Friday, July 8, 2011

From Decades of Strife and Conflict, Africa's Newest Nation Is Born

South Sudanese girl hanging flag ahead of Independence Day
The boundaries on Africa's maps will once again be re-drawn, this time as the newest nation in the world readies itself for full independence from Sudan on Saturday. After a decade of civil war with Khartoum and an uneasy five year cease-fire, celebrations marking the formation of the new state are set to get underway in the South Sudanese capital of Juba on Saturday. This new nation will be slightly smaller than the state of Texas in terms of size.

Reportedly a number of expats will make their way to the new country from overseas for the occasion while a number of events as far afield as Sioux City, SD are planned for those unable to make it to Juba by July 9th.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir meeting with President Bush in 2009
The Republic of South Sudan came about as a result of the internationally-brokered Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the South and Khartoum that was signed in Nairobi. The terms of the 2005 ceasefire included six years of autonomy from Khartoum followed by a referendum on independence which took place earlier this year. Voters in the south overwhelmingly approved of secession from northern Sudan by a nearly 99% margin. The population of the South is largely Christian or Animist while the northern Sudan is majority Muslim.

Map of the new nation
Although rich in oil deposits, the South faces a number of challenges including rebuilding infrastructure damaged by years of civil war, AIDS, a high infant mortality rate. There is also the risk that lingering resentment towards the north could reignite into an armed conflict once again. To that end, the United Nations has sent approximately 7000 peacekeepers to act as a buffer between northern and southern forces.

There is also the problem of exporting the oil, since the new country is land-locked and the only pipelines into and out of the south are to Port Sudan and and easily be cut off if hostilities between the two nations resume.

Reveller in the capital city of Juba
The days and weeks leading up to the independence day have been marked with skirmishes with the northern militias and attacks on refugees. As recently as May of this year, forces from South Sudan and Sudan traded artillery fire and the Sudanese air force bombarded the region around the border town of Abyei.

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