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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.

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And Minister Chuang told reporters that many of the current security threats in the south have been caused by "different enemies of peace" seeking to destabilize the south and portray it "as a failed state even before it takes off."

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Chuang echoed a familiar refrain of the southern government: that the northern Sudanese government is backing southern rebel movements. While this is certainly not impossible – and indeed was the case during the civil war – taking responsibility for addressing the real discontent of at least some of the southerners who have taken up arms against their government is a bitter pill that the southern government must swallow.

Seeking unity without a 'common enemy'

Aside from endangering the South's nascent economy and preventing foreign investment from taking off, internal insecurity may limit the southern government's ability to forge a unified nation out of its many diverse peoples.

“The new southern state will be born into a precarious position. It will be a weak state, but not a failed one," Jon Temin of the United States Institute of Peace told the Monitor. "The threats faced by the southern government will be a distraction, but they may also allow it to continue the narrative of the common enemy in the north that unites much of the south."

Mr. Temin argues that the greatest challenge facing the new state will be to move beyond the central forces that have kept southerners together until now: their "common enemy" and their collective goal of independence.

Working to define a southern national identity is a challenge to the SPLM, particularly because it still tends to address problems with a military mindset.

"The line between the military and the party is extraordinarily thin," says Vertin.

Creating an equitable and prosperous southern society is a decades-long task for the SPLM-led government, which watchdog groups including Human Rights Watch and the Carter Center have recently criticized for failing to open up political space to enable opposition parties to develop.

If conflict continues to shape the moves of Juba's ruling party, the SPLM may not manage to emerge with its democratic credentials intact.

The stakes are high for the young government, soon to be at the helm of one of Africa's most oil-rich countries. Failure will not only be a disaster for the southern economy, but also for the millions of southerners who fought hard with the hope that independence will usher in a much brighter future for their children and for the generations to come.

World's newest country: 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


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