If media reports are anything to go by, everybody is in agreement that if the referendum in South Sudan comes to pass, Africa will be blessed with a brand new nation-state.
Various reports give varied predictions of how the future will hold for South Sudanese citizens after the polls. Some analysts have commented that the vote most definitely signal a new era for the people of South Sudan. This is a very refreshing prospect. This new era will entail the South Sudanese taking their own destiny with respect to nation building.
This aspect of nation building is the toughest challenge South Sudan will face. They will have to start from zero. South Sudan will have to build state institutions that will guarantee better livelihoods for its citizens from scratch. While going about this huge task, the leadership will certainly need support.
Just prior to the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) that was signed between the warring South and North in 2005, Sudan emerged from a 20-year brutal war that left hundreds of thousands of people dead and four million displaced.
Even as they went to the referendum polls this week, South Sudan does not seem to have any physical infrastructure worth talking about.
In order to pull itself from the brink, South Sudanese leadership will have to seek help from the continent and beyond.
However, while it can be argued that help of whatever measure will be necessary, its leadership will have to carefully select the type of support that best suits their situation.
For one, my thinking is that President Salva Kiir must seriously consider support from some very special category of African states. I am not talking about financial support per se. I am talking about lessons which are crucial in nation building.
President Kiir will need wise counsel and leadership lessons from selected African states that have demonstrated this kind of resilience South Sudan needs, to pull its citizens from such dire straits.
Such lessons could be drawn from a few African states that were once on the brink of collapse, but can now be said to be safely out of the woods.
Among the African nations that are capable of offering such critical lessons is Rwanda, whose story for the last 16 years offers some very insightful experiences in nation building. Like South Sudan, Rwanda started from ground zero if not from a worst off position.
South Sudan will start the new journey by first establishing its central bank along with other critically needed state institutions. Rwanda’s situation was similar 16 years ago. And that is why South Sudan must consider lessons from such countries like Rwanda.
While Rwandans are now busy with the development agenda that is now moving at a much higher pace, in the interest of African solidarity, they have the moral obligation to offer a helping hand to South Sudanese.
There are various other lessons that could be drawn from Rwanda to fit in the South Sudanese situation. From Rwanda’s new policy on aid, to decentralization, the environment, ICT, land policy, agricultural transformation the list is endless.
After the Genocide, Rwanda embarked on new home grown policies. One lesson we can draw is that these new polices have no connections to colonial or even neo-colonial inclinations that defined the post independent policies that shaped Africa for the last 40 years.
What is more is that Rwanda has the great potential to host South Sudanese public officials to practically learn and adopt some of these new home grown African policies.
These new home grown policies are designed to run in tandem with the aspirations of the African renaissance.
Lastly, I need to add that by embracing useful home grown lessons, the South Sudanese government will ensure that their independence yields possible benefits to its citizens.
The author is an editor with The New Times