Posted on July 20, 2011

South Sudan Independence: Thousands of Peacekeepers to be Sent to Prevent it Becoming Failed State

Mike Pflanz, Telegraph (London), July 7, 2011

The UN Security Council will vote on sending up to 7,000 armed blue berets to the Republic of South Sudan, which wins independence from its former enemy Sudan at midday on Saturday.

Ban Ki-moon has recommended that the new mission should focus on protecting civilians–with force if necessary–and on reforms to the police, army and justice systems.

There are fears that from its outset, the world’s 193rd country will be unable adequately to police its territory, guard its borders or protect its eight million citizens.

Sudan’s majority Christian south fought its Muslim north for 38 of its 54 years of independence from Britain, and the hangover of that war is almost a million guns, mostly in civilian hands in the south.

The southern army, born from the rebel force which fought the war, is bloated with troops and drains as much as 60 per cent of South Sudan’s annual budget. One diplomat in Juba quipped that it was “in essence the state’s welfare system”.

The police force, provincial administration, courts and tax systems are, at best, stumbling, raising the risk of widening public anger among a population expecting an instant windfall from independence.

“We need to be modest in managing the expectations of what South Sudan can achieve, and how quickly,” said George Conway, deputy head of the UN Development Programme’s office in Juba, South Sudan’s capital.

“There has been good progress since the end of the war, but real change is going to be generational.” In reality, the Republic of South Sudan will from its first days easily fulfil most requirements of a failed state.

Separated from the more advanced north, it will also immediately knock Zimbabwe off the bottom spot on the index of human development.

At least 80 per cent of the population is illiterate–rising to 92 per cent for women–the majority of civil servants did not finish secondary school and there are estimated to be fewer than 500 trained doctors in a country the size of France.

A 15-year-old girl is more statistically more likely to die in childbirth than she is to finish school.

“It’s fair to say that these are political and security challenges that would tax even the most developed countries,” said a senior Western diplomat in Juba.

“South Sudan is facing all of them, and all at once.” There was little evidence of the severity of that challenge in Juba yesterday.

Ahead of tomorrow’s independence ceremonies, roads that were dirt a year ago are now freshly laid with asphalt.

Armies of women swept streets as government gardeners hastily planted bougainvillea bushes on the main roads preparing for an onslaught of VIPs.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, leads the delegation from London. Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, will represent the Obama administration.

So many presidential planes from other African countries are due to land at the city’s ramshackle airport in the coming hours that civilian flights have been cancelled for two days.

“We are very happy to show the world the best of our new country,” said Abraham Mayom, 32, a mechanic working on a Chinese-made motorcycle by the roadside.

“But what of next week, or next month, or next year? We are like a baby not yet able even to crawl. We will need help for long before we are up on our two feet walking alone.” Almost £90 million of British aid will flow through the small Department for International Development office in Juba this year–almost £12 for each Southern Sudanese man, woman and child.

DfID is also outsourcing chunks of its work in Sudan to private British firms, including Mott McDonald, Atos Consulting and the Adam Smith International, which manage schemes focused on security, justice and government practice.

Even Sudanese refugees who fled to Britain during the civil war are returning home to invest money and spread technical know-how picked up during their education overseas.

Albert Rehan, 38, who won asylum in Britain in 1995, now runs a recruitment consultancy with offices in Juba and in Holborn, London, specialising on filling technical and managerial level jobs in South Sudan’s booming private sector.

“I’m still struggling to find good candidates,” he said, sipping sweet black tea under a mango tree in central Juba.

“But that’s because now clients demand people with the right skills for the job, not just the right family name. That in itself gives us reason to be optimistic.” That optimism must be tempered, however, by key planks in the peace deal that have still not been secured.

There is no agreement on sharing oil, which lies mostly under southern soil but must be refined and exported through the north. It is unclear how foreign debts, borrowed when Sudan was unified, will be repaid once it splits.

Of most concern, however, is the border between the two new neighbours.

Its precise route has not yet been decided. Already Omar al-Bashir, the president in the north, is accused of supporting loyal militia in the south to raise rebellion, especially in the oil-rich Abyei state.

Tens of thousands of northern civilians are still fleeing south after repeated bombing raids against them by the Sudan Air Force, under the instructions of Mr Bashir who is already wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

“The increasing violence and human rights violations this year underscore the need for a robust and flexible peacekeeping presence in South Sudan,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.