1. South Sudan celebrated its third year of independence on July 9, 2014.
The Republic of South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in July 2011 following a 2005 peace agreement that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war. South Sudan, the world’s 195th country and the 193rd member state of the United Nations, is also Africa’s first newly independent country since Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993.
2. As a former part of Sudan, South Sudan has experienced the adverse effects of conflict since 1956, with more than two decades of internal strife.
These conflicts displaced millions of South Sudanese and left the country with an underdeveloped infrastructure, a weak economy, contamination from landmines and other explosive remnants of war, and an abundance of unsecured small arms and light weapons (SA/LW). The violence that reignited in December 2013 forced more than 1.5 million people from their homes, increasing their vulnerability to cholera outbreaks, widespread famine, landmines, and other unexploded munitions.
3. Refugees and internally displaced persons are particularly vulnerable to landmines and other unexploded ordnance.
With large numbers of people fleeing violence in border countries, displaced by ethnic conflicts, and/or returning to South Sudan following its independence, landmines, and other unexploded ordnance pose a serious threat to public safety and security in the country. In addition, they also limit access to land and natural resources and thus hinder economic, education, infrastructure, and health developments throughout South Sudan.
4. The United States partners with NGOs like Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) to implement conventional weapons destruction programs including mine risk education.
From fiscal year 2011 through fiscal year 2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs has invested more than $7 million in Conventional Weapons Destruction programs in South Sudan, including $2.5 million in fiscal year 2013 and planned spending of $2.3 million in fiscal year 2014. This assistance enabled landmine and unexploded ordnance clearance, helped implement survivors’ assistance programs, and improved access to critical land and infrastructure.
In fact, in 2013 alone, MAG and NPA returned over 900,000 square meters of cleared land to communities; destroyed 216 landmines, 3,022 pieces of munitions, and nearly 14,000 excess SA/LW; delivered 1,967 risk education safety sessions; and directly helped 132,397 South Sudanese men, women, and children.
5. The United States has a deep interest in a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan and is firmly invested in its growing democratic institutions and its next generation of leaders.
The United States is the single leading donor of humanitarian assistance to South Sudan, with more than $456 million in humanitarian assistance in fiscal year 2014. This assistance, in addition to funding humanitarian mine action, continues to address South Sudan’s immediate food and health needs, to help South Sudanese to restart their livelihoods, and to lay the foundations for post-conflict recovery and development. However, in order for this aid to be effective, it is necessary for all conflict parties in South Sudan to abide by the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and stop the fighting and violence, and to remove all obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian aid.
South Sudan’s success is good for Africa and good for the United States. South Sudan’s success serves our shared security interests, increases prosperity for our countries, and reflects a shared commitment to the dignity, well-being, and freedom of all people. As Secretary of State John Kerry recently reaffirmed, “The people of South Sudan deserve the opportunity to begin rebuilding their country, and to develop the national and local institutions they need to put South Sudan on a path towards stability.
To learn more about the United States’ global conventional weapons destruction efforts, check out our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety.