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Africa Policy Journal

Topic / International Relations and Security

Enhancing South Sudan’s Prospects through Advancing an Ambitious Security – Development Agenda


This article focuses on the transitions which have taken place in the recent history of South Sudan and assesses their impacts on its future political and economic prospects. The paper argues that there are three broad areas in the security – development nexus which must be addressed before South Sudan’s national security can substantially improve. They include Sudan – South Sudan relations, tribalism and economic restructuring. Related to these points are a number of other factors which suggest that an agreement in key areas could significantly enhance the prospects for national security through a cascade effect. The main related issues include a durable oil revenue agreement with Sudan, greater border control, better government engagement with civil society, renewed attempts at power-sharing. In addition, the Disarmanent, Demobilisation and Reintegration of various domestic militia groups into a more vibrant national economy needs to take place, with greater enforcement support from international donors outside of the Quartet.


Since independence in 2011, the stability of South Sudan has been extremely fragile, in fact South Sudan was considered the most fragile country in the world in 2014.[1] This has especially been the case after it began experiencing internal ethnic conflict in December 2013 due to a power struggle between the president and vice-president which has killed an estimated 50,000 people so far.[2] This paper argues that there are three broad areas in the security – development nexus which must be addressed before South Sudan’s national security can improve. They include Sudan – South Sudan relations, tribalism and economic restructuring. This approach includes reference to major reports such as the Mid-Term Evaluation (MTE) Report[3] from joint donors, and the Final Report from Sudan’s Assessment and Evaluation Commission – the body that supports and monitors the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).[4]

Many issues remain unaddressed in the CPA which governs most aspects of Sudan – South Sudan bilateral relations, and a persistent mistrust about interference in each other’s internal affairs continues to dominate decision making in Juba and Khartoum. Although Sudan and South Sudan have committed to a Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ), the border remains militarised and trade is disrupted.[5] Economic development has thus been slowed by ongoing disagreements with Sudan, including over an oil revenue sharing agreement which has limited oil exports that are vital to generating the majority of revenues for the national budget.

A further complication is the changing allegiance of groups who live on the Sudan – South Sudan border and military factions rather than state security forces which operate there. This agriculturally significant and oil rich region is also where two civil wars connect. The border security issues are common on other South Sudan borders, for example the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo has been called ‘impoverished, contradictory and contested’.[6] A more useful term for the border area surrounding South Sudan (which often extends into adjacent sovereign territories as well as its own) is a ‘borderscape’.[7]

State building has been retarded on a number of fronts, mainly by factors linked to tribalism. These include problems over power sharing at the executive level, decentralisation in favour of tribal influences in decision making, questions over state sovereignty in regions of conflict and a lack of Security Sector Reform (SSR) and Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) also for reasons related to tribal identity, threat perception, administration and logistical problems. In response, international donors have been forced to shift from supporting a national development program to supporting humanitarian assistance program which help alleviate the worst effects of the renewed violence.[8]

By addressing security centric issues, the Government of South Sudan can help free up international donors to concentrate on development initiatives. By signing further agreements with Sudan on border security and economic relations, Juba could use oil production revenues to fund a broad diversification program necessary in supporting economic growth, employment and other state building and state consolidation activities. First of all, it is necessary to contextualise these component parts with a brief history of South Sudan’s recent history.

South Sudan’s Recent History and its Impact on Security and Development

South Sudan has undergone a series of existential crises and tensions throughout its history, some of the events having taken place in the remarkably obstructive context of colonial politics.

Firstly, there was concentrated economic, political and administrative development in Khartoum and the North.[9] This was led by the British who implemented a number of ordinances, such as the Passports and Permits Ordinance (1922) which affected travellers between the Sudan and South Sudan; the Permits and Trade Order (enacted in 1925) which affected North Sudanese related trade to South Sudan; and a Language Policy (1928) which made English the official language of South Sudan, along with approval for local languages: Dinka, Bari, Nuer, Latuko, Shilluk and Zande, but not Arabic.[10] A differentiated education policy was also adopted which generally excluded the South Sudanese from engaging in politics.

Secondly, representatives from South Sudan having been excluded from the 1952 meeting in Cairo and 1953 Cairo Agreement related to Sudanese self-rule, whereby Britain and North Sudan, with the tacit support of Egypt, engaged in an exclusive dialogue on self-determination. The subsequent civil wars from 1955 (the date of Sudan’s independence from the British) to 1972, led by the South Sudan Liberation Movement, and its military wing Anya-nya, were therefore somewhat predictable as an armed struggle to gain autonomy from Khartoum.

The 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement which could have sustained an elected regional government in the South, was instead compromised by some groups which were not content with the agreement refusing to go back to Sudan, which led to the Akobo mutiny in 1975.[11] In 1978, a group of Nuer dissidents calling themselves ‘Anyanya II’, took up arms in eastern Upper Nile.[12] Attempts were made to sustain the agreement through armed struggle, including the emergence of the SPLM, created by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which fought for a united, democratic and secular Sudan. However, by 1983, President Gaafar Nimeiry had declared all Sudan an Islamic state under Shari’a law, (Chevron had discovered oil deposits near Bentiu in southern Sudan in 1981) which made the peace agreement null and void. From then on, there were ongoing tensions between north and south due to Islamist politics in Khartoum which demanded the forcible Arabization and Islamization of the south.

