9 July 2019 marks 8 years since South Sudan’s independence from Sudan, the culmination of decades of war and several years of peace talks, and an indirect result both of chronic under-investment and of differing visions for a united – or divided – Sudan. Its deep roots are well understood by, among others, FIGS supporter Peter Dixon (for whom FIGS CEO Mark Simmons worked some 15 years ago to encourage those peace talks to be more inclusive) and are lucidly explored in his excellent new book Divided by History. Many of you may have also heard on recent radio broadcasts the analysis by FIGS trustee and former British ambassador to then-still-united Sudan, Dame Rosalind Marsden.
South Sudan’s journey towards and since independence has not been easy. Competing interests and visions for this new country have been difficult to reconcile. Identity politics have made it easier for people to say what they are against than what they are for, and in this South Sudan’s story is not unique among generational political transitions.
After 8 tumultuous years, there is a sense of renewed optimism in South Sudan that this time a shared way forward will be found. The road will remain bumpy, but as those of you who have travelled in choppy waters will know, raising our eyes towards a distant but shared horizon can make the journey less rough. Happy birthday, South Sudan!
Mark Simmons, FIGS CEO, 9th July 2019