By DeWayne Wickham
Finally, Republicans, Democrats and the religious right have come together and gotten something done. Now the question is whether they will work together to keep the breakthrough they helped create from unraveling.
What I’m talking about is not the warring in Washington, D.C. over raising this nation’s debt limit, but rather the peace that has a chance of emerging from the creation of a new nation on the African continent.
South Sudan officially joined the ranks of the world’s nation states on July 9 with an independence ceremony in Juba, the capital of that war-torn, poverty-ridden country that was forged from the southern tip of Sudan, Africa’s largest nation. It was 50 years in the making and is the direct result of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement the Bush administration helped broker in 2005 – and the Obama administration’s determination to see that the six-year power sharing deal spelled out in that agreement resulted in South Sudan’s independence.
South Sudan also has Franklin Graham to thank for its emergence as the world’s 196th nation. The right-wing clergyman’s has played an important role in supporting the secession of South Sudan, whose 8 million people are mostly Christians, from Muslim-dominated Sudan.
“We must stand with South Sudan as this infant democratic nation struggles to secure its own,” Graham, whose organization, Samaritan’s Purse, has built schools and churches in South Sudan, wrote for FoxNews.com shortly before leaving to attend the independence ceremony.
He’s right. But if those who clamored for South Sudan’s creation don’t put as much effort into nurturing this new nation as they did in creating it, the world’s newest country may turn out to be stillborn.
Already, along the border that divides the two Sudans the half-century civil war, which took the lives of millions of people, continues to fester. Even as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir attended the independence ceremony of his nation’s breakaway region and declared support for the new state, rebel forces believed to be backed by his government have sparked violence. More than 2,300 people have been killed in that region this year.
“Is the U.S. going to stay engaged? Is the West going to stay engaged? If they don’t, I think they have created the potential for two failed states,” Mel Foote, president of the Constituency for Africa, a Washington-based organization that lobbies for the empowerment of African nations and their people.
Foote’s pessimism comes, in part, from the unfinished business of deciding how revenue from the region’s oil will be divided. Most of the oil fields are in South Sudan, which is landlocked. The pipelines used to export it run to a Sudanese port on the Red Sea. Also, the border that separates the two countries still has not been finalized and some oil fields lie within contested areas.
The economic survival of both states could depend on a peaceful – and equitable – resolution of this issue. But to play a meaningful role in the outcome of these disputes, the Obama administration will need the support of congressional Republicans whose obsession with spending cuts may undermine the president’s ability to give the fledgling nation the economic support it needs to weather any struggles that come from it tug-of-war with Sudan over oil revenues.
And Graham, the evangelical preacher, who earlier this year scurrilously charged that the Obama administration has been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, may have to swallow hard and join with the president in trying to convince reluctant Republicans the U.S. has to help South Sudan survive its infancy.