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South Sudan in Dire Straights

By Edited Sep 9, 2016 1 0

South Sudan soldiers

Five years after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended Africa's longest-running civil war, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011, when 99 percent of South Sudanese voted to secede in a referendum. This neonate Republic became Africa's newest country since Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993. However it is not easy to dispense with a twenty-two year guerrilla struggle that caused 1.5 million deaths and created 4 million refugees. Today, South Sudan faces three serious problems that threaten its continued survival as an independent state. Ongoing tension and skirmishes along the border gnaw at already strained relations with Sudan, the killing of rebellious civilians by government forces creates more dissent among the populace, and the complete lack of infrastructure ensures an absence of both education and healthcare. If these crippling issues are not addressed soon, South Sudan may once again turn to war as the only available solution.

Although the 2005 peace deal may have ended the Sudanese civil war, with independence have arisen various territorial issues, resulting in fresh fighting along the border. Perhaps surprisingly, this is not the consequence of the oil situation which, although negotiations of little benefit continue, has largely been resolved. The logic behind the agreed fifty-fifty oil profit split is that while South Sudan has most of the oil, it is landlocked and thus must export it through Sudan. Instead, the main conflicts are in the regions of Abyei, where a referendum to decide whether to join south or north has been delayed over voter eligibility; South Kordofan, where the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) continue to fight, as their home region is north of the new border, despite the fact that it rebelled alongside South Sudan; and finally Unity (south of the border), a county that wants to rejoin Sudan. Border stability is the first step South Sudan must take to make itself a fully functioning state.

South Sudan map

It is not only along the border that South Sudan faces grave threats. Inside the country, north-sympathisers, such as Peter Gadet’s South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), resist the authority of Salva Kiir Mayardit’s government. In addition, fighting amongst various tribes has broken out in South Sudan, with the no evidence pointing to northern involvement. Tribal loyalties are fierce, weapons are ubiquitous, and so with nothing else to do cattle rustling is commonplace, sparking conflicts that the government is powerless to control. The state’s army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), has responded aggressively to any insurgency, burning dozens of villages, raping hundreds of women and girls and killing an untold number of civilians in their attempts to disarm rebels. The UN also reports that civilians also cite torture among the horrors, claiming that flaming plastic bags were dripped on children to make their parents surrender weapons and that villagers were burnt alive in their huts if rebels were suspected of spending the night there. So severe is the campaign of atrocities conducted by the SPLA that in 2010 the CIA issued a warning that over the next five years, a new mass killing, or genocide, is most likely to occur in southern Sudan. Internal peace is the next, crucial objective that the South Sudanese government must obtain so as to establish the country as a stable one worthy of its autonomy.

Salva Kiir
Peter Gadet

The last of South Sudan’s crippling issues is its absolute lack of infrastructure. Transport is abysmal: the few roads are almost entirely unpaved and the capital, Juba, does not have any paved road connections to any other countries. Railways are scarce, with the only stretch of track connecting the city of Wau with the border. The airports fair slightly better, with Juba offering international flights to Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. Three other airports also offer very limited international flights, but most are as archaic as the roadways, featuring little more than a dirt airstrip.  On a humanitarian level, water and electricity are hard to procure, and the lack of hospitals -there are just three proper ones in the entire country- as well as the absence of trained medical staff -in some areas there is a single doctor for to every 500,000 people- contribute to the fact that the country leads the world in infant and maternal mortality rates.

Sudan railway map

Finally, South Sudan suffers from an illiteracy rate of 80 percent, due to an insufficient amount of teachers and schools, many of which were destroyed during the long civil war. There is an especially important shortage of technical schools, which are needed to train those that will build the desperately needed infrastructure. The female illiteracy rate is the highest in the world, and there are severe challenges for female children. Only one in four schoolchildren is a girl (proportionately fewer than anywhere in the world), and UNICEF reports that only 1 percent of girls complete primary education . Without infrastructure, especially transport and educational facilities, South Sudan can’t hope for future success, as a country can’t run without specialists, and a government can’t administer a territory it can’t to visit.


Sudan airport map

Solutions to South Sudan’s Political Situation

To solve the South Sudan’s political problems, Salva Kiir’s government must immediately put in place multiple cold-hearted measures to avoid the widely predicted genocide, and guide the country towards future stability in all sectors. Though the policies about to be proposed may seem radical, one must keep in mind that they are crucial to avoid a Somalia-style disintegration of society and state.

First, to put a close to the unending conflicts in South Sudan, a population swap between disputed regions –Abyei, South Kordofan and Unity- must be organised with Sudan’s cooperation. All those in South Sudan who wish to be reintegrated into Sudan will be moved north of the border, taking the place of the Sudanese who wish to be citizens of South Sudan, who will be moved south of the border, themselves taking the place of those who left to go north. Though this populace will lose their homes, they will also rid themselves of the never ending conflicts in their present lands. This transit should be effectuated bloodlessly. If the emigrates are resistant to the necessary military implementation of this policy, violence should be replaced by monetary incentives, in the form of either materials, livestock or micro loans (discussed later). Whatever the cost, the transition should be completed in a few months, so that, with government help, the affected populations may be quickly re-established, and normal life may be resumed. The problem of tribal fighting in South Sudan is largely intractable; dealing with it would require a paradigm shift over the course of a few generations. While chasing this distant goal, the government should employ it’s new police force, more orderly that the brutish SPLA, as well as establishing the financial measures about to be detailed. These measures will stabilise South Sudanese society by ending the fighting, tribal culture and by providing jobs that will make the populace grateful of their leaders and, by consequence, loyal to them.

Grameen Bank

Secondly, educating the women of South Sudan will automatically lower the country’s infant and maternal mortality rates to more acceptable levels. In addition, the empowerment of women through government encouragement of Grameen Bank micro loans will allow the warring tribes that form South Sudanese society to settle, put down their weapons, and prosper in productive agricultural jobs. Infrastructure-wise, pouring all funds into roads, railways and airports at this stage would be a waste, as it would only improve transport between cities and countries with nothing to trade and with no economic prospects, while focusing on the construction of hospitals would only save the lives of people who would go on to die of other causes without having accomplished anything. Instead, by mainly channelling capital into building schools, the government would pave the way for success by granting people useful skills. Once stability has been established with the population swap and specialised labour is widely available, the exploitation of South Sudan would become more favourable to foreign investors, freeing up capital to be used to solve the country’s infrastructure deficiencies. 



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