Friday, September 16, 2011

South Sudan: The Budding Country's Current Problems

Economist: Sudan, Old and New: Bloody Omens
NYT: Amid Fighting, South Sudan Plans New Capital
NYT: Former Territory Inciting Violence at Border, Sudan Tells the UN
NYT: Sudan Attacks Disputed Border State
Washington Post: Assistant Peacekeeping Chief says Sudan Government, Rebel Forced Pulling out of Abyei

The world’s newest country, South Sudan, is only two months old and is already facing a host of problems. Continuing armed conflict in border regions, a tenuous oil agreement with Sudan, and internal conflicts all pose significant threats to the young nation’s development. The new government must address these threats to establish an environment where economic activity can flourish.

Though South Sudan is now officially independent, armed conflict in the Blue Nile State, a region along the disputed border between Sudan and South Sudan, has not yet fully subsided. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLMN) has refused to stop fighting after it fought for South Sudan’s independence only to end up on the wrong side of the new border. The rebel group is currently fighting the Sudanese government for control of the Abyei region, a stretch of land located in the Blue Nile State.

While the South Sudanese government denies any involvement with the rebels, the Sudanese government insists that the rebels are too well armed and trained not to have external help. The Sudanese government insists that it has evidence that links the South Sudanese government to the rebels. With this alleged proof, the Sudanese government has lodged a complaint with the United Nations Security Council against the South Sudanese government for violating the countries’ peace treaties..

The countries’ most important short-term economic project is an agreement to pump South Sudan’s oil to the Red Sea through a pipeline that would go through Sudan. The South Sudanese government has already threatened to end the agreement and build its own pipeline in response to Sudan’s accusations regarding its support of the SPLMN. Such a move would be disastrous for Sudan as it would deprive the country of billions of dollars in transit fees that it desperately needs to help rebuild after years of civil war.

South Sudan also must address internal conflicts in its southern state of Jonglei. Violent conflicts between two ethnic groups, the Murle and the Lou Nuer, have escalated of late. The Murle recently killed six hundred Lou Nuer after a dispute over cattle raids. The Lou Nuer had previously killed four hundred Murle and taken twenty five thousand cattle, which young men of both ethnic groups use for marriage dowries. The central government has struggled to stop the violence as poor infrastructure prevents authorities from reaching the rural area in time to prevent the disputes from turning deadly. Even when law enforcement authorities arrive, they are often ill-equipped to counter the large, violent crowds they encounter.

South Sudan must address these and other issues to ensure economic growth and political stability. Foreign investors are not likely to invest in a country they fear will be unable to protect their investments from armed conflicts. South Sudan must also find a way to profit from its oil wealth and use the revenue to build infrastructure and create new economic opportunities for its citizens. Creating stability after the long civil war will be difficult, but it is the only way for South Sudan to reach its potential.

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