Clinton Urges ‘Intensive Care’ for Independent South Sudan

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today urged governments and businesses to provide “intensive care” to the newly independent nation of South Sudan.

Clinton also called on the government of South Sudan to “manage its oil sector responsibly” so as not to “leave your people hardly better off than when you started.”

Her speech to the International Engagement Conference for South Sudan in Washington highlighted a two-day effort to coordinate economic assistance.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir, a former rebel, said his country needs investment in fields including banking, transportation, agriculture and information technology.

“If we work together, we can strengthen the weak business sector that we have today,” Kiir told an audience last night at a dinner held in his honor in Washington by the Corporate Council on Africa. Investment also would help build governing institutions and tackle corruption, he said, wearing his trademark black Stetson hat. Pledging to do his part, he said, “When there is good governance, there will be secure financial management.”

South Sudan seceded from Sudan on July 9, following a peace agreement in 2005 that ended a two-decade war. South Sudan assumed control of three quarters of the formerly united country’s oil output of 445,000 barrels per day, according to U.S. Energy Department figures.

Intensive Care

“South Sudan survived by being born, but it does need intensive care,” Clinton said. “And it needs intensive care from all of us.”

At the same time, Clinton said Kiir’s government must display “transparency and accountability” in managing its oil industry.

“We know that it will either help your country finance its own path out of poverty, or you will fall prey to the natural resource curse, which will enrich a small elite, outside interests, corporations and countries, and leave your people hardly better off than when you started,” she said.

Clinton said the U.S. Agency for International Development is working with South Sudan on reforms to create a business climate that will attract investors. The U.S. government last week modified licensing policies “to allow U.S. investment in the South Sudanese oil sector -- even when this involves the transshipment of goods through Sudan.”

Farming Initiatives

The U.S. is also working on agricultural initiatives, including a new loan program for South Sudan’s farmers, Clinton said.

Still, South Sudan’s ability to attract trade and investment will depend on greater security on both sides of its northern border, Clinton said, citing conflicts in the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan regions that threaten to spill into South Sudan. “These issues must be resolved,” she said.

Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, told reporters yesterday that the U.S. already has a “track record of early success” in South Sudan. With international partners such as the United Kingdom and Norway, the U.S. has provided more than 1 million people with access to safe drinking water, increased school enrollment from 20 percent to 68 percent, and improved agricultural development, he said.

Clinton, in urging greater international and private-sector assistance, said, “I’m betting on South Sudan, and I don’t like to lose bets.”