Following the signing of the CPA in 2005, South Sudan achieved statehood and secession from Sudan in 2011. The CPA included five protocols on power sharing, wealth sharing, security arrangements, conflict resolution in South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile States, and Abyei, and was heavily supported by the Quartet (USA, UK, Norway and Italy) and partners such as the African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The CPA included provisions for a referednum on South Sudan’s self-determination. It marked the beginning of the SPLA institution building efforts and the forerunners to state ministries, local county and municipal administrations. In 2006 the Juba Declaration on Unity and Integration by the SPLA and South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) facilitated the implementation of the CPA, reconciliation and unity between the two forces.[13] Although it led to some temporary political stability, challenges remain.

Current Contentions in Sudan – South Sudan Relations

There is still an uneasy peace with Khartoum because of its alleged role in South Sudanese affairs.[14] There are also a number of unresolved political issues which add to the tensions between Juba and Khartoum. These include sovereignty disputes over the central Abyei region and fighting between Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF) and SPLM-North (SPLM-N) rebels in the two border regions of Blue Nile and South Khordofan.[15] Fighting continues in Blue Nile and Kordofan and humanitarian assistance is not able to get through due to both sides resisting calls for access. There are mixed loyalties on the border: the SPLM-N is a northern Sudanese movement including SPLM veterans from the 1983-2005 civil war, but is also engaged in an alliance with rebels in the Western Darfur region (Sudan Revolutionary Front) against Sudan. Darfur’s relations with South Sudan are important because the SPLM are fighting in Darfur on behalf of those who wanted independence from Khartoum. Indeed, the aim of the rebels is to remove Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s President, from office.[16] Furthermore, both the independence of South Sudan and Darfur’s humanitarian crises (continuing into 2014) have been widely publicized in the west, which has created some distortions when assessing Juba’s emerging track record versus that of Khartoum’s. However, this has not necessarily meant that western sympathies have directly translated into actionable results on the ground. The USA failed to move aggressively on the Darfur conflict in 2003, partly because the African Union mission was acting as impediment.[17] The tendency, at least in the early 2000s, was also for states such as the UK to put Darfur on the backburner and concentrate on more positive aspects of political agreement leading up to the CPA in 2005.[18]

The September 2012 Cooperation Agreement between Sudan and South Sudan was aimed at establishing two viable states, peaceful relations, and conclude outstanding negotiations from the CPA such as disputed border areas, the final status of Abyei and mechanisms for dealing with CPA agreements.[19] However, little progress has been made on any of these points and they have been fundamentally undermined by further instability in South Sudan.

South Sudan has been subject to aerial bombardment by Sudanese forces in disputed oil rich regions such as Heglig.[20] President Bashir has, in the past, closed the border and refused to accept South Sudanese oil to transit through Sudan, even on the basis of increasing the fifty-fifty split revenues, due to disputes over late payments, processing and tariff fees.[21] The Government of Sudan is also alleged to have under-reported oil revenues by as much as 20 percent in the late 2000s, therefore leaving South Sudan with a shortfall in its profit-share with Sudan.[22] President Kiir closed the oil pipelines arguing that Sudan the stealing the oil of South Sudan, and more recently he has argued that the transportation fees are too high.[23] For South Sudan, which is 98 percent dependent on oil revenue for its budget, this has led to considerable tensions with Khartoum.[24] By late 2015 oil issues appeared to be partially resolved, but without an oil sharing agreement which is respected by both sides, oil revenues will continue to be below pre-2012 levels of half a million barrels a day.[25]

The motivation behind the renewed proxy conflict between the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan is thus based on a number of outstanding political and security related grievances, including: a lack of trust exacerbated by alleged human rights abuses carried out by the Government of Sudan and the rigging of electionsin South Kordofan State.[26] The aim of the SPLM-N is in fostering “… a new centre for the benefit of all Sudanese people regardless of their religion, gender or ethnic background.”[27] The SPLM-N commented that the CPA was only signed because it was reinforced with a credible threat from the still-standing SPLM-N forces.[28] They are therefore predisposed to maintaining such force to ensure that future agreements are honoured by the Government of Sudan.


The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) formed in 1983 and continued with the armed struggle which had been apparent between the marginalised sections of society and the central government in Sudan since before the colonial period. Although hostilities were temporarily halted by the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972, the struggle for independence has continued apace.

The dominance of the security sector in South Sudanese politics is one key reason why the transition to statehood has been so problematic. These groups, notably the SPLM/A, with a strict hierarchy, internal instability and extrajudicial habits, are associated less with the state than with the interests of their leadership. In 1991, Lam Akol and Riek Machar defected from the SPLA to initiate their own rebel groups called the SPLA United and South Sudan Independence Movement respectively. This led to increased competition but also the integration of the ‘Anyanya II’ forces into the SPLA, whilst the splinter groups were supported by Khartoum (since they operated in oil areas such as Unity state which would give the north direct access to oil).

In 1997, the Khartoum Agreement was signed between the Government of Sudan and the various militia groups in South Sudan. The agreement covered various aspects such as freedom of religion, movement and defined a four year interim period for both sides to recover from the civil war. It did not include the SPLA and therefore represented a hollow document which could not succeed in bridging the transition to South Sudan’s secession at that time. It did give South Sudan the right for a referendum on secession and also formalised non-SPLA militias into the SSDF headed by Riek Machar. However, in practice, the Government of Sudan did not abide by the agreement and it was eventually superseded by the CPA in 2005.[29]

The SPLA/M have fought military offences in 1997 on the borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea against Khartoum’s proxy forces in the South: the United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF). However, post-South Sudan’s independence, such groups are considered to be political opposition groups rather than military adversaries. The mixed allegiances based on the interests of different tribal groups is incredibly damaging to the stability of the new state. Whilst both sides appreciate the autonomy that South Sudan’s independence has brought, the ability of Khartoum to continue to co-opt groups that are unsatisfied with political progress will continue to be a source of conflict. Within the SPLA itself, the track record of splinter groups forming is notable, but the state’s dependence on continuing oil exports will enhance national support for Kiir over Machar.

The SSDF was supposed to form part of the SPLA or SAF (Sudan force) by January 2006, as outlined in the Juba Declaration. However, and against the provisions of the CPA, it kept a presence in Jonglei state, Upper Nile and elsewhere, and continued to act as Sudan’s proxy. This inability of armed groups to reform through negotiated agreement, even as recently as January 2014 when IGAD led peace talks in Addis Ababa, has meant fighting continues in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states, undermining national security and delaying development well into the period following South Sudan’s secession.

The symbiosis of the SPLA/M and the South Sudan political system is clear when considering that eight out of ten governors elected in 2010 came from the ranks of former or serving SPLA commanders. This has led to a militarized political environment which is problem in itself. For example, General Paul Malong, the former Dinka governor of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal, is alleged to have recruited a 15,000 strong tribal militia force, and he is also accused of breaking the law for defying Kiir’s orders in 2013.[30] In April 2014, he was made Chief of General Staff of the SPLA by Salva Kiir, sending a poor signal as to the modus operandi of the government.

Unsurprisingly, government engagement with civil society has been poor. The Constitution Review Commission, which started work in February 2012, has been slow to engage in public consultations.[31] Due to civil conflict in 2013, funding partners such as USAID have pulled out[32] and when the government’s term was about to expire in July 2015, Salva Kiir moved quickly to extend the government term by 3 years in order to avoid a power vacuum from opening up.[33]

In August 2015, a new power-sharing Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) was set up for thirty months to oversee a political, security and economic reform plan, as well as approve a new permanent constitution and elections.[34] It includes more than twenty commissions to look at the most pressing issues from refugees and roads to anticorruption security. In the security realm, a Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism involving the warring parties and civil society groups, A Strategic Defence and Review Board, and A Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) were set up. The JMEC is to oversee the agreement on the resolution of conflict, report breaches and find solutions, but the competition, rhetoric and violence between Nuer and Dinka tribes in particular, continues.[35]

Amendments to the 2011 transitional constitution are still on the table, chief amongst them being proposals to increase the number of states from 10 to 28 and allow president Kiir to appoint the new states’ govenors and lawmakers. Opposition lawmakers immediately rejected such plans saying it went against the constitution it was trying to amend.[36] In areas such as Greater Upper Nile where tribal and political factions are numerous, ongoing conflict continues to compromise the formation of a new and properly functioning political and economic system.[37]

Tribalism and Rebellion in South Sudan

The growth of what might become state institutions have been continually hampered by at least two armed rebellions against the government in Juba. Corruption has also been an issue, including the high tribute paid to secure nominations and selection to both local and state positions.[38] Competing ethnic, clan or sub-clan identities, as well as special interest groups, are responsible for the emphasis of patronage which is eroding the legitimacy of the emerging unitary state. Central state authority therefore remains a relative term even accounting for the billions of dollars spent by donors in developing state institutions. This is problematic on a number of levels. There have been tensions between tribes at the local and national levels post-independence. Such tensions have fundamentally challenged the central government in Juba and led to the dismissal of ministers and state governors, and in turn, to accusations that the president was acting unconstitutionally.

The president of South Sudan appears to have grown the Republican Guard within the SPLM as a private, Dinka-dominated army.[39] There were ongoing tensions between the SPLM and SPLA-Nasir, which was a rebel group and gradually became co-opted by the government in Khartoum. The break away group led by Riek Machar, and dominated by the Neur ethnic group, killed the Dinka in the Bor massacre in 1991. A similar tribal-based tension and political power struggle led to the outbreak of civil conflict in December 2013 between the SPLM opposition movement (Neur dominated) headed by the former Vice-President, Riek Machar, and the governing SPLM (Dinka dominated).[40]

From 14 January 2014, the escalation has attracted the participation of the Uganda People’s Defence Force (the armed forces of Uganda) in support of Salva Kiir to ‘prevent a genocide’ and to avert negative developments in the neighborhood.[41] The military’s engagement cannot therefore be separated from the struggle between the governments of South Sudan and Uganda against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which continues to conduct brutal attacks on remote villages in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. However, the Ugandan opposition pointed to the need for troops from other states, including from the international community, to help contain and resolve the conflict, within a clear timeframe and more specific mandate.[42] There is a clear fear that an open mandate could draw Uganda into a spiralling regional conflict with multiple drivers.

Prospects for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR)

DDR in South Sudan is rooted in the CPA and activities began in 2009, but after South Sudan’s secession in 2011, the legal imperative for DDR ended. As the SPLA has absorbed militia groups its size has outpaced the modest DDR agenda. In April 2011, there was a National DDR Commission (NDDRC) set up which came into effect in October 2012 and included plans to demobilize 150,000 people over the next six to eight years.[43] However, financial and logistical constraints, as well as ownership of the initiative meant that only 500 people, not the expected 4500 people, would be demobilized in the pilot project.[44] Although there was suspicion about the UN initially putting emphasis on implementation through Khartoum in an earlier program, vocational training and education programs from UNESCO and the Ministry of General Education could still hold out promise for effective reintegration.

The Ministry of Defence in South Sudan has little influence over the border and over anti-government forces operating across South Sudan and is unlikely to see the need in DDR during periods of conflict. This point is illustrated by the new rebel group led by Riek Machar in Western Equatorial state[45], by armed factions in Jonglei state[46] and by a rebellion in Greater Upper Nile in 2014 as part of a broader civil war from December 2013.[47] A first step to effective DDR is therefore in reducing tensions with Sudan through exerting total control of all its armed forces. Doing this will require addressing tribal grievances and setting up a political system which is able to provide clearer rules about accountability, military engagement and other limits to reduce the potential for human rights abuses by the armed forces.

Whilst the Legislative Assembly still stands as a retirement option for military commanders rather than a clearly defined profession which is insulated from special interests, there will remain the possibility for both a corrupt political system in general and little progress on DDR specifically. A crony legislative structure is tolerated because opposition figures and split loyalties could easily morph into further open confrontation which would destabilize the nascent government in Juba.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is unable to solve the problem of forced disarmament through its current mandate; its mission is to simultaneously work with the government of South Sudan and yet its monitoring role can lead it to being recurrently denied access to sensitive areas which is in direct violation of the Status of Forces Agreement.[48] The challenge will be to manage the internal instability within South Sudan. If poorly managed, it could adversely affect the oil industry on which the whole economy depends.

Due to human rights concerns, UNMISS has been forced to distance itself from the SPLA rather than be drawn into a potential civil war where UNMISS could find itself outgunned. This has made it less effective than it might otherwise be. UNMISS still has great potential to avert major assaults against the civilian population through regular patrols that are able to monitor developing situations from the ground and air. However, a lack of contact with the civilian population (which regards the multinational force as ‘suspect’ after it kept quiet over aerial bombardment by Sudan[49]), and limited resources means UNMISS is spread too thinly and therefore overly reliant on contracted air assets.

This has led to further related problems as Sudan has violated South Sudan’s airspace for bombing attacks, reconnaissance purposes and to send supplies to allied militia groups, UN aircraft have been misidentified and attacked by accident.[50] NGOs could form a bridge between UNMISS and the local information necessary to provide resources at county level to support conflict resolution. There are also numerous actors involved in peace-building between Sudan and South Sudan, ranging from China and IGAD, which are currently playing less active roles than the AU and UN and could step up their involvement in mediation.

Since the 1990s, there have continued to be small local village militias called ‘White Army’ militias. These tend to be armed civilians, usually comprising youth.[51] Disarmament occurred in Upper Nile and Jonglei states between January and August 2006 but this tended to be resisted due to the following factors:

  • a fear or hatred of the SPLA
  • a perceived need to use weapons for protection
  • a general dislike to being unarmed which may be a conditioning of war or a perception of threats on the border with Ethiopia
  • Weapons are dual use, defensive and offensive, whereby they can be used offensively for cattle rustling and blood feuds in the case of the Nuer

Additional issues concern:

  • Anxiety about leaving behind a different life in a militia group and being able to transition into a new civilian life
  • DDR candidates being suspicious about why they were selected first
  • Feelings of being rejected by the army
  • Uncertainty over army pensions[52]

By 2014, one million people had been displaced following the December 2013 civil war, and the number of dead had reached 10,000.[53] Insufficient DDR due to the complex and challenging (post) conflict environment has contributed to insecurity and weak institutional capacity of national institutions, along with political uncertainty, lack of coordination among sectors, weak civil society and limited resources for development. Apart from the human development situation in South Sudan being called ‘deplorable’ by the UNDP[54], conflict continues to set back progress on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This is reflected in the increasing number of cases of Malaria, Cholera, HIV/AIDs, Polio, Leprosy, Measles, malnutrition and infant mortality which have been reported.[55]

Security and Governance

Over the course of the coming years, South Sudan and its international donors will face the complex task of building state structures, systems, institutions and capacity designed to stabilise a precarious security situation and a weak economy. UNMISS, which oversees the state-building process, is expected to spend about $1 billion every year on operations. The EU is spending €260 million in the 2011-2013 period and the U.S. is spending that every year, including on roads, fighting malaria and education for internally displaced persons.[56] The donor objectives are multifaceted: avoiding destabilising an already unstable region, avoiding conflict with Sudan, and building capacity where there is a basic lack of infrastructure.

Human Capital

Human capital is mostly tied up in the military to which the South Sudan government pays a salary as a way to avoid ethnic tensions. This has resulted in the unfortunate situation of inadvertently creating a new class based society.[57] It means that rural communities have no resources to use for their own development, and the healthcare budget is under intense pressure to support military salaries.[58] Creating a fair economic plan, inclusive of the security budget, is therefore central to maintaining peace in a region. The development of human capital is compounded by a lack of physical infrastructure and poverty. More than half of the 8 million population of South Sudan live below the poverty line.[59] Furthermore, South Sudan has a 73 per cent illiteracy rate.[60] Education service provision is vital to the security – development equation because it will lay the foundations for the rehabilitation and reintegration of security forces into a revised economy.

