Following the division of the country on 9 July 2011, the mood in the Sudanese capital Khartoum is one of dazed uncertainty. For years the North had taken comfort in the popular illusion that the South would never break away; that no matter how badly they were treated, the Nuer and smaller ethnic groups would prefer to take their chances in the North rather than fall under the domination of the larger ethnic groups in the South, most notably the Dinka who make up 40 per cent. But a resounding 98 per cent vote in favour of separation left the North in a stupor and put paid to that particular myth. It also provided some insight into the way the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) works, more by a process of knee-jerk reaction than any kind of strategy or vision. Apparently nobody saw separation coming. Just two months before January’s referendum, Bashir’s vice-president Ali Osman Taha reportedly stated that it would never happen.

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