The Path Ahead For South Sudan
NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The world's newest nation is now three days old. At midnight Saturday, the Republic of South Sudan came into being. After more than five decades of warfare, Sudan's southern black Africans declared independence from the Arab regime in the North.
Tens of thousands gathered in the capital, Juba, to celebrate through the weekend, and sing the country's new national anthem.
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CONAN: Students from the Juba Commercial Secondary School. Today the government got to work, swearing in new ministers and cabinet members, and announce a new currency. But as the jubilation dies down, many challenges lie ahead.
South Sudan has oil but must ship it through the territory of its hostile parent state. Border disputes aggravate the relationship. The country is desperately poor and ravaged by war, and with little infrastructure.
We want to hear from the Sudanese in our audience. What are your hopes and concerns for your country? Our number is 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Later in the program, the possibilities for synthetic organs. Science Desk correspondent Richard Knox and the artificial windpipe. But first, the Republic of South Sudan. And we begin with West Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. She is in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and always good to have you on the program.
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Greetings, greetings from Juba where just as TALK OF THE NATION started, the skies have opened. I'm sure the South Sudanese are going to say showers of blessings. It's absolutely lashing over here.
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CONAN: We heard that clip of the national anthem a moment ago. You must have been hearing that a lot lately, among all the other celebrations there the last couple of days.
QUIST-ARCTON: I tell you, the South Sudanese were practicing right up to the last minute, from the smallest child to the oldest veteran of the civil war. They take the words of their national anthem very, very seriously, especially the fact that the blood of their martyrs - 2 million or so over the 20 years of the second civil war, as they call it, and the first civil war that started when Sudan gained its independence back in the 1950s.
They say it is the blood of their martyrs that is going to lay the foundations of this fledgling nation.
CONAN: And as this fledgling nation begins, there are any number of organizational tasks that - it just seems overwhelming. The idea of starting a new legislature, a new government structure, a new judiciary, a new currency - everything needs to be started, virtually from scratch.
QUIST-ARCTON: That's it, all the new institutions, a new currency, a new passport due out soon, everything that the Southern Sudanese are going to have to grapple with. But, you know, many people will tell you: We're ready for that. We've been fighting this war because we needed our freedom, we needed liberation. Free at last is what all Sudanese are saying; free at least, South Sudanese.
They feel that the challenges are great but that there is so much goodwill around within the region: Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the countries that have helped them; and further afield, the U.S. and other Western nations that have helped to bring peace.
They say, we want to maintain peace, but that will depend on our relations internally because of course, there's feuding internally in South Sudan, as well as relations with the Republic of Sudan, now their northern neighbor, with whom they've had so many problems over so many years and of course, the two civil wars.
CONAN: We're talking with Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR West Africa correspondent, who's with us from Juba, the new capital of the new country of South Sudan. To get a good quality circuit via computer, we're having to bear with a few delays. That sort of hashy sound you're hearing in the background, that's the rain that has erupted there in Juba just as we got in contact and started our broadcast.
Ofeibea, it is hard to overestimate the challenges. Among them: South Sudan is a landlocked nation, and it must export all of its goods - if they hope to reach the sea - through the port in its former parent state, the Republic of Sudan, through Port Sudan. This gives the government in Khartoum a virtual hammerlock on its southern neighbor.
QUIST-ARCTON: Indeed. Of course, there's the mighty Nile River but no sea, no ocean. And in fact, it's South Sudan's oil. And now that it is an independent nation, most of the oil that was being exported from Sudan comes from this part of the region. And it is piped through the north.
So although the South Sudanese government is saying look, they need us; they get their revenues in the north from the oil in the south - it used to be 50-50, and now wealth sharing is one of the issues that is still to be resolved - but yes, President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, who came to Juba on Saturday and who stood side by side with President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan for the first time as two separate presidents of two independent nations, he's saying - he's saying that the North wants to work with the South.
