A New Nation is Born: What is South Sudan?

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Overview: The newest nation in the world, officially born July 9, 2011, is the Republic of South Sudan, which seceded from the larger nation of Sudan after decades of civil war that took millions of lives and severely retarded the South’s development. American sports fans may recognize the names of professional basketball players Luol Deng and Manute Bol, both of whom were born in what is now South Sudan and starred in the NBA. 

Basic Information
Lay of the Land: South Sudan is a landlocked country in North Africa. As its name implies, South Sudan was once part of Sudan, and only recently (as of July 9, 2011) seceded from Sudan and became a sovereign and independent state. South Sudan is bordered by Sudan to the north; Ethiopia to the east; Kenya, Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south; and Central African Republic to the west. With an area of 248,776 square miles (a little smaller than the state of Michigan), South Sudan took about one quarter of Sudan’s former total area, and roughly 20% of its total population. 
The geography of South Sudan is dominated by the slow-moving White Nile, which creates large flood plains on both its eastern and western banks capable of sustaining substantial agriculture and population. The Nile creates as well the enormous Sudd swamp, which is the size of Belgium and the world’s largest swamp. The swamp and its environs, as well as Boma National Park west of the Ethiopian border and Southern National Park near the border with Congo, support numerous and varied animal life, including large herds of elephants, zebras, hartebeests, lions, buffalo, giraffes, bongo, giant forest hogs, Red River Hogs, chimpanzees, forest monkeys, and several species of antelopes and gazelles. Some conservationists believe that the number of animals in South Sudan’s wild areas rivals the Serengeti and other well-known game parks in neighboring Kenya and Tanzania. The southeast quarter of the country contains large rainforests, where tropical woods for the world market are harvested. The capital and largest city is Juba, a fast-growing town of at least 250,000 on the White Nile in the country’s mountainous southern region, where peaks with elevations above 9,000 feet are not uncommon and South Sudan’s highest point, Mount Kinyeti Imatong, rises near the Uganda border to 10,456 feet above sea level. 
Population: 8.26 million (2008 Sudan census)
South Sudan’s population is hotly disputed, however, and when the official 2008 Sudanese census put it at 8.26 million, Southern Sudanese officials rejected that number and claimed a population of between 11 and 13 million. Nevertheless, the first and second Statistical Yearbooks of South Sudan, published by the South Sudan government in 2009 and 2010, set forth a population of 8.26 million. Given the fluidity of the situation and the likelihood of both emigration and immigration, the population of South Sudan probably will not be precisely known for several years. In fact, during the six months leading up to independence, more than 360,000 Sudanese were displaced, and the movements of population will certainly continue. 
Religions: Academic and U.S. State Department researchers believe that a majority of South Sudanese follow traditional/indigenous beliefs, while Christians constitute a minority. It should also be noted that many South Sudanese blend their Animist beliefs and their Christian beliefs, which makes drawing a bright line between the two groupings problematic. 
Ethnic Groups: South Sudan is inhabited by three main ethnic groupings: the Nilotic communities in the Upper Nile and greater Bahr El Ghazal; the Nilo-Hamitic communities who occupy Equatoria; and the Bantus who also live in Equatoria and Western Bahr El Ghazal.
Languages: The official language of Sudan is Arabic, but South Sudan has dropped Arabic in favor of English, which is widely spoken, as the official language of education and government business. There are also a number of indigenous Southern Sudanese languages, as follows: Dinka, 1.35 million (Southwestern dialect, 450,000; Northeastern, 320,000; Southeastern, 250,000; South Central, 250,000; Northwestern, 80,000); Nuer, 740,000; Bari, 420,000; Zande, 350,000; Shilluk, 175,000; Otuho, 135,000; Toposa, 100,000; Luwo, 80,000; Moru, 70,000; Didinga, 60,000; Murle, 60,000; Anuak, 52,000; Lopit, 50,000; Acholi, 45,000; Avokaya, 40,000; Lango, 38,000; Sudanese Creole Arabic, 20,000.
A decisive factor in the history and development of the region now constituted as the Republic of South Sudan has been its geographical isolation from other centers of civilization. Thus in the ancient world, South Sudan fell outside the orbits of influence of the Egyptian, Greek, Persian and Roman empires, and was virtually untouched by the advance of the later Islamic empires, unlike the northern three-quarters of Sudan, where Muslims constitute more than 90% of the populace. This isolation allowed its peoples to retain their indigenous African social, cultural, political and religious heritage and institutions. Hence when the British in 1947 decided to include South Sudan, which is overwhelmingly black and follows indigenous faiths, in its larger colony of Sudan, which is overwhelmingly Arab and Muslim, the result was a nation doubly divided against itself along mutually reinforcing lines of race and religion, with the South Sudanese consistently disadvantaged to the benefit of those in the north. 
