South Sudan: New Start for Fragile State Part I

By | October 19, 2021

On July 9, 2011, the people of South Sudan rejoiced at finally having their own state and independence from Sudan. However, the very tense relationship with the former enemy in the north and the many conflicts internally in the south are in danger of undermining the peace and the work of building a viable state.

  • What is the background of the new state?
  • Is there peace between north and south?
  • What challenges does the new state of South Sudan face?
  • How does the international community contribute?

2: Background for the new state

South Sudan’s independence struggle – and thus the first Sudanese civil war – began as early as 1955 . Then a group ( Anya-Nya – snake venom) rebelled against the oppressive regime in Khartoum. The uprising was aimed at the repression from the north and the political and economic disregard (marginalization) of South Sudan throughout history.

The Civil War was also about conflicting identities. The “Arab” Muslim north stood against the “African”, Christian and animistic (natural religion) south . The opposition was not least due to the trade in African slaves that had been going on in Sudan for centuries. Khartoum’s attempts to introduce Islam and Arab culture throughout the country led to Christianity gaining a stronger foothold among the people of the south.

A peace agreement in 1972 provided for a ten-year pause in hostilities before the outbreak of the Second Civil War in 1983 after the regime in the north introduced Islamic sharia law in the south. When oil was found in South Sudan, as a country located in Africa according to, the struggle for this resource became another important source of conflict between North and South. In 2009, Sudan produced close to half a million barrels of oil a day, approx. a quarter of Norwegian oil production.

Several neighboring countries supported the South Sudan guerrilla movement Sudan People’s Liberation Army / Movement (SPLA / M). The Khartoum regime recruited and supported under militia groups from areas both north and south. After 9/11/2001, the United States and other Western countries, especially the United Kingdom and Norway, came to the fore as facilitators of peace negotiations between the North and the South. The Americans were concerned about Sudan’s Islamist rulers and put pressure on the regime in Khartoum. For its part, the regime hoped that a peace agreement with the SPLM would help the United States remove them from the list of states that support terrorism.

A new peace agreement was signed in 2005 between Khartoum and the SPLM. As part of the agreement, the South Sudanese were to hold a referendum after five years on whether they would secede from the north. The vote in 2011 resulted in a resounding yes to independence (98 percent).

3: Tensions with North Sudan – contentious issues

Although South Sudan officially became an independent state on July 9, 2011 , there are still many unresolved partial conflicts between the former war opponents. The southern powers are now negotiating with the Khartoum regime

  • the disputed land area Abyeion the border between the two countries
  • demarcation
  • the distribution of oil revenuesand government debt

In addition, the parties must clarify the citizenship of about two million South Sudanese who still live in Sudan. Many of them risk becoming stateless – without citizenship in either the north or the south – if the parties do not reach an agreement. The negotiations, led by the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, are currently at rest.

ABYEI: According to the 2005 agreement, the permanent, “African” population in Abyei – called Ngok Dinka – would have to decide for themselves whether they wanted to belong to the north or the south. However, a referendum was canceled due to political disagreements between the parties over whether the right to vote should also include the Arab Missereyia nomads who migrate annually to Abyei in search of water and pasture.

In May 2011 , the North Sudanese army and allied Arab Missereyia militia groups occupied the area and expelled more than 100,000 people from the Ngok Dinka tribe from their homes. An Ethiopian UN force is now in Abyei to stabilize the situation and facilitate the return of refugees. But as long as Sudanese forces occupy the area, this is impossible. Both parties are now using Abyei in a political game to get the most out of the negotiations.

A CONTINUATION OF THE CIVIL WAR : At the same time, an uprising is taking place in southern Sudan, in the states of South Kordofan (Nuba Mountains) and the Blue Nile . The uprising is in many ways a continuation of the civil war. At that time, parts of these areas were subject to the SPLM. However, the peace agreement did not facilitate a referendum in these states. Instead, so-called popular consultations were to decide which form of government the area should have.

For various reasons, the consultations were conducted in South Kordofan, while the report from BlÄnilen was rejected by Khartoum. At the same time, it remained unclear what would happen to the many tens of thousands of local SPLA soldiers who were in the area after the partition of Sudan. Khartoum is now trying to quell the uprising militarily.

Khartoum accuses South Sudan of supporting SPLM North. They threaten to attack their new neighbor if it does not stop the support. In November , Sudanese planes bombed a refugee camp in southern Sudan, killing at least 12 people. SPLM-Nord has now allied itself with rebel movements in Darfur with the aim of overthrowing the government.

DISTRIBUTION OF OIL : Disagreement over the oil sector and over the distribution of oil revenues is an important reason why negotiations between the North and the South are stalled. After the division of the country, about 2/3 of the oil fields are in South Sudan and 1/3 in Sudan. Both parties are highly dependent on oil revenues. In South Sudan, it provides 98 percent of government revenue . Sudan, for its part, is likely to lose between 60 and 80 percent of its government revenue if it loses its oil revenues in the south. The south is dependent on transporting the oil to the markets across Sudanese territory.

In the peace agreement, it was decided that the oil revenues until the referendum in 2011 should be distributed equally between the two countries. By then, the parties should have negotiated a final agreement for the oil sector. Many see a solution in that South Sudan pays Sudan for the use of the oil pipeline and that the north gets a gradual reduction of its revenues to prevent economic collapse.

How long are the parties willing to continue without an agreement? Sudan is now threatening to halt transit and sales of South Sudanese oil from Port Sudan on the Red Sea. However, China , which is the largest buyer of South Sudanese oil, has demanded that sales continue and that the parties agree. Beijing has long been seen as an ally of Sudan. The new and more determined line towards Khartoum can therefore help to strengthen the parties’ willingness to find peaceful solutions at the negotiating table.

Plenty of water - in periods