Image: Woman walks along a stadium wall
Jerome Delay  /  AP
A South Sudanese woman walks along the football stadium in Juba, South Sudan on Jan. 13. Southern Sudan is slated to become the world's newest country after election officials said Monday that more than 98 percent of the ballots were cast for independence. The city of Juba, until recently a war town of mud huts, gets promoted to a capital city. But it will carry little of the sparkle and gravitas of a Paris, Cairo or Washington D.C.
By
updated 2/7/2011 6:23:12 PM ET 2011-02-07T23:23:12

The mud-hut town of Juba has earned a promotion to world capital later this year. Only Southern Sudan needs far more than its own currency and a national anthem: Most of the roads here are dirt and even aid workers live in shipping containers.

In a little more than five months, Southern Sudan is slated to become the world's newest country. Final results from last month's independence referendum announced on Monday show that 98.8 percent of the ballots cast were for secession from Sudan's north.

    1. Castaway's parents thought they would never see him again

      The father of Pacific castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga said he was told his long-lost son vanished on a fishing trip but he didn’t have the heart to break the news to his ailing wife.

    2. Scotland legalizes same-sex marriage
    3. Weapons deal strengthened Assad: US intel chief
    4. Outcry over the fate of Sochi's stray dogs
    5. Olympic construction leaves Sochi residents in the cold

Juba is oil-rich but lacks the embassies and skyscrapers of other world capitals. There was only a mile or two of pavement here just a year ago, and the local archives are stored in a tent. Many, though, see great potential, and are excitedly looking forward to controlling their own destiny.

Entrepreneur Soloman Chaplain Lui, 42, is overseeing the construction of 160 apartments and hotel rooms on a rocky bluff overlooking Juba. The country's largest swimming pool sits here, though its water is murky. His arm points toward empty fields where he hopes to one day build a mall and a golf course.

"As I talk to you now there are many people flowing here," he said. "A new country is being born."

Two decades of war between the predominantly Muslim north and rebels in the Christian-animist south killed at least 2 million people before a 2005 peace agreement was reached. Residents are jubilant to have their own country at last, though much work remains.

Decades of war and poverty have kept Southern Sudan in a decrepit state, and its 8.7 million people live in one of the least developed regions in the world. The U.N. says a 15-year-old girl here has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than finishing school. An estimated 85 percent of the population is illiterate.

Adding to the challenges, the prices of some everyday goods like sugar, soap and cooking oil have increased by more than 50 percent in recent weeks.

"The list is long," said Athai Peter, 25, as he stood at a job advertisement board outside a U.N. agency on Monday. "The roads are so poor in many places that we have very high food prices."

A new currency must be established. Diplomatic missions need to be opened. And a country name must be chosen.

Critical negotiations still must be held with the north to decide on citizenship rights, oil rights and even the final border demarcation.

The U.S. national intelligence director warned last year of a possible new mass killing or genocide in Sudan over the referendum. That no longer looks likely.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir backed the final results Monday and said he wanted to be the first to congratulate the south on their new state. His remarks seemed designed to help ensure a continuous flow of southern oil through the pipelines in the north. About 98 percent of Southern Sudan's budget comes from oil revenue.

United States President Barack Obama also congratulated the people of Southern Sudan for "a successful and inspiring" referendum, and said he intended to formally recognize the country as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011

Obama said in a statement that after decades of conflict the image of millions of southern Sudanese voters deciding their own future was an inspiration to the world. He also said it is another step forward in Africa's long journey toward justice and democracy.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the U.S. is reviewing its designation of Sudan as a sponsor of terrorism.

She said in a statement that the designation will be lifted, if Sudan does not support terrorism for the preceding six months, promises to continue doing that in the future, and fully implements the 2005 peace agreement.

No one is quite sure how many residents Juba even has. After the 2005 peace accord, people began flooding into the town. Ad hoc settlements sprung up around the city, then expanded as the city ballooned. The settlements have no roads, electricity, or sewage.

Jemma Nunu Kumba, Southern Sudan's minister of housing and physical planning, concedes that the government is playing catch-up. But she notes that foreign investors are knocking on the government's door, hoping to get in on a building boom.

"It is a big challenge that the government has to face. The priorities are competing with the resources we have. But of course it's not something to neglect so we will have to knock at the doors of the international community, of our develop partners, to help us."

