THE Republic of South Sudan became independent from the Sudan on July 9, 2011, the outcome of Africa’s long-running civil war which lasted over
20 years and saw millions dead due to conflict, drought and starvation, a terrible toll on a nation with a population of just over 11 million.
However, in a country with over 60 indigenous ethnic groups, peace and cohesion was not long-lasting – conflict flared on and off from 2013 until early 2020, where a national unity government was formed. This conflict was partially driven by a need to control the nation’s abundant oil reserves, which are the third-largest in sub-Saharan Africa.
“I assure you I will not return you back to war again. Let us all work together to… put our country back to the path of development in this new decade,” said President Salva Kiir during an independence day speech on July 9 this year.
These oil reserves are critical to South Sudan’s revenue, making up for 98% of the country’s budget. As stability has increased, this year saw the launch of the country’s first oil licensing round in an effort to further explore untapped reserves and engender foreign investment into the nation. South Sudan has also been welcomed into the international community, having joined the African Union, East African Community and United Nations.
The majority of the country is dependent on subsistence farming, with health indicators painting a particularly challenging picture; it has one of the highest infant mortality and the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, primarily due to lack of healthcare infrastructure.
Like most nations around the world, the South Sudanese government enforced a partial lockdown during Covid-19, suspending travel and gatherings.
The international community is ramping up support to assist with Covid-19 treatment, with the first batch of 152,950 Johnson & Johnson vaccines having arrived in the country on September 14, the third vaccine shipment to date. The World Health Organization and UNICEF have also entered into a partnership to increase essential health service capacity and public health services alongside vaccine rollout to the amount of $53.5 million.
Financing from the African Development Fund has also allowed for the installation of the first local oxygen production plant, in the capital’s Juba Teaching Hospital, as part of efforts to assist in combating the pandemic.
“With a generation capacity of 2,500 liters per day and the ability to refill around 72 D-type oxygen cylinders daily, the plant will be a centralized production and supply hub for remote locations,” African Development Bank and WHO said in a statement.
The country’s nationals feature prominently in both sport and music, where South Sudan definitely punches above its weight, seeing world-renowned players in global football leagues as well as the NBA (National Basketball Association). Prominent musicians include Reggae/Dancehall artist and DJ Dynamq, and former child soldier turned musician and activist Emmanuel Jal, two of many who have broken onto the international stage.
While having suffered a challenging first decade, peace seems to be holding in South Sudan for now, and with it, hope for the future.