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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
AP Photo/Pete Muller Today's rehearsal session for tomorrow's independent celebration in Juba, southern Sudan.
New Country

The world's newest country: South Sudan set to number 193

South Sudan’s new government faces huge challenges in reforming its military and diversifying the oil-based economy.

SOUTH SUDAN becomes the world’s newest nation Saturday after a half-century struggle, and the streets of the capital began to pulse with excitement as the clock ticked down toward history.

Many in Juba waited for the big midnight moment with family and friends. Sirens blared from the convoys of international dignitaries arriving for Saturday’s formal celebration. One group danced to the soon-to-be-nation’s new national anthem.

But others were reflective — like John Kuach, who sat at a restaurant with his family Friday evening with the green, red, blue and black flag of South Sudan wrapped around his shoulders.

A former child soldier who joined the army after his father died in fighting with the north, Kuach recounted the towns of South Sudan where he wielded a gun: Juba, Kapoeta, Yei and Koric. He first fought at age 15.

“Tomorrow is a big day for the new nation, the Republic of South Sudan,” said Kuach, 37. “But some people are not happy because we lost heroes, those who were supposed to be in this celebration.

“So we are thinking, ‘Is this true? Is this a dream? A new country?’” he said.

At birth, South Sudan will be one of the poorest and least-developed places on Earth. Unresolved problems between the south and its former foe to the north could mean new conflict along the new international border, advocates and diplomats warn.

The internationally brokered 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of north-south war expires at midnight Friday. That’s when Sudan — which South Sudan is breaking away from — officially recognises the new country.

South Sudan becomes the 193rd country recognised by the United Nations and the 54th UN member state in Africa.


The young government faces the huge challenge of reforming its bloated and often predatory army, diversifying its oil-based economy, and deciding how political power will be distributed among the dozens of ethnic and military factions. It must also begin delivering basic needs such as education, health services, water and electricity to its more than 8 million citizens.

A draft constitution passed this week lays the groundwork for President Salva Kiir and the legislature, who were elected last year, to serve out their five-year terms. The legislature’s few opposition lawmakers are unhappy with the draft, but it now serves as an interim constitution until multiparty elections are held.

Guests for the country’s inauguration include UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and Gen Carter Ham, commander of the US Africa Command. Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, a deeply unpopular man in Juba, also is expected.

A $1 billion yearly UN peacekeeping mission with a 10,000-member peacekeeping force has monitored implementation of the 2005 peace deal. The mission has drawn criticism for its failure to protect Sudanese civilians caught in violence along the north-south border and in the south, where conflict has killed nearly 2,400 people this year alone.

The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously approved a new peacekeeping force for South Sudan, authorising the deployment of up to 7,000 military personnel and 900 international police, plus an unspecified number of UN civilian staff including human rights experts.


With the raising of South Sudan’s flag in the world’s newest capital, Juba, the international community may breathe a collective sigh of relief that independence has been reached. Al-Bashir has pledged to accept losing about one-third of his country’s territory, an area that contains valuable oil fields.

But relations between the two already are looking bleak, with hostilities raging between northern troops and southern-allied forces in a northern border state, a tense stalemate over another disputed border zone, and a breakdown in negotiations this week over the future of Sudan’s oil industry.

North-south negotiations under way in the Ethiopian capital this week broke down over disputes between the two sides over how to resolve the ongoing crisis in the Nuba Mountains region in northern Sudan, where black Africans from the Nuba tribe have taken to caves to take shelter from aerial bombing by the northern army in the past month.

Western diplomats say hostilities in that area have stymied efforts to resolve other critical outstanding issues between the governments. Princeton Lyman, the U.S. envoy to Sudan, said Friday that relations between the south and north will be “strained and a little rocky.”

“The challenge is how are they going to deal with issues that could lead to conflict,” Lyman said. “I don’t expect that these countries are going to love each other but I do think they are bound up in each other,” he added, citing the dependence north and south have on each other for trade and especially oil, which is the lifeblood of the economies of both governments. Southern oil must flow through the north’s pipelines to reach market.

Oil has been a major sticking point at the negotiating table, and tensions worsened after the northern army’s seizure of the disputed zone of Abyei in May. Despite calls from the Security Council and others to remove its troops from Abyei after they displaced about 100,000 residents, the Sudanese Armed Forces continue to occupy the Texas-sized territory.

The 1,300-mile (2,100-kilometer) border is disputed in five areas, several of which are being illegally occupied by either northern or southern troops.

Lyman flagged the five disputed areas along the militarised frontier as “another problem area that is dangerous,” and said an “agreed process” for how these disputes will be handled after southern independence is needed to prevent the temptation for either side to militarily occupy one area or the other.

“Everyone is for peace in and between Sudan and South Sudan,” said John Prendergast, founder of the Washington-based Enough Project.

“It is clear that as long as the government of Sudan can without consequence militarily occupy Abyei, bomb the Nuba Mountains, continue military operations in Darfur, and support militias in southern Sudan, then there will be no peace,” said Prendergast, who urged the U.S. government to work with allies to create “significant costs for ongoing human rights abuses and broken agreements.”

- AP

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