How the World’s Newest Country Is Destroying Itself

The violence the erupted this week in South Sudan following an apparent coup casts a shadow over the nascent country’s future. As the fighting spreads—roughly 500 people are already dead amid reports of grisly ethnic killings—foreign observers are warning of civil war. “The scenario many feared but dared not contemplate looks frighteningly possible: South Sudan, the world’s newest state, is now arguably on the cusp of a civil war,” the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said Wednesday as clashes continued across the country. The violence has escalated in the volatile Jonglei state, where a United Nations peacekeeping base came under attack Thursday, Reuters reports. Founding an independent state is never easy, but South Sudan may have it particularly bad: leaving aside reports of already endemic corruption, the country comprises myriad feuding tribes, is impoverished, landlocked, undeveloped (it began two years ago with only 68 miles of paved road in a landmass the size of France), and tensions blow hot and cold (mostly hot) with neighboring Sudan to the north. Plus, for better but also definitely for worse, South Sudan has oil. Here’s what you need to know about the current crisis. What is South Sudan? South Sudan became a country in 2011 following a referendum that saw 99 percent of voters support independence from Sudan. Unlike the mostly Muslim north that, in many ways, identifies with the Arab world, South Sudan is primarily Christian or animist and is more closely associated with sub-Saharan Africa. The official languages are English and Arabic, but its roughly 11 million people speak more than 60 indigenous languages. The country is very poor and ranks among the lowest in the world on human development indices. When it became its own country, less than one percent of its population had access to electricity and it had the lowest female literacy rate in the world. Its lack of nearly any substantive infrastructure means improvements are far down the road. But it also has enormous economic potential. South Sudan sits on three quarters of the two Sudan’s total oil………

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