T he world's newest state, South Sudan, marks the first anniversary of its independence this week. Celebrates would not be the right word for this anniversary since this country of almost ten million people is in an appallling financial situation that may precipitate its collapse. Food and water are in very short supply, schools are being closed and hospitals lack medicines despite the efforts of aid organisations.
This dire situation is largely self-inflicted. South Sudan's confidence one year ago was based on oil fields producing 80 per cent of its national income, but for this oil to be exported it had to be pumped through pipe lines in the northern state of Sudan whose government in Khartoum imposed costs which the South considered excessive. In January of this year South Sudan closed down its oil wells and they have remained dry ever since.
Instead the government is negotiating loans from China against the oil in the ground. The World Bank has warned President Salva Kiir that South Sudan's financial reserves will be depleted very soon; meanwhile inflation increases exponentially and the currency depreciates almost as quickly.
The southern Sudanese fought a forty-year war against the North for their independence; international intervention secured a peace settlement and agreement on the South's secession. Why cannot international intervention now help the two Sudans to avert a growing economic and human tragedy?