Juba has been attracting international investors for years. In 2007, a group of business people from England, South Africa and Kenya spent $1.5 million to renovate a family home into a 16-room hotel known as the Logali House, where the walk-in rate is $275 a night.

General manager Laurie Meiring calls it a "courageous" investment, given that the independence vote was years away and the threat of war lingered.

  1. Most popular

"I think it's five stars for Juba, even if it would be two to three stars if you were going by the book in Europe or America," Meiring said.

Most Sudanese are unemployed or live hand to mouth on small sales of tea and other goods. Small, Sudanese-run business growth is hard to achieve, said Melody Atil, the founder and managing director of Peace Dividend, an organization that loans money at affordable rates in Sudan. Banks rarely give loans, and she estimates that only 10 percent of the region's work force is employed.

Zach Vertin, a Southern Sudan analyst with the International Crisis Group, said it is essential that the outstanding issues on oil rights and border demarcation get resolved.

"This is critical not only for a peaceful transition between now and July but in order to lay the foundations for a constructive post-referendum relationship," Vertin said. "It's absolutely critical that support continue for this process or we'll end up in July with a whole host of issues outstanding and then you risk potential conflict."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Sudan: A vote on secession

loading photos...
  1. A South Sudanese woman and her child arrive at a polling station during the referendum on the independence of South Sudan, in Juba, southern Sudan, on January 13. With a continued large turnout of voters in South Sudan, the United Nations said results for the self-determination balloting are expected in early February, provided there are no appeals. But the final result would be declared on February 7 or 14 according to the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission‘s timeline, said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky at UN headquarters in New York. The commission reported voters‘ turnout at 46 per cent since the seven-day voting began on January 9 to decide whether Southern Sudanese want to be independent or to remain under the government in Khartoum. (Mohamed Messara / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A poll observer keeps track of the amount of voters on a tally sheet at a polling station in Juba on January 13. (Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. An aerial view of part of the town of Yambio, south Sudan. Yambio, a poor and isolated town near the borders of Central African Republic and the Congo, has had a history of conflict due to the presence of the shadowy paramilitary group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) which has terrorized much of the population along the border regions of the three countries. South Sudan, one of the world's poorest regions, is participating in an independence referendum following a historic 2005 peace treaty that brought to an end decades of civil war between the Arab north and predominantly Christian and animist south. The south is expected to vote around 99 percent to secede from the north which will also give it a majority of Sudan's oil. The result is expected to split Africa s largest country in two. Over two million people were killed in the north-south civil war which began in the 1950`s. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A child heads back to his home while carrying wood on his head in the town of Yambio, south Sudan, on January 13. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. View of new buildings under construction in Juba on January 13. Juba is preparing to become a capital city. (Phil Moore / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Rebecca Kadi receives assistance to cast her ballot in southern Sudan's independence referendum in Juba, Sudan, on Wednesday, Jan.12. About four million Southern Sudanese voters began casting their ballots Sunday in a week-long referendum on independence that is expected to split Africa's largest nation in two. (Pete Muller / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A boy walks down a road while collecting recycling in Juba, Sudan, on Wednesday. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Cattle walk in a ring at a market in Juba, Sudan, on Wednesday. The result of the referendum is expected to split Africa's largest country in two. Over two million people were killed in the north-south civil war which began in the 1950's. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. South Sudanese policemen wait to cast their votes during the referendum on the independence of South Sudan at a polling station in Juba, southern Sudan, on Wednesday. (Mohamed Messara / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A Southern Sudanese woman casts her vote at a ballot box at a polling center during the third day of the referendum in Khartoum, Sudan on Tuesday, January 11. Arab tribesman attacked a vehicle convoy carrying southern Sudanese traveling from the country's north to their home region, which is holding an independence referendum this week, an official said Tuesday. Conflicting reports put the death toll between two and 10. (Abd Raouf / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Rosalynn Carter, wife of former US President Jimmy Carter, speaks with South Sudanese women at a polling station in Juba on Tuesday. For the vote to be valid, a 60 per cent of those registered have to vote. According to the referendum commission's timetable, preliminary results will be announced on February 1 and the final results are expected by February 14. (Mohamed Messara / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A policeman searches a queue of voters at a polling station as the referendum continues in Juba on Tuesday. (Mohamed Messara / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A pedestrian walks on an unpaved road in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan on Tuesday. Currently less than 100 km of paved roads exist in Southern Sudan. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Sudanese people carry their belongings in the Nile river in Juba on Monday.Juba inhabitants rely on the White Nile waters to bathe, wash their belongings, and themselves, transport things and for fishing. (Mohamed Messara / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A mother and her daughter walk to a polling station during the second day of voting for the independence referendum Jan. 10 in Juba, Sudan. Southern Sudan is participating in the referendum following a historic 2005 peace treaty that brought an end to decades of civil war between the Arab north and predominantly Christian and animist south. The south is expected to vote to secede from the north, which will also give it a majority of Sudan's oil and split Africa's largest country in two. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A policeman from the southern Sudanese police service shows his inked index finger after voting at a polling center in Juba on Jan.10. (Phil Moore / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A staff member leaves a polling center to take break during the second day of the referendum in the suburb of Mandela, on the outskirts of the capital Khartoum, Sudan on Jan. 10. (Nasser Nasser / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Electoral workers check voting registration cards of voters during the referendum in Juba, southern Sudan on Jan. 10. (Khaled El Fiqi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A mother and daughter register at a polling station in Juba, Sudan on Jan. 10. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. South Sudanese people wait to cast their votes during the referendum at a polling station in Juba, southern Sudan, on Jan. 10. (Khaled El Fiqi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A poster of Salva Kiir Mayardit, acting President of the Government of Southern Sudan, is viewed in Juba, Sudan on Jan. 10. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A south Sudanese woman waits in a line to cast her ballot in the referendum in the rural village of Peiti, northwest of Juba, south Sudan on Jan. 10. (Thomas Mukoya / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Southern Sudanese line up to vote at dawn in the southern capital of Juba on Jan. 9. (Pete Muller / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Southern Sudanese women wave a Southern Sudan flag as they wait to cast their vote for the referendum on the independence of South Sudan at a polling station in Juba, Southern Sudan, Jan 9. Southern Sudanese went to the polls in a historic referendum that is widely expected to see them vote to split from the north. The week-long vote is the centerpiece of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and Animist south - a conflict which claimed the lives of more than 2 million southerners and displaced 4 million more. (Mohamed Messara / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Southern Sudanese women wait outside a heavily-guarded polling station in Juba to vote on Jan. 9. (Phil Moore / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army, or SPLA, check for their names on a voters' registration list before casting their vote at their base in Juba, Southern Sudan, Jan. 9. (Jerome Delay / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. South Sudanese men hold voting registration cards as they wait in the line to vote at a polling station during the referendum in Juba, south Sudan, Jan. 9. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A group of south Sudanese people, who just arrived from Kampala, Uganda, in the bordertown of Nimule on Jan. 9, celebrate the start of a referendum in Sudan expected to lead to the partition of Africa's largest nation and the creation of the world's 193rd UN member state. (Marc Hofer / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. South Sudanese living in Kenya, push to get in a polling station in Nairobi to vote on Jan. 9. (Simon Maina / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. A southern Sudanese prisoner votes inside Khartoum's Kober jail on Jan. 9.. A special voting room was set up inside the jail to make it possible for southern prisoners to participate in the landmark independence referendum. (Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. A southern Sudanese voter shows his inked thumb after marking his ballot on Jan. 9. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Southern Sudanese women dance outside a polling station in Cairo on Jan. 9. (Mohammed Abed / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A southern Sudanese man prepares a voting station before the independence referendum vote tomorrow in the southern Sudanese city of Juba, Jan. 8. South Sudan is preparing for an independence referendum to take place Sunday following a historic 2005 peace treaty that ended decades of civil war between the Arab north and predominantly Christian and animist south. The south is expected to vote around 99 percent to secede from the north, which will also give it a majority of Sudan's oil. The result is expected to split Africa's largest country in two. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Southern Sudanese participate in a day of prayer at a church before the independence referendum vote tomorrow in Juba, Sudan, on Jan. 8. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, center, is one of the international observers of the upcoming South Sudan referendum. He's pictured here in Khartoum, Sudan, on Jan. 8. (Philip Dhil / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. A southern Sudanese general marchandise shop hangs a pro-secession poster on its entrance door in Juba, Sudan, on Jan. 7. (Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. A mother washes her daughter in a camp for internally displaced Sudanese from Khartoum at a port in the southern Sudanese city of Juba on Jan. 7. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Rebecca Agau Deng, a student at the University of Juba, asks a question during a public lecture by Thabo Mbeki, former South African president and chairman of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel, at the Nyakaron Cultural Center in Juba, on Jan. 7. (Tim Mckulka Unmis Handout / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Southern Sudanese march in a pro-separation rally in the southern capital of Juba on Jan. 7. Over two million people were killed in the north-south civil war, which began in the 1950s. (Pete Muller / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. U.S. Sen. John Kerry speaks to the UNAMID (United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur) staff and peacekeepers during a Jan. 7 visit to the mission's team site in Shangil Tobaya in north Darfur. Shangil Tobaya houses internally displaced persons camps where thousands of people have fled to after fighting between Sudan's army and Darfur rebels. (Ho / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Voting materials are delivered by a U.N. helicopter to an area in Tali, southern Sudan, that is inaccessible by road, Jan. 2. (Tim Mckulka / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. A southern Sudanese man, wearing a T-shirt reading "Vote For Your Freedom," holds up a cross during a Christmas Eve procession in Juba on Dec. 24. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Southern Sudanese citizens chant slogans and hold placards as they march in support of the independence referendum, in Juba on Dec. 9. (Str / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Sudanese look at an example of ballot slips at the southern Sudan referendum commission offices in Khartoum on Nov. 14. (Ashraf Shazly / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. A southern Sudanese woman receives her voter registration card in the southern town of Melut on Nov. 15. (Pete Muller / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Southern Sudanese children wash their faces next to their family belongings as they wait for transportion upon their arrival to Juba from Khartoum on Jan. 6. The U.N. has appealed for more than $32 million in emergency funds to support thousands of southern Sudanese returning home ahead of the referendum on south Sudan's independence. (Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. South Sudan returnees arrive at the main port of Juba after 17 days on a boat from Khartoum, Dec. 17. (Str / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. A group of internally displaced people sit inside a bus in a transport convoy bound for Unity state in south Sudan, in Khartoum on Oct. 28. Sudan's north-south civil war, which was Africa's longest civil war, pitted Khartoum's Islamist government against rebels who mostly followed Christianity and traditional beliefs, and culminated in a 2005 north-south peace deal. (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. A woman waves to a bus packed with south Sudanese people who used to live in eastern Khartoum, as the passengers return to the south of the country, in Khartoum on Oct. 28. (Philip Dhil / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Internally displaced Sudanese from the south sit next to their packed belongings in Khartoum on Oct. 27. (Ashraf Shazly / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. A doctor examines Sudanese children, on Dec. 6 at the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons in Nyala, south Darfur. (Albert Gonzalez Farran / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Southern Sudanese women from the Abu Shouq internally displaced people's camp attend classes at a center for adult education, near El Fasher, north of Darfur, on Dec. 13. (Albert Gonzalez Farran / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Sudanese teacher Abdullah Abdel Rahim gives a lesson to students at a school in Abu Shouk refugee camp, north of the Darfur town of Al-Fasher, Sudan, on April 20, 2007. (Nasser Nasser / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. A Sudanese refugee woman is reflected in a shattered mirror at a private home where they and others are temporarily being housed after crossing into Israel from Egypt, at Kadesh Barnea, in southern Israel near the international border with Egypt, on Aug. 20, 2007. (Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Displaced Sudanese women line up to receive food at Kasab internally displaced people's camp near Kutum, northern Darfur, Sudan, in this July 2004 picture. (Marcus Prior / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. A Sudanese woman carries a 150-pound bag of sorghum on Jan. 22, 2004, as she and other villagers gather up U.N. World Food Program aid dropped from the air. (Edward Parsons / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. A Sudanese boy, covered in flies, cries in the Koumouangou refugee camp in Chad near the Sudan border, July 6, 2004. (Karel Prinsloo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. A man walks past a destroyed homestead in the village of Kafod, north Darfur, Sudan, on July 2, 2008. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir Al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region. (Stuart Price / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. Sudanese Darfur survivor Ibrahim holds human skulls at the site of a mass grave on the outskirts of the west Darfur town of Mukjar, Sudan, on April 23, 2007. (Nasser Nasser / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. Rebel soldiers from the Sudan People's Liberation Army cheer after a morning run in Nyal in southern Sudan, Nov. 20, 2003. Two months earlier, the Sudanese government agreed to allow the rebel army to retain its force in the south for a six-year transitional period as part of a U.S.-backed peace initiative. (John Moore / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments