South Sudan


South Sudan

Currency unit

Sudanese Dinar

 Government map for South Sudan

  Oil company map












N Sudan









This is a new state. As part of the agreement to end the civil war a referendum was called in January 2011 on whether or not the southern area of the Sudan shall be an independent state. The vote was overwhelming for separation. However, what was not clear is whether if they did vote would the northern government allow them to secede peacefully. Secession took place in July 2011. The northern leader said he would not oppose separation.

As a cultural area to the south of Egypt the people were considered fair game for slavery by the Arabs and before them by the ancient Egyptians. (But there was a period in ancient Egypt when a dynasty of Pharaohs came from the Sudan).

From at least the time of the Khedive Mehmet Ali, Egypt claimed jurisdiction of the southern part of Sudan but did not exert real control, despite appointing a Governor in Juba. (See the story of Sir Samuel Baker). Baker was cut off when the Mahdi took control of Omdurman and had to be rescued.

During the period when Britain controlled the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan the South was treated as a separate region, where Christian missionaries were allowed but Muslim missionaries discouraged. Thus the modern culture had more in common with neighboring Uganda than with the Arab north. The traditional culture of the various African ethnic groups had very little in common with the Arab north. Most of the languages belong to the Nilotic group, some of whose members are found in Uganda and Kenya (e.g. Luo, in western Kenya; Acholi in northern Uganda).

The new state has many problems:

  • 1) lack of infrastructure - there are few roads, no electric grid
  • 2) border disputes with northern Sudan, especially in the Abyei district where the border has not been defined and where much of the oil is to be found (the area is inhabited by Dinka but was transferred to the north by the British for ease of administration)
  • 3) war with the Lords Resistance Army, a group originally formed in the Acholi area of northern Uganda, but now operating in South Sudan, parts of the Congo and the Central African Republic. There is some evidence that the LRA cooperates with the northern government, and may be used to destabilise the new state, in order for the north to retain real control.
  • 4) the potential hostility of North Sudan, whose government wants to control the oil. Bashir has threatened to expel all the southerners now living in the north.
  • 5) The financial pressures from China which would prefer to control the oil via a pipeline through Kenya to the Indian Ocean.
  • 6) Danger of conflict between the two main "tribes" Dinka and Shilluk for control of the government and resources.
  • 7) Possible conflict with Uganda on the southern border. Uganda is controlled mainly by the southern, Bantu, peoples, whereas the northern Ugandans are Nilotics, like the majority in South Sudan.

Independence on 9 July 2011.


  • Arabic
  • many Nilotic languages
  • English
  • languages of other families







Since the independence of the Sudan from the Anglo-Egyptian condominion in 1956 there has been a series of military regimes with short lived civilian governments.

At present in the north there is what amounts to a veiled military regime composed of Islamic fundamentalists headed by General Omar Bashir which came to power in a coup in summer 1989. There have been reports of great brutality, putting it in the same category as such regimes as Syria and Iraq. At one time Usama bin Ladin was a resident and invested in land in the north.

The war with the southerners was the most important political problem as it absorbed the whole of the national wealth and was essentially unwinnable.

The only stable political solution would be some kind of self-government and autonomy for the peoples of the south. In the long run a general boundary change in Africa might join southern Sudan to northern Uganda to form a new state. But up till now the discussion of frontiers has been forbidden by the AU (African Union) because no country would remain unchanged once this question were opened.

The 2004 agreement is said to give the southern leader a vice presidency of the Sudan, while presiding over the Government of Southern Sudan, with a degree of autonomy.

Perhaps this will end the war, and allow development in the south (and in the north too, if it does not have to waste the revenues on war).

John Garang, the southern leader was killed in a helicopter (the Ugandan president's) crash in August 2005 (was it an accident? Probably due to poor maintenance.). Would the new leaders carry on with the agreement? Yes, they did.

As modern services, including schools and hospitals have been very difficult to run in the South throughout the period of the war, the basis of a new state and government are hardly present. The referendum on independence took place on 9 January 2011 and the following 7 days.

Possibly, the biggest lack in the new state has been the absence of a civil service of trained administrators - and an ethical basis for government. One result seems to be corruption on a huge scale.


No referendum took place in Abiye province which was supposed to choose whether to join North or South Sudan. In May 2011 northern troops occupied the territory. As feared it may become a source of renewed war between north and south.

BBC on Sudan split with maps.

Should "Blue Nile" and "South Kordofan" have been included in South Sudan? How will the non-Arab peoples of those areas be treated in the new North Sudan state?

BBC report on Sudan

Interesting reading

I.M.Holt - A Modern History of the Sudan (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) 1961

A History of the Sudan: From the Coming of Islam to the Present Day

Alan Moorehead - the White Nile

Die Quellen des Nil







The economy of Sudan as a whole was affected by the war and incompetent governments. The policy of employing every university graduate in the civil service deprived the private sector of the educated people and caused bureaucratic paralysis. The war required most of the national income.

Famine is frequent in the south because the fighting prevented people planting crops - and now the presence of landmines is a problem.. Refugees fleeing from the fighting into towns often cannot find food. Juba in the south was frequently under siege and impossible to supply even by air.

Oil has been discovered in the northern part of the south. It could not easily be developed as long as the war continued. It is not believed to represent a large oil province, but exploration is also difficult at present. (Sudan has proven oil reserves of over one billion barrels and prospects of an additional one to four billion barrels.) However, there are estimates of only two decades worth of oil. What would they plan for the end of oil?

There have been grandiose plans for new railways in the South to link with Uganda and Kenya. Will any be built? There are also plans for oil pipelines to Lamu on the Indian Ocean. China wants the oil. What will they do? Will the money from oil be used fairly? It is possible that the new country may follow Congo into control by China. Unless a pipeline is built to Kenya the oil will continue to be exported via the North and Port Sudan. There may then be disputes with the North about payment.

These disputes have arisen in January 2012. The North claims the southerners are not paying enough for the transit of the oil to Port Sudan. The northerners confiscated a large amount of oil to cover their transit claims. The southerners then turned off the supply.

Large loan from China







Droughts, especially in the north, suggest climatic change may be under way. It is still too soon to know whether they are part of what has been normal variation or whether the frequency represents new climatic conditions caused by atmospheric changes.

The Jonglei canal was planned to drain the southern Nile marshes, known as the Sudd. This would have produced huge ecological and social effects. The Southern revolt prevented the completion of this canal. Perhaps peace will see it completed. If so, there may be serious damage to the whole region's climate.

Egypt is interested in the flow of water in the Nile and might well act if South Sudan, like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania showed any plans to extract more water from the river than it is allowed by the 1929 Nile Water Agreement negotiated when Britain controlled the whole Nile watershed (except for Ethiopia).






Human Rights

Reports in the past of attempted forced conversion of Christians to Islam. Also enslavement of African southerners by Arabs, as well as attempted genocide.

Local southern people are reported to have been evicted from their traditional lands to accommodate oil development and clear the space around to prevent attacks during oil development.

Will the new state, if it comes into being, have a rule of law with a court system?

Al Jazeera reports curbs on the freedom of the press.

Climate effects

This whole area could potentially be a supplier of energy derived from solar radiation.

The Sudd area of the upper Nile is vulnerable to drought in the catchment area of Lakes Victoria and Albert.

Last revised 13/06/12

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