News / Africa

After Independence, South Sudan Faces Serious Challenges Ahead

Refugees wait for food aid to be distributed near the volatile border with the north, in Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, November 16, 2011.
Refugees wait for food aid to be distributed near the volatile border with the north, in Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, November 16, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Gabe Joselow

As the euphoria from a hard-won independence subsides, South Sudan now must turn to face enormous development challenges. Meanwhile, the threat of a return to war and outstanding political and economic tensions with the north remain the darkest clouds hovering over the world's newest nation.

When South Sudan declared its independence on July 9 of this year, it entered into sovereignty as one of the world's poorest nations lacking basic infrastructure, industry and health care.

One startling statistic that was frequently quoted by the United Nations and the international media around the time of independence is that a 15-year-old girl in South Sudan has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than of completing school.

South Sudan's first president, Salva Kiir, presented this sobering reminder of the challenges for the country during his inauguration address.

President of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit (file photo)
President of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit (file photo)

"All the indexes of human welfare put us at the bottom of all humanity," said Kiir.  "All citizens of this nation must, therefore, fully dedicate their energies and resources to the construction of a vibrant economy."

To pull itself out of poverty, the country is calling for greater investment from its international partners.

Kiir recently attended a conference in Washington encouraging businesses and governments to invest in South Sudan.  He said in particular, the country could use more investment in technology, banking and agriculture.

As of now, 98 percent of South Sudan's revenues are derived from oil exports.  And the country, at its creation, inherited three-quarters of the known oil reserves in the former united Sudan.

Drilling tubing is piled next to the drilling site number 102 in the Unity oil field in South Sudan (2010 file photo).
Drilling tubing is piled next to the drilling site number 102 in the Unity oil field in South Sudan (2010 file photo).

Speaking at the investment conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned the country's oil wealth is either a blessing or a curse.

"We know that it will either help your country finance its own path out of poverty, or you will fall prey to the natural resource curse, which will enrich a small elite, outside interests, corporations and countries and leave your people hardly better off than when you started," said Clinton.

While South Sudan may control oil production, all of the refineries and export capacity are still controlled by Sudan in the north.

The two nations are now in negotiations about the cost of a transit fee that South Sudan will pay to the north for the use of two cross-border pipelines.

Jennifer Christian of the Enough Project says while a transit fee is common practice, the north may be trying to exploit the south.

"The government of Sudan very much would like to see a transit fee imposed on South Sudan and has requested some very, very high numbers, as high as $32 a barrel which is, if you look at quote on quote industry standards throughout the world, this is a very high fee," said Christian.

The oil dispute spills into other conflicts remaining between the newly divorced countries, including the status of the oil-rich Abyei region.

The northern army overran the region in May of this year, displacing the entire population.

Fighting has also continued between northern and southern forces in other areas including the Nuba mountains and Blue Nile states.  The north as also been accused this year of bombing refugee camps in the south.

Underscoring the threat of a return to war, the chief of staff of the Southern People's Liberation Army (SPLA), General James Hoth Mai, recently told graduates from a military officer's college in Lakes State that the country is still in a "confrontation stage" with its northern neighbor.  He said the young officers should be prepared if "worst comes to worst."

But one of the more hopeful developments this year for South Sudan has been the re-engagement of its massive diaspora community.  Many of the young South Sudanese who fled war and found education in other parts of the world, say they want to be involved in building their country.

Lual Dau is the chairperson of the South Sudanese Students Association of Kenya.

"Actually we don't encourage people to wait because the more you wait the more there is nobody to do it," said Dau.  "As there is nothing at home I always encourage people, what do you feel as an individual that you will contribute to that empty land. Take your chair that you're going to sit on, it will be a development. Go and build your tukul [hut] that you'll be sleeping in, that will be a development. So that is why we encourage everybody to come back home. There is no development without people."

It was a historic year for South Sudan.  Independence brought pledges of goodwill and good intentions from across the international community.  But now that the celebrations have started to die down, we may finally be able to see if the country can stand on its own feet.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid