South Sudan has two claims to distinction. It is the world’s newest country and it has pretty much cornered the market in dismal statistics. The possible connection between these two facts is the subject of Jok Madut Jok’s book Breaking Sudan.
Consider the bleak roll call. At the time it gained independence in 2011, this east African state of about eight million people had a literacy rate of less than 27 per cent and the worst childhood immunisation rate in Africa. A fourteen-year-old girl was more likely to die in childbirth than graduate from high school, almost half the population suffered from malnutrition and millions were living as refugees in various countries around the region. There was, though, something of an excuse for this litany of misery: over fifty years of on-off civil war between the mainly Christian south Sudanese and successive government regimes in Khartoum in the largely Muslim north of Sudan.
It is what has happened since 2011, however, that is really shocking. Independence might have ended the war with the north, but since then the southerners have turned on each other, plunging their new country into an even deeper crisis. If anything, most of the above statistics are