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South Sudan - Introduction

South Sudanese armed and unarmed groups who signed a cease-fire 21 December 2017 said they are optimistic that peace will return to South Sudan despite the governments refusal to renegotiate parts of the failed August 2015 deal. The agreement was signed in Addis Ababa on December 21 during the High-Level Revitalization Forum.

The Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM IO) was the first party to declare a cease-fire since signing the deal this week. The leader of the SPLM IO and former first vice president and rebel leader, Riek Machar, was not invited to the talks. He was instead asked to send three officials from his group to represent him. Machar had been confined to house arrest by South African authorities since 2016.

The representatives of Norway, the UK, China, and Japan, the EU, United Nations, African Union and IGAD Forum member countries signed as guarantors of the cease-fire agreement. The representative of the United States declined to sign.

South Sudan has been rid by war for over four years, sparked by accusations by President Salva Kiir that his then deputy Riek Machar was plotting a coup against his government. Machar denied the allegations but then went on to mobilize a rebel force to fight the government. A UN-backed peace deal was signed in 2015, paving way for the 2016 formation of a unity government, with Machar taking up the first vice president position. The deal was however short-lived as fighting broke out in the capital Juba in July 2016, forcing Machar to flee the capital.

South Sudan is a violent place. It was subjected to decades of war, and government capacity to contain violence is significantly constrained. In most developing countries that come out of conflict, observers talk about reconstruction, but in South Sudan, they are really talking about construction. South Sudan had very little to start with. In 2005, Juba [the capital of independent South Sudan] was still a garrison town that armed forces of the north controlled. All the various infrastructure, such as sewers, electricity, roadsdated to the British colonial days of the 1950s. So not only is South Sudan starting from scratch in terms of government institutions, but also its infrastructure.

After over four decades of the South's conflict with the government in Khartoum, it is hard for most to comprehend how the South lacks the most basic physical and social infrastructure, including roads, schools, hospitals, and established social institutions other than religious organizations and the SPLA. During the almost 50 years from independence to the signing of the CPA in 2005, the central government in Khartoum made little to no investment in Southern Sudan. Roads and other transportation systems deteriorated to the point where travel between cities is in many cases best accomplished by air, and even then many airstrips (which are dirt except in Juba) are unusable in the wet season. Public education was intentionally neglected and missionary schools closed or harrassed, resulting in an overall illiteracy rate in the South at close to 80 percent (UN sources estimate 63% illiteracy for men and 88% for women).

On July 9, 2011 the Republic of South Sudan became an independent state -- by some counts the 193rd country in the world and the 54th member of the African Union. A transitional constitution took effect the same day and provides for executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The transitional constitution calls for the establishment of a representative National Constitutional Review Commission to conduct a national consultation, gathering views from communities and stakeholders across the country. The resulting draft permanent constitution would be presented to a National Constitutional Conference for consideration.

South Sudan is estimated to be the seventh-largest country in Africa and is bordered by Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. The country is divided by the White Nile River, which flows north out of the uplands of central Africa. During the annual floods of the Nile River system, South Sudan's Sudd area is inundated. This large, swampy region of more than 100,000 sq. km dominates the center of the country and supports agriculture and extensive wildlife populations.

South Sudan has a population of over 8 million and a predominantly rural, subsistence economy; approximately 83% of the population is rural. There are 10 states: Central Equatoria (population 1,103,592), Eastern Equatoria (906,126), Jonglei (1,358,602), Lakes (695,730), Northern Bahr el Ghazal (720,898), Unity (585,801), Upper Nile (964,353), Warrap (972,928), Western Bahr el Ghazal (333,431), and Western Equatoria (619,029).

Except for an 11-year hiatus before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [CPA] was signed in 2005, South Sudan was embroiled in conflict with the central authorities in pre-south independence Sudan following Sudan's 1956 independence, resulting in major destruction and displacement since the end of colonial rule. South Sudan continues to cope with the effects of conflict, displacement, and insecurity. The country has many tribal groups and languages, and its people practice indigenous traditional beliefs, Christianity, and Islam. Over 90% of the population identifies themselves as Christian.

During more than 20 years of conflict between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, violence, famine, and disease killed more than 2 million people, forced an estimated 600,000 people to seek refuge in neighboring countries, and displaced approximately 4 million others within Sudan, creating the world's largest population of internally displaced people. As of 2008, the UN estimated that nearly 2 million displaced people had returned to South Sudan and the three areas of Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Abyei following the 2005 signing of the CPA.

As of late 2009, the UN estimated that Lords Resistance Army (LRA)-related violence had displaced approximately 85,000 people in South Sudan, including more than 18,000 refugees from Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic. As of late 2011, the UN estimated that over 380,000 people were displaced across South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic as a result of LRA activity.

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