South Sudan

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One of the world's newest nations, South Sudan restored autonomous government from its northern neighbour in 2005 and in 2011 was internationally recognised as an independent sovereign State, bordering Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, The Democratic Republic of Congo, The Central African Republic and the Republic of Sudan. The country is a democratic presidential republic and has been making major efforts to increase government capacity since independence. Former rebel militias, who are now members of the government, have been accused of extreme human rights violations, including murder, rape and mass evictions, to cement central power in the country, along with intermittent outbursts of ethnic violence.


The Republic of South Sudan is the newest nation in the world. It is located in East Africa and is bordered by The Republic of Sudan in the north, the Central African Republic in the west, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Kenya in the south, and Ethiopia in the east. South Sudan’s capital city is Juba, in Central Equatoria State. Following a referendum on the independence of South Sudan held in January 2011, the Republic of South Sudan seceded from the north and became the world’s newest nation on 9 July 2011.

Population and language

According to the 5th Sudan Population and Housing Census, South Sudan’s population was estimated at 8.26 million in 2008, of which 51% are children. 83% of the population resides in rural areas. The population density varies widely between states, Jonglei being the most populous with 16% and Western Bahr El Ghazal being the least populous with 4% of the total population. Sudan is rich with linguistic, religious and ethnic differences. Arabic and English are the official languages, although more than 100 languages and dialects are believed to be spoken by over 300 tribes across the country. The Dinka language predominates in the south.


The Republic of South Sudan became an independent nation on 9 July 2011 and was welcomed as the 193rd member of the United Nations on 14 July.

The modern politics of Sudan are inextricably linked to the country's colonial past. Britain and Egypt made a deal following the military defeat of the Mahdists - rulers of Sudan in the late 19th century – by the British in 1899, making Sudan an Anglo-Egyptian protectorate. In reality, however, Sudan was ruled as a British Colony (with the north and the south administered separately). Sudan's centuries of association with Egypt formally ended in 1956, when joint British-Egyptian rule over the country ended. Independence was rapidly overshadowed by unresolved constitutional tensions with the south, which flared up into full-scale civil war. The conflict was temporarily settled in 1972 before it resumed and escalated in 1983. The civil war lasted for over two decades and cost the lives of an estimated two million people, with four million others displaced. In January 2005 the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which granted greater autonomy to the South. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement expired on 9 July 2011. After the people of the south voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence in the January 2011 referendum, the government of Sudan accepted the creation of an independent South Sudan in July 2011.


One of the most notable consequences of the wars in Sudan has been on its economy. In the 1980s, the country was ravaged by famine and Sudan was one of the poorest countries in Africa. However, the discovery of oil in 1999 significantly boosted the economy, with a growth of over 10 per cent at its peak in 2007. It should nevertheless be noted that the lack of infrastructure, the war in Darfur and the reliance of much of the population on subsistence agriculture, have limited the impact of oil revenue on the people's standard of living, creating major disparities between rural and urban areas. According to World Bank country data for 2011, 78 per cent of households depend on farming for their livelihood.

Since the 2005 peace accord, oil-related tensions have been rife especially in the Abyei area on the north-south divide, occasionally resulting in intense fighting. In June 2008, Sudan’s President Bashir and southern leader Salva Kiir agreed to seek international arbitration to resolve the dispute over Abyei. In July of the following year, north and south Sudan accepted a ruling by an arbitration court in The Hague shrinking the disputed Abyei region and placing the major Heglig oil field in the north. As fighting between northern and southern troops in Abyei continues throughout 2011, it remains to be seen how oil revenues will be apportioned between North and South Sudan.

South Sudan's annual GDP per capita in 2010 was around $1,546, with 51% of the population living below the poverty line.

Media and civil society

South Sudan is currently receiving significant amounts of external funding to contribute to good governance and state building programmes in order to establish sustainable, accountable and transparent institutions and rule of law systems. With a significant number of international organisations currently operating on the ground, it will take some time before indigenous South Sudanese efforts and institutions come to the fore and are properly evaluated.

Numerous Southern Sudanese media outlets have been operating for a considerable time, including Radio Miraya. While The Citizen is the only newspaper printed in the South, Khartoum Monitor, based in Khartoum, was established by journalists from southern Sudan in 2000 and is the only private English language newspaper in Sudan.

Children's rights

Although North Sudan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 3 August 1990, at the time of writing (August 2011) the new state of South Sudan had not ratified the Convention. In the aftermath of independence, substantial challenges confront South Sudan’s leaders as they attempt to build the infrastructure, skills and institutions needed to improve the situation of children in one of the world’s poorest countries. Children have been the most affected by the conflict in South Sudan and in Darfur. An estimated 10,000 children remain associated with armed forces and groups. 36 per cent of girls marry before the age of 18, while female genital mutilation and cutting affects 68 per cent of women and girls - mostly in the north of Sudan. Only 39 per cent of children have their births registered.


Quick Facts

  • Population: 8,260,490 (UN, 2008)
  • Population under 18: N/A
  • Number of internet users: N/A
  • Human Development Index ranking: N/A
  • Happy Planet Index ranking: N/A