The Oil Sector

Sudan’s combined oil reserves measure 6.8 billion barrels (the third largest in sub-Sahara Africa) and three quarters are located in South Sudan.[61] In the short term oil can help finance the government budget and attract much needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Oil accounted for 60 per cent of GDP in 2010, whilst subsistence agriculture, forestry and fisheries accounted for 14.5 per cent, government services 9.1 per cent, trade, hotels and restaurants 5.9 per cent, manufacturing and mining 3.6 per cent, construction 3 per cent and other services 2 per cent. Out of eight states in the region, South Sudan ranks fourth for GDP in 2010.[62] However, 98 per cent oil dependence makes the current economy unsustainable. South Sudan experiences volatile price changes, it has no buffer (no stabilisation fund), and an almost total dependence on Khartoum for oil payments. the oil shutdown in January 2012 due to security concerns shows how vulnerable South Sudan is.

Since 2012/2013, South Sudan’s budget reflects the fact that it has had to slash spending, boost tax revenues and raise loans (commercial loans from commercial banks and foreign loans) to make up for lost income from oil.[63] This means that basic services have yet to reap the rewards from the country’s national resources.[64] After being affected by decades of war, oil money is supplementing donor support for the army. Seventy per cent of the national budget is spent on army pay, pensions and hardware, which reflects the insecurities felt from Sudan prior to, during, and after secession and ongoing difficulties in implementing meaningful DDR.[65]

The Agricultural Sector

The GOSS Growth Strategy 2009 identifies the highest priority constraints on which the government should focus – insecurity, poor infrastructure and multiple taxation.[66] Since the majority of people live in rural areas, broad based growth means creating more opportunities in the agricultural sector. Such a strategy could also relieve some of the pressure on aid organisations such as DFID which find that insecurity, poor infrastructure, low capacity, and a lack of competition adds to the cost of operations which in turn affects their efficiency, scope and reach.[67]

South Sudan needs to diversify quickly in order to secure its GDP, and agriculture holds many opportunities by increasing employment and contributing to food security. Agriculture could be part of a broad based diversification approach which includes growth of the manufacturing, tourism, hydro-electric power and mining industries. Without employment from these industries and a productive tax base, streams of rent and an ability to borrow, state building becomes impossible. Development of the agricultural sector should be accompanied by legislation which explicitly guarantees nomadic and minority rights (such as grazing rights) and will reduce conflict and the illegal sale of land. The South Sudan Land Act 2009 allows for such claims through recognition of customary land rights under customary land law, increasing seasonal access, in addition to freehold and leasehold ownership. This will be administered through a land classification system that includes public land, community land (based on ethnicity, residence or interest) and private land.[68] How and whether this system will be enforced at national, state or “boma” (the lowest administrative unit in the local government structure) levels are yet to be determined.

Physical Infrastructure

Infrastructure projects could not only add much needed employment but rapidly improve the life chances for all groups. Labour intensive works such as this should be funded now by donors and oil revenue with a view to facilitating intra-regional trade and export options for South Sudan. Access to international markets remains a primary concern since facilitating it will allow the new state to increase monetary exchange (and taxes), attract much needed FDI for public works projects, increase urbanisation and mobilise resources for state-building and development. Realistically, this process, which is exacerbated by low population density, could take decades to achieve.

In 2005, a UN development expert estimated that Juba had a one 7 mile stretch of good bitumen road. By 2010, it was estimated that there was only 11 miles of tarmac road in Juba (with a population of 1.1 million in 2010[69]) and only 30 miles across the whole of South Sudan.[70] By 2012, the situation had improved slightly with a new 192 kilometer highway connecting Juba and the Uganda border, a not inconsiderable distance and vital to boosting trade with East Africa.[71] However, rural communities resent development in Juba and for a sustainable peace to occur development must be balanced across the widely diverse regions of South Sudan. The extent to which development must also be prioritised in the rural regions was highlighted by the 2000 people who died in local tribal conflicts in 2009 partly due to food shortages.[72]

Since the road via Kapoeta and Lokichoggio is unsafe, the only other import/export options for South Sudan are through Sudan or Uganda, whichever is closer to each South Sudan region.[73] A priority alongside securing the vital transport links is to ensure that imports from Kenya and Uganda are balanced out by a substantial growth in domestic production. Agriculture currently represents on only 1-2 per cent of potential farm land, and water resources, fish stocks, oil, gold and other mineral deposits all remain largely untapped.[74]

Arms Control

In 2008, it was estimated that around 2 million firearms were in circulation amongst the civilian population of South Sudan.[75] The sources of firearms varied from militia (which were relied upon by both Sudan and South Sudanese forces during the civil war for tactical and economic reasons), and proximity to other conflict zones (in the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa). Such proximity has facilitated the transfer of some Small Weapons and Light Arms (SWLA) from Uganda, the DRC and Chad to South Sudan. This has been exacerbated in some cases by the Acholi, Anuak, Nuer and Toposa ethnic groups which straddle the borders of South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.[76]

The CPA inadequately addressed the number of armed groups in its provision for South Sudan security, citing the only armed forces as the Sudan Armed Forces, SPLA and foreign insurgency groups. However, the role of civilian militias grew in line with increasing frustration with the government and SPLA. Indeed, some elements of the SPLA joined the militias, facilitated by tribal loyalties, which added to their strength. These groups are engaged in banditry, animal rustling and other criminal activities. However, disarming such groups has been met with resistance (notably in the civilian disarmament initiative of 2006) due to community-level and cross border security dynamics. Like some parts of the U.S., many South Sudanese consider bearing arms a right, reinforced by issues of status and masculinity.

