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There’s a New Country!

July 11th, 2011

There’s a New Country!

July 11, 2011 — The Republic of South Sudan is the 193rd — and newest — country in the world. It celebrated its first day as a country on Saturday. About the size of Texas, South Sudan was previously part of a larger country in Africa called Sudan. The northern part of Sudan and the southern part had many disagreements and fought each other hard for about 50 years.

Six years ago, though, they worked through enough of their differences to make an official agreement to be peaceful. Part of that 2005 agreement was that the people who lived in the southern part could vote in a special election over whether they wanted to remain a part of Sudan or separate and create this new country. That election happened this past January and just under 100% of South Sudanese voted to start their own country.

South Sudan has a new flag, a new national anthem, and a new president, Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit, but the leaders have a lot of work ahead of them. Forming a new country is challenging under the best of circumstances, but especially so for South Sudan.

For the 8.5 million South Sudanese, there are only about 500 doctors. Only 15% of its people can read and many live on $1 a day with limited access to water. From its very beginning, South Sudan is one of the poorest countries on the planet.

photo credit: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

photo credit: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

It does have one valuable natural resource — oil. Selling it to the world is one of the major ways that this region makes money. One area, in particular, that has a lot of it is right in between the north and south, called Abyei (pronounced Ahb-yay). Sudan and South Sudan still don’t agree about the future of this area, but they are trying to find a way to share the oil profits.

South Sudan has received a lot of support from other countries and international organizations, to get the new country going, and it is now part of the United Nations (UN), an organization that helps all the world’s countries. The UN will be watching, and to some extent helping, to try to make sure the transition from one country into two goes as smoothly as possible.

While there’s much celebrating now in South Sudan, the conflict between the north and the south came at the cost of many lives over the years. That they were finally able to reach a peace agreement is encouraging, not just for South Sudan, but for the rest of the world’s peacemakers as well.

 

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