26 June 2014
Last updated at 14:38
Conflict in Sudan has ended the post-independence euphoria
The world’s newest country, South Sudan, has topped the list of fragile states in this year’s index released by a leading US-based research institute.
Chronic instability, fractured leadership and growing ethnic conflict made it the most fragile state, The Fund for Peace said.
The top six countries on the index are all in sub-Saharan Africa.
Afghanistan was listed as the seventh most fragile state followed by Yemen, Haiti and Pakistan. Syria is 15th.
The institute has been compiling the index for the past 10 years after analysing social, economic and political indicators.
The “most improved” nations in 2014 were Iran, Serbia, Zimbabwe and Cuba, which have all had frosty relations with the US, it said on its website.
In contrast, the US and France were among countries where the situation had worsened the most because of “political and economic malaise”.
South Sudan replaced Somalia at the top of the index – a position it had occupied since 2008.
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Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.
Sudan’s arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan’s budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state – at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world’s newest country – and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water – up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan – however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).
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It became independent in 2011 after seceding from Sudan.
More than a million people have fled their homes since fighting erupted last December when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.
Although South Sudan took first place on the index, the security situation had worsened the most in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2014, the institute said.
It was “beset by civil war, widespread atrocities, and the deployment of a French-led peacekeeping force”, the group said.
Somalia had been knocked off the top of the index because it appeared to be on a “slow trajectory of improvement, so there is cause for some hope”, the institute said.
However, the country was still affected by “widespread lawlessness, ineffective government, terrorism, insurgency, crime, and abysmal development”, it added.