But many people are saying yeah, but they can really put the squeezes on because yes, South Sudan may be producing the oil, but how is it going to get it out and export it and of course, get the revenues from the sale of the oil if, for example, President Bashir decides to block the pipeline; demands, perhaps, more money than South Sudan is willing to pay?
There's all this talk about a new pipeline that will go through Kenya. I mean, it's incredibly complicated because this country, as the information minister said to me, is doubly landlocked. So in fact, sometimes it would have to go through two countries to get to an ocean if, of course, it doesn't go through the Republic of Sudan in the North. So it's very complicated.
Everybody was ecstatic on Saturday, really happy that they feel they have their freedom. But the logistics of trying to kick-start this newborn nation are - ooh, it's a tremendous challenge.
CONAN: We've also heard from the continued friction between the two countries, now independent, that Abyei, a disputed area, has been taken over by troops from Northern Sudan, from the Republic of Sudan, the Khartoum area of Sudan. And there are people from the South who have been driven from their homes, and yet the South has not been able to respond.
QUIST-ARCTON: Indeed. At the moment, there is a peace deal on the table, and it's meant to be Ethiopian U.N. peacekeepers coming in to act as a buffer zone in Abyei, this disputed oil region between the borders of the North and South.
But Abyei was meant to have its own referendum to decide - to determine whether to join the North or the South in January, when the southern part of the country had its referendum and voted 98 percent - I think it was - for separation, secession, to break away.
So those are some other challenges and of course, Abyei is oil-rich. But it's not only Abyei that's a problem. In Northern - Republic of Sudan, let me call it - in the North, Republic of Sudan, South Kordofan, which is the last remaining oil state belonging to the North, is also now a theater of conflict - conflict between President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir's Northern forces, who aid agencies, the U.N. and others, say are bombarding the Nuba Mountains.
Now, in the Nuba Mountains live the Nuba people, who live in the North but sided with the South during the civil war. You have many, many human-rights campaigners saying that what is happening in the Nuba Mountains is ethnic cleansing, that President al-Bashir's forces are trying to cleanse this area of the Nuba.
So those are some of the other problems that have to be dealt with in the coming weeks and months.
CONAN: We're - the discussion, though, is, at least in part - is it accurate to say that this is - you talk about ethnic cleansing in Kordofan, is it accurate to say that South Sudan is a nation of black African, largely Christian and Animist, while the Republic of Sudan, the Khartoum area, is largely Arab?
QUIST-ARCTON: It's simplistic to put it that way but also, you know, by and large, yes, that's the truth. And when you look at the new South Sudan's flag, they say - there's a black column, and they say that's because they're black Africans.
There are two white lines. They say that's for peace. Red, the blood of their martyrs that has been spilled. Another white line for peace. Green because of the agricultural wealth of this country - incredibly fertile soil. Blue because of the Nile waters. And yellow, golden, guiding star that is going to guide them to freedom and to peace.
So yes, they really do identify as black Africans. But even within South Sudan, you have some tribes that dominate: the Dinka, the Nuer and the Shiluk. And then there are the other minority tribes, and there is a little trepidation amongst them that they may be squeezed out by these three bigger tribes.
And then you have Southern militias who broke away from the SPLA, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, the army that fought the struggle and won freedom and independence, who say that the leadership here in South Sudan is a law unto itself - demagogues, that there will not be democracy, that once the world's eyes have turned away from Juba and independence and the celebrations, the government is going to tighten up.
Now, Southern Sudan says that these militias are not true militias, that they are our people - as they say - that they are funded by the North, by the Republic of Sudan and President al-Bashir, and they feel that they can deal with the problem. But the internal feuding could also create a return to conflict.
CONAN: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR West Africa correspondent, with us from the capital of the world's newest nation, South Sudan. The capital city is Juba. When we come back after a short break, among our guests in about, oh, 10 minutes or so, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who's just back from the ceremonial declaration of the new nation in South Sudan, which is - at least, in part - a product of U.S. diplomacy going back to the Bush administration.
