What do you get a new country?
Every time I go to a wedding, a celebration of a new beginning, I always struggle with what I should get the new couple. Do I give something sentimental, something Jewish, something practical, or just a good old fashioned toaster? Well, as it marks the creation of the brand new country of the Republic of South Sudan, the United States has a smiliar question to deal with.
The Republic of Sudan did not show up over night. After two decades of war, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 was signed, supported by the Bush Administration and in particular Secretary Colin Powell. This paved the way for the peaceful referendum on South Sudan’s independence this past January, supported by the Obama Administration. On July 9th, it was with great excitement that the world welcomed the creation of the Republic of South Sudan. It is a joyful occasion for the people of South Sudan, who after two decades of war will now have their future in their own hands.
Yet, this is a country that has very little healthcare, virtually no schools, and a government that only started a week ago. The one thing the country has in large quantities is oil. Now, this may seem like a great thing, but the famous “oil curse” is a real possibility. The oil curse basically means that when you have one main resource, the money ends up staying in only a few hands and corrupting the government. It is critical that South Sudan use the revenue from the oil to support building a real infrastructure under the rubric of good governance. From healthcare to education to civil society, now more than ever the newly formed government must turn away from the temptation of the oil curse and help its people, who have suffered through two decades of war. For more on this check out John Prendergast from the Enough Project on the Colbert Report last night:
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So, what could the gift be from the United States in honor of South Sudan’s birth as a country? It could be development aid and advisors to support the growth of good governance and a strong public infrastructure. The United States has a great opportunity to not just nurture a new country, but ensure an ally in a critical region.