Border Control

UNMISS and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) provide technical advice on border control. The EU tackles cross border instability through the Instrument for Stability which, during 2012-13, includes:

  • Enhancing National Capacities for Conflict Mapping, Analysis and Transformation in Sudan (CRMA South Sudan) which focuses on information management analysis and mapping of socio-economic risks
  • South Sudan Cross-Border Conflict Prevention and Peace-building, which supports negotiations between the transhumant and sedentary communities at the Sudan-South Sudan border
  • Community Security and Arms Control (CSAC) which is an arms control, recovery and capacity building project which also supports gender issues
  • Peace and Stability Quick Impact Fund for the South-North Border Areas of South Sudan which works on high profile, quick and flexible fixes to local communities through the establishment of small scale socio-economic programmes, such as water and sanitation
  • Working Towards Preventing and Reducing Violence in Jonglei State which will facilitate dialogue on arms issues, again improve water and sanitation, and help train the Armed Forces on human rights before they deploy on disarmament or counter-insurgency operations[77]

Part of the solution to border control is still in the strengthening of relevant law. For example, although the EU mission to South Sudan emphasizes gender rights, a South Sudanese gender-based violence Act could more effectively establish social norms and strengthen legal mechanisms at all levels (including in the military) to protect women and girls from violence.[78] Support for victims is also central to addressing the root causes of gender-based or inter-tribal abuses and forming a coherent strategy for their prevention as well as customary compensation.


In 2005, following the implementation of the CPA, governments and aid agencies pooled their funding in the Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) which was supposed to support an administration system, infrastructure and the provision of basic services. With an initial capitalization of $524 million, $350 million was not spent as of 2009.[79] Bottlenecks in aid spending have preceded alleged corruption at the mid-level of South Sudan’s government which continue to threaten the continuity and consistency of development progress. The top-level of government has not been immune from corruption allegations either, including accusations of grand corruption, embezzlement of $4 billion by 75 current and ex-government officials and patron-client relationships along tribal lines.[80] State-building and institution-building rely on census information, taxes, the identification of problems, and rolling out social services (including health, education, water, electricity and infrastructure).[81] It also relies on a strong state, but there appears to be a serious implementation problem. In avoiding political marginalization as outlined in the CPA, and giving traditional authorities a voice in the provinces as outlined in The Local Government Act 2009[82], unexpected problems have followed. For example, John Luk Jok, the Minister of Justice in South Sudan, notes that decentralization has been broadly applied to all of South Sudan’s internal structures.[83] This has fundamentally weakened the effectiveness of the South Sudan government at a critical stage of state building, state consolidation, resolving insecurity and building a national identity.

Meanwhile, donor funds which were supposed to target longer term development ambitions such as the MDGs, have by necessity, had to be reformulated to address instability and humanitarian crises. The U.S. is providing $127 million in development assistance out of a total of $906 million of assistance for Sudan and South Sudan (mainly for South Sudan).[84] By taking this approach, the longer term state building objectives will become diminished and the prospects for rapid and effective state-building more illusive. The challenge for the government in Juba is to reduce the cost of administration and enhance government effectiveness, which can only be done in a sustainable way once meaningful reforms are complete. With this achieved, the donor community would be able to invest in more developmental objectives and build capacity in vital turnkey areas such as education and healthcare.


This article illustrates that the challenges to South Sudanese development are comprehensive, but that they can be addressed through cooperation in core areas associated with security and development. Generating higher oil revenues through ramping up cooperation with Sudan and boosting trade in East Africa is vital to building a national economy and implementing a large-scale and viable DDR program. Further agreements on oil revenue sharing and a sustainable transport fees structure will also help to build confidence and generate political will on other unresolved political issues from the CPA. On the other hand, accessing East African markets and exploring new oil transit routes may be the solution if political tensions persist between Juba and Khartoum.

There is an opportunity here for the UN-African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to advance momentum in these areas. Meanwhile, other regional allies (such as Uganda and Kenya) and stakeholders (such as IGAD and China) could do more to boost infrastructure investments which would enhance local and regional security and provide alternative routes to the international oil market. Increasing their participation in finding a resolution to ending conflict in Blue Nile and Kordofan could also boost the potential for humanitarian access into those regions.

The multifarious incarnations of tribalism shows that rolling out a clear and well thought through national political agenda (including rational rather than divisive changes to the constitution) could lead the way for virtuous cycle of limiting tensions, enhancing cooperation, and delivering substantive change. Now institutional structures and an agreement (albeit severely weakened) has been established which balance centralized power with greater social inclusion, they should be re-enforced by the international community, including the EU, U.S., IGAD and UNMISS. A lack of enforcement will perpetuate the cycle of conflict. Thus, UNMISS should revisit its current mandate.

