South Sudan Launches Bid to Join Commonwealth

The Vice President of South Sudan, Riek Machar is leading a bid for the newly formed African nation to become the 55th member of the Commonwealth. Speaking to a conference of the Royal Commonwealth Society in Kuala Lumpur, he set out his country’s “great enthusiasm for securing the recognition of the Commonwealth and membership of the association”. South Sudan becomes an independent state on Saturday 9th July 2011 when world leaders will attend the celebrations in Juba.

Following the referendum early this year which saw the people of South Sudan vote overwhelmingly to secede, Vice President Riek Machar travelled with a delegation of Ministers to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There, he addressed an international audience of delegates gathered for the Royal Commonwealth Society’s 2011 International Meeting.

Urging Commonwealth governments to recognise South Sudan as a sovereign nation, he expressed his country’s determination to demonstrate the commitment to democratic ideals, rule of law and human rights required of all prospective Commonwealth member states.

Vice President of South Sudan, Riek Machar said:

“The Commonwealth is a forum for countries that respect democratic values. We are in transition…Our government is young; its institutions are weak and our economy is underdeveloped…Yet the expectations of our people are so high…Membership of the Commonwealth would assist us greatly in meeting all our goals and I hope that one day soon we will be welcomed into this family of nations.”

Associate Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society and co-founder of Skills for Southern Sudan, Patrick Wintour said:

“This week, South Sudan will become the world’s youngest country. This newfound independence brings with it a real opportunity to build a peaceful and equitable society, committed to the same ideals shared by all Commonwealth member states.

The international community can contribute to the successful development of its newest member, and the Commonwealth is uniquely well-placed to assist South Sudan as it embarks upon this journey. I urge the Commonwealth to work with the people of South Sudan as they seek to build a nation that has been damaged by conflict. The Commonwealth must seize this opportunity to demonstrate its continued relevance by helping to facilitate stable, democratic governance in Africa’s newest nation and to call for an immediate halt to the violence on its northern border.”

Notes to Editors The Royal Commonwealth Society is holding an event in partnership with Skills for Southern Sudan, ‘South Sudan: Birth Pains of a New Nation’, on Friday 8th July, 12.30pm – 2pm at the Royal Overseas League, St James's Street, London SW1A 1LR. Journalists are welcome to attend. Please contact Joanna Bennett to reserve your place: / +44 (0) 20 7766 9230.

The following people will be speaking at the event:

Patrick Wintour, Associate Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society and cofounder of Skills for South Sudan

Kathryn Casson, Head of East and Central Africa Director's Office at DFID

Sekina Dario, Trustee of Skills for Southern Sudan, radio producer and presenter with the Sudan Council of Churches Radio Studio, and an active member of Women Law and Development in Sudan

Chuks Ihekaibeya, Independent consultant on South Sudan Development Plan, formerly a member of the Commonwealth Secretariat, first as an aide in the Private Office of the Commonwealth Secretary General and later in the Political Affairs Division.

To arrange interviews, please contact Joanna Bennett, Head of External Affairs at the RCS: / +44 (0) 20 7766 9230.

The Royal Commonwealth Society:

The RCS is the oldest and largest civil society organisation devoted to the Commonwealth. Founded in 1868, it conducts a range of events and activities aimed at promoting international understanding. Its educational, youth and cultural programmes include one of the world’s oldest and largest schools essay competitions, and an innovative international youth leadership programme. Headquartered at the Commonwealth Club in London, the RCS has some 4,000 members in the UK and a presence in over 40 Commonwealth countries through a network of branches and Commonwealth societies.

The RCS is a registered charity in England and Wales. (226748). The Commonwealth: The modern Commonwealth was established with 8 members in 1949. In 2011, it has 54 members with a total population of nearly 2 billion. It is a voluntary association of governments and peoples, built around shared language, institutions, challenges, aspirations and values. Commonwealth countries work together to promote common values: democracy, freedom, peace, the rule of law and opportunity for all.

Skills for Southern Sudan: Skills for Southern Sudan was set up in 1995 to strengthen the capacity of future leaders to rebuild a country that had been damaged by more than 20 years of conflict. Skills has provided training and development opportunities in a wide range of sectors including public administration, civil society, health, education, agriculture and information technology.

The project was developed by the Southern Sudanese diaspora which supported the opening of centres in Oxford, Nairobi and Juba. Skills has received funding from a number of donors, including DFID.


For all media enquiries, please contact Joanna Bennett, Head of External Affairs, Royal Commonwealth Society. T:+44 (0) 20 7766 9230 / E: Follow us on the day: @Events_RCS #southsudan  

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