South Sudan may be the world’s newest country, but its five-decade struggle for freedom, peace, and independence from Sudan won wide international support and led to formal statehood on July 9, 2011. Though long-term hopes for a successful democracy remain high and the young government in Juba enjoys significant U.S. and international support, South Sudan’s initial period as a nation-state has included some troubling signs of heavy-handed, undemocratic actions.

publications/south-sudan-undemocratic-tendencies-the-rise
Photo courtesy of NY Times

2013 Series on Sleeper RisksMany of the clearest risks of conflict, violence and instability around the world have received widespread media attention. But a variety of other risks and threats have been smoldering quietly. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is engaged in a variety of peacebuilding and conflict management efforts in many of the countries where these lesser-known risks are emerging. In a series of articles, the Institute examines some of these “sleeper risks” through the analytical lens of USIP experts. | Read more about USIP’s series on sleeper risks

South Sudan may be the world’s newest country, but its five-decade struggle for freedom, peace, and independence from Sudan won wide international support and led to formal statehood on July 9, 2011. Though long-term hopes for a successful democracy remain high and the young government in Juba enjoys significant U.S. and international support, South Sudan’s initial period as a nation-state has included some troubling signs of heavy-handed, undemocratic actions.

This “creeping authoritarianism,” as USIP Director of Sudan and South Sudan Programs Jon Temin puts it, is not receiving much attention in the international community, but it appears to be raising significant concerns and fears among the population of this tribally mixed and deeply impoverished country.

In recent months, troubling events have included:

  • The shooting death of a South Sudanese journalist who had been critical of the government, amid wider reports of harassment and detention of journalists.
  • The expulsion of a United Nations human rights official after a U.N. report alleging atrocities by South Sudan’s army in Jonglei state, the scene of substantial inter-tribal fighting and anti-government rebellion. The army has been conducting a tough crackdown in Jonglei related to an effort to confiscate weapons and combat rebels, but its heavy-handed tactics have had sometimes exacerbated violence by turning civilians against the army.
  • The shooting down of a U.N. peacekeeping helicopter by South Sudan’s army, which led to the death of four Russian crew members and was condemned by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. (The army termed the incident a regrettable mistake.)
  • Continuing lack of progress in developing the constitution that is needed for the new country

Undemocratic tendencies could make building internal peace in South Sudan increasingly difficult over the coming year. The international community is not yet focused on these developments, Temin said, and South Sudan “needs to be held to the same standards expected of other democratic nations.”

Added Temin, “There are an increasing number of red flags. South Sudan’s leaders should live up to the ideals that they themselves articulated as they fought so long for independence.”

Read Features in This Series

Related Publications

Examining Inclusivity in the Southern Philippines

Examining Inclusivity in the Southern Philippines

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

By: Yasmira Moner

One of the key challenges facing the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is ensuring that the institutions and laws of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in the Southern Philippines are inclusive of the extraordinary diversity that characterizes its people. The recent extension of the BTA’s mandate, pushing the BARMM’s first elections from May 2022 to May 2025, raises both opportunities and challenges. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace ProcessesConflict Analysis & Prevention

After the Taliban’s Takeover: Pakistan’s TTP problem

After the Taliban’s Takeover: Pakistan’s TTP problem

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

By: Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.

In 2021, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) insurgency escalated its challenge against Pakistan. Operating from bases in Afghanistan, and with a growing presence inside Pakistan, the group mounted an increasing number of attacks against Pakistani security forces — as well as against some critical Chinese interests in Pakistan. The insurgency also showed renewed political strength by bringing in splintered factions and improving internal cohesion. Additionally, al-Qaeda signaled its continued alliance with the TTP. On Tuesday, after an attack by the TTP on the police in Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad, Pakistan’s Interior Minister warned that more attacks by the group are likely.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionViolent Extremism

View All Publications