What should U.S. policy be towards the new nation of South Sudan? Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. South Sudan faces a new future, one that's full of possibilities and challenges. Three days after officially declaring itself independent, newly sworn-in ministers started the long process of creating a government from scratch.
The new currency arrives on Wednesday. Ministries and court systems must be formed. The country is also desperately poor, devastated by war, and faces ongoing border disputes with its parent country, Sudan.
We want to hear from Sudanese in our audience. What are your hopes and challenges at this moment? And this country is at least in part a product of U.S. diplomacy. What should the U.S. policy be from now on? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email email@example.com. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
In Juba, NPR West Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, and joining us now is Alek Wek, who fled the Sudanese civil war when she was 14 years old. She moved to Great Britain, where her story changed dramatically. She was discovered by fashion agents in a London shopping center, became a model and at the age of 20, graced the cover of Elle magazine. She joins us today from our bureau in New York. And nice to have you with us today.
ALEK WEK: Thank you so much. I'm so pleased to be here.
CONAN: And congratulations.
WEK: Thank you, thank you, I'm just in disbelief. I can't believe the independence has actually taken place.
CONAN: You still have family in what is now South Sudan. What does this moment mean to you?
WEK: Oh, this moment means so much, so much. I mean, I can't - my mother is just over the moon. It's just so moving and really chilling, just the amount of emotions just the people are feeling at the moment, the fact that finally South Sudan is independent.
I think that it's taking some time for them to actually believe that it's taken place, but it's brilliant, yeah.
CONAN: You experienced some of the war when you were just a little girl, government soldiers in your town.
WEK: Absolutely, and that's how I ended up emigrating to London. We actually went through the war. I remembered, you know, thousands and thousands of us just marching and walking towards the bush, to try and get away from the bombings and the shootings that was taking place, you know; at age 7 or 8, not understanding why that was we were getting chased out of our own home.
CONAN: There is some hope - yes, oil in South Sudan, but also many hope that this can become a center for tourism as well - some of those bush areas you were talking about, and tremendous wildlife.
WEK: Absolutely. I mean, that's the thing. South Sudan is just so rich in culture and history of it, and in so many natural resources. And I would say, you know, the most amazing thing from this independence, even though it's going to be quite challenging - because the civil war has really taken a toll, in so many ways - this will really give Southern Sudan the opportunity to be able to allow people in. And people can come in and actually contribute towards the rebuilding of the community.
CONAN: Will you become a citizen of South Sudan?
WEK: Oh, I would - I want to. I cannot wait.
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CONAN: You'll have to find an embassy somewhere and...
WEK: Yes. I'm like, where? I'm literally calling, like I'm going to Washington, like somewhere that they could get on it and get me my citizenship, for sure.
CONAN: And as you look ahead, the war has left a lot of scars, I suspect, on both sides.
WEK: Oh absolutely. It's left such deep scars in so many - in such a profound way. And I would say that's why it was just really moving because so many women and men - has - lost their lives just for us to be able to have celebrated the independence.
So you know, I was asked a question once, you know, you don't think that it happened really fast, since the peace agreement? And I was like, are you serious? Are you kidding me? I mean, this has just been such a long journey. And to be able to finally say, you know, we can celebrate this independence, so much bloodshed has taken place.
And I would say that's why, you know, so many people have turned out - not just 50 or 60 or 70 percent. I mean literally, almost 100 percent, 90-something percent people said enough is enough; no more war, no more bloodshed. We need to rebuild, you know, our new country. And so that's why it's just really touching.
And so that's why it's just really touching.
CONAN: And how will you be involved in that?
WEK: Oh, I want to be involved in whichever way that I can to help towards the rebuilding of the community. And that's the thing. Whether, you know, you're a lawyer or a teacher or in business - I mean, I love the fact that to go in there and, you know, something to do with working to educate kids, to be able to really spread the message how amazing it is, in terms of the natural resources and the arts, I love that aspect of it.
