The world’s newest country is in Africa. South Sudan formally attained independence on July 9, 2011. That’s right, South Sudan is all of 13 days old. It was formed when the citizens of southern Sudan voted for independence in a referendum. This is (hopefully) a peaceful end to what has been one of the most destructive civil wars on the continent. The most recent stage of the struggle had lasted more than 20 years before a peace treaty was signed in 2005. The conflict itself, however had been raging since 1955. It was a war that made regions like Darfur and the Blue Nile infamous for bloody fighting. More than 2 million people are thought to have lost their lives since 1983 through war, famine, or disease and more than 4 million people have been displaced.
Like many conflicts around the world, this one has been rooted in religion. The northern part of what was Sudan had a largely Arab and Muslim population. People in Southern Sudan tend to be either Christian or Animist. The populations in the south felt increasingly neglected by and isolated from the political and economic capital of Sudan in Khartoum, far to the north. There are plenty of stories of atrocities committed during the civil war, but with the official declaration of independence on July 9, there is hope once more that the people in this part of the world can rebuild their lives and their homes.
The birth of a new country is always an interesting event. The citizens of newly formed countries have usually been there for a long time and yet they suddenly have a new identity. Hopefully the citizens of South Sudan can build a new identity; one of peace and coexistence and that the new political division that separates them from Sudan can provide the necessary boundaries to foster similar peace and coexistence.
Update 23 July:
The World, a radio program produced by Public Radio International ran this story yesterday on a struggle still going on in Sudan. The story describes the plight of the Nuba people, an ethnic minority in the south part of Sudan. The region they occupy is called Kordofan and is close to the border with South Sudan. The people themselves have declared their intention to remain part Sudan, but they have refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the government in Khartoum. The government has reportedly sent cargo planes over the area. Soldiers push bombs out of the back of these planes in an effort to terrorize the Nuba people and force them to flee south into the mountains.