Archive:  South Sudan

Research in progress: We are planning on expanding this page in the near future.

Independence l Oil and border disputesRefugees l Resources

For background information on South Sudan before its independence in July 2011, please go to our research on Sudan before 2011.

South Sudan; Sudan; southern sudan; Africa; map


The Republic of South Sudan became independent from Sudan on 09 July 2011, after decades of violent dispute between the Sudanese government based in Khartoum and southern Sudanese freedom sighters. Tension between the North and the South have fuelled violent conflict ever since independence from colonialism.

South Sudanese citizens wave their flags as they attend the Independence Day celebrations in the capital Juba

Celebrations in Juba the capital city of South Sudan after they seceded from Sudan on 09 July 2011. Photograph – Reuters/Thomas Mukoya, via

Especially the discovery of oil and the tensions between Muslims in the North and Christians in the South contributed to the various civil wars. Real talks about independence for the South started towards the end of the Second Sudanese Civil War which ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. Promise for an independence referendum was part of the agreement.  In January 2011 the referendum was held to determine if South Sudan should succeed from Sudan. An overwhelming majority voted ‘yes’. On the 9th July 2011 South Sudan was officially declared an independent nation.

Oil and border disputes

President Salva Kiir Mayardi; South Sudan

South Sudan’s first President: Salva Kiir Mayardi, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (Image via

The first anniversary of South Sudan’s independence heightened media attention on South Sudan’s development over the past year; consensus reigns that internal and external problems continue to plague the nation, ranging from corruption and leadership failure among the SPLM, South Sudan’s ruling party, to disputes over oil and border demarcations between Khartoum and Juba. South Sudan holds 75% of the region’s oil; however, the pipelines run through the North, meaning neither nation can benefit from its resources or technology without the cooperation of the other. Failure to reconcile differences led South Sudan to suspend all oil production, severely damaging the economy of both nations. Fighting broke out in the oil-rich area of Heglig, and the region nearly returned to a state of civil war. The UN Security Council intervened by setting a deadline of August 2nd for the two countries to reconcile their differences; after three weeks of talks in Ethiopia, a deal was struck on August 4th in which South Sudan agreed to pay Sudan £5.70 a barrel to transport oil to its ports. South Sudan is currently planning on building a pipeline through Kenya to transport its oil, circumventing the need to continue negotiating with Sudan. While outstanding border disputes remain, a Sudanese spokesman named the deal ‘acceptable’, and talks will continue in an attempt to secure peace for the region.


Sudan; South Sudan; oil fields; oil; map

Disputed oil regions on the Sudan – South Sudan border. The ambiguity over who has ownership over the oil fields has been cause of further violence ever since South Sudan’s independence in 2011. (Map – BBC)

Since independence, people from South Sudan who had settled in Sudan have been moving back to the South on a massive scale. However, due to the oil conflicts on the border, travel from Sudan into South Sudan has become dangerous, slow and often almost impossible.

To give you an idea of the situations for South Sudanese stranded in Sudan on the border, here is a letter from a nun who is active in the region, dated 30th April 2012. Sister Guadalupe Castillo works for the Comboni Sisters and is based in Khartoum, Sudan. Here she describes the situation in the town of Kosti (Sudan), a major junction for rail and shipping transport. It is here that thousands of South Sudanese are waiting for transport to leave Sudan and return to South Sudan. These are the observations she shared with us back in 2013:

“The situation in the port way station and at the railway station in Kosti continues to be uncertain. An estimate of 12,000 people is still waiting along the river and around 4,000 are at the railway station camp.

The last trip by river was in December 2011 and since then neither the commercial nor the repatriation barges are operating. At the railway station, a train left for Awil and Wau [in South Sudan] in February six months after the previous one. In the past months many returnees have been diverted to proceed to Renk by road. Many families in the port way station are starting to contemplate joining hands as two or three families to hire trucks to take them and their belongings to Renk.

Currently the possibility of traveling to Renk is there but not appealing to many who are still waiting for their dues and gratuities after decades of work in the Sudan, because coming back is not guaranteed for South Sudanese citizens. Many people stay waiting for their gratuities.

Traveling to Renk by road for commuters as well as for the trucks carrying belongings proves to be an adventure; many end up saying it depends on one’s luck. There are a number of road blocks in which searching take place, taxes are to be paid especially for new things. There is a fear among the returnees that abduction especially of young men could take place on their way to the south by road.

Among the many other reasons it can be stated that, the long halt of transport to the south is closely linked to the rapidly fluctuating relations between South Sudan and Sudan.

With the increase of uncertainties and tensions many families are now selling off their precious items and belongings at a throw away price, wheel carts pulled by donkeys, bicycles and pick up cars full of goods bought at the port is a common feature leaving the port. The end of transitional period poses more challenges in terms of returnees’ movement and permanency in the Sudan, how can their status be defined? What kind of identification or documents do they need? From whom can they seek protection?

The authorities of White Nile States have set May the 20th as the deadline for the returnees to get out of Port and Railway station camps. It is still not clear what this deadline entails and which parties can be involved to ensure the safety of the people. From the last week of April, the NGO’s offering their services for the returnees are busy terminating their contracts, at present only the FAR clinic is operating.”
– Sister Guadalupe Castillo, 30th April 2012.

ship; returnees; refugees; Bor; Jonglei State; South Sudan; Kosti; White Nile state; Sudan; independence; Sudan Tribune

A ship arrives in in Bor, Jonglei State in South Sudan, carrying over 2,000 people from Kosti in Sudan’s White Nile State. These people are originally South Sudanese and fled from Sudan after independence. (Photograph – Sudan Tribune)

On May 14th, 2012, 4,500 of the 12,000 refugees were returned to South Sudan in an UNHCR operation. Humanitarian workers secured permission for an airlift of people via the Khartoum airport back to South Sudan, with assurance that refugees would not be stopped at border control. The NGO Fellowships for African Relief has provided water, sanitation and healthcare for those still in Kosti, and medical supplies are supplied by the IOM with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

7,500 refugees remain in Kosti’s camps waiting to return home; however, continued violence since independence means South Sudan’s camps are overcrowded, unable to handle the influx of refugees during the rainy season.  These factors combined with a poor harvest and severe inflation mean that according to UN estimates for 2012-2013, a quarter of the population numbering 2.4 million people will suffer from food insecurity. On July 26th 2012 Britain announced £31 million in humanitarian aid to South Sudan, intended for vaccinations, emergency treatment, food and nutritional supplements, clean drinking water, emergency shelter, and agricultural supplies. NGOs in the region refer to the situation as a full blown humanitarian crisis: “Thousands of families are arriving in South Sudan hungry and terrified after walking for days to reach safety,” said Jon Cunliffe, Save the Children’s South Sudan country director. “People are coming just as heavy rains make it virtually impossible to access these areas to provide aid. The resources are not in place to meet the needs of everyone. The worst-case scenario is now a reality; we are witnessing a full-blown humanitarian crisis in one of the most remote places on earth.”


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