South Sudan Government and Politics
State and politics
The independent nation of South Sudan was proclaimed July 9, 2011. Thus, a process initiated by signing in January 2005 was completed by a peace agreement that ended 22 years of civil war between the northern and southern parts of Sudan. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of SSOM and its meanings of South Sudan.
South Sudan’s transitional constitution
By virtue of the peace agreement, a regional parliament was established in Juba, and in December 2005 a provisional constitution was adopted. With minor changes and additions, this 2011 was replaced by the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, which came into force in connection with independence. This states that South Sudan’s president, who must be at least 40 years old, is head of state and government as well as commander-in-chief. The term of office of the President is four years. When a new, permanent constitution that can replace the transitional constitution is to be drafted is unclear. The country’s first president is Salva Kiir, who has been the autonomous president of South Sudan since its predecessor John Garang died in a helicopter crash in July 2005. He was re-elected with 93 percent of the vote in April 2010.
The National Parliament has two chambers, the National Legislative Assembly and the Land Council. Both chambers have a term of office of four years from the date of independence. In 2015, however, Parliament extended its own and the president’s term of office by three years; this year’s elections were postponed due to civil war and are scheduled to take place in 2018.
The National Legislative Assembly includes all members of the Provisional Parliament of South Sudan as well as all South Sudanese who have been elected to the Sudan National Parliament in Khartoum. The Land Council consists of the South Sudanese who have been elected to the Sudan State Council and 20 members appointed by the President. For both chambers, as well as for the government, at least 25 percent of the seats must be held by women. According to the constitution, the composition of the government must also reflect the country’s ethnic, regional and social diversity.
The official language of the Republic of South Sudan is English, but the transitional constitution recognizes all domestic languages and states that its use should be promoted. State and religion should be kept separate but all religions are recognized as equal. The transitional government guarantees full freedom of speech, media freedom and everyone’s right to education and a decent home. However, it is emphasized that the media must observe “professional ethics” – not defined in more detail. Several interventions in 2011 against independent media have raised concerns about a toughening media climate, fears that were reinforced during the civil war in 2013–15, as the media situation worsened further.
South Sudan was previously divided into ten states with extensive self-government, but these were dissolved in 2015 by a presidential decree and replaced by 28 states; the decision is not accepted by the opposition. Each state has its own government, its own parliament and its own constitution, which, however, must not conflict with the national transitional constitution. The state governors are appointed by the president.
The fears that South Sudan would be plagued by difficult birth promises were already confirmed during the first years of independence. A problem already exists in the transitional constitution, where the oil-rich and contested area of Abyei is defined as part of South Sudan. Abyei is located north of the line traditionally perceived as the border between northern and southern Sudan, but its resident population is made up of Dinka people with roots in the south. Abyei, however, periodically annually visits livestock nomads from the Arab population group Misseriya, which has cultural links to the north.
According to the 2005 peace agreement, a separate referendum would have been held in Abyei on the future belonging to the area, but disagreement over who would be eligible to vote meant that the vote could not be carried out. The leaders of southern Sudan accused the authorities in the north of moving misseriya into the area and driving away the dinka to change the demographic conditions. In May 2011, the North Sudanese military entered Abyei and drove away over 100,000 South Sudanese, after which the Khartoum government determined that the area belongs to Sudan. At the last moment, however, the parties agreed to continue negotiations on Abyei and other disputes after the separation. They also agreed to deploy more than 4,000 Ethiopian soldiers in the border area as a buffer force.
The distribution of revenues from oil production is also expected to create problems in relations between the countries. Of Sudan’s production of half a million barrels per day during the late 00s, about 85 percent came from South Sudan. The oil accounts for 98 percent of the new state’s revenue. During the 2005 transition period, the income was basically shared equally between northern and southern Sudan, but the conditions for the future are not clear. There are also many uncertainties about the foreign oil companies’ contracts and their validity in the new state. The Khartoum government has threatened to shut down the oil pipelines north unless South Sudan agrees on unchanged conditions for production and income distribution and to pay for using the pipelines. All refineries and shipping facilities are located in the north.
