Southern Sudan: Huge challenges remain after four years of peace
09 January 2009

Southern Sudan has many challenges that future generations, like these students at a school outside of Yei, will have to address. (Sophie Vodvarka/JRS)
The people of Southern Sudan believe in this fragile peace and would like to see it materialised.
Juba, 9 January 2009 — Southern Sudan marked the fourth anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended 22 years of civil war between the north and the south this January. Although peace and stability could be maintained, security improved and a new government of South Sudan is financed from Sudan’s oil wealth, huge challenges remain in the implementation of the CPA while only two more years of the six-years interim period are left to form a government of national unity.

The CPA shares power and wealth between the north and the south, it calls for the development of government institutions and infrastructure in the south and asks for a population census, national elections to be held this year and a referendum on the independence of the south in 2011. According to a recent report by Refugees International the census, which was completed in 2008 has not yet been released and results are expected to be highly controversial. Also, the demarcation of the north-south border requires a solution and the status of oil-rich Abyei has to be defined. Other logistical challenges in election planning could derail the process and the election is likely to be delayed while expectations on the vote are already limited.

Refugees International further point out that due to a lack of popular understanding of the CPA, problems might occur especially in the Blue Nile states and Southern Kordofan because a considerable part of the population there identifies with the south rather than the north but will not have a vote in the 2011 referendum and might soon be separated from the south by an international border. Inter-tribal violence and persistent poverty aggravate the situation and demobilisation, civilian protection, continuation of resettlement and provision of health, education and other social services are further challenges South Sudan has to face.

Many achievements in 4 years

According to a report by the UK based think-tank Chatham House time and opportunities to prevent a failure of the peace process are running out but international commitment could help carry the peace past the 2011 referendum and help spread it to all of Sudan.

Like for any other international organisation working in Southern Sudan, the fourth anniversary of the CPA is an opportunity for JRS, to review our involvement and commitment to the people. This is because the challenges ahead of us are immense: reintegration and protection of returnees, sensitisation of the population about the CPA, formation and training of leaders who are able to commit themselves to serve their people, building of infrastructures and schools, protection of the civilians who were displaced due to insecurity caused by recent LRA attacks, upgrading the health care system and provision of clean water and sanitation.

It will be erroneous to say that nothing has been achieved in the past four years. There has been commitment from the Government and NGOs in ensuring that basic needs of the people are met, reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure is ongoing, as well as the re-organisation of the civil servants, ensuring security for the population. However, if peace is to prevail, there is need to do more in tackling corruption, inefficiency of some civil servants, collaboration between government and NGOs, etc. This can only be done through collaborative efforts.

Building awareness at grassroots level

For the coming year JRS is committed to work closely with the government in implementation activities that fulfill the plan and policies of the Ministry of Education Science and Technology i.e. reconstruction and renovation of classrooms and sanitary facilities, provision of water to schools we support, building the capacity of the Ministry of Education officials at the local level. Through the peace programme, JRS is committed to creating awareness about the CPA at a grassroots level. This is to ensure that people know what the CPA is all about and that they know their rights when it comes to voting as this year many people will be voting for the first time in their life.

The people of Southern Sudan believe in this fragile peace and would like to see it materialised. What they need is people who can work with them and help them achieve their dream. This is a golden chance for the international community to make sure that this peace prevails by supporting the government and working with and for the people as well as denouncing some vices that are affecting the country.