According to South Sudanese oral tradition, the Nilotic peoples—the Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, and others—arrived in southern Sudan approximately during the 10th century. Between the 15th century and 19th centuries, these peoples settled into their modern locations. The non-Nilotic Azande people, who constitute the third largest ethnicity in South Sudan, arrived in the 16th century and established the region’s largest polity. They are found in the Maridi, Yambio and Tambura districts in the tropical rain forest belt of western Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal. In the 18th century, the Avungara people entered and imposed their power, which remained largely unchallenged until the arrival of the British at the end of the 19th century. Before that, in 1820, the Albanian-Ottoman ruler of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, had invaded and conquered northern Sudan, and his heirs continued to conquer the rest of Sudan and incorporate it into Egypt, a process completed under Ismail I in the 1860s. In 1879, however, the European powers forced the removal of Ismail and established his son, the corrupt and incompetent Tewfik I, in his place. His misrule resulted in the Orabi Revolt, which provided the British with the pretext they needed to occupy Egypt in 1882. 
Around the same time, a revolt broke out in Sudan, led by Muhammad Ahmad ibn Abd Allah, the Mahdi (Guided One), who sought to end foreign presence in Sudan, and who succeeded in driving the British out of Sudan from 1885 to 1898. This Mahdist Revolt, which was centered in the Muslim north, likewise broke the Anglo-Egyptian hold on South Sudan, and neither the Egyptian nor the Mahdist state (1883-1898) had any effective control of the southern region outside of a few garrisons.
The British Empire re-established its control over Sudan in 1899, and, although it formally ruled through Egypt, in fact Britain ruled Sudan directly from London. Recognizing the sharp contrast between north and south, from 1924 until independence in 1956, the British had a policy of running Sudan as two essentially separate territories, and it was illegal for people living north of the 10th parallel to go farther south and for people south of the 8th parallel to go farther north. The British justified these restrictions as being necessary to prevent the spread of malaria and other tropical diseases that had killed so many British troops, as well as to ease Christian missionary efforts in the South while stopping Islamic proselytizing there. The inevitable result was increased isolation between the north and south, which probably made civil war even more likely. 
In 1947, British hopes to join the southern part of Sudan with Uganda were dashed by the Juba Conference, which decided to include the region in a northern-dominated Sudan. In 1954, the governments of Egypt and Britain agreed to end their long competition over Sudan and signed a treaty guaranteeing Sudanese independence on January 1, 1956. Ismail Al-Azhari was elected  Prime Minister and led the first modern Sudanese government. 
In 1955, however, the year before independence, the First Sudanese Civil War broke out between Northern and Southern Sudan, and lasted into 1972. The new constitution was silent on two critical issues for southerners—whether Sudan was to be a secular or Islamic state and whether it would be run centrally from Khartoum or in a federal way giving some local autonomy. When the Arab-led Khartoum government reneged on promises to southerners to create a federal system, Southern army officers mutinied and formed the Anya-Nya guerilla movement. A few years later the first Sudanese military regime, under Major-General Abboud, took power following a coup d’etat. Military regimes continued into 1969 when General Jaafar Nimeiry led a successful coup and took power. In 1972, the civil war ended under the terms of the Addis Ababa Agreement, which allowed the south to enjoy a measure of self-government through the formation of the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region. 
In 1979, oil was discovered in the south, and in 1983, the Second Sudanese Civil War began, following President Nimeiry’s decision to abandon the Addis Ababa Agreement by trying to create a unitary Sudan and abolish the south’s autonomy. Nimeiry dissolved the Southern Sudanese regional government, and Southern troops rebelled by launching attacks in June 1983. The situation worsened in September 1983 when Nimeiry tried to impose Islamic law on all of Sudan, including the non-Muslim south. Southern Sudanese organized the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) to fight the north. 
Between 1983 and the war’s end in 2004, more than 2.5 million people were killed, and more than 5 million became refugees in other countries or within Sudan. The war also caused widespread destruction of property and infrastructure in Southern Sudan, and greatly retarded the south’s economic development.
