South Sudan revels amid growing pains
It hasn’t been an easy first 12 months, but citizens of South Sudan took to the streets Monday to celebrate their first year of independence.
Despite dire warnings about the fledgling nation’s stability and economic viability, South Sudanese danced and sang throughout the capital of Juba, amid the honking of car horns, according to Agence France-Presse.
Yet, the world’s newest county has had anything but an easy go of it since separating from Sudan.
South Sudan has spent the past year wracked by border wars with Sudan, as well as internal violence and the shutdown of its vital oil production in a bitter dispute with Khartoum, according to the wire service.
The lack of schools, health facilities, roads and jobs is a direct result of years of conflict and underdevelopment, added The Guardian.
“The absence of opportunities for young people, combined with the ready availability of guns, another damaging legacy of the war years, has fueled a series of deadly inter-ethnic clashes,” the British publication wrote.
Strife is nothing new for South Sudan. The region spent much period from when Sudan achieved independence in 1956 until 2005 fighting Khartoum.
During the conflict, more than 2.5 million were killed and another 5 million forced from the country before a peace agreement was reached in 2005.
Even today, South Sudan remains one of the world’s poorest countries, where even the most basic infrastructure, such as roads, electricity and water distribution networks, is lacking, according to Agence France-Presse.
A year ago The Economist explained the promise and predicaments in store for South Sudan:
South Sudan has the potential to be among the largest food producers in Africa. The country also has hardwood timber. It has oil, gold, chromium, iron ore and a host of other minerals. Some reckon oil revenues will fall off before 2020. Others are more hopeful. The government wants to divide up unused concessions owned by Total, a French company, and sell them to other enterprises.
But the combination of abundance and weak government almost never has a happy outcome in Africa. The new government can draw on very few trained officials. Ministries lack computers. Tax collectors are illiterate.
The less-than-glorious first year of independence didn’t put a damper on revelers Monday.
“It is a good day because it’s the first birthday of my country,” said Rachel Adau, a nurse, who arrived soon after dawn to secure a place at the official ceremony, held at the mausoleum of the late rebel leader John Garang.
Added Michael Kenyi Benjamin, a student, “Today is the day we celebrate when the people came out from the Arabs and liberated themselves.”
(Above: Southern Sudanese at their country’s first soccer match after independence, against Kenya on July 10, 2011. Photo credit: The Associated Press.)