New Born South Sudan Has Ambitious Goals

AFRICA, 18 Jul 2011

Jerome Mwanda - InDepth News

While top government leaders of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, have announced plans to make the country not only the “hub” of Africa but also the bread basket for the Eastern African region, the Civil Society Taskforce is stressing the need for creating a just, peaceful and equitable society.

South Sudan is currently one of the poorest countries in the world but potentially rich with promising resources such as agriculture and oil, among others. Presently, its yearly overall budget amounts to less than 1.5 billion dollars of which 98 percent comes from its share of 50 percent from oil revenues until now managed by the North Sudanese government in Khartoum.

The Sudan Tribune quoted Vice President Riek Machar Teny expressing optimism that South Sudan would become the “hub” of Africa, adding that the nation is also geographically the centre of the continent.

“70 kilometres away from Juba in Tali, Central Equatoria, this is where the centre of Africa is. We will build an airport in South Sudan where South Sudan can be the hub of the African countries and the world just like Dubai and Singapore,” Machar said.

The country would mobilize 500 billion U.S. dollars worth of investment for infrastructure development in the next five years, he added.

The new independent state needs hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in order to connect its territory, which is the size of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania combined with expensive roads and bridges. It plans to build refineries and pipelines to transport its crude oil to the international market, reported the Sudan Tribune.

The new nation has the potential and plans to become the bread basket for the Eastern African region, Dr. Anne Itto, the country’s Agriculture and Forestry Minister told reporters in Juba, the capital city on July 6.

Itto said that South Sudan will produce at least two million metric tonnes of food both for local consumption and for export by 2013. “When Southern Sudanese voted for separation in the January referendum, they simply did so because they believed freedom would offer them opportunity for better lives and we believe as a government when we take our theme ‘better lives for all’ it is possible through agriculture,” she said.

Itto said though the government and South Sudanese appreciate other resources like oil which supports the bulk of the country’s developmental budget, agriculture cannot be ignored.

“The government has given priority to agriculture – we are working towards increased food production through expansion of the production area from 3 to 5 hectares of farmland,” she said, adding that in view of the fact that majority of South Sudanese live in the rural settings, it is not possible to make meaningful change in their lives without investing in agriculture and animal husbandry.

The minister also emphasized that South Sudan is blessed with rich natural resources. “We have over 64,000 square kilometres of land, we receive nine months of rainfall in a year…this can be used to grow crops like maize, millet, sorghum and Irish potatoes,” she said.

Itto pointed out that South Sudan’s strategic location in the region would play a vital role in terms of market catchment. “With the good fertile soil and vast land we can produce enough food for the region,” she said. The government had developed requisite policies and strategies to meet the target.

She encouraged the people not to disdain agriculture. “Most of our people think agriculture is a thing for the old people or the uneducated people; they think that once you engage in agriculture nobody will listen to you,” she explained. She called on all the people to help change this attitude.

She also urged investors to consider agriculture. “Most of the investors who come here today only invest in hotels, café and oil sectors where they think they can make quick returns,” she said, calling on the development partners to work shoulder by shoulder with the government to rehabilitate the agricultural training institutes in Yambio, Yei, Halima and Politaka to empower the people to engage productively in agriculture.

The minister also said that the government will provide improved seeds, farm equipment and insecticides to enhance agriculture in the country, and invest in irrigation to mitigate unpredictable climatic conditions.

Stressing another aspect of economy, Vice President Machar said South Sudan also plans to embark on introducing real estates for decent housing through direct foreign investment in the ten states as well as build hydro electric dam to light the whole region, among many more expensive projects of service delivery to the people.

“We will raise 500 billion dollars from private investments in the next five years to build this nation to catch up with the rest of the world in infrastructure development. There is no reason why we should not be the best of the best in the region and the world. We have resources and we will utilize the resources to benefit our nation,” Machar said.

He said during his June visit, he had met senior officials of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Dubai and agreed that a conference for South Sudan on trade and investment will be held in October this year in Dubai, which would serve as “an outreach” to other Arab nations.

“This will be an opportunity for all the Gulf and Arab states to come together and support the new state economically,” he said, adding that South Sudan will open an embassy in Dubai soon after independence to deal with issues on trade and investment.

Supplementing the new nation’s ambitious plans, the Southern Sudan Civil Society Taskforce (SSCSTF) has tabled six principles that South Sudan should to embrace so as to create a just, peaceful and equitable society.

First, the SSCSTF proposes zero tolerance for violence as a political means to uphold elected governments. The society also proposes the use of consultation and dialogue as a means of resolving conflicts.

The SSCSTF also pleads for zero tolerance of tribalism, nepotism and corruption. It calls on the government to put in place policies and laws that discourage their use, and admits that such vices cannot be removed from any society by legal means alone; concerted effort of all the populace is required.

Addressing the media on July 8, SSCSTF representatives, Kiston and Ms. Lorna Merekaje, said in Juba that the protection of the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly are also some of the principles they strongly advise. The other principles include transparency, accountability and inclusivity, and the protection of the rights of women and girls.

On violence in Abyei and South Kordofan, the SSCSTF urges the parties to the CPA to respect and protect the human rights in the two regions. It has particularly asked the Government of Sudan to stop the killings, rape and bombing of civilian communities in Kordofan.

The group has also called on the CPA parties to work expeditiously on the pending issues notably the issue of Abyei, the North-South border demarcation, popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states, citizenship, foreign debts and sharing of oil resources.

Go to Original – indepthnews.net

 

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