Sodium Haze: South Sudan - new nation - new hope?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

South Sudan - new nation - new hope?

Huge crowds attended a ceremony to raise the flag of the new South Sudanese nation today.

After decades of civil war within Sudan the partition represents the best hopes for peace for several generations in this deeply troubled state.

So what are the prospects for the newest nation on earth?

Perhaps the most realistic thing we could say is 'mixed'.

In this interestung article for the Oxford Student - Sam Richardson spells out some of the problems afflicting the new South Sudanese administration.

Southern Sudan has one of the worst humanitarian standards on the planet. One in ten children won’t see their fifth birthday and 90% of the population live on less than a dollar a day. The same type of war-induced trauma which terrorised Sierra Leone is rife and weapons abundant. Southern Sudan is bordered by a number of failed states: Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sadly, there is a reason Central Africa is rarely held up as a model of nation building.

The Los Angeles Times brings the problems into sharper focus

The country, roughly the size of France, has , one of the lowest rates of elementary school enrollment, and profound poverty, with nearly 1 in 5 people chronically hungry, according to the United Nations; only about a third of the population has access to safe drinking water, and only a fourth are literate.

Questions also have been raised about the new country's leaders, most of them former rebel fighters united by a foe that, on peace declarations at least, no longer exists.

And devilish issues remain unresolved, such as the status of the oil-rich Abyei region claimed by both the mostly Muslim and Arab north and the Christian and animist south; insurgencies across the south that Juba officials claim are fomented by the north; and how to divide the abundant oil revenue – the south has the oil, and the north has the pipes to carry it to market.

Oil can be a mixed blessing. Nigeria is sadly a classic example of exploitation by western multi-nationals being violently aided and abeted by corrupt government officials .

The omens are not good - the country is traumatised by war and the nation is littered with weapons. The leadership are rebel fighters with distinct tribal loyalties and no enemy to unify them anymore.

The Guardian reflected in an editorial today that:

...the future is a very uncertain place. Relations with the north are an abiding difficulty, and internal relations are unpromising too. The Dinka majority has grasped such levers of power as exist – the government and the army – leaving the non-Dinka fifth of the population feeling shut out of senior positions and denied access to development funds.

Despite promises made during the period of co-operation that secured the triumphant referendum result, proposals for a more federal structure of government that might lead to more geographically even development are beginning to look worthless. Juba is determined to stay in control.

But there are opportunities. Oil is still wealth and with it the prospect of funds to build much needed regional infrastructure and the structures of a functioning civic society.

South Sudan will need to grow quickly beyond the central african curses of violence, corruption and poverty - and this new nation will need help.

We hope South Sudan gets help - and not exploitation from foreign oil companies like Shell.

We earnestly hope that this new nation can steer clear of the international banking cartels who will be all too happy to lend this new nation (rich with agricultural and mineral resources) debt money - and then care little if it heads for bank accounts in Zurich.

We hope that more developed nations can offer appropriate aid and technical assistance - it is in everyone's interest that they do, failed states are hiding places for terrorists and Sudan has been a train wreck for decades.

Most of all, we wish South Sudan and all of the members of the human community who reside there, our very best wishes as they struggle to build a happy, healthy and prosperous nation.

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