On 14th July 2011, South-Sudan became the newest member of the United Nations. On 9th July, South Sudan finally gained independence from Sudan after almost 50 years of devastating conflicts in Northeastern Africa in which more than two million people lost their lives. Independence came after an internationally backed referendum that was held in January of this year and in which 99 percent of the regions’ voters approved of a split from the Khartoum government in Northern Sudan, thus finally exercising their hard-fought right to self-determination. After the celebrations wear off, South Sudan faces a future with many challenges and obstacles as it ranks among the worlds’ poorest nations. This blog will briefly discuss the most important difficulties that will lie ahead for the people of South Sudan.
One of the toughest issues to tackle is by far the Abyei region. The Abyei area, rich in minerals and natural resources including oil, is home to the Ngok Dinka people, who are closely allied wth the South, but it is also serves as grazing grounds for the Misseriya tribes from the North. A referendum that was set to determine whether the Abyei area will become part of the South or North was delayed over disagreements on who was eligible to vote. Just weeks prior to independence, fighting broke out which makes the region highly vulnerable to yet another major conflict. Subsequently, on the 27th June, the U.N Security Council voted unanimously to send 7000 peacekeepers en 900 uniformed police to South Sudan in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1990 .
Another major stumbling block involves determining criteria for citizenship. Years of conflict has resulted in large scale internal displacement and many southerners now live in the north and many northerners live south of the new border. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has expressed fears that a significant number of people will be rendered stateless. South Sudan states that it will recognize dual north-south citizenship and has urged the north to reciprocate.
Even though having a constitution is by no means mandatory or a guarantee for upholding fundamental rights, in this case it can be considered an essential legal instrument to formalize rules of government. South Sudan has, for the time being, an interim constitution but has not yet agreed upon a final version. Paulos Tesfagiorgis, a constitutional adviser with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, stated that 'without a constitution, South Sudan will struggle to assert its independence within its own borders'. Furthermore, he emphasized that 'a constitution is of extreme importance as it will frame politics, the economy and other policies'.
In spite of all the difficulties, South Sudan is also a country of tremendous possibilities. South Sudan produces about 375,000 barrels of oil per day, and though negotiators continue to work out a specific formula on how the north and the south will share the oil, South Sudan stands to make billions from its reserves. South Sudan also has miles and miles of fertile lands and thick forests rich in fruits and vegetables.
In adittion, for the past six years the Southern Sudanese have proven to be extremely resilient; they have been running their own affairs, patrolling their borders and wooing investments and development aid.
South Sudan will have to be built from the ground up and in the process will heavily lean on the support of the international community, especially in the fields of education and health care. The new government of South Sudan should first make it a priority to settle the dispute concerning the Abyei issue by starting proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The UN and the two permanent members, China and the USA should because of their strong business interest in the region, endeavour all available means with the UN framework to enforce the ICJ decision. For the government of South Sudan, international law and diplomacy offer the best solution to give its people a future devoid of conflicts and wars.