RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Nearly lost in the fast-moving news about the uprising in Egypt is a dramatic change ahead for the country just south of Egypt. In Sudan, a preliminary tally from last month's historic vote on independence shows an avalanche.
Ninety percent of those in southern Sudan voted to break away from northern Sudan, which means what is now Africa's largest country will be split in two. Come this summer, southern Sudan will become the world's newest nation. As NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, now comes the hard part: building a new state after decades of war.
(Soundbite of water truck)
FRANK LANGFITT: This is the sound of progress. It's a water truck, helping to grade a dirt road that leads from Juba, southern Sudan's capital, to the Ugandan border.
Bill Hammink runs the U.S. Agency for International Development here. It's operating the project with the help of George Wagwa, a Sudanese engineer.
Mr. BILL HAMMINK (U.S. Agency for International Development): It would be the first major road that will be tarmacked in all of southern Sudan.
LANGFITT: How many miles of tarmac road are there in Southern Sudan?
Mr. GEORGE WAGWA (Engineer): Actually, it's got about 40 kilometers.
LANGFITT: That's 25 miles in a region nearly the size of Texas.
Mr. HAMMINK: Southern Sudan, because of the decades of war, has so little infrastructure. They're really starting construction here starting from scratch in many ways.
LANGFITT: What kind of a difference is this road going to make?
Mr. HAMMINK: It's going to make a huge difference.
LANGFITT: It's expected to cut the costs of imports from Uganda, on which southern Sudan depends, and boost trade. The U.S. government is spending $200 million on the road over five years, all in hopes of rebuilding this region and preventing the failure of another state in Africa.
Ambassador Barrie Walkley is U.S. consul general in Juba.
Ambassador BARRIE WALKLEY (U.S. Consul General): We all know that during the civil war in Sudan, two million people died, five million people at least became refugees. We don't want to see anything like that happening again in the area.
LANGFITT: So far, truckers are delighted with the American-financed road.
Mr. ABDULLAHI HUSSEIN: We used to take two days because of rough roads and there were holes or whatever. Now it take us only just for one day from the border to here.
LANGFITT: Abdullahi Hussein has just driven tires and spare machinery parts up from the Kenyan port of Mombasa. He says the problem these days isn't the road service, it's the cops who work along it, demanding nearly $100 in bribes each trip.
Mr. HUSSEIN: The corruption is so much. It's high.
LANGFITT: Like many places emerging from more, southern Sudan doesn't have the institutions to fight graft or properly manage public money. But inside the government, some people are trying.
(Soundbite of bell ringing)
LANGFITT: Central Equatoria is one of southern Sudan's 10 states and home to Juba, the new nation's capital. The state legislative assembly is meeting to pass the budget, but first, James Juma Peter, who monitors public funds, ticks off a long list of problems with state finances.
Mr. JAMES JUMA PETER: Domestic and the foreign travel budgets: too high. The budget for fuel and lubricants is too exorbitant. Dishonest and the corruption among the present staff of the state revenue authority.
LANGFITT: The United Nations Development Program is trying to help address this. It hired Clara Kenyana to teach budgeting in the state's finance ministry. Kenyana, a statistician from Uganda, says decades of war have left many government workers without the basics.
Ms. CLARA KENYANA (Statistician): The majority of the staff are not computer literate.
LANGFITT: How many people in Central Equatoria state government know how to do a spreadsheet?
Ms. KENYANA: In ministry of finance, I could confidently say around 10 people.
LANGFITT: And did you teach them or did they know when you arrived?
Ms. KENYANA: I taught them.
Mr. JACOB ALIGO: My name is Jacob Aligo. I'm the state minister for finance in Central Equatoria state.
LANGFITT: Aligo says another problem is lack of accountability. For instance, he doesn't know for sure where public money goes.
Mr. ALIGO: Once money leaves the ministry of finance, there is no feedback.
LANGFITT: So you don't get receipts?
Mr. ALIGO: I don't get receipts.
LANGFITT: How can you run a government without receipts and know where the money's going?
Mr. ALIGO: That is why I term it a loophole that we need to put right.
LANGFITT: Aligo says a new management system, spearheaded by the United Nations, will require all departments to account for their spending.
Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible)
LANGFITT: Several students are hashing out equations on a blackboard at Catholic University of Sudan. The school is just three years old and one of the few of its kind in the south. Simon Tongun Kasmiro is a junior studying business and economics. He says many government officials are former guerilla fighters with little education.
Mr. SIMON TONGUN KASMIRO (Student, Catholic University of Sudan): Most of the people who are handling the government are just people who are still coming from the bush and most of them were never been in the school. So I study these economics so that I call it a remedy to the situation, because the economy is not managed well.
LANGFITT: Kasmiro, who is 27 years old, wants to change that. When he graduates next year he plans to become an economic advisor to his new homeland.
Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Juba, Southern Sudan.