Welcome nation #193

The newly declared South Sudan will formally join the United Nations this week as its 193rd member. The Security Council is set to discuss the application Wednesday and the General Assembly is expected to endorse it on Thursday — a formality, albeit an important one.

The people of South Sudan overwhelmingly voted to secede from Sudan proper in a January referendum. The break up of any nation may seem tragic, but defending an indefensible unity, one that has cost 50 years of violent warfare, millions of deaths and millions more displaced, was even more tragic.

With the war put behind them, Sudan and South Sudan can now get on with the more difficult and arduous task of nation building and providing for development. The experience of newly independent nations, including Indonesia some 66 years ago, shows that building the nation is the hardest part; even harder than winning freedom itself. So many things could go wrong, and many things do go wrong.

The UN membership and the wider international recognition that follows should open the way for countries around the world to lend assistance to South Sudan. The prolonged war had condemned South Sudan, in spite of its vast oil resources, to be one of the poorest countries in the world. Some of the attention and the aid should also go to Sudan.

Indonesia, as a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement, should take the initiative in organizing assistance in the framework of South-South cooperation for South Sudan. While the movement’s members may have limited resources, they, including Indonesia, have had experience in providing technical assistance in the past. Any new nation will need to recruit and train as many civil servants as possible in all areas, and some of these civil servants could be the beneficiaries of experience and training from other developing countries.

South Sudan security will also be important in ensuring political stability. Given that race and religion were the dividing factors in the Sudan war, Indonesia could offer its good offices and experiences in promoting interfaith dialogue in the two countries.

The opportunities to assist a new nation are as ample as the challenges it may face. Indonesia made the right gesture in sending its envoy in Sudan, Sujatmiko, to represent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the independence declaration in Juba on Saturday. Indonesia should open diplomatic ties with South Sudan as soon as it is admitted to the UN.

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