Fighting Pauses for Celebration in South Sudan

The world's newest country has numerous challenges

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Sudan was the first country to formally recognize South Sudan yesterday as International leaders flooded to the new Capital, Juba. The joint presence of Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for three counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose reputation rests on his ability to tip a precarious political situation in the direction of peace and maintains 7,000 peacekeeping troops in South Sudan, served as a reminder of the complex challenges facing the new country.

Now the world’s 193rd county, South Sudan has a 75% illiteracy rate, in many areas infant mortality is greater than 10% and Unicef estimates that 200,000 South Sudanese children are malnourished.

Furthermore, the former Southern half of Sudan holds the rich oil reserves responsible for recent economic growth in the North and the two countries have yet to determine how oil revenue will be divided. This excellent interactive map by the BBC articulates the economic and ethnic differences the two nations must overcome to move beyond years of war at an estimated cost of 2 million lives. The map also shows the two oil pipelines that run directly from the as-yet contested southern region Abyei to Khartoum.
Leaders of the North and South have yet to determine the legal status of what are now South Sudanese citizens living in the North and vice versa. Indicating complication to follow, Reuters reports that directly following formal recognition of South Sudan by the Sudanese government in Khartoum state media announced that the Sudanese government was suspending six Sudan-based newspapers because they are owned or published by southerners.

Though challenges persist, the celebrations in South Sudan today offer what might be a valuable chance for citizens and International leaders to express support and optimism for the new country, at least for today.

Obama: "Together, we can ensure that today marks another step forward in Africa's long journey toward opportunity, democracy and justice." The United States sent a high profile delegation to South Sudan headed by Susan Rice and Colin Powell to take part in independence celebrations.
A South Sudanese woman leaving in Kenya waves the new national flag as she celebrates Nairobi. Getty

Ban Ki-Moon Addresses South Sudan July 9th, 2011. Getty

The UN leader wrote in a New York Times editorial that “South Sudan has remarkable potential. With substantial oil reserves, huge amounts of arable land and the Nile flowing through its center, South Sudan could grow into a prosperous, self-sustaining nation capable of providing security, services and employment for its population.”

New President of South Sudan Salva Kiir and President of Sudan Omar al Bashir look dour as they listen to the new national anthem of South Sudan in Juba on July 09, 2011. Getty
Omar al-Bashir insisted that "The co-operation between us will be excellent, particularly when it comes to marking and preserving the border so there is a movement of citizens and goods via this border." Only time will tell if it's the "cooperation" or the "goods" that are paramount in his mind.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.