By Frank Langfitt, NPR website, January 31, 2011
Earlier this week, officials in Southern Sudan announced the preliminary tally for January's referendum on splitting Africa's largest country in two. The results: an avalanche.
Nearly 99 percent voted to secede from the north. In July, Southern Sudan will become the world's newest nation.
Now comes the hard part: building a new state after decades of war.
Road To Progress
The southern Sudanese, with huge help from the United States and many other countries, are trying.
Southern Sudan has about 25 miles of paved roads in an area nearly the size of Texas. By the end of this year, it should have its first paved highway to Uganda. The project is financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development and will cost American taxpayers $200 million over five years.
"Southern Sudan, because of the decades of war, has so little infrastructure," explains Bill Hammink, who overseas USAID in Sudan. "They are really starting construction here, starting from scratch in many ways."
Hammink says the new road will cut the costs of imports from Uganda, on which Southern Sudan depends, and boost trade. That's critical for an economy facing high prices, high unemployment and almost complete dependency on oil.
The goal of the United States and other donors is to prevent the failure of another state in Africa.
"We all know in Sudan during the civil war, 2 million people died, 5 million people at least became refugees," says Ambassador Barrie Walkley, U.S. consul general in Juba, Southern Sudan's capital. "We don't want to see anything like that happening again."
We hear of failed states in Africa frequently, in fact so often that the mind seems to gloss over the details of millions of people who attempt to survive simply "without"....
In this age of tech-communications, there is a considerable lag time between the many glaring and seeminly hopeless needs of those barely registering on our individual and community and national richter scales, and our effective collective responses. The needs seem so great, and so unending that one has to wonder if there is not a need for a global institution to co-ordinate, monitor, generate informatiion and co-ordinate the collection and distribution of funds from as many countries as are willing to offer. Perhaps agencies like UNESCO are already doing some of this work; nevertheless, perhaps its scope needs to be enhanced, or perhaps it needs to be linked to a broader and more substantive agency, along with the IMF, for example, to get serious about the poverty that faces the people of the world wherever they live.
It was only last week that the plutocrats meeting in Davos to discuss the impact of globalization actually mentioned that the poor need to benefit from that initiative. Imagine, the rich starting to think about the poor!
Now there is a piece of news that is worth contemplating. What might be next?