South Sudan: How do you set up a nation?

By Kathryn Westcott
BBC News


The Republic of South Sudan has become the world's newest nation state, formally seceding from Sudan. But what does this involve?

Passports, currency, stamps, anthem, internet domain name - and a decent football team. These are just some of the requirements.

Then there are state institutions to be established, a constitution to draw up and an overseas charm offensive to conduct.

An aspiring nation has many things to get on with. Here are a few of them.

The same hymn sheet

Have the national anthem ready before the big independence day, and ensure everyone knows the words.

In a move that said, "we believe in democracy", South Sudan's government invited everyone to try their hand at composing an anthem.

The winning entry, composed by students and teachers from Juba University, makes a break with the military-style march of Sudan's anthem.

An upbeat tune is set to three stanzas that portray trust in God, jubilation for an end to decades of oppression and commemoration of the martyrs who lost their lives for the sake of freedom.

Singers have been dispatched around the nation-to-be to ensure citizens will be word-perfect by 9 July.

One official recently pointed out that when Sudan got her independence in 1956, it took the country some time to come up with her anthem. It just shows South Sudan is ready to govern itself, he said.

Shipments of the six-coloured flag - the former emblem of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) - have been arriving from China over the past few weeks, and the government plans to raise one on top of the highest peak of the Imatong Mountains on 9 July.

Every new nation likes to make its mark with its currency - it is a time to laud heroes and show off a nation's achievements.

image captionModel Alek Wek is one of the most recognisable South Sudanese faces in the West

But it will be a while before the South Sudan pound is launched, as designs have not been finalised.

Members of the committee working on the design are said to have suggested that the first chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the late John Garang, should appear on the currency.

However, it's reported that ordinary people expressed a preference for historical and cultural symbols. Politicians come and go, they said, but the things that truly united the southern Sudanese people are permanent.

Joining the UN is a country's most important act of international diplomacy, but finding a seat can be a game of "musical chairs," says the BBC's UN correspondent Barbara Plett.

The hall of the General Assembly is full, so in the case of South Sudan, UN engineers are debating whether to install another desk. Questions being asked are, how much this will cost, whether the new wiring will disrupt the electronic voting system, and is it worth the effort given that the GA undergoes renovations next year.

image captionThe hall of the General Assembly is full

While they grapple with this weighty issue, one possible scenario is to send the Holy See and the Palestine Observer Mission - the only two entities in the main hall which are not full UN members - back to the sidelines where they used to be, and take one of their desks instead.

Then all the other member states will have to shift over one, because they're arranged in English alphabetical order. Depending on whether the new nation uses its long title - the Republic of South Sudan - or the shorter version, it should be sitting next to either the Republic of Moldova or South Africa.

The formalities of becoming a member will be speedy: a recommendation from the Security Council on 13 July, a vote by the General Assembly the next day, followed by a march out to the front of the building with the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to hoist the 193rd flag along Manhattan's 1st Avenue.

UN membership will give South Sudan sovereign equality with other countries, and help it to join important organisations like the World Bank and IMF - which could hasten development assistance.

But Juba still has to find an office for its UN diplomats, plans for which are "not very far advanced," according to one insider. Until then, the Republic of South Sudan will join the Pacific Island state of Kiribati as the only other UN member without a mission, a humble beginning for a new nation expected to receive the ultimate mark of international legitimacy within a week of independence.

Once a new nation has become a full member of the UN, it is allocated country codes through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

A two-letter code identifies the country's internet domain suffix, while the three-letter codes appear on passports and define the country's currency in international markets.

New states can apply to use any of the letters from their official name.

According to the ISO's Mary Lou Pelaprat, there are a few two-letter options available, beginning with "s" - but ".sd" is already taken by Sudan, and ".su" was allocated to the Soviet Union.

"We want our domain name to be '.ss' for 'South Sudan', but people are telling us 'SS' has an association in Europe with Nazis," an official, Stephen Lugga, told Reuters.

"We have applied for it anyway."

Experts say the application is unlikely to be approved.

Postage stamps are one of the first things produced by new countries and governments, says Geoff Anandappa, investment portfolio manager at international stamp dealer Stanley Gibbons.

image captionFor the time being, post for the south will continue to come via the north

This is important for number of reasons, including establishing a national identity and raising revenue from sales to philatelists.

In this case, stamp collectors will clearly have to wait a while. Stanley Gibbons is not aware of any new designs.

"New countries may start by producing 'provisional' stamp issues, usually locally designed and printed, and often of poor quality," says Mr Anandappa.

"These are greater interest to philatelist than the 'official' - mass produced - stamp issues which follow later. Postal history collectors are also keen to find these provisional issues used on letters, because they are often accompanied by interesting postal marking, and town date stamps."

The new nation will only be able to organise its own postal service through the Universal Postal Union (UPA) once it becomes a full member of the United Nations - and that may take some time.

For the time being, post will have to go through the Republic of Sudan via the existing service.

Most states dream of a modern capital. But for the moment South Sudan will need to lower its sights. The world's newest capital, Juba, is strung out along the banks of the White Nile river, lacking basic infrastructure, including reliable power, water and sewage systems.

The town, which was established almost a century ago by British colonial administrators was a government garrison town surrounded by rebels during the war. It has expanded since then and witnessed something of a construction boom.

In the past few months, the transition government has mulled over proposals to relocate the capital, to "allow for the creation of a modern city planned for 200 years with absolute flexibility to observe any population growth and technological advancements".

Earlier plans involved relocating and rebuilding the capital in the shape of a rhinoceros, as part of proposals to rebuild the region's cities in the shapes of animals and fruit.

According to experts, generally, a capital city can take 10 to 20 years to build but can take a century or more to mature into an attractive, self-sustaining place.

The south's newly formed teams have been practising on simple facilities, as the football stadium and basketball court are being repaired, says the BBC's Peter Martell in Juba.

The football squad has trained among the goats on scrubby patches of grass, while the basketball team has used the netball court of a girls' primary school

But the country has high hopes, including taking part in London's 2012 Olympics.

It's hoped sport can help forge a national identity and ease the deep divisions that exist between some of the south's rival groups.

The first games are planned against the new nation's neighbours - a basketball match against Uganda, and a football game against Kenya.

With current political tensions, games against South Sudan's neighbour in the north might have to wait a little longer.

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