Peace talks finally began to make substantial progress in 2003 and 2004, with both sides signing the Nairobi Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on January 9, 2005. The CPA granted Southern Sudan autonomy for six years, to be followed by a referendum in 2011 on independence, created a co-vice president position for a southerner, mandated that north and south split oil deposits equally, and also left both the north’s and south’s armies in place. Although John Garang, the SPLA leader appointed co-vice president, died in a helicopter crash only three weeks after being sworn in, the resulting riots were limited and peace was eventually restored. 
The independence referendum took place in Southern Sudan from January 9 to 15, 2011, with 97.58% of registered voters participating and an astonishing 98.83% of them voting for independence, a result quickly accepted by the government of Sudan. Upon the announcement of these results on February 7, 2011, President Barack Obama congratulated the people of South Sudan and announced the U.S. would formally recognize South Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011. A simultaneous referendum was supposed to be held in the oil rich Abyei area, a border area that has been declared, on an interim basis, to be simultaneously part of the states of South Kurdufan (a northern state) and Northern Bahr el Ghazal (a southern one), on whether to become part of South Sudan, but it has been postponed due to conflict over border and residency rights, which led briefly to military conflict in Abyei that was temporarily resolved by a truce. 
The predetermined date for the creation of an independent state was July 9, 2011. The Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan of 2005 is the supreme law of Southern Sudan. The Constitution establishes an autonomous Government of Southern Sudan headed by a President who is Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. That President was John Garang, the founder of the SPLA/M, who was the first President until his death on July 30, 2005. Salva Kiir Mayardit, his deputy, was sworn in as First Vice President of Sudan and President of the Government of Southern Sudan on 11 August 2005. Riek Machar replaced him as Vice-President. Legislative power is vested in the government and the unicameral Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly. The Constitution also provides for an independent judiciary, the highest organ being the Supreme Court.
Although the military conflict with the north appeared to be near an end, violence continues in South Sudan, as the populace suffers from attacks and raids by the radical Lord's Resistance Army, a Christian terrorist militia movement based in neighboring Uganda that seeks to establish a Christian theocracy in Uganda and elsewhere. It is responsible for the deaths of hundreds in massacres, as well as for rape, abduction and the forcible use of child soldiers. 
Nation’s Newspapers:
Sudan Tribune (online, based in Paris)
The New Sudan Vision (online, based in North America, run by South Sudanese expatriates)
Gurtong (online, based in Juba, South Sudan)
History of U.S. Relations with South Sudan
During the negotiations that led to the 2005 Nairobi Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the U.S. strongly encouraged both sides to make reasonable compromises. American pressure on the Omar al-Bashir government of Sudan because of its past support for Islamic radicalism and terrorism and for exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Darfur certainly helped yield an outcome amenable to the South Sudanese. The U.S. has a consular office in Juba that will be transformed into an embassy, as the U.S. announced that it will recognize the independence of South Sudan as soon as it was declared on July 9, 2011. 
Current U.S. Relations with South Sudan
U.S. aid to Sudan overall was $924 million in 2009, but dropped to $439 in the 2011 budget request. In any event, government data do not allow separation of these totals between north and south. In southern Sudan, USAID provides support to assist the CPA’s key political processes and key milestones, including the 2008 census, the 2010 national elections, popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, and the 2011 referenda on the future status of southern Sudan and Abyei. In support of these goals, USAID is assisting the administration of these processes, promoting civic participation and consensus building, and supporting international observation.
Where Does the Money Flow?
Because South Sudan is a new nation as of July 9, 2011, there are no historical data regarding trade between it and the United States. Nevertheless, the nature of the South Sudanese economy is understood and its major export products well known. South Sudan is overwhelmingly agrarian, with 78% of its households relying mainly on agriculture or animal husbandry; only 11% rely on wages or salaries. Its agriculture also produces goods for export, including cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), sorghum, millet, wheat, gum arabic, sugarcane, cassava (tapioca), mangos, papaya, bananas, sweet potatoes and sesame. South Sudan also exports a great deal of tropical timber, including teak, etc. The states of Western Equatoria and Central Equatoria are the leading producers of high quality teak in the world, and the largest teak plantation on Earth is in South Sudan. Other extractive industries are also prominent, including petroleum and the mining of iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver and gold. South Sudan produces 85% of Sudanese oil output, but under the 2005 Nairobi Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), oil revenues are to be split equally for the duration of the agreement period. Oil revenues constitute 98.7% of the government of South Sudan’s budget.
