Enormous challenges await South Sudan after historic referendum

Media Releases article written on the 07 Jan 2011

South Sudan will face enormous challenges and will need long-term support from the rest of the world regardless of the outcome of this Sunday’s referendum when the citizens will decide if they remain part of Sudan, international aid agency Oxfam said today.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said the vote could create the world’s newest country, which would also be one of the least developed and home to some of the world’s poorest people.

“Whatever the outcome of the vote, world leaders must address the chronic poverty and the threat of violence that plague people’s daily lives in South Sudan as these will not disappear after the referendum,” Mr Hewett said.

“Three-quarters of South Sudan’s population is illiterate, and there are few schools, hospitals or roads. Conflicts are causing widespread suffering, with over 200 000 people forced to flee their homes in 2010.

“However with a young population, abundant resources and fertile land, with the right support South Sudan has the potential to build a successful nation. The world now needs to help them fulfil their hopes and aspirations.”

Tens of thousands of southerners have arrived from northern Sudan in recent months, which is placing a significant strain on communities that already lack water, food, sanitation and shelter.
Hopes and expectations for after the referendum are even higher, and if these are not met it could potentially exacerbate tensions and fuel violence.

Mr Hewett said diplomatic engagement on Sudan must continue after the referendum, as many key issues remain unresolved, such as the future of the disputed Abyei area and citizenship rights.

“Minority groups such as southerners living in northern Sudan, and northerners in the south must be assured of their rights and safety by both northern and southern authorities.

“Civilians also need protecting from violence, as frequent clashes over resources such as cattle and land are being exacerbated by the legacies of war such as the proliferation of small arms.

“International donors and the South Sudan government must invest in building up the police force, which is poorly trained and ill equipped, and a justice system to serve the needs of the most vulnerable,” Mr Hewett said.

While the 2005 peace deal, which ended decades of brutal conflict, has brought considerable benefits to the south, many people have been frustrated at the lack of development and basic services.

Oxfam has broadcast quality footage available for use, showing development needs in the south, recent arrivals from northern Sudan, and interviews with southerners about their hopes and fears. An Oxfam briefing note Beyond Sudan’s big day is also available.

Oxfam spokespeople are available for interviews in southern Sudan. To interview them or Andrew Hewett, please contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Sunita Bose on 0407 555 960.