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The two most recent periods of war combined (1955-1972 and 1983-2005) claimed an estimated two and a half million lives. In the last 22 years alone, over four million Sudanese and South Sudanese were displaced because of the ongoing civil war. Then the 2005 Peace Agreement ushered in a six-year period of autonomy for South Sudan, bringing an end to the civil war and allowing a period of stabilization. The country prepared to implement a nonviolent process - a referendum - to determine whether it would remain one country or if the south would secede and become an independent nation.

The referendum took place in January of 2011, when an overwhelming number (98%) of South Sudanese voted in favor of secession. Then on July 9th of 2011, the Republic of South Sudan gained its independence, making it the world's youngest country. This was formal independence, but a number of unresolved issues remained: border definition, citizenship, trade and taxation, the future of disputed territory Abyei, and the sharing of the oil resources and revenue. The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel has been working with the two capitals - Khartoum in Sudan and Juba in South Sudan- since 2011 to resolve these outstanding issues.

The negotiation process has been challenging, swinging from what appeared to be collaborative solutions to mistrust, frustrations, and brinkmanship. At times it seemed war might break out again. Lack of agreement eventually led to the complete shut-down of oil production early last year, resulting in severe economic hardships for both countries, and forcing the government of South Sudan to impose austerity measures.

Fortunately, in March 2013, the two parties were able to come to significant agreements that resulted in the draw-down of military forces from both sides at the borders. Then, Sudan and South Sudan could implement the long-awaited demilitarized zone. The countries also agreed to temporary arrangements for the Abyei area and, most significantly, to the resumption of oil production.

The challenges of state-building following the birth of a new nation are immense. The Government of South Sudan is working hard to grow the country, a county that is one of the least developed in the world. South Sudan continues to struggle with poverty, inter- and intra-ethnic conflicts, considerable lack of infrastructure, limited social development systems, and an economy almost exclusively dependent on oil revenues. All these problems must be addressed for it to stand on its own in the 21st century and to play a role on the global stage.

South Sudan's growth and development has been hindered by the many on-going conflicts and a number of rebel militia and criminal groups operating within its borders. The unrest perpetuates ethnic conflicts, conflicts related to cattle, and conflicts over access to resources. The Government of South Sudan has stated its commitment to peace and stability while facing the many challenges of building a new nation. We are happy to support those efforts as a partner in reducing violence, protecting civilians, and increasing national safety and security.

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