Southern Sudan became the world’s newest country on July 9. After more than 20 years of civil war, followed by a half decade of uncertain peace, the new country is starting virtually from scratch. The challenges are many, but the level of optimism is high enough to match.
It is a dramatic shift in mentality from short-term survival to long-term planning. South Sudan faces some challenges; the first being setting up the apparatus of the state: the security; the police; the military; and all that. The most important task a state is supposed to do is enforce and protect the rule of law. South Sudan needs to defend the peace and security of its citizens. With the exception of the Abyei and South Kordofan border areas, the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement put an end to wide-scale fighting between north and south. But cattle raiding and other crimes persist.
The lack of roads and other infrastructure compound the problem. The country has only about 4,000 kilometers of all-weather roads. Few crops and other goods make it to market centers. Shortages of basic goods are also common.
Setting up diplomatic relationship with the world and the new administration that was never there will be a challenge. International donors provided aid to besieged communities during the civil war. Now the government is trying to break that dependency. South Sudan must address its revenue problem since the majority of the money will come from oil exports which are dependent on being shipped through the north.
Despite the challenges, there is a sense of optimism among many in Southern Sudan. That resilience is what the people of Southern Sudan will need in the coming months and years.