So I would just say, you know, continue to work with the NGOs and the humanitarian organizations - such as Doctors Without Borders - that have been helping save so many lives way, way before, when no hope was there, and U.S. Committee for Refugees.
So in whichever way - and also, you know, asking my colleagues. I don't even have to ask them; that's the thing. So many people are so supportive and so moved, even though they're not from Southern Sudan. It's really incredible.
CONAN: Alek Wek, thank you very much for your time today, and we wish you luck getting that passport.
WEK: Thank you so much. I'm about to get on it.
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CONAN: Alek Wek, an international supermodel, a Sudanese refugee. She joined us from our bureau in New York. Her memoir is "Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel." And again, we thank her for her time. Still with us is Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, our West Africa correspondent, who's with us from Juba, the capital of South Sudan. What should U.S. policy be? Khalid(ph) joins us now, calling from Union City in California.
KHALID: Yes, hi. Actually, I have a question to the - Susan Rice.
CONAN: Ah, well, she's not with us quite yet.
KHALID: All right. I have a question. I will probably just call back later, then.
CONAN: All right, well, thanks very much, we appreciate that. In any case, I think maybe some of the other people who have questions are hoping to put them to Ambassador Rice, and I apologize for going out of order. In the meantime, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, there are any number of issues still remaining between the United States and Sudan, the Khartoum government.
Among them, the president there, Mr. al-Bashir, is under indictment from the International Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur. That conflict continues. As you mentioned, another conflict is under way in Kordofan, nearer to what is now the country of South Sudan.
There is, however, part of the agreement was that the United States, if Sudan maintained its - lived up to its commitments in terms of the separation, that the United States would consider taking Sudan off the list of nations that are sponsors of terrorism. And that would be many fewer sanctions against the government.
QUIST-ARCTON: Indeed. Well, that's what the plan is. We'll have to see because of course, it's very, very early days. Independence was what, two days ago - on Saturday. We'll have to see how relations progress between North and South Sudan.
It was very interesting what Alek Wek was saying because a lot of Sudanese in the North regret the fact that the country has broken up. But many Southern Sudanese say: But look, we were second-class citizens. The black Africans in Sudan were second-class citizens. We want to be citizens of our own country.
We gave you a chance and, you know, you messed up. But a lot of Northern Sudanese say it's a shame. They feel that this should have been settled politically, and that the South would perhaps not have had to secede. But that's the reality now, and we're going to have to see whether we're going to have diplomatic relations that are no longer frosty and breaking out in conflict; whether the two nations - as the information minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said to me, you know, it is in both our interests to have two viable states, and we need the help of everyone, of Washington, which helped to broker peace and a peace deal in 2005; from our neighbors in the Horn of Africa and East Africa; and anyone who is a friend of the Sudans, to help us keep the peace.
CONAN: Joining us now is Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who led the U.S. delegation to Juba, to mark South Sudan's independence. She got back last night and joins us from her office in New York. Ambassador Rice, nice to have you with us, again, and welcome home.
Ambassador SUSAN RICE: Good to be back, and good to be with you, Neal.
CONAN: And just after the celebrations - of course, a day of joy, but there is business to attend to. How will the United States make sure that Sudan does live up to the commitments it made?
RICE: Well, first of all, Neal, I must say just for the benefit of your listeners what an extraordinary day Saturday was. The people of South Sudan were jubilant. It was quite an extraordinary moment to witness a people, after 50 years, getting their freedom. It was similar to the moment when we all watched Nelson Mandela walk out of prison, and momentous occasions in our own history when rights have been expanded. So it was really a truly, wonderful day.
