Barely three months ago, the world's newest state, the Republic of South Sudan, was finally born after a very long and bloody gestation. The citizens of this new country have seen nothing but war and destruction for practically all of their lives since armed violence has been the bizarre 'normal' since the independence of Sudan in 1956.) The fervent hope of the people now is for an extended era of peace during which to build the new nation. The task is enormous. Income from oil could be a huge blessing or it could turn into a curse. For the present, however, as business suits replace battle fatigues, so must the people of the country and its leaders make the arduous transition from a military mind-set to a civilian one. We sent Wanjohi Kabukuru to South Sudan to report first hand on the new country's first tentative steps in freedom.
The combat fatigues and commando berets are gone. Sharp business suits, sprightly fedoras and other trappings of affluence are now the new uniforms. No one symbolises the change in South Sudan more than President Salva Kiir Mayardit. Since taking power in the world's youngest nation, President Kiir has shed all traces of the barracks. He encapsulates an aura of a nation at peace with itself and ready to do business. His cowboy hat, appropriate for the scorching Juba heat, is a calm reassurance.
In the capital, Juba, a deliberate effort to alter the country from martial law to civilian rule is all too evident. A brand-new South Sudan Police Service force (SSPS) with their blue and white saloon cars is a common feature--signalling the switch to a civilian government.
In his inaugural pledge to parliament, President Kiir was quick to underscore a commitment to civilian government: "Let us develop the police and as it happens in any country, it is not the army that guards the people. It is the police. So let us develop the police and release the army to go back to the barracks and give them what they need there."
Juba's foundation stones are being laid in large measure by government and NGOs. Indeed, of the vehicles one sees in Juba, eight out of 10 belong to NGOs, the UN and the government. Coincidentally, these vehicles are all SUVs. Juba not only has the official tag of 'the world's newest capital city' but it also has the unofficial title of the city with the highest concentration of SUVs within a square mile.
The streets of Juba have undergone a transformation. New...