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Media Look At What’s Ahead For South Sudan

“This week’s independence referendum in southern Sudan marks an apparent victory for U.S. foreign policy in east Africa – one that has secured for Washington a deeper advisory role in what is expected to be the birth of a new, impoverished nation,” according to a Wall Street Journal article looking at the issues facing the U.S. in south Sudan after voting concludes.

“Sudan is a top U.S. foreign-policy priority in Africa, seen as a bulwark in a volatile east and central Africa beset by terror threats and rebel groups. Should Sudan return to conflict, it could cost thousands of lives, set back the region’s nascent economic progress and cost as much as $100 billion over a decade in peacekeeping efforts and regional economic losses, estimates Frontier Economics, a London-based research firm,” the Wall Street Journal writes. The paper also points out that the new Sudanese state “would depend on U.S. and other Western support to build its infrastructure, which is now almost nonexistent.”

The article goes on to describe what people in southern Sudan are expecting after they gain independence, and it also highlights the role of other American players in the region (Childress, 1/14).

“Residents of Juba may be reshaping the arrogance and cruelty of colonial-era borders, but what exactly lies ahead is unknown, even as they stand in the sun for hours to cast ballots,” the Los Angeles Times writes in a story looking at locals’ views of what’s ahead.

The piece includes the sentiments of a local doctor. “Beyond the roadside money-changers and the old army trucks half buried in the dirt, Dr. Hassan Awule made rounds at the unfinished Morobo Clinic he started during the war. He said life would improve in coming years but worried that corruption and tribalism – the spoilers of many African nations – might jeopardize a new country. As a lizard scurried up a wall, he opened the door to what he hopes one day will be an operating room. ‘We began with just a pharmacy,’ he said. ‘Then we added one bed, then two, then three, and now we have 40 beds. They are not enough. We are treating malaria, typhoid, HIV, intestinal worms and infection. Many families can’t afford care so we give them credit. You can’t turn them away'” (Fleishman, 1/14). 

“Expectations are high in South Sudan. About 120,000 have returned home from the north, according to the United Nations, as 3.8-million southerners vote in a week-long referendum that will split Africa’s biggest country in two. But meeting those expectations in a country half the size of South Africa with just 40km of tarred roads will be a challenge,” the Mail & Guardian reports, highlighting the minimal infrastructure in the south.

“There is little state presence outside large towns, such as Malakal and Juba, no hospitals, clinics or police stations. About 80% of the health services are provided by NGOs, but only 30% of residents can access them. Half those in the public sector did not finish primary school; just 3% are university graduates. There is little industry or agriculture – everything from cement to vegetables must be imported from Uganda and Kenya. The 1983 to 2005 civil war destroyed everything. … If the country was to have the same proportion of doctors for each citizen as Kenya, for example, it would need another 1,300,” the newspaper writes. 

Joe Feeney, the head of the U.N. Development Programme in South Sudan, said the same applies for “engineers, nurses, economists and statisticians and easily 10,000 professionals are needed.” Feeney also noted the concerns about the number of people returning to the south. “If the returnees keep coming at the current rate a huge burden will be placed on the structures of state,” he said (Clarke, 1/14).

Women Aim To Improve Their Lives After South Secedes

Inter Press Service looks at how women in south Sudan are aiming to change their status in the new country. “Women are eager for separation. There’s no woman I have met who didn’t say they voted for the separation. During the rule by the north, women had the least rights, they were the worst victims of the war,” said Mary Nawai Martin, a member of south Sudan’s Legislative Assembly from Ibba County in Western Equatoria State.

“There are no comprehensive statistics on rape in the south during the conflict, but researchers [have] agreed that such violence was widespread. One survey of 250+ women in Juba County by ISIS-Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange found 36 percent had been gang-raped, 28 percent had been raped during abduction; other women reported being forced to have sex in exchange for food,” IPS reports.

“Sexual violence took place and women are still living with trauma. So for us we see this separation as our first step to freedom and bringing dignity and respect to women of south Sudan,” Nawai said.  

“Gender-based violence has continued since the 2005 peace agreement. … South Sudanese women face high levels of domestic violence, as well as early and forced marriages. Women are disadvantaged by cultural norms such as the paying of dowry and the practice of handing a girl child over to a bereaved family as compensation for murder,” according to IPS.

The south’s interim constitution “acknowledges the right to equal treatment for both men and women. However putting such laws into practice in a country whose justice system is almost non-existent is a huge challenge,” IPS adds. “Women’s rights – especially protection of women from sexual violence and rehabilitation of those who suffered in the war – will need a lot of attention,” according to Nawai (Kagumire, 1/13).

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