Norway has been heavily involved in negotiations that led to the official emergence of the world’s newest country, the Republic of South Sudan, over the weekend. Crown Prince Haakon was thus among the many dignitaries who traveled to the long-troubled area, to celebrate its birth as a sovereign, independent nation.
The Norwegian crown prince was accompanied by Norway’s government minister in charge of the environment and foreign aid, Erik Solheim, who called Saturday “a great, historic day.”
Solheim of the Socialist Left party (SV) took part in Crown Prince Haakon’s delegation along with several Members of Parliament from the Progress Party, the Christian Democrats and the Labour Party. Norwegian taxpayers have contributed nearly NOK 4 billion (USD 700 million) towards funding of the establishment of South Sudan, where crowds over the weekend chanted they were “free at least.”
The United Nations’ new special envoy to the Republic of South Sudan, Hilde Frafjord Johnsen, is also Norwegian and a former government minister for the Christian Democrats. She played a decisive role in the work leading up to the peace treaty between Sudan and South Sudan, and will now function as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s top representative there.
Solheim arrived in the jubilant new capital of Juba on an early morning flight from Nairobi on Saturday. “The 9th of July will always be South Sudan’s independence day,” Solheim told newspaper Aftenposten. “The fact that the crown prince is leading our delegation shows the weight of Norway’s support for the new country. This is quite important for us, also.”
Solheim insisted that the billions in foreign aid to Sudan and South Sudan, delivered through the UN system and volunteer organizations, is money well-invested. “It is in Norway’s interests and the interest of the whole world that there is lasting peace between the parties in the Sudan conflict. Continued conflict and poverty would create problems for us all.
“African countries where there is peace and stability can show formidable growth. The same can happen here.”
Problems persist, though, and worries abound that the separation from Sudan will have more bloody consequences. Skirmishes already have occurred along the border and there are fears for southerners still living in Sudan. Sudan’s government, however, sent greetings to South Sudan and South Sudan is ensured membership in the United Nations.
The new president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, thanked the humanitarian group Norwegian People’s Aid for its help in clearing land mines in the area. Now the UN will send peace-keeping forces to South Sudan and, according to Solheim, the UN’s Norwegian leadership there will likely have high expectations that Norwegian troops will participate.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg congratulated South Sudan as “the world’s newest state,” claimed Norway would continue to be an active supporter of the peace process and that Norway will also “continue our commitment to secure that both South Sudan and Sudan become viable states.”
Norway’s gift to the new country is a national archive, to help build and protect its identity and history.
The creation of South Sudan comes after a referendum in January, in which 98.8 percent of those voting in South Sudan supported independence. The referendum was a central part of the peace treaty that Norway helped hammer out with Sudan in 2005.
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