Whether or not south Sudan will secede from the north remains to be seen, but as these photos attest, the country's preparations for what will undoubtedly be a historic Jan. 9 vote are well underway.
As Reuters is reporting, Sudanese leaders must still resolve a daunting range of practical issues if they are to prevent a return to the civil war violence that characterized the nation prior to a 2005 peace deal. Just how the countries will begin to disentangle their economies, resources and people is far from clear -- even the name of the predicted new south Sudan nation has yet to be decided.
Regardless of the risks, enthusiasm in the nation is quite high, with supporters staging parades and other lively demonstrations throughout the city of Juba. As the Associated Press reports, nearly 4 million people have registered to vote and many will have to walk hours through bush -- in some areas still peppered with land mines -- to reach a polling station.
View photos of Sudan as it prepares for the vote here: