Today the results of the recent South Sudan referendum came out, showing a landslide vote for independence among the inhabitants of South Sudan. The option of independence received 98.83% of the vote , about as close as unanimity that is possible in a nation of millions. As this blog has talked at some length about the implications of South Sudan independence before  , this particular note will focus on what the people of South Sudan have yet to do to make a functioning nation.
For one, South Sudan lacks a name. The new nation, which will speedily gain a spot in the African Union and the United Nations as a result of the international sanction of its secession, lacks any kind of history as a nation, a common ethnic identity, but it has the support of the international community, so it perhaps will be called South Sudan unless its leaders can think of a better and more creative name.
For another, South Sudan is entirely dependent on oil, and as a landlocked country lacks any kind of outlet to the sea. Currently the pipelines go out through Sudan from Khartoum, and if peace cannot be maintained with Sudan the people of South Sudan do not have the infrastructure to trade to the south through Ethiopia, Somaliland, and Djibouiti, though that infrastructure could be built. Additionally, South Sudan needs skilled administrators, the building of an administration of law, education, justice, tax collection, and all of the other functions of a functioning state, besides its need to secure its border with Sudan to the north .
Additionally, South Sudan faces the critical task of choosing its allies and its foreign policy. With advocates for South Sudan independence among the United States and European Union, as well as potential allies like China. South Sudan also needs to determine who is a citizen–whether refugees and members of its diaspora are citizens or if only those who are currently residents of South Sudan can claim residency. Political reform, economic development (South Sudan is currently ranked as the least developed nation in the world, an impressive feat in a world of fairly undeveloped areas), as well as the development of the institutions and trappings of nationhood–like flags, national anthems, and the like, all need to be done .
However, the people of South Sudan can take comfort in the fact that the United States itself had a similar situation in the late 1700’s as it declared independence from Great Britain. When asked at the end of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia about what kind of nation was being envisioned by the makers of the U.S. Constitution, Benjamin Franklin stated, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The same is true of the people of South Sudan, whatever they will be called, under whatever flag or whatever Constitution. It remains for them to build a nation from scratch, and they will need all the help they can get. Let us hope, for their sake, that they get it. After all, there is no shortage of areas in this world that need their opportunity for freedom from failed states and oppressive regimes.