Sunday, January 16, 2011

South Sudan: Can This Be the World's Newest Nation?


A thousand miles from anywhere, among the empty flatlands and bare rock hills that mark the Sahara's southern edge, Juba is a place of mud huts and plastic-bag roofs where buzzards lift lazily on the afternoon heat and children wash in the muddy waters of the White Nile. It has no landline telephones, no public transport, no power grid, no industry, no agriculture and precious few buildings: hotels, aid compounds and even some government ministries are built from prefab cabins and shipping containers. There are a few businesses, a few score police, a handful of schools, one run-down hospital and several hundred bureaucrats. With the arrival of ever more aid workers, there is now also the occasional traffic jam of white SUVs on Juba's five tarred roads and a small clutch of bars to soak up those expat salaries. But it hardly suggests the improbable reality now dawning on the place: barring war, famine or genocide — and all are possible — in 10 months this sweltering, malarial shantytown will become the world's newest capital city in the world's newest country, South Sudan.
 
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