18 years ago – a new African country was born when Eritrea split from Ethiopia. Earlier this month on July 9th, we witnessed history in the making when South Sudan declared its independence, officially making it the world’s newest nation! When South Sudan gained its independence this month, it became the world’s 195th independent nation.
18 years ago – a new African country was born when Eritrea split from Ethiopia. Earlier this month on July 9th, we witnessed history in the making when South Sudan declared its independence, officially making it the world’s newest nation! When South Sudan gained its independence this month, it became the world’s 195th independent nation. As you can see on the map, Bread and Water for Africa’s partners in Ethiopia and Kenya have new neighbors! While many people just learned of South Sudan’s quest for independence once it was finally earned, their struggle has by no means started nor ended with their new “Independence Day”.
Prior to South Sudan’s independence, Sudan endured a deadly cycle of conflict that spanned two decades of its past and claimed two million lives. In 2005, a peace deal was struck between the northern and southern regions of Sudan that ended “Africa’s longest-running civil war” and granted South Sudan the opportunity to pursue its independence.
A common curiosity is expressed regarding the causes of conflict between the two regions and the underlying reasons for such a devastating civil war that included the tragedies of Darfur that we recall haunting us from every source of media during its peak. Though experts often bash heads regarding THE ultimate cause for conflict, there is general consensus that the conflict has historic roots – dating back to the first civil war in 1955. To provide a ‘brief’ overview (brought to you by your dedicated researchers at BWA!), the northern and southern regions of Sudan were actually ruled entirely separately by the British while they were still a colony. Once the British decided to move Sudan toward independence, the government was established in northern Sudan and the southern leaders were largely excluded from negotiations. The ensuing marginalization of the south created a heavy resentment within the country that was further exacerbated by the religious differences (Muslim north vs. Christian south) and concentration of natural resources in southern Sudan. So while it is difficult to pinpoint the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, it is safe to say that some combination of these factors (governance, resource distribution, and religion) certainly led to the twenty-year conflict that claimed almost two million lives.
In January of 2011, a vast majority of South Sudanese voted in a referendum to secede from Sudan and become the first new African country since 1993 when Eritrea split from Ethiopia. However, the celebrations may not last long. Facing the new country is a hefty list of struggles to overcome.
Despite their new independence, South Sudan still engages in some continued disputes with northern capital, Khartoum. In particular, although the majority of former Sudan’s oil reserves are actually located in South Sudan, the refineries and pipeline to the Red Sea are still located in Sudan. The 2005 accord that ended the civil war granted South Sudan 50% of Sudan’s oil proceeds, however that arrangement expired with independence. Thus, South Sudan now faces the difficult task of stabilizing its economy and diplomatically addressing its relations with Sudan surrounding oil proceeds, debts, border disputes, and citizenship.
As cartographers begin sketching in the newest African borders and the United Nations adds a new chair to the table, the world – in particular its African neighbors and South Sudanese refugees around the world – anxiously await the progress of this new country and the precedent it sets for countries worldwide that have been ravaged by civil war. Here at Bread and Water for Africa, we wish South Sudan a hearty Karibu or “Welcome”!