The United States has been proud to be actively involved in trying to support not only the negotiation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which happened under the previous administration - and I had Secretary Colin Powell with me, who had signed the CPA on behalf of the United States - but throughout the Obama administration, we've been very, very hands-on in trying to support its implementation. And we're going to continue to be, because it's obvious there are many outstanding issues that remain to be solved, and these are issues of such a magnitude that left unresolved, they could, in fact, bear the seeds of the potential resumption of conflict. So we will continue to be very hands-on in terms of helping the parties resolve issues of oil, of the border, of citizenship and of course, the crisis in Southern Kordofan, which while in the north, is itself a tinderbox and implicates the interests of the south. The president, secretary of state, our special envoy - Princeton Lyman - I and others have all been very much engaged in trying to press the parties to conclude these difficult agreements, and we'll continue to do so.
And as was discussed a few minutes ago with Ofeibea, we will not be in a position to proceed on - along the lines of the road map that we laid out to the government of Sudan about a path for, and steps to, improving our bilateral relationship unless these issues that remain unresolved under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are, in fact, resolved in accordance with the agreement.
CONAN: Is a 50-50 split appropriate on the oil?
RICE: Well, I think ultimately, that's for the parties to decide; 50-50 has been the holding pattern under the CPA. Those resources - most of the oil resources now belong to the south. And I think most everybody in the Republic of South Sudan feels very strongly that for many, many years, they have not had any meaningful economic development. They've not had any significant investment in health, their education or infrastructure, roads from the north; that now this resource is theirs, and they ought to be able to use it for their economic development. So I can't imagine that the political leadership in the South would see 50-50 as a - an enduring solution. But how they resolve exactly, you know, the proportions and the timelines ought to be a question for the parties to resolve.
CONAN: Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, just back from Juba, where she witnessed, as she talked a moment ago, jubilant celebrations of independence - independence, she pointed out while she was there, that was not a gift to the South Sudanese. They won it in a bloody and long civil war. You're listening to the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. And let's go back to Khalid, Khalid with us from Union City in California. And Khalid, we do have Ambassador Rice with us.
KHALID: Yes, hi. I have a question to Ambassador Rice. Do you think it is time now for the U.S. to start lifting the sanction from Sudan, especially after the government has fulfilled their promise and they honor their agreement? I'll take my answer off the phone.
CONAN: Khalid, thank you very much.
RICE: Let me, Neal, answer that, but let me correct a little bit of something that you just said before we went to the question. And when I said that independence had been won, obviously, there was - there were huge numbers of losses on the battlefield. But it was ultimately won at the negotiating table. And that is an important lesson, and it gives us some degree of hope that the remaining issues will also ultimately be resolved at the negotiating table.
RICE: To your question, we have been very plain in our discussions with the government of Sudan, the Khartoum government, that first of all, we would like to be in a position to improve and ultimately normalize our bilateral relationship with the government of Sudan, which has been fraught for many years - first going back to 1993, when it was necessary for us to put Sudan on the state sponsors of terrorism lists, as they were housing and harboring Osama bin Laden and supporting many other terrorist organizations at the time. And then there have been subsequent sanctions, both imposed legislatively and by the executive branch.
In our discussions with the government of Sudan, we laid out, as I mentioned earlier, a very detailed road map for how we could work to improve our bilateral relationship in a step-by-step fashion, in accordance with actions taken by the government, and actions that would be reciprocated by us. The first step in that process was to see the successful conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. A crucial element of that was, of course, the referendum. It was held in January, and it was held peacefully and on time. And the government of Sudan has recognized the results, and we saw the fruit of that on Saturday.
But there are many, many other aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that remain unresolved - the status of Abyei. And indeed, rather than dealing with it at the negotiating table, the government moved forces into Abyei and continue to occupy it - since May. There is the issue of revenue-sharing and oil. There's the issue of the disputed border areas. There's the issue of ensuring that citizens of the North and the South have certain rights that are respected and ensured in their respective countries. All of these are formal parts of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as is the status of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, where fighting is raging. So these are all issues that we can't sweep under the rug and pretend are not part of the CPA.
