World's newest country: Can South Sudan limit internal strife?
As the Republic of South Sudan prepares to declare independence Saturday, internal ethnic and political divisions threaten the nation's long-term viability.
• World's newest country is a three-part series examining the challenges facing South Sudan.
Part 1: Can South Sudan limit internal strife?
Part 2: South Sudan's oil remains a sticking point
Part 3: Future of South Sudan tied to efficacy of foreign aid
In Pictures South Sudan: World's newest country
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When South Sudan becomes the world's newest country Saturday, its upcoming challenges will take a back seat to the euphoria surrounding the historic moment.
Still, internal conflicts loom large.
Before the young government can truly focus on the monumental task building a nation from scratch, it must first figure out a way to manage a range of pressing security issues.
Not only must the nascent, oil-rich country overcome the threat posed by its longtime enemy to the north – the Islamist-dominated government of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court – it must also deal with militias, ethnic divides, and vocal critics within its own borders.
Analysts warn that if South Sudan's government does not seize the "independence moment" to begin a new chapter in the region's history, then it risks fulfilling the doomsday prophecies fueled by the northern government and other actors opposed to southern secession.
"Posturing along the border makes clear that [conflict] with the North is not over on July 9," says Zach Vertin, a Sudan analyst for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, referring to ongoing North-South hostilities, such as running battles in the northern border state of South Kordofan and the tense stalemate over the contested Abyei region. "While there will undoubtedly be continued security attention in those areas, at the same time focus increasingly has to turn to the domestic situation both in political and security terms."