One in seven women in South Sudan will die during pregnancy or childbirth, making the world’s newest country – and one of the poorest - the most dangerous place in the world to give birth. A 15 year old girl has a better chance of dying in childbirth than of finishing school.
Known on Twitter simply by the hashtag #SudanRevolts, the protests that erupted in Khartoum nearly a month ago now do not seem to be fading. In fact, the movement is gaining momentum, with those involved hoping to finally see real change in the country. Calling for the removal of current President Omar al-Bashir (among other demands), the movement’s goals are ambitious to say the least. Yet as daunting as it may seem, success is crucial both for the people of Sudan and their new neighbor South Sudan.
Sudan’s most recent spate of demonstrations that began on 16 June at the University of Khartoum and have since spread across the country have been a long time coming. Similar student demonstrations began in late January 2011 and were revived in January 2012. Both were met with strong crackdowns by police and the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
In the midst of the referendum on independence in Sudan in early 2011, there was great concern that the situation would deteriorate into a full-blown civil war. Tensions were high, with outbreaks of violence in many of the border towns, such as Abyei. Calls were made stateside for the appointing of a high-level US diplomat for Darfur, as well as making genocide prevention a priority among the international community. After the vote on January 9, 2011, we saw the creation of the new state of South Sudan. There was great hope among many that this was the beginning of a path toward peace in the region.
Like baseball great Yogi Berra, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had his own struggles with the English language, one of his best malapropisms was the coining of the term “unknown unknowns.” Rumsfeld was trying to make a valid point about the uncertain security situation at the time in Iraq – that there were unexpected contingencies that simply could not be prepared for; unfortunately for him (but perhaps fortunately for us), that thought came out as “unknown unknowns.”