Last week, a week-long referendum was completed in the southernmost province of Sudan. And this week, the results: an almost unanimous (99% in fact) “yes” vote for independence from Sudan. The new country, which it is assumed will be called “South Sudan” is precariously located in a region of Africa that is, to say the least, not without its troubles. The new country will border no less than 6 independent African states: Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and what remains of Sudan. The new country will border the Sudan it just seceded from, and importantly, will border the troubled region of Darfur on its northwest frontier. As is true in most places on earth, the disconnect among the regions of the formerly larger Sudan was based in how religions were represented. Thanks to their (for lack of better term) British colonial masters, Sudan was a country created from disparate parts: mostly Christian in the south and mostly Muslim in the north. Peppered with animists as well, the south (as is for some reason true in the “south” of many nations globally) was the unfortunate recipient of very little during the fifty or so years of Sudanese independence, making South Sudan an extremely underdeveloped area with very little in the way of infrastructure.
Enter our old friend Black Gold. The economic hopes of a newly independent South Sudan lay in large part on what agreements can be made with the north to divide the oil fields that strattle both territories and in the hopes of a new oil pipeline that, if completed, will eventually stretch south through Kenya to ocean ports for export. Other than that, the region’s assumed natural resource deposits and the development of agriculture will be two solid goals of the new government – that is if the government can operate with a minimum of corruption. We know how that goes in all governments (including western governments) – especially African governments.
The situation for the new state will certainly be much more complicated than the prior two paragraphs have indicated, and as such, the international community should actively welcome the new state with open arms. Bake it a basket of muffins. Have a welcome party for it. Bring it some toys for its children. As if we support our new neighbor we will be able to count on them when the chips are down, and these days, the chips are often down.
So, get ready to celebrate a new independence day in July. Happy birthday South Sudan – welcome to the world.