil war.
Formed from the 10 southern-most states of Sudan, The Republic of South Sudan is Texas-sized. It is made up of expansive grassland, swamps and tropical rain forest straddling both banks of the White Nile. It is highly diverse ethnically and linguistically. Among the largest of the 200 ethnic groups represented are the Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk.
Unlike the predominantly Muslim population of Sudan, the more than 12 million people of South Sudan follow traditional and humanist religions, while a minority is Christian.
South Sudan is one of the least developed regions in the world, where an estimated 75% of the population is illiterate. Oil earnings account for the vast majority of the country's budget but reserves of mineral-rich deposits also help grow the economy.
Vast tracts of arable land in the south are ripe for commercial agriculture although watchdog groups have warned of the risk of "land-grabbing" by foreign investors because of the lack of regulation.
Because South Sudan sits in the equatorial zone, it has the possibility of becoming an eco-tourism gem. There are untouched national parks, lakes and the swamplands of the White Nile which attract wildlife and game in huge numbers. The Boma National Park experiences a migration of water buffalo, antelope and zebras larger than the migration in the Serengeti, potentially making it one of the largest land migrations on Earth.
This relatively new nation, however, faces many challenges and has some way to go to provide a secure and stable environment within its borders.
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