Tag Archive | "Southern Sudan"

The South Sudanese Flag

Averting State Failure in South Sudan

The South Sudanese Flag

The South Sudanese Flag

On July 14, the U.N. General Assembly voted unanimously to approve South Sudan as the 193rd member of the United Nations. As the United Nations welcomes the new country of South Sudan, some critics are claiming that South Sudan is destined to become a failed state. This raises the question: what is a failed state, and how can South Sudan avoid becoming one?

The Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States codifies the four basic elements of statehood in article 1. To be considered a state, the territorial unit must have:

  • a permanent population;
  • government;
  • defined territory;
  • capacity to enter into relations with other states.

State failure occurs when the country loses control over one or more of these characteristics. For example, The Fund for Peace, the organization that collaborated with Foreign Policy Magazine to create the “Failed State
Index”, recognizes that the attributes of state failure include:

  • demographic pressures and large influxes of refugees and IDPs;
  • the inability to provide reasonable public services;
  • physical loss of control over territory or the monopoly on the legitimate use of force; and
  • the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

As South Sudan establishes itself as a new nation, it faces both internal and external obstacles in each of these areas that could precipitate state failure. In the next few paragraphs I will analyze how each of these forces could lead to state failure in South Sudan, and what general steps South Sudan will need to take to prevent this.

Alleviating the problems facing its large and vulnerable population is one of the biggest challenges that South Sudan faces. While the exact population of South Sudan remains unknown, it is estimated to be in excess of eight million people. The long history of violence in the region has created enormous instability in the population, and prior to South Sudan’s independence it was estimated that over one half million Sudanese had sought protection as refugees in neighboring African states. A further one and a half million Sudanese had been internally displaced. These population pressures are symptomatic of the violence and poverty of the region. South Sudan is one of the least developed countries in the world, with the worst maternal mortality rate; the highest percentage of children below 13 not attending school; and one of the highest percentages of female illiteracy.

South Sudan’s government will have to work hard to provide public services to this stressed population. The country is larger than Spain and Portugal combined but has less than 100 miles of paved roads. While the region has oil reserves, these reserves are at best a mixed blessing. The government depends on oil for 95% of its revenue, making it extremely susceptible to fluctuations in the value of oil. To avoid becoming a failed state, South Sudan must create infrastructure to support its population. This must include diversifying its economy so the country’s future is not handcuffed to oil. Because state failure is so often characterized by weak government and poor populations, South Sudan’s top priorities will include the establishment of security, basic services, and meaningful work opportunities outside of the oil sector.

State failure is also often accompanied by physical loss of control over territory or the monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Thus, South Sudan must also resolve its territorial disputes with the north and work to control internal violence. The Abyei region, in particular, is one of the most problematic areas for South Sudan. Both Sudan and South Sudan have claims to Abyei, an area that is known to have oil reserves. Despite the fact that both sides accepted an arbitration decision issued from The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in July 2009, the Abyei boundary is still disputed. Earlier this year, reports of violence in the area led the UN Security Council to approve the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeepers for six months. Hopefully, these peacekeeping forces can assist South Sudan to secure a long term solution to these territorial disputes. Securing a long term agreement between the north and the south over the resources on the border will be an essential step towards preventing state failure.

A further indicator of state failure is an inability to interact with other states on as a full member of the international community. South Sudan’s entry into the United Nations is the first step towards solidifying international recognition. To promote development, South Sudan will need to further develop international ties. For example, South Sudan will probably look to access the resources of International Financial Institutions, secure aid packages, and attract foreign direct investment. The United States, in particular, may play a critical role in facilitating international support. Princeton Lyman, the US’s Special Envoy to Sudan, emphasized this point in his recent testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee:

[T]he government of South Sudan will also depend on international support as it seeks to address its many challenges . . . . The United States has provided significant support for South Sudan over the years, and we will remain a steadfast partner as South Sudan seeks to peacefully meet these challenges. The strong ties between our peoples go back many decades, and we want to continue to build on that partnership.

Securing South Sudan’s independence was a major victory for international diplomacy, but significant challenges remain ahead. Continued support is necessary if South Sudan is to develop into a strong state that can act as a leader in the region.

As this brief analysis shows, the characteristics indicating state failure often have a symbiotic relationship. For example, territorial disputes weaken the government and a weak government cannot provide basic services. Therefore, a broad multilateral approach is needed to foster development and prevent collapse.

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Sign Pointing to S. Sudan

Southern Sudan, the Referendum and Land Conflict

Sign Pointing to S. Sudan

Sign Pointing to S. Sudan

Editor’s note: This post was written in 2010 while Chris Moore, a partner at CDR Associates, was working in Sudan on the tenuous issued leading to the secession of Southern Sudan. While the temporal perspective is skewed, this post is nonetheless timely due to Southern Sudan’s recent secession and incorporation in the international community.

