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Kiir: Sanctions Have Made Us Poor

South Sudan enjoyed immense international goodwill and billions of dollars in financial support when its people voted overwhelmingly in a 2011 referendum to secede from the north.

South Sudan will mark 10 years of independence on Friday with little fanfare as the troubled country battles economic chaos and a desperate hunger crisis after a bloody civil war.

The world’s newest nation was born on July 9, 2011, after a decades-long fight for statehood from Sudan, but was plunged into a brutal conflict two years later from which it has struggled to recover.

There will be none of the riotous scenes in the streets of Juba that accompanied that historic moment a decade ago.

Western nations involved in steering the peace process between the country’s warring rivals called Thursday on political leaders to take action to achieve the aspirations of the South Sudanese people.

“The great challenge now facing South Sudan is to recapture the sense of unity, strength, and hope that prevailed on this day 10 years ago,” the so-called Troika of Britain, Norway and the United States said in a statement.

“The first 10 years of this young country’s history have seen much suffering, due to conflict related abuses, famine, flooding, and disease.”

South Sudanese government ministers on Wednesday raised concerns at a cabinet meeting about anniversary events being held in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“His Excellency (President Salva Kiir) directs that the public, the citizens of South Sudan, celebrate in their own houses,” Deputy Information Minister Baba Medan told reporters.

He said Kiir is scheduled to address the nation “so everyone will see it on his own TV, or hear through your own radio, so that we also be avoiding any health issue”.

A ceremony to swear in the MPs has been cancelled, without any official explanation.

The only formal event appears to be a 10-kilometre (six-mile) run in the capital Juba. Medan said it would commence at 5am (0200 GMT) and encouraged people to take part.

– ‘Unfulfilled promise’ –

Kiir blamed international sanctions for keeping South Sudan poor and depriving the state of revenue.

“This is why we are not celebrating the 10th anniversary the way the people would have wanted it to be,” he told Kenyan broadcaster Citizen TV on Wednesday.

South Sudan enjoyed immense international goodwill and billions of dollars in financial support when its people voted overwhelmingly in a 2011 referendum to secede from the north.

But in late 2013, the country collapsed into a bloody civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people and forced millions more to flee their homes.

The conflict ruined the nascent country’s economy and basic services for its 12 million people are in short supply, and financed almost entirely by foreign aid.

The young country faces its worst hunger crisis since independence, with some 60 percent of the population enduring severe food shortages, some close to famine, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) says.

Kiir and his deputy, former rebel leader Riek Machar, now rule in a fragile unity government created after the historic foes signed a peace deal in 2018 that ended the war.

But little progress has been made on constitutional reform and promised elections initially set for next year have been pushed to 2023.

“Preparations for peaceful, credible, and inclusive elections must begin in earnest; unified forces must be created; transitional justice mechanisms must be fully established; and key financial reforms need to happen as quickly as possible,” the Troika said, also calling for an end to violence and immediate action to ensure access for humanitarian aid.

“We commend the commitment many have shown in working together to build a brighter future, so it is deeply saddening that the promise of peace and prosperity that independence represented remains unfulfilled.”