The South Sudanese marked their independence with celebrations over the weekend, but the work is just beginning. International aid workers assisting the world’s newest country to get off to a good start are also facing a challenging programme.
The government in Juba will have to cope with serious shortages in many areas, despite its bountiful oil reserves. Expertise and infrastructure are lacking, whether the issue is clean water, roads, electricity, schools, hospitals, administration, police or the courts.
Aid organisations have over recent years provided assistance in training the administrators of South Sudan. Development workers have helped to drill wells and to reintegrate refugees from the long-running civil war.
The new United Nations (UN) mission is also ready to help guide the country through the difficult early stages.
The aid organisation Oxfam has warned that now is not the time to cut back, pointing to the many challenges and the violence that accompanied the founding of Africa’s newest state.
“If there was ever a time for the [UN] Security Council and countries that contribute to peacekeeping to support the people of Sudan, it is now,” said Kirsten Hagon, head of Oxfam’s New York office.
“Violence is rising and this isn’t the time to go cheap by cutting on the budget of the future UN mission, on the number of boots on the ground or the number of civilian staff,” she added.
This year, more than 1 800 people were killed by the end of June — almost twice as many as in the whole of last year. Continuing conflict in the disputed Abyei region, in Kordofan and in various parts of South Sudan, have forced more than 180 000 people to flee their homes, according to UN figures.
“This is a region that endured half a century of devastating conflict that set back social and economic development. People live in paralysing poverty and barely scratch out an existence,” Susan Purdin of the International Rescue Committee said.
Purdin believes it would be unrealistic to expect the new government to be able to deal on its own with the situation in the foreseeable future.
Ekkehard Forberg, expert on Sudan at World Vision, believes that many conflicts remain unresolved. He says that the new country needs diplomatic, financial and organisational effort from outside, “particularly with regards to building state structures and training the police”.
Barbara Dieckmann, president of a major German aid organisation, says that the situation is desperate for many of those returning from the north. Many lack accommodation, land and job opportunities.
“Our staff are reporting from the Aweil region in Northern Bahr el Ghazal that families have had no food for weeks and will die without outside assistance,” Dieckmann said.
She called on the international community to provide assistance over the longer term, or the new state’s future would look bleak.
While the South Sudanese now have their freedom, the aim is to provide peace and development throughout the country, President Salva Kiir made clear on marking the country’s independence day.
“We dream of South Sudan where children go to school with no fear of air bombardments. We dream of South Sudan where every house has access to electricity and clean water. We dream of South Sudan where every family has sufficient food,” he said. — Sapa-dpa