South Sudan: Amid Violence, a New Nation Is Born


Conflict in recent months in the oil-rich border area of Abyei, which was supposed to have a separate referendum to determine which country it will be a part of, saw tens of thousands of people displaced as northern troops took over the area, unilaterally declaring it a part of the north.

The border region of South Kordofan, which will definitely be a part of the north, has also seen conflict, with more than 100,000 people being displaced and unknown casualties from clashes between northern troops and southern-allied rebels. The United Nations has warned that without intervention the area could be on the verge of another genocide similar to Darfur.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir is also attending the festivities. Earlier this week, he reportedly gave a fiery speech at a political rally in which he warned that even though Sudan will be "welcoming" of it's new southern neighbor, there will be no negotiation on additional rights in South Kordofan and the Nuba mountains, another border area belonging to the north but with strong southern ties.

Bashir added there is little room left for negotiation on Darfur.

Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide charges related to Darfur, has promised in the past that following secession Sudan will return to strict sharia law. The speech was seen by analysts as a show of strength by Bashir, who is being blamed by hard-liners as well as some moderates in Sudan for allowing one-third of the country, which holds nearly all the oil reserves, to leave.

Throughout the peace process leading to independence, the United States has held out a significant carrot to Khartoum telling the regime that if it implements the 2005 agreement, Sudan could be removed from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list, which carries its own sanctions designations.

Rice has said, however, that until all of the peace agreement issues are resolved, Sudan will remain on the list. Those issues include citizenship laws, oil revenue sharing and determining the final status of Abyei.

In the meantime, the Obama administration is giving the fledgling Republic of South Sudan as much help as possible to get on its feet. In September, the U.S. will host a conference in Washington, D.C. to help develop private investment in South Sudan and ensure the country is ready for investment. The conference is in addition to the $300 million in aid the administration has already given for government and infrastructure projects.

The commitment of both the new government of South Sudan and the international community is why people like Makuac say they are willing to be patient to see real progress.

"Life's been difficult because of the war and having to live with these people [from the north] for all this time," he said. "Now we have our own government and a system that is in place. Let us now have our own country with which our rights will be respected and which we will be responsible for."

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