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South Sudan

South Sudan, officially called the Republic of South Sudan, is the world’s newest country. It is a landlocked country located on the continent of Africa to the south of Sudan. It is bordered to the east by Ethiopia, to the north by Sudan, to the west of the Central African Republic, to the south-west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south of Uganda and to the south east by Kenya.

On 9 July 2011 South Sudan became the newest country in the world. After a January 2011 referendum regarding its secession from Sudan passed with around 99% of voters in favour of the split. The birth of the Republic of South Sudan is the culmination of a six-year peace process which began with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005.

South Sudan 2020 population is estimated at 11,193,725 people at mid year according to UN data. South Sudan population is equivalent to 0.14% of the total world population. South Sudan ranks number 84 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population. The population density in South Sudan is 18 per Km 2 (47 people per mi 2). South Sudan’s  population is expected to increase by roughly 3.5 million until 2022. Juba, the capital of the country, is the most populated city in South Sudan, and is home to approximately 320,000 people.

Most poor people in the country live in rural areas, which are home to 84 per cent of the population. Although the country is among the ones suffering from the worst living conditions in terms of medical and educational systems – one result is a high birth rate – the fertility rate here is one of the highest worldwide. In 2016, it amounted to 5.19 children per woman.

The East-Central Africa country was settled by many of its current ethnic groups during the 15th-19th centuries. After the Sudan region was invaded in 1820 by Muḥammad ʿAlī, viceroy of Egypt under the Ottoman Empire, the southern Sudan was plundered for slaves. By the end of the 19th century the Sudan was under British-Egyptian rule.

Ethnic Groups Of South Sudan


The Dinka people are a Nilotic group with no centralized political power but are rather divided themselves into independently interconnected clans. Most of the Dinka community resides in Sudan’s Anglo-Egyptian historical province of Bahr el Ghazal. The Dinka traditionally believe in one God known as Nhialic who temporarily possesses individuals and speaks through spirits. Later in the 19th century Christianity was introduced by the British missionaries, and now it predominates as the religion in South Sudan. The Dinka are the most populous ethnic group in South Sudan accounting for 36% of the population.


The Nuer are the second largest group in South Sudan and are also Nilotic. The Nuer had a white army who derived their name from applying white ash on their bodies to act as an insect repellent. Originally the white army consisted of armed youth and was established to protect the Nuer people’s cattle from other Raiders. After South Sudan’s independence, the white army resisted to give up their weapons due to lack of confidence in the SPLA’s ability to protect them which led to the SPLA trying to confiscate their cattle and unsuccessfully destroying their economy. The Nuer accounts for 16% of the population of South Sudan.


The Shilluk are responsible for establishing the Shilluk Kingdom which ruled between 1490 and 1865. The Shilluk King was regarded as divine but is now traditional chieftain operating in both Sudan and the South Sudan region of the Upper Nile. The majority of the Shilluk are Christian converts. The Shilluk also controls the White Nile, and Kodok is the meditating city of the Shilluk King and a place where most ceremonies take place. The Shilluk accounts for 3% of the population.


The Toposa are believed to be a part of the Karamajong people who presently live in Uganda having left in the late 16th century finally settling on the eastern side of the State of Eastern Equatorial.

The Toposa practiced cattle, sheep, and goat herding and also took place in the trading of Ivory. The Toposa have been involved with cattle rustling and have fought over water and pasture with their neighboring communities. The Toposa have no distinctive political hierarchy although respect is accorded to the Chiefs, elders, and wise men. The Toposa believe in a Supreme Being and ancestral spirits, and they account for 2% of the population.


The Otuho are part of Sudan’s Nilotic group that are pastoralists situated in the Eastern Equatorial where they settled in the 1800’s. The Otuho speak the Otuho language and have strong beliefs based on nature and ancestral worship. The community holds the land in trust for no particular one in authority. However, in recent times the Otuho and their neighboring community have been in conflict with the Murle who are consistent cattle Raiders who also kidnap their children. The Otuho accounts for 2% of the population.


South Sudan’s military and political elites are widely reported to have constructed a kleptocratic regime that has captured and controlled nearly all profit-generating sectors of the economy. South Sudan’s current conflict is a competition among the nation’s elite for power and profits.

At independence, its oil was identified as its most important source of income. It was hoped that it that could help fund the country’s development and future prosperity. Yet much of this hope has now evaporated. More than half of school-age children have never set foot in a classroom.

South Sudan’s oil sector continues to face scrutiny by the international community as a “major driver” of violence and human suffering, according to a report by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan in February, 2019.

Production in Unity state has increased to 175,000 barrels a day since September 2018 but is far from the target of 200,000 barrels. Before the civil war began in late 2013, production across the country had been about 350,000 barrels a day, according to the oil ministry.

