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[Editorial] International assistance vital for South Sudan

A newly independent country in North Africa has got off to an uncertain start. The country needs support from the international community until it can move ahead on its own.

South Sudan, officially the Republic of South Sudan, became the 54th independent nation on the African continent when it officially separated from Sudan on July 9.

Over the past half-century, the Sudanese people suffered from civil war and famine that repeatedly swept what was then Africa’s largest country by land area, as the Arab Islamists of the north monopolized power and oppressed the black Christians of the south.

Two million people are said to have died in the second civil war starting in 1983, and 4 million to have been driven from their homes.

Considering the history of hardship they have faced, independence must be a long-awaited goal for South Sudanese citizens.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005 to end the second civil war, opening the way for independence. The agreement called for choosing between coexistence and separation after six years of joint rule by the parties to the civil war. In a referendum held in January, 99 percent of south Sudanese citizens voted for separation and independence.

A matter of concern is that areas remain where the boundary line has yet to be drawn between the south and north. Sudan is an oil-producing country, and major oil fields straddle the southern and northern parts of the country. It has yet to be decided which side these fields belong to.

Landlocked South Sudan has no option but to rely on Sudan for transport, refining and shipment of crude oil produced at its oil fields. In the past six years, the north and south agreed to equally split the income from oil fields in the south. They have remained apart in negotiations on the split ratio to be used after independence.

In defiance of the peace agreement, the north Sudanese administration led by President Omar Bashir has been stationing military troops in oil fields near the boundary. The north, as promised, should withdraw its military forces in line with progress in the mobilization of U.N. peacekeeping forces so that the boundaries can be drawn peacefully.

Sudan and South Sudan need to make their own efforts to establish new cooperative relationships and become independent from each other. The international community should spare no effort in offering assistance to help them achieve that goal.

China, above all, has a responsibility to work toward stabilizing relations between Sudan and South Sudan. This is because China, out of the desire to secure oil resources, has helped to sustain the Bashir administration, which has pursued inhuman policies.

To help maintain peace and assist development in the newly independent country, the U.N. Security Council has decided to send an additional 8,000 peacekeeping troops. Japan has been asked whether it can dispatch Ground Self-Defence Force personnel.

In addition to insufficient infrastructure services such as water supply and roads, South Sudan has a low literacy rate and lacks human resources.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency and other Japanese organizations have undertaken construction of river ports and provided agricultural assistance in what is now South Sudan.

In addition to continuing such cooperation projects, Japan must earnestly look into the possibility of taking part in the new U.N. peacekeeping operation plan that will sustain nation-building efforts such as road construction.

Editorial, The Yomiuri Shimbun

(Asia News Network)