Two Years After Peace Deal, South Sudan Faces Major Challenges

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - Two years after a peace agreement brought Sudan's long and costly civil war to an end, social progress in southern Sudan is being affected by corruption, security problems, and tribal tensions over oil revenue sharing, analysts say.

While much attention remains focused on the ongoing conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region, South Sudan is marking the second anniversary of the peace deal between Sudan's People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and Khartoum.

The war, which pitted an Islamist government in the north against mostly animist and Christian southerners, was reported to have cost more than two million lives.

Dr. Akasha Alsayed Akasha, director of the Centre for Sudanese Studies who has just returned from a visit to the south's main city, Juba, said "very little has changed" since the war ended.

With Sudanese national elections slated for next year, competition between leaders in the south and north has moved the focus away from infrastructure development, he said.

"The elections are crucial, because they will give an insight into how the people of South Sudan will vote in the 2011 'state separation' referendum," Akasha said.

The referendum was a key feature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in Kenya in January 2005 between Khartoum and the SPLA.

In 2001, southerners will vote whether to remain a part of Sudan or break away to form a separate sovereign nation, South Sudan.

Akasha said he observed signs of corruption during his visit.

Under the peace agreement, Khartoum is required to hand 50 percent of oil revenues to South Sudan, whose authorities are in turn required to distribute two percent among communities living in areas where oilfields are located. Yet there was no sign this was reaching the areas intended, he said.

Father Joachim Omollo of the non-governmental organization People for Peace in Africa, which runs programs for women in South Sudan, agreed that the oil money - the main source of revenue for the south - is not reaching ordinary Sudanese.

"Social transformation has yet to happen there," Omollo said. "There are no roads, hospitals or even schools yet."

Furthermore, security remains a major concern because of low-key fighting between still-active tribal militias and government troops.

"The oil companies continue to drill, but money is not flowing to the communities. Nothing has changed," Omollo said, blaming the situation on South Sudan authorities.

According to Mariam Bibi Jooma of the Institute of Security Studies, an African think tank with offices in Kenya and elsewhere, problems of wealth sharing and security are linked to the demarcation of the border between the north and south - an aspect of the peace agreement that has seen the least progress.

"The delineation of the border is controversial because of its likely impact on creating or eradicating constituencies for both the 2011 referendum and the now more urgent anticipated 2008 elections," said Mariam.

Another problem facing South Sudan is an ethnic one.

The SPLA was dominated by the larger Dinka ethnic group, while a minority group, the Nuers, belonged to the rival South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF), an ally of Khartoum.

The SSDF used to control oil-rich areas in the south under the patronage of Khartoum, but the group was ignored in the peace accord and now claims to be marginalized by the Dinka-dominated South Sudan government.

SSDF deputy leader David Chand in a recent interview warned that the militia was considering attacking South Sudan facilities, to demand a fair distribution of oil wealth.

"The war is not yet over," Chand said. "The SPLA has attacked us, and we will respond accordingly. This is the bottom line."

South Sudan President Silva Kiir has accused Khartoum of not remitting oil revenues and of supporting armed groups to undermine the young government.

In turn, Sudanese President Omar El Bashir said the southern leadership was not cooperating in implementing the peace deal.

Steps that the South Sudan government has taken so far include the launch of a new currency, facilitating the settling of returning refugees, and construction of new roads in Juba. The government has announced plans to provide electricity, water and sewage systems in the town.

Alphonse Jok, a 28-year-old Sudanese refugee in Nairobi, said most of his fellow refugees want the government to put infrastructure into place before they return.

"We want to go back when we know we can continue with our lives," he said.

According to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, some 92,000 Sudanese refugees have returned home from neighboring countries since February 2005.

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