Fluctuations in global oil prices are a major risk to South Sudan. Commitment to the peace agreement will remain key for the stability of oil production, private investment, foreign exchange flows, and public investment in the critical sectors of health, education, and agriculture.

In 2018 South Sudan was the number 136 in total exports, the number 177 in total imports, and the number 133 most complex economy according to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI). In 2018, South Sudan exported $1.71B and imported $811M, resulting in a positive trade balance of $898M. In 2018, South Sudan’s exports per capita were $156 and its imports per capita were $73.9.

Agriculture has been identified as the main engine of economic and rural development. South Sudan, the birthplace of some of the earliest crop and livestock farming in human history, faces a severe food crisis. The country’s endowment of favorable land , water, and weather conditions makes 70 percent of land suitable for agriculture. Currently the region supports 10-20 million head of cattle.

Sustainable agriculture in South Sudan has incredible yet unrealized potential.  South Sudan is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, as more than 6 million people – just under 60 percent of the country’s population – are severely food insecure, according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis.

Challenges faced in Agricultural Sector of South Sudan

  • Poor and inadequate infrastructure. Lack of developed trunk and feeder roads (and, other types of infrastructure – railway/rolling stock, electricity and transport systems as well as ICT) inhibit movement of goods and services into and out of rural areas, increases the cost of transportation and dampen producers’ incentives to generate surplus.
  • Unclear land tenure and demarcation.
  • Shortage of farm labor.
  • Weak farmer/producer organizations.
  • Paucity of microfinance facilities. Formal banking services are still extremely limited
  • Weak markets and non-existent market information systems.
  • Lack of agricultural productivity-enhancing technologies.
  • There is little use of improved varieties of seed or breeds of livestock.
  • Weak or non-existent capacity to provide farm and off -farm extension services to farmers
  • Weak entrepreneurship base and absence of commercial farming.

South Sudan is very young with two-thirds of the population under the age of 30. Agriculture is a crucial area for coordinated interventions, given its economic potential as an alternative to oil production, a vehicle for job creation for youth and its proven capacity to reduce poverty and increase food security.

South Sudan’s Demographics

Despite South Sudan attaining its independence in 2011, there are still some inter-ethnic wars that mostly involve land disputes and cattle raiders. The majority of South Sudan’s ethnic groups live as communities, and their issues are solved by community elders other than having formal institutions to handle such matters. Most of the ethnic minorities still herd cattle and maintain their traditional ways.

With independence, South Sudan became the 195th country in the world, and the 193rd member of the United Nations. The UN Security Council established the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan in July 2011 to consolidate peace and security and to help establish conditions for development.

Renewed conflicts in December 2013 and July 2016 have undermined the development gains achieved since independence and worsened the humanitarian situation. The number of internally displaced people has reached 4.3 million and some 1.6 million South Sudanese 63% of which are children have fled to other countries in desperate need of aid.

Tensions were further inflamed by the unresolved issues lingering from the secession of South Sudan. Although some progress had been made with minor-level matters, such as a September 2011 agreement on opening several border crossings, the issue of oil revenue sharing specifically, coming to an agreement regarding how much money South Sudan should pay Sudan for the use of Sudanese pipelines and port facilities to transport and export its oil was quite contentious. South Sudan pointed out that the fees Sudan was demanding were as much as 10 times greater than the average rates paid by other countries in similar situations and refused to agree to the inflated price. In the absence of an agreement, in December 2011 Sudan began confiscating South Sudan’s oil to make up for what it claimed it was owed for the unpaid transit fees since the July secession. Ongoing talks to resolve the issue, led by the AU and held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, were not successful, and in January 2012 South Sudan began shutting down operations in its oil fields to prevent Sudan from taking any more of its oil. The action proved damaging to the economies of both countries but especially South Sudan, which relied upon oil revenue to fund almost its entire budget. Meanwhile, South Sudan investigated alternatives to Sudan’s oil pipelines and exporting infrastructure, including the construction of a pipeline through Kenya and another through Ethiopia and Djibouti.

A series of agreements addressing oil fees, borders, and other issues, signed by both countries in September 2012, initially appeared to resolve the standoff, but in reality it continued for several more months because of dissension between the two countries over how to implement some of the terms agreed upon. Talks continued, however, and bore progress when a commitment to implement the September 2012 agreements, with specific deadlines attached to the necessary actions, was signed in March 2013. South Sudan resumed oil production the next month.

In the midst of the oil troubles, another high-profile issue the unresolved matter of border demarcation also led to many skirmishes and at times appeared to bring South Sudan and Sudan to the brink of war. Such was the case with the high-profile battle that began in March 2012 over Heglig an area that was, pending final demarcation, generally recognized as part of Sudan and home to one of Sudan’s most-important oilfields, although South Sudan also laid clam to the area. After South Sudan suffered repeated aerial bombardments and ground assaults launched by Sudan, South Sudanese troops occupied Heglig for several days in April, ostensibly to stem further attacks into South Sudanese territory, before withdrawing from the area after bowing to pressure from the AU and UN, which held South Sudan’s occupation of Heglig as illegal. Fighting in the area continued, though as did Sudan’s aerial bombardments of South Sudanese territory and grew to include the hotly contested Abyei region before finally subsiding in May, as both countries began withdrawing their forces from the region.

