Twenty years of U.S. involvement contributed to today's secession of Southern Sudan - but peace is yet to come
George W. Bush meets with First Vice President of Sudan and President of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir, January 5, 2009 / Reuters
Today marks the birth of the world's newest nation. The Republic of South Sudan has gained its independence from Sudan after decades of bloody civil war, and southern Sudanese around the world are celebrating. So too are their allies. And there are few outside Sudan who are likely to be more pleased than a tight group of U.S. Congressional representatives who have sustained their efforts on Sudan for over two decades.
This bipartisan coalition, known in recent years as the Sudan Caucus, has pushed three successive U.S. presidents to make Sudan a foreign policy priority. "It's a great day," co-founder of the Sudan Caucus, Democratic Congressman Donald Payne, told me. "A victory for the oppressed."
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, who is heading the U.S. delegation to the independence celebrations, called the historic occasion "first and foremost a testament to the Southern Sudanese people" as well as to leaders in both Sudan and South Sudan. She added that, in terms of the international community, "the U.S. has been as active as anyone."
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According to a U.S. official who is not authorized to speak to the media but has worked on these issues for decades, U.S. attention on Sudan has not been by chance. "Behind all this was [and] still is, a small group of people who have been working behind the scenes for almost 20 years" said the official.