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Nation-State Building in Southern Sudan Essay

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Updated: Sep 23rd, 2019

Approaches to Political Development: (Nation-State Building in Southern Sudan)


Political matters form an integral part of human life and almost every country across the world has its own political policies and systems controlling its national development agendas (Kingsbury 2007). Perhaps one of the most recently formed African nations is the Republic of Southern Sudan that became the world’s newest county after gaining independence after it split from the north following four decades of massive civil war (Maxwell et al. 2012).

Since then, the Republic of Southern Sudan has been living under the consequences of the long civil conflict that has affected citizens’ livelihood, essential services, and even social protection. As a young nation, Southern Sudan currently has the best opportunity to develop a peaceful nation and improve the lives of all its citizens (Lehtinen 2001). Since the four-decade war altered socio-political structures and relations, the Southern Sudan government kick-started the nation-building process immediately with several initiatives emerging.

Hitherto, the country could not make any meaningful developments due to lack of freedom as the two elements intertwine (Sen 1997). This essay seeks to investigate the main criteria for political development and assess the extent of its implementation as it has applied in South Sudan.

Sudan as a Nation-State: Efforts of Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS)

Against background marred by civil war uncertainties that hampered almost every little human aspect in Southern Sudan, the devastated livelihood, political difficulties, and the fragmented social order required urgent recovery. The provision of humanitarian aid and peace consolidation and stability initiatives were essential to restore Southern Sudan to stable human civilisation.

Economic and political restoration initiatives started during the prevalence of the civil war under a coalition arrangement that involved the political party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), and a humanitarian program known as Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) (Maxwell et al. 2012).

The Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) is a consortium of humanitarian organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Development Program (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Program (WFP) among other humanitarian organisations (Lehtinen 2001). Over several years since its emergence in the 1990s, the OLS has continued to play an essential role in enhancing people’s livelihood, political, and social reform through humanitarian support.

Notwithstanding the notion that western nations use humanitarian support to conquer political dimensions and plant their leadership agendas, the incumbent Southern Sudan government should be commended, as it has stood firm in supporting international aid. As Taylor-Robinson (2002) postulates, “It is unusual for an established government to allow international aid to the inhabitants of rebel-held areas, but the Sudanese government, although much criticised in the Western press, is an exception” (p. 49).

Through the support of authorities in Khartoum, Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), which is a UN-sponsored organisation, has managed to deploy diplomatic and logistic support to Southern Sudan (Operation Lifeline Sudan 2002).

Responsible for coordinating several human developments, including restoration of war distorted socio-political structures and relations, OLS has become an effective governance organisation as it has demonstrated considerable political impartiality (Taylor-Robinson 2002). The OLS has dutifully provided diplomatic cover and operational support for the underway humanitarian and emergency food support, including providing air transportation and protection for NGO operations.

The presence of compassionate organisations has enabled the development of strategies and support to the Sudanese affected by the civil war and especially those residing in warring and rebel-held regions. As the political environment of Southern Sudan remained constantly tensional following the enduring civil war due to lack of proper political representation, economic exploitations, and revolutions against marginalisation of communities, OLS continuously played an essential socio-political function.

Political rivalry in Southern Sudan was commencing despite the separation with Northern Sudan and OLS intervention has performed a vital political responsibility.

According to Ashamu (2010), the cornerstone to political development currently witnessed in Southern Sudan entails the involvement of the OLS in tripartite agreements with other two important actors, viz. the Southern Sudanese government, which is commonly known as Government of South Sudan (GOSS), and the state government.

Before the separation of Northern Sudan from Southern Sudan, the two-state governments (South Sudan and North Sudan) with equal political, social, and economic autonomy developed under the same National government (Sudan).

The Nation-State Political development in Southern Sudan

The terrible and devastating civil war in Sudan led to destruction of social-political structures and relations. The war-induced poverty, displaced populations, weakened kinship and dismantled community ties (Macrae et al. 1997). The civil war that existed from 1983 to 2005 killed approximately 2 million South Sudanese and displaced over 4 million people.

Subsequently, the war deteriorated traditional authorities, which were thus exposed to aggression, intimidation, and manipulation by the armed groups and Government of Sudan (GOS). The war ended in 2005 when the GOS and SPLM/A signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). This move gave a new wave of hope and anxiety to the South Sudanese whose primary war intent was to struggle in defending the customs, religions, languages, and communal property against Arabic and Islamic partial political exploitation.

The signing of the CPA enabled a significant shift of external agencies from barely providing humanitarian aid to the longer-term development initiatives. The formation of state government and GOSS emerged from here when national and state governments developed.

Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)

Perhaps the main integral part of the Sudanese history is the reaching of consensus between the two governments to build everlasting peace through separation of the North and South Sudan. The CPA agreement comprised provisions that stipulated interventions of separating the religion and the state, referendum for secession, a separate army designed for the South, and an everlasting globally monitored peace agreement.

Under the CPA, the agreement would delineate the 1956 border accord, religious, and ethnic diversity would be defended, joint military units would be deployed to safeguard territories, both South and North would have State-wide agreements and legislative chambers, and all protocols on power-sharing would be observed.

Both signatories in this agreement recognised that violence and conflict are significant causes of tragic human loss and destruction of infrastructure. Particularly, the CPA mechanism wanted to address the source of conflict through establishing a permanent framework that aimed at providing governance in sharing power and wealth in Southern Sudan.

Nation-state Political strategy implementation

Immediately after reaching a concession to develop the government through two-state power divisions into national and state governments, state-building programs and initiatives started to enhance government capacity, strengthen its institutions, and improve the legitimacy of the Southern Sudan government (Cook & Moro 2012).

Under the agreeable conditions, the new nation of Southern Sudan was bound to combine the institutional and governance mechanisms that grew during the CPA interim era. The state-building process of the Southern Sudan entailed endogenous process of strengthening reciprocal relations that involved multiple national stakeholders negotiating and transforming political processes (Fukuyama 2004).

The joint government approach involved shared government responsibilities between the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) and the Government of National Unity (GNU).

Despite possessing different responsibilities as stipulated in the national regulations about the levels of government in the Southern Sudan, LeRiche and Arnold (2012) affirm that the two governments have shared vision and responsibilities in political settlements, conflict resolution, facilitating economic development, and other political processes that enable positive state-society relations including security and laws.

From the pre-colonial regime of Sudan, the Egyptian-British rule in the 1956 was characterised by the element of centralisation of essential resources and political power in Khartoum and the neighbouring part of the Northern regions of Sudan (LeRiche & Arnold 2004). Despite being fully independent, creating the rule of law and a justice system to govern essential activities of the state government and the national government processes were constrained by limited government capacity.

The signing of the CPA has since then forced GOSS to undertake the process of developing laws and regulations that reflect the values and awareness of impartiality of the Southern Sudanese (Akongdit 2013).

As an immediate mechanism for consolidating the national identity, military laws, international humanitarian laws, and human rights laws were key influences in developing the interim Constitution of Southern Sudan (Cook & Moro 2012). Through their constitutional development legitimacy, GOSS has been working to clarify border issues and related situations through the ascertainment of legislations laws and customary regulations.

Advances in political development (GOSS & GONU)

The signing of the CPA national accord between the Southern Sudanese and the northern Sudanese marked an important era when each of the nations gained nation autonomy. Southern Sudan is quickly recovering from the civil aftermath through fixing important legislative and executive laws.

Maxwell et al. (2012) assert, “One of the strengths of customary law is its ability to be adapted to a particular case in a particular context; it is not a fixed body of law but is constantly evolving and adapting” (p.13). Essential issues in the nation-state cooperation have become eminent in the Southern part of Sudan, which has demonstrated mature leadership through national democratisation following effective autonomy mandated by the State constitution (National Election Commission 2011).

As their fellow counterparts in the North, under the tyrannical leadership of president Al-Bashir, continue lamenting about the lack of collaboration between the government and the humanitarian groups, donors in the South Sudan are working closely with GOSS (National Election Commission 2011). Recently observed is the influx of supportive initiatives.

The interim constitution of the Southern Sudan has been paramount in the stabilisation of political reforms anticipated by the Sudanese nationalists with democratic principles heavily observed. Under the stipulation of the CPA accord, the GOSS serves as an independent state under the GONU (Athorbei 2011).

According to the interim constitution, the Government of Southern Sudan bears several responsibilities as an independent state. Under the constitutional mandate, the government of Southern Sudan consists of legislative, executive, and judicial duties and all functions are in accordance with the interim constitution (Akongdit 2013).

Southern Sudan would exercise its political powers under the stipulations of the interim constitution while at the same time respecting the responsibilities accorded to the Government of National Unity. Several advances in socio-political development have emerged prior to the peace accord and the interim constitution (Akongdit 2013). With the support of the Department for International Development (DFID) country plan, the GOSS is aiding in improving political approaches, especially towards restoration of peace and economic growth.