The status of the Abyei region remained a point of contention. In the absence of the long-awaited referendum that was to determine whether the region would be part of Sudan or South Sudan, the South Sudanese-aligned Dinka residents organized a nonbinding referendum that was held in October 2013, in which 99.9 percent of the voters opted to join South Sudan. Notably, the Abyei residents aligned with Sudan, the Misseriya, did not vote. The referendum and its results were not internationally recognized.

Domestic Problems

In 2016, the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan deepened and spread, causing tremendous pain and suffering for over 7,5 million people across the newly independent country. Within South Sudan the government was faced with escalating ethnic violence, particularly between the Lou Nuer and Murle peoples in the Jonglei state, with cattle rustling being one of the main issues, as well as a seemingly endless string of retaliatory attacks that killed more than 1,500 people and displaced tens of thousands in the years following independence. The new government also had to deal with rebel activity from several groups active in Jonglei and other states, which also was closely related to ethnic divides. Amnesty offers from the government to the many rebel groups met with mixed success.

Signs of growing dissension within the ruling party, the SPLM, were evident throughout 2013. Kiir dismissed his entire cabinet in late July and shortly thereafter unveiled his new cabinet, which was smaller. Riek Machar, who had served as Kiir’s vice president, was not retained. Meanwhile, Machar voiced his ambitions to challenge Kiir for SPLM leadership and to be the party’s presidential candidate in the country’s 2015 elections, as did Pagan Amum, another dismissed cabinet member also seen as a political rival of Kiir within the SPLM.

The simmering tensions came to a head on December 15, 2013, when gunfire erupted between troops loyal to Kiir and those loyal to Machar. The nature of the incident was not clear, but Kiir attributed the violence to being part of an attempted coup, led by Machar. Machar denied the coup allegation and, in turn, accused Kiir of using the violence as an excuse to attack his political adversaries. Machar, however, soon emerged leading a force of rebel soldiers, known as the SPLA in Opposition (SPLA-IO; aligned with the ruling party splinter group, the SPLM-IO), and called for Kiir to step down. Tensions were ignited between Kiir’s ethnic group, the Dinka, and Machar’s ethnic group, the Nuer, and violence quickly spread to the civilian population. Fighting intensified, and both sides were accused of having committed human rights abuses.

Regional mediation efforts, led by IGAD, did not make any lasting progress. Beginning in January 2014 and continuing into 2015, several cease-fire agreements were signed, but they were quickly violated as fighting continued. In February 2015 it was announced that the elections scheduled for later that year, in June, would be postponed because of the unresolved conflict. To that end, in March both houses of the legislature passed a bill that extended tent cease-fire and the formation of a transitional government and also laid out a fragile power-sharing arrangement. Machar was to return as a vice president in the new transitional government. But, as with previous agreements, both sides violated some of the terms, and fighting continued. One particularly contentious issue was Kiir’s announcement in October that the number of states would change from 10 to 28; such an increase would interfere with the highly sensitive power-sharing arrangements outlined in the peace agreement. In spite of much criticism from all parties involved in the peace process, Kiir implemented the new state structure in late December 2015.

In early January 2016 the government and rebels and other parties agreed to an arrangement for sharing ministerial portfolios in the transitional government, with an implementation date of January 22, 2016. The government was not formed, however, as there were still unresolved disagreements, including that of the contentious new 28-state structure. Meanwhile, in March the UN issued a report describing widespread human rights abuses committed by both sides during the ongoing conflict, with the government-aligned forces being noted as having been responsible for more of the violations within the previous year. The horrifying attacks on civilians included killing, sexual violence, and the systematic destruction of towns, including the deliberate targeting of hospitals, UN bases, and churches. The authors of the UN report declared that the violations they had documented could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Eventually, Machar announced that he would return to Juba on April 18, to take up the position of first vice president in the new transitional government. His return, however, was repeatedly delayed because of actions by the South Sudan government as well as the rebels, much to the consternation of the international community, which had lost patience with both parties. Machar finally arrived in the city on April 26, 2016. He was sworn in as first vice president shortly after his arrival. Machar and Kiir then set upon the task of implementing the transitional unity government.

In the midst of the domestic troubles, there were some positive developments on the international front. In the last few months of 2015 and in early 2016, relations with Sudan showed improvement and included the reopening of the two countries’ shared border in January; it had been closed since 2011. In March South Sudan learned that it would be allowed to join the East African Community (EAC), a regional trade and development bloc. The country was formally admitted to the EAC the next month.

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