We had said that as and when the referendum was held, we would be in a position to start to review the legal requirements for considering - or reconsidering Sudan's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. There are very clear-cut steps that we have to certify related to terrorism. But if those are, in fact, met, the other condition was, of course, full completion and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. And we await that, and we hope that that will happen swiftly and that we'll be in a position to move forward on that road map.
CONAN: When we come back after a short break, more with Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, our West Africa correspondent. We'll also talk to a man who has a new windpipe grown for him from his own stem cells. This is NPR News.
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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.
We'll have the news headlines and a story about a man who has a new windpipe grown from his own stem cells, all coming up in just a moment. But we want to continue our conversation with Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who led the U.S. delegation to South Sudan's independence ceremony over the weekend, in Juba. She's with us from her office in New York. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR West Africa correspondent, also with us. She's still in Juba, reporting the creation of that new country. And Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, I wondered if you had a question for Ambassador Rice.
QUIST-ARCTON: I do. Ambassador, I'm sorry we didn't get to meet. But you were up on the dais and we were down, and it was extremely hot and extremely long.
RICE: Yes, it was.
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QUIST-ARCTON: It was just after independence at midnight when the - you know, there was just such ecstasy, I can even say, among South Sudanese on the street as they were ululating and shouting and chanting, free at last. I went to the hospital. One baby had already been born. He was called Independence. Two more little boys came; three little boys, all born on independence day. And I asked a very exhausted mother of Independence, you know, what are your hopes for your son? And she said, that he will live up to his name, and that he will get a good education.
Now, those are the sorts of aspirations of ordinary Sudanese, whether they're refugees coming back, people who have lived through the war. But can there be peace in this country with its neighbor in the north? That's what everybody is now asking. Will it work? We've got independence, but will we be allowed to remain independent? Can we live side by side with the North?
RICE: Well, Ofeibea, that's obviously the critical question. And I have observed, and I have said publicly, that this is a very fragile moment, and there are no guarantees. That said, while I think the next few weeks and months will be particularly telling ,and whether the two countries can now resolve these remaining issues in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and manage the situation in Southern Kordofan, will be decisive.
But I am - I'm hopeful that the people of South Sudan, and the people of Sudan, will recognize - as you stated earlier, quoting an official - that their well-being, security, prosperity, viability as two states depend directly on their relationship with one another. And both sides have suffered long and a lot, from the consequences of conflict.
I have no doubt that the people of South Sudan would much prefer to be focusing on their economic, social and political development than to contemplate any resumed conflict. I think the North has an interest in avoiding resumed conflict with the South. They already face a very difficult situation in Darfur. What is transpiring in Southern Kordofan within their own territory is dangerous, from their point of view.
And I think you know that there are many restive parts of Sudan, Northern Sudan, where people feel that their aspirations have and their rights have not been fully respected. So both sides acting rationally have every interest in peaceful coexistence and strong economic ties. But not everything is always rational. And undoubtedly, the next weeks and months will be particularly fragile times.
CONAN: Ambassador Rice, we've now seen Eritrea break away from Ethiopia. We saw South Sudan now break away from Sudan. Are we about to see a redrawing of the map of Africa?
RICE: I don't think so. I really don't. I think this is - you know, both the - both Eritrea back in 1991 and South Sudan are sui generis. And in both instances, interestingly, the decision was a result of a negotiated settlement and a popular choice. And I don't see much appetite for, or prospect of, similar situations elsewhere. I wouldn't say no way or never, but I don't think this is the beginning of any redrawing of the map of Africa.
CONAN: Ambassador Rice, thank you very much for your time today. We appreciate it. And again, welcome home.
RICE: Thank you very much. Good to be with you, Neal.
CONAN: United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, with us from her office in New York. We can also thank Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR West Africa correspondent, with us from Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Ofeibea, always good to have you with us.
QUIST-ARCTON: And always a pleasure to be with you.
CONAN: When we come back, we'll be talking about an artificial windpipe. Stay with us.
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