South Sudan: A New Nation Is Born, A Rough Road Lies Ahead

07/18/2011 06:50 pm ET | Updated Sep 17, 2011


Its grasslands have absorbed too much blood. Its winds have carried away too many sounds of interethnic, religious and civil warfare and strife in which more than two million people have been killed and more than five million have become internally and externally displaced. Its tropical forests have witnessed too much grief and violence.

But while its past is troubled and its future uncertain, on Thursday the world community celebrated and the General Assembly applauded the new nation of South Sudan as it was formally admitted as the 193rd member of the United Nations with the simple words by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "Welcome, South Sudan. Welcome to the community of nations."

South Sudan formally declared its independence from Sudan on July 9, after a 20-year war and following a January 2011 referendum. Its flag -- black, red and green striped with a blue triangle and gold star -- was proudly hoisted outside U.N. headquarters last Thursday..

Although South Sudan has significant oil resources, "[T]he new country will be one of the world's poorest," and it will continue to require substantial foreign aid since, according to the U.N Secretary-General, "on the day of its birth, South Sudan ranks at the bottom of almost all human development indicators." The nearly 21 years of war and strife have taken a heavy toll on the country's people, economy and infrastructure.

While its oil resources are promising (nearly eighty per cent of the oil is in South Sudan), disputes with (North) Sudan over how to share the oil revenues and other natural resources, trade, border and security issues, and disputes about certain regions, such as Abyei and especially over oil rich South Kordofan bordering the new nation, cast shadows over the future of South Sudan. The New York Times discusses a draft U.N. report calling on the U.N. Security Council to mandate an inquiry into violence in "the volatile border territory of South Kordofan":

The report said the conduct of the north's Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in Southern Kordofan, the north's main oil state which borders South Sudan, has been "especially egregious."

Reported acts include aerial bombardment, abductions, arbitrary arrests and attacks on churches, it said. Acts were allegedly perpetrated by forces including the SAF, the report said. If proven, they may constitute "war crimes," according to the report.

"This U.N. report gives us reasons to fear the worst," said Philippe Bolopion of the group Human Rights Watch. "It demands a full, prompt and independent investigation, and an unequivocal reaction from the Security Council."

It is not all smooth sailing ahead for the new nation of South Sudan, but it does have the potential to make the best of its independence by wisely employing its promising agricultural potential, by developing industrial infrastructure -- especially to process and export its oil -- and by continuing to develop its "state capacity":

The post-conflict environment is important to understanding the Government of South Sudan's ability to function and successfully implement its policies. One area in which the Government of South Sudan has had significant success in building its own capacity is developing an integrated system for planning and budget preparation. This has been achieved through the strong and determined leadership of the Ministry of Finance, the strong technical leadership and support of that same ministry and making these goals relevant to local capacity. The results have been that the government has been better able to manage the financial aspects of its functions and projects, and increases in the expertise of its staff in crucial skills, such as basic [Information Technology].

Our newest member of nations has come a long way, but it still has a long, hard road ahead, a lot of very difficult work to do and complex issues to resolve.

In this the world wishes the Republic of South Sudan good luck and God's speed.