First Birthday for South Sudan
The world’s youngest nation toughs out a year of independence.
South Sudan split from Sudan after almost 50 years of civil war. (Jim McMahon)
The Republic of South Sudan marked one year as an independent nation yesterday. Its capital city, Juba, hosted many flag-waving festivities to celebrate.
South Sudan, a country on the continent of Africa, declared its independence on July 9, 2011. Ninety-nine percent of South Sudanese people voted to secede (break away from the rest of a country) from Sudan after almost 50 years of violent civil war—a war between groups of people from the same nation.
The new nation’s first year of independence has been difficult. But the country is hopeful about the future. A statement from the South Sudanese government says the one-year anniversary “brings new hopes, challenges, and opportunities to build a peaceful, prosperous, and secure nation.”
A HARD START
Valuable oil fields run along the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Conflicts over how to share money made from the oil nearly brought the neighbors to another all-out war in April. Although South Sudan owns about 70 percent of the land where the oil is located, that country still has to pay to use Sudan’s pipelines to move the oil out to buyers.
South Sudan believes Sudan is charging too much money for use of its pipelines. The country also accused Sudan of stealing more than $800 million worth of its oil. (Sudan says it took the oil to make up for South Sudan’s unpaid bills.)
Rather than pay the high fees, South Sudan shut down its oil production earlier this year. The landlocked nation is hoping that it can survive for a year and a half until a new pipeline is built from its oil fields through another East African country, such as Kenya, that has coastline along the Indian Ocean.
For now, however, the shutdown leaves South Sudan very little income with which to run the country. Oil earnings make up 98 percent of the nation’s budget to provide food, transportation, and basic public services like building and maintaining schools.
South Sudan also believes that about $4 billion in its oil profits have been stolen. According to a letter obtained by the news organization Reuters, President Kiir has agreed not to punish anyone who simply gives back the funds they have taken. So far people have returned $60 million in stolen money to the South Sudanese government.
Another major dispute between Sudan and South Sudan is over the exact border between the two countries. Hundreds of thousands of people in Sudan are fleeing to South Sudan to escape violence along the border.
Yet President Kiir has been optimistic in his public speeches. He says he wants to turn South Sudan into “a land of promise—not a land of conflict, fragility, and disaster.”