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South Sudan Celebrates Its Independence

South Sudan Celebrates Its Independence

Months after the elections in which the South Sudanese overwhelmingly declared their desire to secede from the north, South Sudan has finally become an independent nation.  Tens of thousands of the new country’s citizens watched as the flag was raised in the capital, Salva Kiir, the new president, signed the constitution and took his oath of office.  Sudan was the first country to recognize South Sudan earlier today, although other world leaders, including President Barack Obama, were quick to follow.

People were excited and joyous, shouting “Hallelujah” as the flag was raised.  But analysts predict that once the ecstatic mood wears off, South Sudan will face nearly insurmountable challenges.  The country’s independence follows decades of violence with the north, in which an estimated 1.5 million people died.  The conflict ended with a peace agreement in 2005, but South Sudan’s challenges are clearly not over.  The country is oil-rich but one of the most poorly developed in the world.

In the New York Times, Jeffrey Gettleman succinctly describes the situation: “A majority of its people live on less than a dollar a day. A 15-year-old girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than she does of finishing primary school. More than 10 percent of children do not make it to their fifth birthday. About three-quarters of adults cannot read. Only 1 percent of households have a bank account.”

And while people are celebrating independence now, there has already been significant violence in South Sudan in the post-election period.  Rebel leaders attack civilians, threaten soldiers, and steal livestock and sometimes even children. Ethnic tensions are the source of many of South Sudan’s issues, and the cash-strapped government is forced to spend vast sums on security measures, even though people are desperate for food to survive.

Even its oil resources are something of a problem; although, according to NPR, South Sudan is expected to control three-quarters of Sudan’s daily oil production, they have no oil refineries and must use the north’s pipelines to sell it.  But the international community also seems committed to South Sudan’s future.  Yesterday, the United Nations voted to establish a force of 7,000 peacekeepers in the new country.

It will also be telling to see what happens in Sudan, which is primarily Muslim and may go back to Sharia law following the split.  Human rights are clearly an issue there, as proven by the ordeal of the jailed Sudanese journalist I wrote about last week, and the United States still lists Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism.

One heartening aspect of South Sudan’s independence, however, is women’s commitment to equal rights.  During the elections, many women voiced their dissatisfaction with their place as second-class citizens, and now they may have a chance to change their status.

“I’m very grateful to see many people from other countries,” said one young woman. “I’m appreciating that they have come to celebrate with us. I hope when we have independence we shall have freedom and education for women.”

Let’s hope that equal rights for women – as well as delivering basic needs to its citizens – will be priorities as South Sudan begins to function as an independent state.

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Photo from babasteve via flickr.

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6:54AM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

Israeli aid to South Sudan

http://www.israel21c.org/briefs/israeli-aid-to-south-sudan

…. , the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsraAID) has taken the lead in organizing much needed supplies to what is said to be one of the poorest countries on earth. …. sending a humanitarian aid cargo to assist the people of South Sudan on behalf of the Israeli and Jewish people as a goodwill gesture between both communities. ….The IsraAID teams have already begun assessing the needs on the ground for a long term aid mission that would benefit children, women and elders in the most affected communities in the country.

….. Israel's official recognition of South Sudan as an independent state. "I announce here that Israel recognizes South Sudan," Netanyahu told his cabinet ministers. "We wish it success. It is a peace-seeking country and we would be happy to cooperate with it in order to ensure its development and prosperity."

9:12PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

The situation is dire, yes.

But do we not have One who can make beauty from the ashes?

And do we not have the power to make positive impacts of our own thorugh prayer, support, and speaking for others?

9:00PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

CONTINUATION . . .

, , , in Charles' eyes and see hope for a people that have be subjugated and at war for so long (several generations that nothing but war); I see hope for his children's future. I see the hope that must have been in the eyes of the early settlers to North America those hundreds of years ago. It is hard for us to see because many of us have been privileged to be born in North America. But you might still see it in the eyes of those who have more recently come.

I see hope and I will pray that peace comes, that people will live their lives in hope and with respect.

8:56PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

I am truly blessed to know a family from Sudan who came to Canada fairly recently. Charles shared with our congregation what life was like in Sudan for he and his family who are from the predominately Christian south. He described daily life with dirt roads, girls going to wells or a river to get water, girls not allowed to be in school with boys, dirt roads, few bicycles and no cars in his area --- all transportation was by foot. Even the Governor's home, by western standards, was not much more than hut raised about 3 feet off the ground to keep out animals. Charles himself has a bullet lodged in his back fairly close to his spine, and has been tortured as evidenced by the many scares on his body. After the independence vote, Charles announced that he was returning to Sudan to assist his country. I was afraid for him and prayed or his safe return --- after all, he had a new baby girl in addition to his wife and 4 other children. He is back now and safe!

It is true that South Sudan has the bulk of the oil reserves but the north have the refineries. According to Charles, much of the income from the oil went into the north to create its infastructure and create jobs and "wealth", very little to the south. The South is currently looking at other pipeline options available to them. Perhaps with international aid, a refinery can be built in the South providing much needed work and education for its people.

Shirley E, you say you can't see much to celebrate. I look

1:03PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

I hope they will become a more free, functioning state.

2:48AM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

From an ignorant, outsider's point of view I can't see much to celebrate about a new 'country' in which the people from the outside are fighting and thieving among themselves, where human rights treatment is abysmal and where the country is part of one of the worst drought and famine situations in human history.

3:22AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

International involvement, of the soft, uninstrusive, respectful kind, is definitely going to be needed. I hope this new country manages to become a positive example...

8:19PM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

The northern part of what was formerly Sudan has been largely Muslim for centuries. During the colonial era, the British did all they could to encourage differences - divide and rule - between Muslims and non-Muslims. Although all are Africans, the people in the north have been inclined to consider themselves 'Arabs' - which is absurd since by definition Arabs are the people of the Arabian peninsula.

I always remember a story told me by a friend who, in the late 1980s, came to Canada as a refugee from Sudan. Being from Khartoum, from a Muslim family, and speaking Arabic, he considered himself an Arab. Five minutes after arriving in New York, he learned he was Black!

8:14PM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

How long will it take for al-Bashir, president of the Islamic controlled North Sudan, and wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged genocide, to make his move?
South Sudan must speak softly, but carry a big stick to make this encouraging start progress into a successful nation.

8:08PM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

Sending them many positive thoughts for a bright future.

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