Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

The Republic of South Sudan: Opportunities and Challenges for Africa's Newest Country

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

The Republic of South Sudan: Opportunities and Challenges for Africa's Newest Country

Article excerpt

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

In late August 2011, President Salva Kiir formed a new government. The new government retained most of the former ministers. The new government has 29 ministers and 27 deputy/assistant ministers. Nhial Deng Nhial was appointed Foreign Minister, while former foreign minster Deng Alor was named as minister of cabinet affairs.

In late June 2011, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the deployment of a 4,200-member Ethiopian peacekeeping force, the U.N. Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Ethiopian forces began to deploy in July, while Sudan and South Sudan forces have pulled out their forces from Abyei. The parties are negotiating to reach a final agreement.

On September 1, 2011, Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) attacked the official residence of Blue Nile State Governor Malik Agar, who is also the Chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North. The attack triggered major confrontations between SAF and the SPLM-North forces. More than 20,000 people have fled the state to Ethiopia. President Bashir declared SPLM-N as an illegal party and ordered the closure of SPLM-N offices and the arrest of its members and supporters. In early September, President Bashir appointed an interim military governor, Yahia Mohamed Kheir. In late June 2011, the SPLM-North and the government of Sudan signed a Framework Agreement in Ethiopia, although a few days later President Bashir rejected the agreement.

INTRODUCTION

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan officially declared independence. In January 2011, South Sudan held a peaceful and transparent referendum on Southern secession or unity, as called for in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).1 An estimated 3.9 million people were registered to vote, including those residing in other countries. An estimated 3.8 million people, or 97.5%, voted in the referendum, which was deemed peaceful and transparent by international observers. According to the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), 98.8% voted for secession, while 1.1% voted for unity. In early February 2011, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir officially accepted the result of the referendum. The international community endorsed the result of the referendum.

In February 2011, shortly after the announcement of the result of the South Sudan referendum, President Obama stated that "on behalf of the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Southern Sudan for a successful and inspiring referendum in which an overwhelming majority of voters chose independence. I am therefore pleased to announce the intention of the United States to formally recognize southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011."2 The Obama Administration sent a high-level delegation led by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, to South Sudan's independence celebration in July 2011.

Many Members of Congress welcomed the vote for independence. Over the past two decades, the U.S. Congress has been actively engaged on Sudan. Numerous hearings have been held and legislation has been passed on a wide range of issues related to the crisis in Sudan. There have been multiple visits to liberated areas by Members of Congress since the late 1980s. In November 1993, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.Con.Res. 131, recognizing the right of the people of South Sudan to self determination.

In the coming years, Congress is likely to remain active on issues related to South Sudan. U.S. assistance to South Sudan will be an important issue for Congress in light of the fact that South Sudan is one of the major recipients of U.S. assistance. The Obama Administration has requested $518 million for FY2012. The United States has maintained sanctions imposed on Sudan but removed them from South Sudan and other marginalized areas. However, there are current sanctions on Sudan that will have an impact on South Sudan even after independence. Congress is likely to deal with this issue in the coming months. …

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