South Sudan is nevertheless unusually poor, a result of decades of civil war and lagging economic development. Ninety percent of its population lives below the poverty line, according to the United Nations, and this poverty is reflected in numerous social indicators, including some of the worst health indicators in the world. The under-five infant mortality rate is 135 per 1,000, while maternal mortality is the highest in the world at 2,054 per 100,000 live births. In 2004, there were only three surgeons serving southern Sudan, with three proper hospitals, and in some areas there was just one doctor for every 500,000 people. Adult literacy is only 28%, but at least among young people it is above 40%. 
Human Rights
The authoritarian regime of Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir is well known for its blatant disregard for human rights, but there are hopes that the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) will do better in this area, although problems clearly exist, especially in areas involving law enforcement. 
Law Enforcement and Prisons
In the South, warrants are to be issued only by an authorized official, but arbitrary arrests occur anyway; the arrested have the right to contact an attorney and their family, but are occasionally not informed of these rights, and there is an insufficient number of lawyers to provide adequate defense counsel. Detainees in the South are generally informed of the charges against them, and there is a functioning bail system in South Sudan. Once charged with a crime, defendants enjoy numerous protections, including a presumption of innocence; public trials; the right to be present in a criminal trial without undue delay; and legal aid if they are unable to defend themselves in a serious offense. In actual practice, security forces in the South abused civilians, including opposition political party members. There were cases where South Sudan Police Services (SPSS) officers and SPLA officers reportedly raped women, sometimes with impunity.
Prisons in the South are overcrowded, primarily because of inadequate and antiquated facilities. The SPLA conduct of internal security and civilian disarmament caused tensions with communities which claimed that the SPLA was not politically neutral and not well disciplined. Courts in the South are generally very rudimentary, understaffed and suffering from undertrained personnel.
The courts are formally independent, but in practice depend upon the GOSS for funding and at times are subject to pressure from the SPLA on sensitive matters. Because the courts are chronically underfunded, corruption occurs amid numerous reports of bribery involving judges and other court officials. 
Freedom of Speech and Religion
South Sudan does much better in the area of civil and political freedoms. The interim constitution protects the freedoms of speech, association and assembly, and the GOSS generally respects these freedoms. The GOSS does not attempt to impede criticism or regularly monitor political meetings, although some SPLA commanders occasionally threaten and detain journalists for broadcasting unfavorable reports of the SPLA or the GOSS. The independent media are active and express a wide variety of views without restriction. In the South there are no restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the GOSS monitors e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups may engage in the expression of views via the Internet, including e-mail, and there are no restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events in Southern Sudan.
The constitution of Southern Sudan provides for freedom of religion in the South, and other laws and policies of the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) contributed to the generally free practice of religion.
U.S. Consul General to South Sudan
R. Barrie Walkley
U.S. Embassy Web Site: Juba Consulate
South Sudan’s Ambassador to the U.S.
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, formerly Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement Representative to the United States, is Head of Mission for the Government of South Sudan Mission to the U.S., and upon independence is expected to be named the first ambassador of South Sudan to the U.S. In various capacities he has served as South Sudan’s representative in North America since 2005.
Gatkuoth joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in 1984. He received SPLM/A training in 1988 in Matu Battalion, where he remained as a soldier until 1991. In 1993, Gatkuoth left South Sudan for Nairobi, Kenya, where he continued his political activities and then resettled to the U.S. to continue his education, earning a B.A. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland at College Park circa 1997. From 1998 to 2002, Gatkuoth was involved in a political campaign aimed at raising the awareness of the U.S. government and public of human rights abuses committed by the National Islamic Front (NIF) government of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. 
In 2002, the leadership of the SPLM/A appointed Gatkuoth deputy representative and coordinator of the SPLM chapters in North America, a position he held through June 2005. At that time, the late John Garang de Mabior, former first vice president of the Republic of Sudan, president of the Government of Southern Sudan, the chairman and commander-in-chief of the SPLM/A, appointed Gatkuoth as the SPLM representative to North America, in effect the “ambassador” of South Sudan, a job Gatkuoth performed until September 2009, although in August 2006 his title changed to head of mission for the government of South Sudan to the United States. 
As a diplomat and an advocate for South Sudan, he also guided the SPLM chapters across the United States as the SPLM transformed from a guerrilla movement into a political party and prepared for democratic elections in 2010 and the secession referendum in 2011.
-Matt Bewig


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