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South Sudan's next task: build a nation from scratch

South Sudanese voted overwhelming in January for independence. Now, they face the reality of building the world's newest nation – from printing new currency to collecting taxes.

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"So far we are dealing with returning diplomats, and the question of who owns embassies and other Sudanese property abroad," says Mr. Alor. "But most importantly, in the interim period we will develop our foreign policy, and decide with whom to forge relations, and on what terms."

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Encouraging Sudan's expats to come home

One way to start filling up the vacuum of skills in South Sudan would be to encourage expatriate Sudanese to return. Twenty-two years of civil war – which ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement hammered out between the north and south in 2005 – left a generation of Sudanese undereducated, but it propelled thousands of others into exile. Many of these went on to higher degrees, started their own businesses, raised families, and set down roots in their adopted countries.

Bringing even a few of them back will go far, Alor says, in helping South Sudan take ownership of its own development.

"These returnees can be very helpful to us today," says Alor. "They bring back ideas and investment and language. They are an asset." All refugees are welcome here, says Alor – even northerners, including Darfuris, who cannot return to their own regions.

One man who did come back is Subek David, and the route he took to get back home is worthy of Odysseus.

The outbreak of war in the mid-1980s pushed him out of Sudan into a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. From there he moved to Uganda to attend missionary school; then to Russia on an academic scholarship; then to Libya to learn how to fly helicopters; then to Malta to seek asylum; and finally to Australia, a country that accepted his asylum application.

"Coming here is a sacrifice for people. It is hard to start fresh," admits Mr. David, who returned to Juba last year to work in security at the airport. "You can eat and sleep well in Australia. But I was always longing for my home. It feels different being here. It is home. Now we just need to put it in order."

Elijah Meen, a civil servant in Juba, says the returnees "have a lot to offer us."

Last month, Mr. Meen picked up his younger brother Gordon at the airport, reuniting for the first time in 18 years.

"We were wishing he could come home with knowledge of school," Elijah says of his brother. "But even without [education], these people have seen the world. They have been exposed. Even if they don't know how to build a road, at least they have seen what building a road looks like. They have seen good houses and good bridges and they can now help us here."

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