The operational and political environment in South Sudan remains complex and unpredictable impacting displacement patterns. The government has maintained an open-door policy for refugees, with prima facie for Sudanese, Ethiopian Anuaks and Congolese. The signed Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in 2018 provided a general sense of stability and allowed humanitarian workers’ increased access except for a few areas throughout 2019. UNHCR has reaffirmed its no-return policy (updated in April 2015) until the security, rule of law and human rights situation in South Sudan has improved to permit a safe and dignified return of South Sudanese refugees.
Since the outbreak of conflict in December 2013, almost 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced with 2.2 million refugees in one of the six surrounding countries and 1.46 million internally displaced. South Sudan remains Africa’s largest and world’s third largest refugee crisis.
Equatoria is a region of southern South Sudan, along the upper reaches of the White Nile. Originally a province of Egypt, it also contained most of northern parts of present-day Uganda, including Lake Albert. It was an idealistic effort to create a model state in the interior of Africa that never consisted of more than a handful of adventurers and soldiers in isolated outposts.
Equatoria received little attention from the British prior to World War I. Equatoria was closed to outside influences and developed along indigenous lines. As a result, the region remained isolated and underdeveloped. Limited social services to the region were provided by Christian missionaries who opened schools and medical clinics. The education provided by the missionaries was mainly limited to learning English language and arithmetic.
Equatorians played an instrumental role in the struggle for autonomy in South Sudan. The origins of Sudan's civil war date back to 1955, a year before independence, when it became clear the Arabs were going to take over the national government in Khartoum. Equatorians had a military unit called Equatoria Corps, formed during the Anglo-Egyptian administration. On August 18, 1955, members of the Equatoria Corps mutinied at Torit, Eastern Equatoria. The Khartoum government sent military forces to quell the rebellion and many mutineers of the Equatoria Corps went into hiding rather than surrender to the Sudanese government. This marked the beginning of the first civil war in southern Sudan.
When the Khartoum government reneged on its promises after independence, a mutiny began that led to two prolonged periods of conflict (1955-1972 and 1983-2005) in which perhaps 2.5 million people died - mostly civilians - due to starvation and drought.
Ongoing peace talks finally resulted in a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in January 2005. As part of this agreement, the south was granted a six-year period of autonomy to be followed by a referendum on final status. The result of this referendum, held in January 2011, was a vote of 98% in favor of secession.
Since independence on 9 July 2011, South Sudan has struggled with good governance and nation building and has attempted to control opposition forces operating in its territory. Economic conditions have deteriorated since January 2012 when the government decided to shut down oil production following bilateral disagreements with Sudan. In December 2013, conflict between government and opposition forces killed tens of thousands and led to a dire humanitarian crisis with millions of South Sudanese displaced and food insecure. The warring parties signed a peace agreement in August 2015 that created a transitional government of national unity in April 2016. However, in July 2016, fighting broke out in Juba between the two principal signatories, plunging the country back into conflict. A "revitalized" peace agreement signed in September 2018 is currently in the process of being implemented.
Industry and infrastructure in landlocked South Sudan are severely underdeveloped and poverty is widespread, following several decades of civil war with Sudan. Continued fighting within the new nation is disrupting what remains of the economy.
Industry and infrastructure in landlocked South Sudan are severely underdeveloped and poverty is widespread, following several decades of civil war with Sudan. Continued fighting within the new nation is disrupting what remains of the economy. The vast majority of the population is dependent on subsistence agriculture and humanitarian assistance. Property rights are insecure and price signals are weak, because markets are not well-organized.
South Sudan has little infrastructure – about 10,000 kilometers of roads, but just 2% of them paved. Electricity is produced mostly by costly diesel generators, and indoor plumbing and potable water are scarce, so less than 2% of the population has access to electricity. About 90% of consumed goods, capital, and services are imported from neighboring countries – mainly Uganda, Kenya and Sudan. Chinese investment plays a growing role in the infrastructure and energy sectors.
Nevertheless, South Sudan does have abundant natural resources. South Sudan holds one of the richest agricultural areas in Africa, with fertile soils and abundant water supplies. Currently the region supports 10-20 million head of cattle. At independence in 2011, South Sudan produced nearly three-fourths of former Sudan's total oil output of nearly a half million barrels per day. The Government of South Sudan relies on oil for the vast majority of its budget revenues, although oil production has fallen sharply since independence. South Sudan is one of the most oil-dependent countries in the world, with 98% of the government’s annual operating budget and 80% of its gross domestic product (GDP) derived from oil. Oil is exported through a pipeline that runs to refineries and shipping facilities at Port Sudan on the Red Sea. The economy of South Sudan will remain linked to Sudan for some time, given the existing oil infrastructure. The outbreak of conflict in December 2013, combined with falling crude oil production and prices, meant that GDP fell significantly between 2014 and 2017. Since the second half of 2017 oil production has risen, and is currently about 130,000 barrels per day.
Poverty and food insecurity has risen due to displacement of people caused by the conflict. With famine spreading, 66% of the population in South Sudan is living on less than about $2 a day, up from 50.6% in 2009, according to the World Bank. About 80% of the population lives in rural areas, with agriculture, forestry and fishing providing the livelihood for a majority of the households. Much of rural sector activity is focused on low-input, low-output subsistence agriculture.
South Sudan is burdened by considerable debt because of increased military spending and high levels of government corruption. Economic mismanagement is prevalent. Civil servants, including police and the military, are not paid on time, creating incentives to engage in looting and banditry. South Sudan has received more than $11 billion in foreign aid since 2005, largely from the US, the UK, and the EU. Inflation peaked at over 800% per year in October 2016 but dropped to 118% in 2017. The government has funded its expenditures by borrowing from the central bank and foreign sources, using forward sales of oil as collateral. The central bank’s decision to adopt a managed floating exchange rate regime in December 2015 triggered a 97% depreciation of the currency and spawned a growing black market.
Long-term challenges include rooting out public sector corruption, improving agricultural productivity, alleviating poverty and unemployment, improving fiscal transparency - particularly in regard to oil revenues, taming inflation, improving government revenues, and creating a rules-based business environment.
Poverty and food insecurity has risen due to displacement of people caused by the conflict. With famine spreading, 66% of the population in South Sudan is living on less than about $2 a day