South Sudan’s bitter birthday

2012-07-14 15:26

First 12 months seen as ‘a lost year’

Widespread starvation, corruption and continuing conflict put a damper on what should have been the joyous celebration of South Sudan’s first year of independence.

Aid organisations are reporting from Juba that independence brought more hardship than relief for the South Sudanese.

“From the standpoint of improving the quality of life for millions of South Sudanese people, these first 12 months of independence can be written off as a lost year,” said Susan Purdin, head of aid agency International Rescue Committee.

South Sudan gained independence through a referendum to become Africa’s 54th state in July last year.

But refugees from the north are still flooding South Sudan to get away from the persecution and starvation they face in the north.

Monica Camacho, head of Médecins Sans Frontièresin Juba, told City Press that more than 300 000 Sudanese had fled the north due to starvation.

In the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, which belong to Khartoum, locals say starvation is being used as a weapon against them by the government of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

In addition to the extra people that need to be taken care of and the massive infrastructure backlog, South Sudan is also cut off from its greatest source of income – oil.

A dispute between Khartoum and Juba saw a refusal by Sudan to export oil from South Sudan.

Because South Sudan is landlocked, it depends on other countries to get the oil to buyers.

New pipelines are being planned to transport the crude oil through Sudan’s neighbours, Kenya and Uganda, but they’ll take at least two years to complete.

And the cash is needed now.

According to Camacho, the hardship in South Sudan does not extend to the elite.

“The elite here are privileged and they feel they are entitled to the privilege because they won the war,” she said.

She mentioned the Hummers and Porsches roaming the few tarred roads in Juba to get to mansions in the capital.

“For them it is common to fly to Nairobi on a daily basis to go shopping, while their kids go to school in the US or Canada.”

But the stark differences in the lifestyles of the war heroes and the ordinary people do not go unnoticed.

“The economic situation is worsening, there is a visible difference between the rich and the rest. And the feeling of discomfort is growing. At this point, people are keeping it quiet, and will only talk about it on a one-to-one level,” she says.

Foreign investors are in abundance in Juba, but very little of that money filters through to helping the people on the ground.

Instead, the government is trying to tap every potential resource to make money, and lately it has imposed bigger tariffs on people and goods entering the country to create revenue for the government.

Amnesty International visited eight refugee camps between March and April, and found people in some instances waiting 10 hours to receive a single container of water, or three weeks for food rations.

“People faced risks such as forced recruitment into armed groups and sexual violence, in addition to food and water shortages,” the group said.

Women and girls spoke of their fear of rape and sexual violence.

But starvation is the killer.

“We can run away from bombs but not from hunger,” one refugee told Amnesty International.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.