South Sudan – officially known as the Republic of South Sudan – is a landlocked country in north-eastern Africa. It borders Sudan from the north, Ethiopia from the east, the Central African Republic from the west and Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo from the south.
South Sudan became an independent state on 9 July 2011, following a referendum on whether it should remain as part of Sudan or become independent. The option in favour of independence passed with 98.83% of the vote.1 The referendum was a consequence of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement between Khartoum’s central government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA); the army of the Republic of South Sudan. Also known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Naivasha Agreement was essentially established to “end the Second Sudanese Civil War, develop democratic governance countrywide, and share oil revenues.”2 As president of the Government of South Sudan, leader of the SPLA, as well as Vice President of Sudan from 2005 – 2011, Salva Kiir Mayardit is South Sudan’s current president. Re-elected in 2010, he became president of the new independent state in July 2011. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) is the country’s governing political party, and SPLA, the country’s army.
As a young state, South Sudan should be a country full of hope. Instead, it is in the grip of a massive, man-made humanitarian crisis. The country plunged into crisis in December 2013 amid a power struggle between the president Salva Kiir Mayardit and his deputy Riek Machar whom he dismissed after accusations of an attempted coup. The country was thus characterised by political conflict, resulting in incensed violence and extreme food shortages. Fighting between government troops and rebel factions erupted into a conflict that killed thousands and propelled more than ‘2.2 million people to flee their homes.’3 Other causes of conflict included border disputes with Sudan particularly border positioned regions and their decisions to either join the north or the south disputes over grazing and agricultural land, disputes over religion in particular regions and rival ethnic groups in the various regions making up South Sudan.
The country’s economy has also been tremendously affected, although South Sudan’s been largely dependent on subsistence agriculture, since the conflict the economy is now highly dependent on oil. However, while an estimated 75% of all the former Sudan’s oil reserves are in South Sudan as per the 2005 Agreement, the refineries and the pipeline to the Red Sea are located within Sudan. Thus, despite the potential oil wealth, South Sudan is one of Africa’s least developed countries.
On the other hand, media freedom in South Sudan is profoundly weak. Journalists are often arrested for reports deemed as criticising the government and the ruling party. Free reporting is thus undermined due to weak legal institutions and political pressures. The state-owned South Sudan TV has little competition, and the development of TV media has been further hindered by limited electricity and overall poverty.
In contemporary South Sudan, a number of provisional internationally-mediated peace agreements have been signed over the course of the civil war. The most recent of these agreements was signed in August of 2015. The situation in South Sudan however remains highly unstable due to the fact that these agreements have been repeatedly violated. Though violent outbreaks continue to occur throughout the country, some regions have become less volatile.
South Sudan has cancelled its Independence Day celebrations, exclaiming that the little money it has would be better spent elsewhere, as it is still recovering from a devastating civil war. South Sudan’s information minister has made it known to the public that the nation’s fifth anniversary on July 9 will be observed with a presidential speech instead, “because of the expenses involved.”4
|President||Salva Kiir Mayardit|
|GDP (2015) $9.015 bn||$9.015bn|
|Population||12 875 556|
|Religion||Christianity, Traditional Religions|
|Major Languages||English, Arabic, Juba Arabic, Dinka|