A greater focus on state building will also help to tip the balance away from militia forces and interests in maintaining army pensions, and establish incentives between DDR and new or expanding areas of economic activity. This goes back to implementing a more ambitious national budget based on increasing returns from oil output. Doing so will help broaden and deepen diversification measures and prosperity across South Sudanese states needed to create new vested interests, social inclusion, and funding for an enhanced national security structure.

*Robert Mason is an associate professor and director of the Middle East Studies Center at The American University in Cairo. His research focus is on the international relations of the Middle East, U.S., Russian, U.K., the European Union, and Chinese foreign policy, Islam and the state, security and development studies. He holds a BA International Relations and Politics from the University of Westminster, a PG Certificate in Diplomatic Studies from the Diplomatic Academy of London, and a PhD in Middle East Politics from the University of Exeter.

**Featured Photo Credit – Tyler Hicks, The New York Times


[1] European Commission Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), “Humanitarian Intervention Plan (HIP) Sudan and South Sudan”, 20 October 2014,

[2] Council on Foreign Relations, “Global Conflict Tracker”,!/conflict/civil-war-in-south-sudan.

[3] Norad, Mid-Term Evaluation of the Joint Donor Team in Juba, Sudan, Evaluation Report 2/2009, OECD,

[4] Assessment and Evaluation Commission, Factual Report on the Status of CPA Implementation 2007

[5] Joshua Craze, “The ‘SDBZ”, Contested Borders: Continuing Tensions Over the Sudan – South Sudan Border’, Small Arms Survey, (Geneva: Graduate Institute of International Development Studies, 2014), 6, 18.

[6] See Mareike Schomerus and Lotje De Vrie, “Improvising Border Security: ‘A Situation of Security Pluralism’ Along South Sudan’s Borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo”, Security Dialogue, 45 (3), 279-294.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Jeremy Astill-Brown, “South Sudan’s Slide into Conflict: Revisiting the Past and Reassessing Partnerships”, Chatham House Africa Program, December 2014.

[9] Mansour Khalid, “Fractious Dualities and Colonial Muddle 1898 – 1945”, War and Peace in Sudan: A Tale of Two Countries, Abingdon: Routledge, 2010, 21.

[10] Riek Machar, “South Sudan: A History of Political Domination – A Case of Self-Determination”,

[11] Nhial Tutlam, “Addis Ababa Agreement”, Liberating South Sudan One Patient at a Time, (Bloomington, IL: Xlibris, 2013), 52.

[12] Chris Alden, Monika Thakur and Matthew Arnold, “The South Sudan Defence Force”, Militias and the Challenges of Post-Conflict Peace: Silencing the Guns, London: Zed Books, 2011, 43.

[13] Sudan Tribune, “Juba Declaration on Unity and Integration”, 8 January 2006,,13483.

[14] Mareike Schomerus and Tim Allen et al, Southern Sudan and at Odds with Itself: Dynamics of Conflict and Predicaments of Peace, LSE Development Studies Institute, 96.

[15] Ulf Laessing, “Sudan and South Sudan Sign Deals to Restart Oil, Secure Border”, Reuters, 27 September 2012,

[16] Reuters, “Sudan Hopeful for South Sudan Deal Despite Fresh Fighting”, Al Arabiya, 20 September 2012,

[17] Scott Stedjan and Colin Thomas-Jensen, “The United States” in David R. Black and Paul D. Williams (eds.) The International Politics of Mass Atrocities: The Case of Darfur, (Abingdon: Routledge, 2010), 157.

[18] Paul D. Williams, “The United Kingdom”, The International Politics of Mass Atrocities: The Case of

Darfur, 198.

[19] “The Cooperation Agreement between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan”, 27 September 2012,

[20] Chatham House, “Transcript Q and A: Perspectives on Sudan, South Sudan Crisis”, 1 May 2012, 3.

[21] Ibid, 4-5.

[22] Richard Cockett, “Surviving in the North, Failing in the South”, Sudan, Darfur and the Failure of an African State, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 253.

[23] Sudan Tribune, “South Sudan to Renegotiate Oil Fees with Sudan: Official”, 31 January 2015,

[24] US Energy Information Administration, “Sudan and South Sudan”, 3 September 2014,

[25] Natural Resource Governance Institute, “South Sudan”,

[26] Email interview with Omar Shurkian, Principle Representative of the SPLM-N Office in the UK and Ireland, 23 February 2013.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] International Crisis Group, “The Khartoum – SPLM Agreement: Sudan’s Uncertain Peace”, Africa Report 96, 25 July 2005, 8.

[30] Andrew McGregor, “Crisis in South Sudan Part One: Shake-Up in Military Leadership Reflects Tribal Crisis”, Jamestown, 2 May 2014,


[31] Sudan Tribune, “South Sudanese Civil Society Calls for One Year Extension of National Constitution Review Commission”,

[32] Radio Tamazuj, “Constitutional Review Commission to Miss Deadline”, 19 December 2014,

[33] Denis Dumo, “South Sudan Parliament Extends President’s Term by 3 Years”, Reuters, 24 March 2015, available at

[34] Kate Almquist Knopf, “Challenges to Peace and Security in South Sudan”, Ending South Sudan’s Civil War, (Washington D.C.: Council on Foreign Relations, 2016), 6.

[35] Ibid, 8.

[36] Philip Aleu, “South Sudan Government Wants to Amend Constitution”, VOA News, 20 October 2015,

[37] Richard Reeve, “Recommendations”, Peace and Conflict Assessment of South Sudan 2012, International Alert, 73.

