Briefing | South Sudan – One Year On
South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, celebrates its first anniversary of independence on Monday, July 9th. It has been a difficult year with border conflicts with the Sudan, internal violence, and the shutting down of the oil production on which its economy depends leading to serious economic problems. The country celebrated its independence a year ago in a state of euphoria. Hopes for the future were high when after more than two decades of war South Sudan officially seceded from Sudan. Unfortunately, in face of what Vice-President, Riek Machar, has called "the unforeseen difficulties we got ourselves into", South Sudan has been unable to build much of the basic infrastructure it needs, whether in terms of roads, or the provision of health and education facilities, or even electricity or water. Adult illiteracy remains high, and secondary school enrolment is very low. There is still a massive shortage of skilled professionals.
Nevertheless, much has been done. Three levels of government, local, state and national, have been established. A meeting of the National Liberation Council of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in March, for the first time since 2008, decided to reform and restructure the ruling party. A civilian disarmament process has been launched as have peace processes in Jonglei State and in parts of Eastern Equatoria as well as preparations for a three-state peace conference between Unity, Lakes and Warrap States.
Inclusive and consultative constitution-making is an essential aspect of state building and a National Constitutional Review Commission has been set up but nearly halfway through its one-year lifespan it has yet to become fully operational though it is developing a work plan for consultations and public hearings on key constitutional issues. The National Elections Bill awaits a Presidential signature but the National Elections Commission has yet to be established. Other legislation passing through the Council of Ministers includes the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financial Bill as well as Taxation Bill 2012. The Anti-Corruption Commission has been able to retrieve misappropriated funds in the order of US$60 million. There’s been legislation covering investment, accountability, financing, budgeting, and the whole process of setting up the government apparatus. The Government has appointed 90 Ambassadors to represent it abroad. It has joined the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). It has applied for membership in the East African Community and the EAC has said it will expedite the verification process of its application and discuss it at the next EAC Summit planned for November. South Sudan has also set up its Conflict Early Warning Unit as part of the IGAD Conflict Early Warning and Response Network.
It adds up to a lot of progress but at the same time the Government has faced major challenges with multiple security, economic and humanitarian problems, including the looming economic crisis following the shutdown of oil production and loss of nearly all its income, and the major security and protection challenges emanating from the hostilities at the border with the Sudan as well as inter-communal tensions, and the activities of rebel militia groups, the unfolding food security crisis and the problems arising from the closure of the border with the Sudan and return of South Sudanese from the Sudan. These all remain central to the talks between Sudan and South Sudan in Addis Ababa. The future of South Sudan remains inextricably linked to that of the Sudan where the government in Khartoum is itself facing protests over high prices and insurgencies in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states along the border. Indeed, most of the challenges facing the Government of South Sudan are linked in one way or another to the need for constructive relations with the Sudan, and these require real political will on both sides.
In fact, the year has seen a deteriorating relationship with the Sudan with an outbreak of hostilities on the South Sudan-Sudan border and the economic impact of the shutdown of oil production. These factors have dominated political developments in South Sudan and affected progress in the Government’s state-building and reform agenda. The security situation along the border with the Sudan has deteriorated significantly, affecting the progress of the ongoing negotiations in Addis Ababa under the mediation of the AU High Level Implementation Panel intended to resolve the outstanding problems left over from the pre-independence Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The issues include financial arrangements regarding oil, nationality and citizenship and border demarcation. In January following failure to reach agreement over the costs of using the pipeline through Sudan to export its crude oil, South Sudan stopped all oil production. As the oil revenues accounted for over 98 percent of government revenue, over 70 percent of South Sudan GDP, and nearly 100 percent of South Sudan foreign exchange, this had a major impact. The economy was largely import oriented with most basic items including food and most manufacturing items imported from neighbouring countries, and requiring foreign currency.
In February the Government approved an austerity budget for the rest of the financial year to June providing for a 27 per cent reduction in expenditure. It also launched a campaign to raise non-oil revenues through tightening up collection of customs and taxes. It also had to make further cuts to both capital and operational costs. Prices of foodstuffs and commodities have been increasing, by even as much as 100-200 percent in border areas. Food insecurity remains a serious problem. Even before the shut-down of oil production, it was estimated that nearly half the population, about 4.7 million people, would be food insecure during 2012. This number is now rising and malnutrition has increased sharply. Inevitably the introduction of austerity measures has delayed implementation of the South Sudan Development Plan and the Government has had to request international partners to focus on service delivery in health, education, water and sanitation and on reinforcing government functions. Indeed, the Government’s reform agenda, in particular security sector reform and disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation are at risk, even though they remain a top priority.
In March, two agreements on Nationality and on Border Demarcation were signed at the Addis Ababa talks but plans for a presidential summit to ratify the agreements collapsed with both parties accusing the other of using proxies for destabilization. In April, the SPLA captured and occupied Heglig, effectively shutting down more than 50 per cent of Sudan’s oil. Two weeks later in response to international pressure, South Sudan announced its unconditional withdrawal from Heglig. On April 24th the African Union Peace and Security Council adopted a road map with implementation timelines to resolve outstanding issues. The message from the African Union was that any conflict or potential conflict between Sudan and South Sudan affects everybody and must be seen as a threat to the whole region’s peace and security. This was endorsed by the Security Council in Resolution 2046 (2012) on May 2nd calling among other things for a cessation of hostilities and activation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone, and a requirement to reach an overall settlement of all disputes within three months.
The African Union High Level Panel (AUHIP) mediated talks between Sudan and South Sudan have been continuing in Addis Ababa. The security discussions resumed yesterday on arrangements to resolve differences over establishing a demilitarised buffer zone along the disputed border. The two sides failed to reach agreement on key security and border issues during the previous round of talks a week earlier, though they did manage to agree to activate the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM). The security talks will be followed by further negotiations on other pending issues this week and in high level political meetings next week. It is expected that Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, and South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, will meet on the margins of the African Union Summit next week in Addis Ababa. The two nations have less than a month to resolve their differences before the UN-AU deadline expires on August 2nd. The deadline has given impetus to the negotiations, but progress remains slow despite the very considerable international pressure for results. As UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon said in his latest report on South Sudan, “it is critical that the two States comply with Security Council resolution 2046 (2012), establish the border monitoring mechanisms and reach agreements on outstanding issues as quickly as possible.” On Thursday, the UN Security Council extended the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for another year.
* Originally published on A Week in the Horn – July 6, 2012 issue, titled “South Sudan – one year on”. Items from A Week in the Horn are published here with a permission to do so. You may re-publish it with attribution and no modification to its contents.
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