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Africa Report


VOL.5 September 2013
Embattled Newest Nation
South Sudan faces ongoing hurdles as it struggles to deal with growing pains
By Henry Neondo

South Sudanese proudly celebrate their flag at 2nd anniversasy

But news from home including stories of political rivalry between the Dinka and Luo Nuer, South Sudan's leading ethnic groups, coupled with allegations of graft and human rights abuses perpetrated by the government against dissenters and a gridlocked state of war with the northern neighbor in Khartoum have continued to give thousands of refugees in Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and a host of other countries reasons not to return to their war-torn, hunger-stricken homeland.

The seething political rivalry in South Sudan reached a boiling point in late July, resulting in President Salva Kiir sacking his entire cabinet.

President Kiir invoked Articles 104(2) and 112(1) of the Transition Constitution of 2011 which grants the president the power to remove the vice president, at the time Dr. Riek Machar, and other ministers.

In reaction to the sacking, Machar announced at a press conference in Juba that he will challenge Kiir in presidential elections set for 2015.

Kiir has since named a new group of 19 cabinet ministers, down from the earlier 29, in a bid to bring stability amid crucial talks with Sudan over oil exports, which account for most of South Sudan's revenue.

The political high drama of July closely followed the lifting of immunity in June of two cabinet members, Finance Minister Kosti Manibe and Cabinet Affairs Minister Deng Alor, over allegations of corruption.

Massive aid needed

Speaking in Juba, South Sudan's capital city, Barry Andrews, CEO of GOAL of Ireland, an international humanitarian organization, said that Juba, despite its splendor and the festive mood of the anniversary, cannot help but look and feel decrepit. Andrews was in Juba to observe the work his organization has completed over 18 months in the Maban region of South Sudan.

"It has the air of a city that has never had luck from the beginning. Juba shows nothing but signs of neglect, thanks to 55 years of war with Sudan in the north that led to outright discrimination by the Khartoum regime," said Andrews, addressing a press conference.

Toby Lanzer, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, is more upbeat and believes an overwhelming majority of South Sudan's citizens enjoy peace and stability. He does concede that food insecurity is a major challenge. "We estimate that about 100,000 people in both Pibor and Pochalla counties in Jonglei are in urgent need of help, and that their situation will only worsen as we move further into the rainy season," he said.

Latest figures from a UN Humanitarian Office in South Sudan report released on June 20 reveal that they need $485 million to help close to 3 million South Sudanese survive the rest of the year.

Crucial alliances

Despite the work done by the UK's Department for International Development and countries like Norway and Canada, scholars say that China is really central to South Sudan's stability.

Xiao Yuhua, a researcher with the Institute of African Studies (IAS) at Zhejiang Normal University in east China's Zhejiang Province, notes in a report he co-wrote for SaferWorld, an independent UK-based organization working to prevent international conflict, that while oil rich South Sudan's perceptions of China continue to be colored by Beijing's strong relationship with Khartoum during the second civil war, South Sudan is increasingly cognizant of the opportunities that China presents for its post-independence national development, particularly in addressing the country's large infrastructure deficit.

Xiao adds that China has construction companies and financial resources to help build the country. It also has some political leverage on Khartoum due to its extensive investment in the north, and would not wish to see peace dividends in its new markets in the south disturbed.

Xiao points out that the economies of the two Sudans are intertwined and China needs to consider both sides. Given the interest that China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) has in the resumption of oil production, and the fact that CNPC was mainly responsible for building the region's oil pipelines, Xiao says Juba would prefer China to take on a greater leadership role in resolving the conflict between the two neighbors.

In August, Khartoum threatened to close down Red Sea export pipelines in the ongoing rebel-funding dispute, and South Sudan's oil minister warned that pipelines could suffer major damage if the taps are closed – invariably causing problems for the economies of both the north and south.

"But the [South Sudanese] government should not explore her external relationships, especially with China, pegged on the oil resources," said Steven Kuo, a South Sudanese post-doctoral fellow at the University of Western Cape, South Africa, who had returned to South Sudan to conduct studies.

According to Kuo, while China is keen to invest globally, Africa as a whole hardly makes up 10 percent of China's external investments.

"So the idea that Africa is somehow central to China's investment strategy is incorrect. Yes, oil is strategically important for the Chinese and of course South Sudan is important in this regard, but even then, when South Sudan cut the drilling of oil, China did not have any problem getting its oil elsewhere," he said.

In short, Kuo said that while no one should underestimate how much leverage China has over Khartoum or Juba, it should equally be recognized that Juba has almost no leverage over Beijing; the relationship is asymmetrical given that South Sudan is a negligible market.

What needs to be done? Kuo suggests that the government needs to place priority on land reforms, diversification from oil, increased education and training opportunities. The government should also begin to exploit the country's huge agricultural potential by carrying out deliberate land reform policies in its diversification process.

"It is critical for the government to allow South Sudanese to enter trade and professions and start building a middle class," he said.

Unlike most of its neighbors, South Sudan has oil to act as a catalyst for growth. It has to make use of this oil revenue to pay for infrastructure and education, which could motivate its nearly 8.5 million citizens to rally together, with an eye toward the future. CA

(Reporting from Kenya)





Africa Report
Embattled Newest Nation
-Climate Relief
-Land Grab Woes
-Bring on the Rain
-Depending on a Diaspora
China-Africa New Strategic Partnership and Friendship for Development and Transformation
-BRICS Means Business
-Cameroon Aims for More Chinese Visitors
-Greening International Relations
-Switch Off Your Lights, Help The Planet
Nation in Focus
-November 2010
-September 2010
-June 2010
-May 2010
News Roundup
-September 2013
-August 2013
-July 2013
-June 2013
-May 2013





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