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Published: Monday, 7/18/2011

A nation is born

The world's newest nation, South Sudan, could have a bright future. But its people will have to row together against a strong tide to achieve it.

The African nation of about 8 million people was created by breaking off a landlocked area of the Republic of Sudan. Its economic prospects are poor, although it has oil deposits.

Its people have been in conflict for decades with the people of the north. The northerners generally are Muslims and herdsmen; the southerners generally are Christians and farmers.

Warfare between the north and south has claimed the lives of some 2 million people, either directly in the fighting, or indirectly through the displacement, hunger, and disease that have been counterparts of the conflict. A 2005 agreement, which the United States helped broker, was intended to end the war.

The accord provided for a referendum on independence in the south. Held in January, it produced a nearly 99 percent vote for separation and freedom.

Independence should bring greater peace and prosperity to South Sudan. But the people of the new nation sometimes have fought bitterly among themselves, mostly on the basis of tribal divisions. Some of this was provoked by northerners, using the divide-and-conquer approach to keep southerners subjugated.

It is now up to South Sudan's tribes to refrain from fighting among themselves, and not to let the north provoke them into more conflicts on their borders.

Then the people of South Sudan can work together to raise the country's standard of living with the resources at hand -- its oil and agricultural potential, and international aid that a world that wishes them well has pledged to provide.

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