Under the diplomatic governance spurred by the interim constitution, the GOSS has responsibilities in protecting the stipulations of the constitution including the bill of rights that constitute social justice, peace, equality, and democracy (Maxwell et al. 2012). More specifically, the GOSS considers the hope of the Southern Sudanese citizens in finding comprehensive solution that would address the social and economic deterioration in the country.

This goal is being pursued mainly through replacing antagonism with political, social, and economic justice that recognises human and political rights of all the Southern Sudanese. The GOSS has the political responsibility of providing, in accordance with the interim constitution, diplomatic and peace negotiations, including referendum arrangements between the North and South Sudan (Maxwell et al. 2012).

The GOSS is mandated responsibly to undertake negotiations with armed dissidents and provide maximum cooperation towards reconciliation and peace conferences necessitated by NGOs, development partners, as well as religious and traditional leaders (Kingsbury 2007). The GOSS has the political mandate to develop constitutions including the Peace Commission, institutions such as the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA), and other government institutions that support diplomatic governance.

Perceived significance of political development in Southern Sudan

Since the advent of the interim constitution and the CPA peace accord, the Republic of South Sudan has witnessed substantial changes in political, social, and economic advancement despite relying too much on humanitarian support (Maxwell et al. 2012). Poverty, as a multi-dimensional phenomenon, has been part of the Southern Sudanese where human capital, poor health facilities, inadequate housing infrastructure, low and deprived national economic issues have become common.

However, giving each country its political autonomy and bringing the former combatants into the GONU has led to significant advancement in socio-political developments in Southern Sudan (Cook & Moro 2012). Cases of war, political aggression, and human social abuses, including human insecurity concerns, have reduced considerably following the advent of the CPA strategies that aided the development of the interim constitution.

The passionate cooperation accorded to the development agencies has led to significant improvement of government institutions, including educational associations and health organisations, among others (Cook & Moro 2012). Politically, the levels of democracy have developed and subsequently improved where inclusivity in governance is becoming eminent.

Here is Southern Sudan’s vision 2040: “By 2040, we aspire to build an exemplary nation: a nation that is educated and informed; prosperous, productive and innovative; compassionate and tolerant; free, just and peaceful; democratic and accountable; safe, secure and healthy; and united and proud” (Athorbei 2011, p.41)


Southern Sudan is the world’s newly independent country that became independent following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by the signatories of the Northern and Southern Sudan political combatants.

Under the support of the Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), which was a United Nations’ (UN) umbrella organisation, the two combatants reached a peaceful ceasefire agreement that led to the end of a four-decade civil war. Southern Sudan became a decentralised nation with three levels of governments under the interim constitution that produced two autonomous political states (North and South Sudan).

The nation-state government, which aimed at separating the Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan, has enabled substantial political developments that include making Southern Sudan an autonomous political state that shares limited economic resources with its counterparts.

The Southern Sudanese have rigorously engaged in state-building to enhance capacity, governmental institutions, and legitimacy of the state of South Sudan. Politically, through the support of development agencies, the GOSS, under the CPA accord, is responsible for ensuring diplomatic and peace negotiations, reconciliation efforts, and implementation of the interim constitution.

Reference List

Akongdit, A. 2013, Impact of Political Stability on Economic Development: Case of South Sudan, Author House, London.

Athorbei, D. 2011, Realising freedom, equality, justice, peace and prosperity for all. South Sudan Development Plan. Web.

Cook, T. & Moro, L. 2012, Governing South Sudan: Opinions of South Sudanese on a Government, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Washington, D.C.

Fukuyama, F. 2004, State Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century, Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

Kingsbury, D. 2007, Political Development, Rutledge, New York.

Lehtinen, T. 2001, The European Union’s Political and Development Response to Sudan. Web.

LeRiche, M. & Arnold, M. 2012, South Sudan: From Revolution to Independence, Hurst Publishers, London.

Macrae, J., Jaspars, S., Duffield, M., Bradbury, M. & Johnson, D. 1997, ‘Conflict, the continuum and chronic emergencies: a critical analysis of the scope for linking relief, rehabilitation and development planning in Sudan’, Disasters, vol. 21 no. 1, pp: 223–43.

Maxwell, D., Gelsdorf, K. & Santschi, M. 2012, . Web.

National Election Commission: Factsheet: Levels of Government in Sudan and how they function 2011. Web.

: Southern Sector Annual Report 2002. Web.

Sen, Amartya, 1999, Development as Freedom, Alfred A Knopf, New York.

Taylor-Robinson, T. 2002, ‘Operation Lifeline Sudan’, Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 28 no.1, pp. 49-51.

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