When flying into Juba – a sleepy and poor town in Southern Sudan that is located on the banks of the Nile River – it is hard to believe that it may become the capital of the newest nation in the world. The airport, the size of one for a very small municipality, is packed with people arriving and departing. Some are in western garb while others are in more traditional dress – women with elaborate headscarves and floral print dresses and men in white thawbs. Luggage and all manner of corded boxes and bags arrive from planes at the terminal by farm tractor and trailer, and are deposited on a dock where they are inspected by uniformed and stern looking customs officials, each armed with a piece of white chalk. After a cursory search of foreigners bags, and a more careful and demanding search of locals’, they mark and pass them on to travelers who exit the terminal and head toward the ranks of the ubiquitous SUVs that are the main means of transportation for international workers and businesspeople providing relief, development and political assistance to Southern Sudan.

In many ways, Juba is an overgrown village. It is composed of a rather dilapidated “downtown” with crumbling stores and street stalls, typical African markets, slums and a number of hotels and compounds that house the international community. The town lays claim to the only paved roads in the country. (During the wet months, the only way to get between towns and cities is to fly, as the roads are totally impassable.)

Along the road into town is the UN Compound, shacks, garbage, flying plastic bags, cows, goats and trucks of imported food and supplies that are the lifeblood for some of the poorest people in Africa. Thus began CDR Partner, Chris Moore’s consultancy in Southern Sudan on the development of land and property dispute resolution systems for the Southern Sudan Land Commission and UN Habitat.

Southern Sudan is currently part of the country of Sudan. In 1947 the Sudanese and British joined the Arab North and African South into one country. However, the marriage was not a peaceful one. From the time of Sudan’s independence in 1956, negative historical relationships and grievances, efforts to impose Islamic law, underdevelopment and discriminatory treatment of African Southerners by Arab Northerners resulted in two civil wars. The most recent one lasted more than 20 years, and resulted in the death of over 2.5 million people and over 5 million displaced.

In 2005, the North and South signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the violent conflict and allowed a period of 5 years for the country to stabilize and conduct a referendum on whether the South, a territory the size of the state of Texas and with an estimated population of roughly 8 million, would secede become independent. On January 9th 20011, citizens of Southern Sudan voted in a referendum to determine the final status of the South.

Among the most contentious issues between the North and South, and within the South itself, is land. The South has more than 200 ethnic groups. Historically, the vast majority of land is held by these groups, and administered by traditional authorities and customary law. During Northern rule, a significant amount of traditional land was nationalized. Concessions were issued without consultation or consent by local communities.

The civil war led to a breakdown of traditional land conflict resolution mechanisms between pastoralist groups and between pastoralist and agricultural communities. The peace resulted in the creation of new boundaries between states and counties, many of which were established with limited or no consultation with affected populations. Migration from rural to urban areas, and returns of refugees and internally displaced persons have, put pressures on municipalities and traditional communities to expand or relocate people. These changes have led to tensions between municipalities, urban residents and traditional landholders as competition for land increases.

To address the above problems and conflicts UN HABITAT, the UN agency focused on urban development and the resolution of land disputes, is partnering with the Southern Sudan Land Commission to provide technical assistance and develop dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve a range of land disputes. Some of the issues to be handled include – boundaries between states and counties, pastoralist-pastoralist land and water issues, pastoralist and agricultural community interface problems, municipal acquisition of traditional lands, land grabbing, urban development and removal of informal settlements, and resolution of cases that involve inter-ethnic land claims. CDR Partner, Christopher Moore is a member of the UN HABITAT team working on this issue.

In August, September and October, Moore traveled to Southern Sudan to conduct situation assessments, and awareness training on the design of dispute resolution systems. The trips involved consultations and training in Juba, puddle-jumper plane trips on UN Humanitarian Air Service to two state capitals during the rainy season, traveling on mud engulfed roads, sleeping in a tent and meeting many wonderful people dedicated to building a new Southern Sudan. To date he has worked with an international team to conduct and complete situation assessments on land disputes in Central and Western Equatoria and Jonglei States, presented a seminar for the Land Commission on Advanced Mediation Skills and Supporting Land Dispute Resolution Systems, and conducted a workshop for UN HABITAT and USAID on Post-Conflict Land Disputes: Systems for Prevention, Management and Resolution.

Moore is scheduled to return to Southern Sudan in early 2011 to conduct strategy design and planning workshops in three Southern Sudanese states, and assist the state governments to design and implement customized land dispute resolution systems. He will also conduct capacity building training programs to prepare state government officials and staff of non-governmental organizations in various dispute resolution procedures, negotiation and mediation. Several state-based dispute resolution systems are expected to be up and running by July, the date set for independence.

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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