Southern Sudan: The Role of Minority Rights in Building a New Nation
Southern Sudan’s independence referendum united the region’s myriad ethnic groups in a common goal – to separate from the north and form a new country. According to official results, almost 99 per cent of southerners voted for secession in January 2011. The region, which is one of the poorest in the world, is expected to declare independence on July 9. The Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), with aid from the international community, now has a monumental task ahead of it: to build a functioning state almost from the ground up. The role of minorities must be a focal point in the nation-building process. Southern Sudan is home to an estimated 56 ethnic groups and almost 600 sub-groups. Competition over access to scarce resources causes tensions between groups; such tensions often explode into violence, undermining development initiatives. There is also a danger that ethnic concerns could hijack the political process even as it develops. This could create a state dominated by the interests of the most populous ethnic groups at the expense of smaller ones.