UN compound in the capital city of Juba, which was converted into a camp for IDPs from 2014

Political situation Recurring eruptions of violence

A clear majority of 98.8 per cent of the people of southern Sudan voted for complete independence from the Republic of the Sudan in January 2011. On 9 July 2011, the change was made official when South Sudan declared its independence and became a sovereign state.

The Federal Republic of Germany recognised South Sudan under international law on the day of independence and opened an Embassy in the capital, Juba. Five days later South Sudan was accepted as the 193rd member of the United Nations.

After decades of fighting for independence, the South Sudanese were hoping that the establishment of their own state would bring peace, political stability and economic and social development. From the beginning, it was clear that this would be a long and rocky road. There is a lack of functioning governmental and administrative institutions, managers and people with specialist skills, education and health services, food supplies and infrastructure.

According to the Fund for Peace, South Sudan is one of the most fragile countries in the world. Corruption is widespread and is putting a strain on the government's relations with both the population and international donors. On Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2019, South Sudan is ranked 179th out of 180 countries evaluated.

Civil war and peace process

Only a few years after independence from Sudan, a civil war broke out. The reason behind this is the rivalry between two large and mostly ethnically-defined groups, one backing President Salva Kiir, the other supporting former Vice President Riek Machar.

In August 2015, the two sides signed a peace agreement that had been brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). It took until May 2016 until it was implemented and a government was formed. A mere two months later, fighting erupted again.

The peace agreement was revitalised in September 2018, when Kiir and Machar again signed a treaty in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Among other things, it lays down the distribution of power, taking all opposition parties into account; the formation of a transitional government and Machar's return to the post of Vice President; the restructuring of the military forces; and the definition of the boundaries between states within Sudan, which had been shifted repeatedly during the war. In February 2020, a new transitional government was formed. New elections are to be held within three years.

Notwithstanding the peace agreement, peace has been fragile. In particular, cattle raiding and ethnically motivated attacks on villages are continuing. One of the underlying causes is the protracted political conflict, which has been characterised by antagonism between ethnic groups. The poor humanitarian situation and the resulting growing frustration and sense of hopelessness are also contributing to the problem. 

Because of the high level of violence, South Sudan is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for humanitarian workers.

Human rights violations

According to data collected by the United Nations, the African Union and various non-governmental organisations, all parties in the conflict (the government, opposition parties and rebel groups alike) have committed grave human rights violations, including ethnically motivated murder, gang rape, kidnapping, sexual slavery of women and girls, and forced recruitment of child soldiers.

There are no reliable figures on the number of people killed in the civil war. A study which the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine presented in September 2018 says that there have been almost 400,000 casualties.

Independence celebrations in South Sudan in 2011

Independence celebrations in South Sudan in 2011

Independence celebrations in South Sudan in 2011