July 9th marked the one year anniversary of South Sudanís independence. A nation whose self-determination was long in the making, South Sudan had to struggle for its freedom, and millions of its people paid with their lives to reach that milestone. One year later, a country has been established, but its stability and prosperity are unfortunately far from assured.
As we know too well, conflict rages near the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan have streamed into South Sudan, and their numbers are only increasing. Men, women, and children in the conflict areas have been cut off from humanitarian supplies due to fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan Peopleís Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). Near constant bombing by the SAF has forced families to seek refuge in caves and travel hundreds of miles, sometimes by foot, to reach safety from the barrage.
Add to this the stress of fraught negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan on post-CPA implementation issues such as border demarcation, oil transit, wealth and debt sharing, the status of Abyei and you have a volatile situation that has been teetering on the edge of a cliff for months. In April, Sudan and South Sudan exchanged cross-border attacks. While negotiations have since resumed under the auspices of the United Nations High-Level Implementation Panel, they have yet to lead to many concrete developments, or to the implementation of the African Union/United Nations-approved road map.
Internally, South Sudan has its own problems that need attention. Violence and ethnic conflict has ebbed and flowed in Jonglei state over the past few years. Although the Government of the Republic of South Sudan has taken steps to address this, real concerns remain. Demobilization and disarmament must continue judiciously. In addition, the RSS governmentís laudable attempts to root out corruption and graft at all levels have been met with open hostility and far too much opposition from other officials. I encourage His Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit to continue fighting corruption and establish high standards for his government. Such an approach will better serve the people of South Sudan in the long run and will help guarantee a democracy founded on the soundest principles.
The United States must continue to pay strict attention to the needs of South Sudan as it further establishes itself with an eye toward longevity. This means supporting responsible policies put forth by the RSS government and telling hard truths to our friends when necessary. We must stress the importance of finding a solution to the oil crisis. We must maintain strides made thus far in development in South Sudan and encourage further progress through proper governance, capacity-building, investment, and promotion of agriculture. The American people have invested too much in the success of South Sudan to turn back now.
So, on this anniversary of South Sudanís independence, I join in celebrating the intital achievement, but I also pledge my commitment to seeing South Sudan emerge as a fully competent, robust, and vibrant democracy in the years ahead.