This weekend marked the beginning of an important new chapter of nation-building, with the celebration and formal launch of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a host of dignitaries were on hand. The civil war with the north ended in 2005, and the World Bank has had an office there since just after that.
I spent several days there two weeks ago, pre-independence, but very much in a moment of great excitement about what the nation the size of the Iberian peninsula with a population of 8 to 9 million could accomplish.
South Sudan will begin life as both a tremendously poor and under-served nation in terms of the services for its people, and a fantastically rich one in terms of resources and potential. The country has less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) of paved road. At present, conflict with the north’s Khartoum-based government continues over the key oil, gas, and mining provinces of the border region, where much of the international press is focused, as well as great deal of investment interest.
My focus was in the other direction, south of the sprawling capital of Juba, along the dramatic White Nile. With fantastic logistical support from the World Bank Juba office, from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s South Sudan conservation team, and from the director of the Nimule National Park.