Africa

AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

Yesterday, the World Bank said it would provide close to $2 billion to drought-stricken countries in the Horn of Africa. That means the bank has nearly quadrupled its aid, up from the $500 million announced earlier this summer.

About 11 million people in that part of East Africa have been hit by one of the worst droughts in six decades. Somalia is at the center of the crisis. The U.N. says 750,000 people could die over the next four months in Somalia alone. In a moment, we'll hear from a Somali novelist who chronicles that country's political conflict.

But first, to South Sudan. Over the summer, it became independent. And its president was at the U.N. General Assembly this past week to take the new nation's seat. But as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, there is a lot of unfinished business in the peace process that divided Sudan in two.

MICHELE KELEMEN: When President Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly, he held up the example of South Sudan as the right way to join the world body - through a peace process and an independence vote.

P: One year ago, when we met here in New York, the prospect of a successful referendum in South Sudan was in doubt. But the international community overcame old divisions to support the agreement that had been negotiated to give South Sudan self-determination. And last summer, as a new flag went up in Juba, former soldiers laid down their arms; men and women wept with joy; and children finally knew the promise of looking to a future that they will shape.

KELEMEN: He met with South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir, to offer U.S. support in what will be a major development program. South Sudan is the size of Texas but few of its roads are paved, and there's little by way of infrastructure.

Kiir told the U.N. General Assembly Friday he needs all the help he can get.

P: Our country is just two months and 14 days today. And you can see how many problems and challenges ahead of us.

KELEMEN: Wearing his trademark cowboy hat and reading carefully off his script, Kiir said that this will not be the usual post-conflict rebuilding project.

KIIR: Even before the ravages of war could set in, our country never had anything worth rebuilding.

KELEMEN: This is building a nation from ground up.

KIIR: And that is why we need you to partner with us on this difficult journey.

KELEMEN: He also needs to keep a peace process on track with his nation's former rulers in Khartoum. The two countries have yet to work out oil-sharing arrangements and define the borders. And these days, there's a new layer of tension. Sudan accuses South Sudan of supporting rebellions in the North, in provinces called Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Kiir rejects those allegations.

KIIR: The Republic of South Sudan categorically restates that it has not, and will not, interfere in any domestic conflict situation in the Republic of Sudan.

KELEMEN: That was one of the issues that President Obama brought up when he met with Kiir last week, according to the U.S. envoy for Sudan, Princeton Lyman. Lyman points out that rebels in those regions were aligned with the South during the long, bloody civil war.

CORNISH: We are also urging South Sudan not to let assistance, military assistance, flow to their former colleagues in the war because that will only encourage the fighting.

KELEMEN: Outside the United Nations headquarters, in between his meetings on the subject, Lyman told NPR that he's working hard to get the North and the South talking about their outstanding differences. And he's encouraging Khartoum to resolve the underlying political troubles in those rebellious regions.

LYMAN: So we're working in every direction. And we are also very, very concerned about the humanitarian situation - particularly in Southern Kordofan, but it could also extend to Blue Nile - urging the government to allow World Food Program or other credible organization in. They haven't done that yet and that's a big, big priority for us.

KELEMEN: Lyman says the U.S. won't normalize relations with Khartoum as long as the fighting continues, and as long as it has big, outstanding conflicts with the new nation, South Sudan.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News.

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