Eleanor Hobhouse considers the state of Africa’s newest nation, five years after independence.
The road from Juba airport (one of the few paved roads in the country) is a dilapidated parade marked by unfinished and decayed buildings, which sprung up in the heady days following hard-won independence from Sudan in 2011. Juba itself, once a small trading outpost on the Nile, is now a dusty urban sprawl, teeming with UN personnel, military and motorcades. The marked lack of infrastructure (more notable still outside the capital) speaks to a long history of neglect.
At Sudan’s independence in 1956, the British failed to deliver on promises of autonomous rule to the southern states, which were culturally, ethnically, linguistically and religiously distinct. This opened the door to inevitable conflict. A brief period of stability was heralded by the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement, which awarded the South the right to self-government. But this disintegrated in 1983 and hostilities resumed, leading to the formation of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), headed by the charismatic John Garang.