South Sudan chose to stop oil production for most of 2012 because of the disputes, which several times during the year led to armed fighting. Following an agreement between the countries, production resumed in October the same year.
In October 2013, a referendum in Abyei recognized from neither Sudan nor South Sudan was conducted on which country the area should belong to. 99 percent voted for a connection to South Sudan, which is explained by the fact that only Dinka participated in the vote.
The dominance of SPLA and SPLM
In addition to the distribution of oil revenues, the countries must also agree on the breakdown of Sudan’s foreign debt of approximately US $ 38 billion. In the months leading up to independence, violence in South Sudan increased significantly between local militia forces and the official defense force SPLA, the former separatist guerrilla. The Khartoum government rejected Juba’s allegations that it was behind the attacks, which, according to UN estimates, had claimed around 1,400 civilian lives in the first half of 2011. The militia, several of which are led by former SPLA commanders, say their armed forces Resistance is a protest against the dominance of the Dinka people as well as against corruption and lack of development. About a third of the state budget goes to the defense, that is, SPLA.
Another concern is the strong political dominance of the former liberation movement SPLM. There is hardly any opposition – other than that coming from the approximately half-dozen armed groups – and there is considered a great risk of South Sudan developing into a one-party state. Foreign observers accused SPLM and SPLA of threatening opposition to the 2010 elections. Among other things, the US Carter Center criticized SPLM for making all decisions on its own and not giving the opposition the opportunity for “meaningful participation”.
Violence has continued in South Sudan with riots in the state of Jonglei, among others. In addition, at the end of 2013, outright civil war broke out in the country. Faithful troops fought against forces led by former Vice President Riek Machar, who was fired earlier this year. President Kiir described the events as an attempt at a coup d’état. The fighting spread from Juba to, among others, Bor, Bentiu and Malakal. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated and emergency aid shipments were plundered by both sides, who were also otherwise accused by the UN of severe abuse. A ceasefire agreement was signed in January 2014, after five weeks of fighting, but occasional outbreaks of violence were also reported after that. The underlying causes of the conflict, mainly rivalry between Dinka and Nuer, were still considered unsolved.
In 2015, a peace agreement was signed and Riek Machar reinstalled as vice president, but no real peace has been achieved as the rebel side is fragmented and some groupings have remained active. Fighting broke out in Juba in July 2016 and these spread across the country, which diluted the ongoing refugee disaster. Machar then fled and was replaced by rival Taban Deng Gai.
Since the independence of South Sudan July 9, 2011, the government has taken steps to develop the country’s judicial system, but despite repeated promises, important human rights agreements have not yet been ratified. Inadequate training of police officers, prosecutors and judges has resulted in human rights violations during law enforcement and judicial proceedings, and according to the organization Human Rights Watch also reports on the security forces’ abuse of the civilian population.
At present, the Constitution of South Sudan guarantees its citizens freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but in practice for the few independent media that have a difficult life. During the civil war between northern and southern Sudan in 1983–2005, freedom of the press was severely restricted in areas controlled by the rebel movement in the south (see History) and freedom of movement was limited even after South Sudan gained self-government. Journalists have been arrested for writing about corruption and newspaper editions have been seized. In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015, the country was ranked 125th out of 180 countries surveyed.
One third of South Sudan’s 6,000 detainees are imprisoned for long periods, without being convicted of any crime or in some cases prosecuted for something, pending the judiciary to watch their case. The death penalty is permissible, but according to the statutes of the Constitution, the penalty shall only be punished for “extremely serious crimes”.
According to the constitution, women should be entitled to equal pay as men for the same kind of work. In government and public companies, at least 25 percent of the services should go to women. Likewise, at least every fourth minister in the government should be a woman. But in everyday life, women find it difficult as rape is a widespread problem and few perpetrators are punished. Arranged marriages are common and many girls have children at very young years. Children are constantly at high risk of being forced into militias and subjected to several types of abuse.
South Sudan has no state religion and according to the constitution, all religions are recognized at the same time as it states that state and religion should be kept separate.