[38] Irene Panozzo, “Sudan’s Separation: An Uneven Path Ahead for Two Unstable Countries”, The International Spectator, Vol. 46, No. 2, June 2011, 24-25.

[39] Jeremy Astill-Brown, “South Sudan’s Slide into Conflict: Revisiting the Past and Reassessing Partnerships”, Chatham House Africa Programme, 6-7.

[40] Daniel Howden, “South Sudan: the State that Fell Apart in a Week”, The Guardian, 23 December 2013,


[41] Parliament of the Republic of Uganda, “Parliament Backs Deployment of UPDF in South Sudan”,

[42] Ibid.

[43] Small Arms Survey, “DDR in South Sudan”, 2,

[44] Ibid.

[45] Sudan Tribune, “South Sudan Admits to Emergence of New Rebel Movement”, 19 January 2015,

[46] Sudan Tribune, “SPLA Vows to End Rebellion in Greater Upper Nile Region”, 29 November 2014,

[47] Crisis Group, “South Sudan: Jonglei – “We Have Always Been at War””, Africa Report 221, 22 December 2014,

[48] Ibid.

[49] ibid, 6.

[50] Eric Reeves, “Why the Armed Forces of South Sudan Shot Down a UN Helicopter”, Sudan Tribune, 22 December 2012,

[51] Ibid; Chris Alden et al, “The White Army Militias of South Sudan”, Militias and the Challenges of Post-Conflict Peace: Silencing the Guns,, 65.

[52] National Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration Commission (NDDRC), “Challenges”,

[53] International Crisis Group, “South Sudan: A Civil War by Any Other Name”, Africa Report 217, 10 April 2014, i.

[54] UNDP, “The Millennium Development Goals for South Sudan”,

[55] Richard Cockett, “Surviving in the North, Failing in the South”, Sudan, Darfur and the Failure of an African State, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 255.

[56] Wolfram Lacher, “Problems and Recommendations”, South Sudan: International State-Building and its Limits, SWP Research Paper, February 2012, 5.

[57] Matthew LeRiche and Edward Thomas, Meeting Summary – South Sudan: Current Trends, Regional Impacts and Donor Relations, Chatham House, 18 October 2012, 3.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Southern Sudan Centre for Census, Statistics and Evaluation. Statistical Yearbook for Southern Sudan 2010.

[60] Waakhe Simon Wudu, “South Sudan Illiteracy Reduces to 73% Minister Says”, Gurtong, 3 June 2011,

[61] Wolfram Lacher, “The Predicament of State Weakness”, South Sudan: International State-Building and its Limits, SWP Research Paper, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, February 2012, 7.

[62] African Development Bank Group, “South Sudan: Interim Country Strategy Paper, 2012-2014”, October 2012, 3,

[63] Reuters, “South Sudan Outlines Budget for “Uncertain Times””, 20 June 2012,

[64] Charlton Doki, “South Sudan’s Oil Production Hasn’t Trickled Down to Basic Services”, The Guardian, 2 January 2013,

[65] Richard Cockett, “Surviving in the North, Failing in the South”, Sudan, Darfur and the Failure of an African State, 254.

[66] El Wathig Kameir et al, “History: The Political Economy of Resistance and Perpetual Conflict”, The Political Economy of South Sudan: A Scoping Analytical Study, The African Development Bank, 24.

[67] DFID South Sudan, “Operational Plan 2010-2015: Updated July 2012”, 10.

[68] Laws of Southern Sudan, “The Land Act 2009”,,

[69] Andrew S. Natsios, “The Future of North and South Sudan”, Sudan, South Sudan and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 205.

[70] Richard Cockett, “Surviving in the North, Failing in the South”, Sudan, Darfur and the Failure of an African State, 255.

[71] Simon Kasmiro, “South Sudan Opens New Road Linking Juba to Border”, VOA News,

[72] Andrew S. Natsios, “The Future of North and South Sudan”, Sudan, South Sudan and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 206.

[73] Wolfram Lacher, “The Predicament of State Weakness”, South Sudan: International State-Building and its Limits, SWP Research Paper, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, February 2012, 12.

[74] Ibid, 7.

[75] Security Sector Reform Monitor, “Southern Sudan”, April 2010, No. 2, 5.

[76] Ibid, 1-4.

[77] Email interview with members of the EU External Action Service, South Sudan, 18 June 2013.

[78] David K. Deng, “Recommendations to the Government of South Sudan”, Challenges of Accountability: An Assessment of Dispute Resolution Processes in Rural South Sudan, South Sudan Law Society, 2012, 5.

[79] Richard Cockett, “Surviving in the North, Failing in the South”, Sudan, Darfur and the Failure of an African State, 258.

[80] U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, “Overview of Corruption and Anti-Corruption in South Sudan”,

[81] Wolfram Lacher, “Challenges for Government and Donors”, South Sudan: International State-Building and its Limits, SWP Research Paper, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, February 2012, 26.

[82] Government of South Sudan, “Chapter XII: The Traditional Authorities of Southern Sudan, Section 112. Status of Traditional Authorities”, Laws of Southern Sudan, 56,

[83] Ibid, 27.

[84] Ted Dagne, “Africa: U.S. Foreign Assistance Issues”, Congressional Research Service, 15 September 2011, 10.