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South Sudan’s era of prosperity?

July 12, 2012

Many South Sudanese hoped the country’s emergence as the world’s newest nation would begin an era of prosperity, but the country has remained mired in disputes with its northern neighbour over oil, the border and a many other issues.

The landlocked South shut off its oil production in January, instantly erasing 98 percent of state revenues, as part of a dispute with Sudan over how much it should pay to export crude using pipelines and other infrastructure in the north.

Discontent has been rising over the oil shutdown, which piled hardships on people already weary from years of conflict. While many South Sudanese are still basking in the pride of their hard-won political freedom, they are starting to ask when they will enjoy the material benefits of independence.

Prices have been soaring, forcing many people to tighten their belts while corruption has gone largely unchecked.

South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly to secede in a referendum last year that was promised in a peace deal that ended more than two decades of war over ideology, religion, ethnicity and oil. Some 2 million people died in the conflict. Amid pomp and flag-waving, the former guerrillas of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement took full control of the country on July 9, 2011.

They also took about three-quarters of Sudan’s oil output, bringing in billions of dollars that many citizens hoped would be channelled to develop a nation where just over a quarter of adults can read and life expectancy is under 50.

Instead, officials are now scrambling to find enough money to keep basic services running. Independence has also failed to end violence both inside the country and on the border with Sudan. In April, South Sudan’s army occupied an oil-producing region also claimed by Sudan, bringing the countries close to a new war.

A few months earlier, the armed forces failed to prevent cattle raids between warring ethnic groups that killed hundreds of people. Human rights groups say weak rule of law allows security forces to carry out abuses against civilians with impunity.

The challenges have not dampened everyone’s optimism and they are those who believe that South Sudan’s era of prosperity is here. What do you think?

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