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On July 9, 2011, Southern Sudan will become the world’s newest nation – the Republic of South Sudan. This result came about after a referendum for independence that despite all predictions was peaceful, orderly and uncontested. In the United States and throughout the world, the prayers, advocacy and financial support of Catholics and people of goodwill helped shape a climate where peace was possible.
But South Sudan will also be one of the world’s poorest nations. Decades of civil war with northern Sudan has left the region with widespread poverty, limited infrastructure, and little money in its coffers. Likewise, may provisions of the peace agreement, that brought an end to Sudan’s civil war and led to the referendum, remain unsettled, including a final border demarcation, citizenship, oil revenue sharing, and the security and rights of minorities, particularly those remaining in the north. A recent military confrontation in the border of Abyei and political tensions in Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile are escalating. Likewise, the suffering and insecurity of the people in Darfur continue unabated, leaving the region’s long-term peace, stability and chances for development in doubt. Without a resolution to these issues, violence could erase the hope and progress of the recent referendum.
Despite the real challenges, South Sudan has a rare opportunity to use its future oil wealth to create a transparent and accountable government and to build a peaceful and prosperous society. The prayers, advocacy and financial support of Catholics and people of goodwill throughout the world are essential to help shape a climate where peace, stability and development are possible in the new South Sudan, as well as the remaining Sudan, including the Darfur region.
At this pivotal moment, it is critical that the United States lead the world in settling the outstanding issues of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and committing to help South Sudan get a peaceful and viable start. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services urge the Obama Administration to actively work to remove obstacles to peace and long-term development in both Sudan and South Sudan, including:
- Actively engaging to ensure the governments of Sudan and South Sudan resolve the outstanding issues of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the longest civil war in Africa. These issues include resolving citizenship questions, sharing oil revenue, demarcating the border and identifying the solutions needed to ensure a peaceful establishment of the two countries.
- Increasing long-term development assistance to the region and ensuring that humanitarian assistance is sufficient and that humanitarian access to vulnerable populations is secured.
- Continuing to pressure all parties to stop the violence in Darfur and negotiate a credible and sustainable peace.
- Acting in the United Nations Security Council to continue support for the peacekeeping missions in these countries and providing adequate funding and logistical support so that peace and security can be achieved.
- Supporting grassroots peacebuilding efforts through local civil society institutions.