Jok Madut Jok, a USIP Jennings Randolph senior fellow who is currently serving as an undersecretary in South Sudan’s Ministry of Culture and Heritage, witnessed the independence celebrations in Juba on July 9. Read his take on what secession means for the future of the two Sudans.

July 11, 2011

Jok Madut Jok, a USIP Jennings Randolph senior fellow who is currently serving as an undersecretary in South Sudan’s Ministry of Culture and Heritage, witnessed the independence celebrations in Juba on July 9. Read his take on what secession means for the future of the two Sudans.

What was the mood like leading up to the independence celebration on July 9?

“However long the night may be, the day will surely come.” In his inauguration address at the independence celebrations on July 9th, 2011, the president of the new Republic of South Sudan, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, invoked this African proverb to refer to the situation in the Nuba Mountains and southern Blue Nile, areas whose people fought side by side with South Sudan in the two-decade long war with the north but which will now remain part of the north, the Republic of Sudan.

While the proclamation of the new country has brought joy to the people of the south, not all of Sudan will experience such exciting political transformation. On the contrary, the Nuba Mountains, a region located in South Kordofan state, is currently at war and Blue Nile state faces the threat of war. On June 28, President Bashir ordered members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) based in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile to either disarm or move to the south, as the SPLA would now be seen as a foreign entity in the wake of the southern independence.

For the last two weeks, the bombing in the Nuba areas, the violent attacks, and the door-to-door searches by the Sudan Armed Forces for Nuba men could not be overshadowed, not even by the explosive euphoria of independence. So, President Salva Kiir Mayardit assured the people in these regions that “I can see light at the end of the tunnel for our brothers whose problems have not been solved yet.”

This is just one of the issues complicating north-south relations in the near term, when now is the time for both the north and the south to think of the long-term benefits of working together, not short-term political gains at the other’s expense.

Back to top

What are some other complications in north-south relations?

There are three particularly salient issues. The delineation of the boundary remains incomplete; citizenship issues for southerners living in the north and vice versa are not resolved; and a formal agreement on a formula for sharing oil revenues does not exist.

Regarding oil, President Bashir has threatened to shut down the pipeline that carries the oil from the South to Sudan’s Red Sea Port at Port Sudan if no agreement is reached soon. The leaders in the south say he is bluffing and simply appealing to his constituency.

Southern leaders say that we can survive on loans against future oil proceeds while they figure out alternatives. The alternatives, which include a pipeline to Kenya, may be realistic but are terribly long term for a country that relies on oil for up to 98 percent of its revenue. There is a lot of potential in agriculture, but that also requires massive investments that are just unavailable at the moment.

Other important issues include the questions of nationality and citizenship; close to half a million South Sudanese remain stranded in Khartoum and other northern towns.

Back to top

What are some acute concerns for the South Sudanese people going forward?

The biggest issue on the minds of most South Sudanese is the question of insecurity caused by rebellions. In seven of the 10 southern states, there are active militias poised to fight against Juba. This makes everyone worried. Should Juba go after the rebel leaders in attempt to assert itself as a sovereign state, and in the process risk escalating the conflict into full blown tribal wars?

While these big issues remain just as intractable as ever, the Republic of South Sudan has now put its mind to seemingly mundane yet crucial things for everyday functioning of an independent state. These include further discussions on the interim constitution, which remains a major cause for the citizens’ mistrust in their government, even as it was passed by parliament and signed by the president shortly before independence day. Then there is the question of communications and attendant technologies. The Ministry of Telecommunications is busy trying to secure an international dialing code and to register an Internet domain name, which is to be “SS,” something some people have quickly noticed to sound like those Nazi holocaust perpetrators.

As the interim constitution calls for establishment of the Central Bank of South Sudan, there are discussions about the fiscal and monetary policies and the new currency, the South Sudan pound, and whether it will be introduced right away -- or not until a year from now while such a transition is being coordinated with Khartoum, as many experts suggest as a way to minimize the possibility of inflation.

Above all, the most pressing issue is the problem of basic services, particularly education, health care and youth employment. Expectations are very high but they require massive financial investment for both training of staff and the infrastructure that supports their delivery. Policies and spending priorities have been formulated into a three-year development plan. However, there is a big gap between the estimated costs of these services and the estimated future budgets. Juba is at least talking about these challenges.

Population groups deserving of special attention have been identified. Next to women, youth are a big priority given that 70 percent of the population is under 30 years of age, their high unemployment figures and political activism.

Both represent a serious challenge to the government, and their complaints cannot be unheeded by any political organization that wishes to remain in office.

Back to top

Explore Further

Related Publications

China’s Response to Sudan’s Political Transition

China’s Response to Sudan’s Political Transition

Friday, May 8, 2020

By: Laura Barber

Sudan's decades-long economic relationship with China has almost always been dominated by oil. Yet this relationship has changed significantly in the past decade—first with the loss of oil reserves when South Sudan became an independent nation in 2011, and more recently due to the ouster of longtime ally President Omar al-Bashir. This report, based on interviews with policy officials, diplomats, industry and security experts, and others, examines China’s evolving commercial and political interests in this vital nation in the Horn of Africa.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Sudan, One Year After Bashir

Sudan, One Year After Bashir

Friday, May 1, 2020

By: Manal Taha; Payton Knopf; Aly Verjee

Dictator Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for nearly three decades, was overthrown in April 2019. After months of protests, negotiations led to a joint civilian-military transitional government to govern the country for a period of 39 months. However, Sudan’s political transition remains tenuous, and even before the coronavirus pandemic, the risks of failure were many. USIP’s Manal Taha, Payton Knopf, and Aly Verjee discuss the past year in Sudan and the need for further international support to shore up the transition.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Global Health

COVID-19 and Conflict: Horn of Africa

COVID-19 and Conflict: Horn of Africa

Thursday, April 30, 2020

By: Susan Stigant

USIP is closely following the effects of the novel coronavirus around the world and we’re particularly concerned about its effects in fragile states and conflict zones, which are especially vulnerable to the impacts of these kinds of outbreaks. This week, our Susan Stigant looks at what new challenges have emerged in the Horn of Africa since the outbreak began.

Type: Blog

Global Health

Four Lessons from Outbreaks in Africa for the Age of Coronavirus

Four Lessons from Outbreaks in Africa for the Age of Coronavirus

Monday, March 30, 2020

By: Aly Verjee

As the coronavirus pandemic continues and new behavioral practices—from social distancing to avoiding handshakes and hugs—become expected norms overnight, there are crucial policy lessons to be learned from struggles against previous outbreaks of disease in Africa. Despite widespread poverty, weak infrastructure, and relatively few health professionals, there is an encouraging, long record of African countries—often with significant international assistance and cooperation—eventually managing to overcome dire health challenges. For non-African countries already facing large numbers of COVID-19 infections, as well as for African countries where the epidemic is now at an early stage, policymakers would do well to recall these four lessons of past epidemics—of both what to do and, perhaps almost as importantly, what not to do to confront this global threat.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Health; Human Rights

View All Publications