Does Anyone Know Anything About A New Country Called South Sudan?


By Baher Kamal | Human Wrongs Watch

Since July 9th, a new state, South Sudan, came to join the international community. As usual, mainstream media have both under-reported and under-informed about it. This is a standard practice–mainstream media mostly ‘tells about bleeding events such as wars and deadly attacks. But, what do we know about this new state?

South Sudan | Wikimedia Commons

To start with, South Sudan extends over 700 sq. kms., over one fourth of Sudan’s totalsurfacee of 2,5 million sq.kms. 

Its 2000 kilometres long borders limit with Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, RD Congo and Central Africa Republic. And of course also with (North) Sudan itself.

Nine Million People, 200 Ethnic Groups

Its population, estimated in around 9 million inhabitants, is composed of more than 200 ethnic groups and is, along with the adjacent Nuba Hills, one of the most linguistically diverse regions of Africa. However, many of the languages are small, with only a few thousand speakers.

South Sudan’s population is formed mainly by three major tribes: the Dinka, the largest; the Nuer, and the Shilluk.

In addition to Arabic and English, 12 main dialects are spoken. However, the most populous language by native speakers is Dinka, a dialect spoken by 2–3 million people.

Dinka is a Western Nilotic language; closely related to Southern Sudan’s second most populous language is Nuer, and a bit more distant is Shilluk. Major Eastern Nilotic languages are Bari and Otuho. Besides the Nilotic family, Zande, Southern Sudan’s third most populous language, is Ubangian.

Majority of Animists

The majority of Southern Sudanese maintain traditional/indigenous beliefs with those following Islam and Christianity in a minority, with estimated 18-19% each of one of them. The majority follow animist beliefs.

Green Pastures, But…

Pastures cover 40% of South Sudan; agricultural land around 30% and natural forests 23% of natural forests and water surfaces 7% of the total area.

… But Oil Has The Upper Hand, Of Course!

Southern Sudan produces 80-85% of all Sudanese oil output. The oil revenues according to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), are to be split equally for the duration of the agreement period.

Oil revenues constitute more than 98% of the semi-autonomous government of Southern Sudan’s budget.

The oil and other mineral resources can be found throughout Southern Sudan, but the Bentiu is commonly known as being especially rich in oil, while Jonglei, Warap and Lakes states have potential reserves.

In recent years, a significant amount of foreign-based oil drilling has begun in Southern Sudan, raising the land’s geopolitical profile.

The Sudanese government in Khartoum has partitioned much of Sudan into blocks, with about 85% of the oil coming from the South.

Foreigners Exploiting Oil, Again

Blocks 1, 2, and 4 are controlled by the largest overseas consortium, the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), which is composed of China National Petroleum Corporation with a 40% stake; Petronas (Malaysia) with 30%; Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (India) with 25%; and Sudapet of the central Sudan government with 5%.

The other producing blocks in the South are blocks 3 and 7 in Eastern Upper Nile. These blocks are controlled by Petrodar which is 41% owned by CNPC, 40% by Petronas, 8% by Sudapet, 6% by Sinopec Corp and 5% by Al Thani.

Another major block in the South, called Block B by Khartoum, is claimed by several players. Total of France was awarded the concession for the 90,000 square kilometre block in the 1980s but has since done limited work invoking “force majeure”.

Celebrating Independence

Southern Sudanese in the country-in-waiting’s capital of Juba are sprucing up streets, confiscating black market guns and trying to impose order on frenetic traffic, all to make sure independence day will go smoothly on Saturday (July 9th), Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW)’s African Desk reported on July 8th.

“For many southerners, the split from the country’s north represents a moment of long-awaited triumph and fresh optimism after decades of brutal civil war and perceived marginalisation,” says the report.

It adds that it also brings a raft of challenges as the rickety boomtown of Juba receives scores of foreign dignitaries and the government tries to enforce its writ across a territory roughly the size of France wracked by internal rebellions and awash with guns.

‘Free At Last’

“Men and women with straw brushes are sweeping leaves and dust from the southern capital’s streets and men in paint-stained jumpsuits are whitewashing walls. Celebratory banners hang across the city. A red digital display in a nearby roundabout is counting down the seconds to independence. ‘Free at last’, one message on the display flashed,”says RNW report.

“North and South Sudan have warred over ideology, religion, ethnicity and oil for all but a few years since the country’s independence. An estimated 2 million people – most of them southerners – died in the conflict. A 2005 peace deal that brought an end to the war promised southerners the chance to vote for independence. About 98 percent chose to split when the referendum was held in January,” the report adds.

Internal And External Turmoil

RNW informs that South Sudan, with at least seven internal rebel militias according to a UN count, will begin life as an independent country in a region known for political turmoil that can erupt in terrible bloodshed.

Neighbouring Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a devastating war in the late 1990s after Eritrea split away. Kenya exploded in violence after a disputed election in late 2007.

Suicide bombings ripped through Uganda’s capital during the 2010 football World Cup. The militant group that claimed responsibility is based in Somalia, a country that has not had an effective central government for about two decades, RNW reports.

“Enemies Of The South”

Interior Minister Gier Chouang Aloung, acknowledging security worries, told reporters that “enemies of the South” would not be allowed to spoil the celebrations, according to RNW. Security forces were continuing a sweep-up of illegal guns and were registering people trying to buy new firearms, he said.

And Now What?

Now that some information about this new state is available, shall mainstream media report on its developments, its peoples and their future?

Or shall they rather stick to talking about it only if a conflict around oil emerges or a war breaks up between the two former parts of Sudan? Wait and see.

Full RNW report at:

http://www.rnw.nl/africa/article/south-sudan-juba-gears-independence-day

Copyright © 2011 Human Wrongs Watch

This article can be re-published, sourcing to Human Wrongs Watch http://human-wrongs-watch.net

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