Modern Sudan emerged during the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1898-1955). During this time, Britain and Egypt occupied Sudan, with separate administrative arrangements for the north and south. Sudan became independent at the beginning of 1956 and faced long civil wars in the decades that followed. Between 1955 and 2005, northern and South Sudan experienced conflict and war.
On 9 January 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed by the leaders of the north and south. It granted partial-autonomy to Southerners, and a new Interim Constitution. Under the terms of the peace, the SPLM leader John Garang became the First Vice-President of the Republic of Sudan, and President of the Government of South Sudan. Barely three weeks after being sworn into office in July 2005, John Garang died in an aircraft accident. He was succeeded by Salva Kiir Mayardit.
On 9 January 2011, Southerners voted in a referendum provided by the peace agreement and opted to separate from the north by more than 98 percent of the vote. Six months later, on 9 July, the Republic of South Sudan was born.
On 15 December 2013, a power struggle between the president, Salva Kiir, and his deputy, Riek Machar, took place. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement which led the way for independence, divided between two main factions. The conflict devastated the lives of millions of South Sudanese and displaced more than 2.2 million people. On 17 August 2015, an internationally-mediated peace agreement was signed. The agreement was based on a power-sharing principle.
In April 2016, the leader of the SPLM in opposition, Riek Machar, returned to Juba for the first time since the civil war erupted more than two years ago, to form a Transnational Government of National Unity (TGoNU) as the First Vice President together with Salva Kiir, as President. The TGoNU is tasked with initiating and overseeing a permanent constitution-making process leading to national elections.
On 8 July 2016, heavy fighting broke out in the capital Juba. Three days later, a unilateral ceasefire was declared by Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Government and SPLM/A in Opposition. The Juba conflict was yet another setback to the peace agreement signed in August 2015 and the Transitional Government of National Unity. The Juba incident has further exacerbated the political, economic and social crises afflicting the young nation.
Despite gaining independence, the youngest nation in the world remains fragile and characterized by: ethnic violence, high levels of poverty and exclusion, low literacy levels, border disputes, gender inequality, limited access to basic services, poor infrastructure, and weak institutions.
South Sudan is expansive, largely rural, yet widely depopulated. Almost 83 percent of the population resides in rural areas. Poverty is endemic with at least 80 percent of the population defined as income-poor and living on n equivalent of less than US$1 per day. More than one third of the population lacks secure access to food.
However, it is a well-endowed and potentially rich country. The Nile River is its major natural feature. It traverses the country and flows through some of its regional centres, including the capital city, Juba. It facilitates trade, administration and urbanization in some rural areas.
South Sudan holds other natural resources including oil, gold, silver, iron ore and copper, and many more. The country’s large fertile lands have produced cassava, groundnuts, sweet potato, sorghum, sesame, maize, rice, finger millet, cowpea and beans.
Although landlocked, the country does not lack for access to potential trade routes and markets for its commodity exports. At the same time, the economy is dominated by the oil sector. Outside the oil sector, livelihoods are currently concentrated in low productive, unpaid agriculture and pastoralist work. As much as 85 percent of the working population is engaged in non-wage work, chiefly in subsistence agriculture and livestock rearing (about 78 percent of the working population).
The agriculture sector is mostly rain-fed and very vulnerable to changing weather patterns. South Sudan experiences both widespread and localized droughts and floods. There is virtually no manufacturing industry and practically all intermediate and consumer goods are imported. The only modern industrial sector is the oil industry, in which foreign investors, particularly Chinese, Indian and Malaysian dominate.
The conflict, falling oil revenues and rapidly depreciating currency have further exacerbated economic hardships in South Sudan.
Conflict has blocked the path towards inclusive and sustainable growth, built on a diversified economy that would create employment and livelihoods for the poor and war-affected populations. The expectations of citizens for justice, rule of law, accountability, reconciliation, and healing has yet to be met.