- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday urged the leaders of oil-rich South Sudan to manage natural resources prudently and warned them against falling prey to unscrupulous corporations and countries.

“We know that [natural resources] 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 then when you started,” she told a development conference for South Sudan at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Washington.

Earlier, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit spelled out his priorities, including greater transparency and accountability, rooting out corruption and disarming militias in a nation that has seen decades of conflict.

Mrs. Clinton welcomed Mr. Kiir’s agenda as a good start, but said “the proof is in the pudding. … What matters most is whether the government follows through on it.”

South Sudan gained independence July 9 after two decades of civil war. Roughly the size of France, it is one of the least-developed countries in the world.

For years it was deprived of development by Sudan’s government in Khartoum. The new country now lacks basic infrastructure, including roads, hospitals and schools.

Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said education is one of the top necessities in South Sudan.

“In parts of South Sudan, a young woman is still more likely to die in child birth than complete a secondary education,” he said.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department eased sanctions on Sudan that had restricted investments in South Sudan’s oil sector, which is inexorably linked to the north.

In the absence of U.S. competition, companies from China, India and Malaysia have dominated the oil and petrochemicals sector.

“Companies flouting the sanctions have chosen to disregard human-rights violations and are less likely to respect the citizens or the environment,” said Raymond Gilpin of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Continuing conflict with Sudan has been another deterrent to foreign investment in South Sudan.

Mr. Kiir accused Sudan of violating his country’s airspace and bombing villages, including refugee camps. He called on the international community to help remove potential flashpoints for war between the two countries.

Mrs. Clinton said South Sudan’s ability to attract trade and investment depends on improving security on both sides of its northern border. She said conflicts in Sudan’s states of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, which threaten to spill into South Sudan, must be resolved.

She called on the leaders of South Sudan to resolve outstanding issues with Sudan, but added that this work cannot be done without a willing partner in Khartoum.

Mrs. Clinton acknowledged that South Sudan faces formidable challenges.

“On July 9th, we celebrated as the world’s newest country came into being,” she said. “That is one part of the story. What we do today is critical if that story is to have a happy ending.”

Officials from Britain, Norway, Turkey, the European Union, the United Nations, the African Union, the World Bank, the International Finance Corp. and InterAction are participating in the conference, which ends Thursday.



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