South Sudan: Prospects for Peace and Development - International Development Committee Contents

3  The humanitarian situation

8. Since independence, humanitarian needs in the Republic of South Sudan have remained acute, exacerbated by conflict, natural disasters and a lack of basic services and jobs. During late 2011 and early 2012, the humanitarian situation appeared to deteriorate following a poor harvest, rising food prices, escalating tribal violence and a significant influx of refugees from conflict-affected border areas and returnees from the north.[8] The inability of South Sudan and Sudan to reach agreement on oil revenues and other outstanding matters from the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA, see Box 1) has further humanitarian implications. As explored in this Chapter, the combination of these challenges threaten to derail DFID, and the international community's, development efforts at this early stage of South Sudan's existence. DFID warns that 2012 is likely to "present the biggest challenge to humanitarian operations since the signing of the CPA in 2005".[9]
Box 1: The Comprehensive Peace Agreement 2005

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in January 2005 between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Government of Sudan. The CPA ended the Second Sudanese War and established a secular, semi-autonomous Southern Sudan within its own executive, legislative and judicial institutions. It provided for a six-year interim period until (until January 2011) by the end of which Southern Sudan would have a referendum on its independence. The CPA made provisions for Khartoum and Juba to agree a number of important matters before the referendum took place. But several issues—including border demarcation, the status of the oil-rich border region of Abyei, oil revenue sharing and debt sharing—were not resolved before the January 2011 referendum. It was decided to proceed with the referendum, and later with independence, with these matters unresolved rather than delay and risk renewed conflict.

Implications of the oil dispute

9. During the post-CPA period from 2005 to 2011 oil revenues from production in Southern Sudan were split equally with Khartoum. Following independence South Sudan acquired about 75% of the former Sudan's oil output[10]—although it continued to rely on pipelines running north through Sudan to a Red Sea port (Port Sudan) to export oil. A final settlement on oil revenues has been one of the key sticking points in negotiations between the two countries. There was agreement that South Sudan would pay Sudan a fee for use of the pipelines (rather than a share of revenues) but, as we heard in both Khartoum and Juba, the two parties have very different views of what the fee rate should be.[11] In the absence of an agreement, both sides have taken unilateral steps. In December 2011, Sudan announced that it would take payment of transit fees in kind, in other words siphoning off part of Juba's share, as compensation for unpaid fees it claimed South Sudan owed.[12] Ships were prevented from leaving Port Sudan until (the disputed) arrears had been paid.

10. Matters escalated when Sudan reportedly seized South Sudanese oil on 13 January 2012. On 20 January, South Sudan said that it would stop the flow of oil through the Sudanese pipelines and halt oil operations with immediate effect. The following week, South Sudan and Kenya signed a memorandum of understanding to build a pipeline between the two countries. It is thought this will take several years to build and cost billions of dollars.[13] Mr Stephen O'Brien MP, DFID Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, questioned the wisdom of building a pipeline to Kenya given that South Sudan's oil assets were expected to deplete over the coming decade.[14] The Government of South Sudan (GRSS) has subsequently ceased production at all its oil fields and—given that oil accounts for 98% of government income—approved austerity measures, including an average 50% reduction in non-salary expenditure and the elimination of unconditional grants to state governments.

11. DFID says it is "very concerned" by the GRSS's decision—which could have "major economic consequences for both countries"—and by the potential for a "rapid rise in humanitarian needs."[15] DFID has been "clear" to GRSS that it would "not bail South Sudan out".[16] The Minister told us in February that the South Sudanese stance was "absolutely not in the interests of the broad population of South Sudan" and posed a risk to DFID's development efforts: "Maintaining our development programme and the humanitarian aid element [...] will clearly be phenomenally challenged if we find that South Sudan is not in a position or prepared to use what revenues it can have to support its own basic services".[17]

12. On 22 March 2012, the Secretary of State confirmed to us that aspects of DFID's 2011-15 programme would be revised as a result of the oil shut-down:

    "There is a real possibility that the government will deplete its financial reserves [as a result of the oil shut-down], with an associated sharp reduction in the ability of government to carry out core functions; and that we will see an uncontrolled depreciation of the South Sudanese Pound, spiralling inflation and a rapid increase in poverty. In this scenario, many of the gains made since the signing of the CPA in 2005 could be wiped out.

    "I have decided that we need to start a sequenced process to refocus our development programmes away from the government's longer term development agenda towards supporting the most vulnerable and addressing life saving needs. If the current shut-down persists, this will entail a substantial redirection of resources away from the longer-term priorities set out in the South Sudan Development Plan."[18]

The Secretary of State gave examples of DFID projects that would be put on hold or delayed, with immediate effect, including in the health, education and governance sectors.[19] We discuss DFID's programme in Chapter 4.

Refugees from Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile

13. Conflict in the disputed border region of Abyei,[20] and in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states in Sudan, has resulted in hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving in South Sudan over the past year. In June 2011, 110,000 internally displaced persons fled Abyei to the border town of Agok in South Sudan. Fighting in ethnically-mixed Southern Kordofan[21] and in Blue Nile state, which broke out in mid-2011, has led to almost 100,000 refugees arriving in South Sudan, mainly to Upper Nile and Unity states. 46,000 refugees are based in Doro Camp in Upper Nile State—with around 2,000 new arrivals each week. The humanitarian community is providing food, health, shelter and protection assistance to 16,000 refugees from Southern Kordofan at the refugee site in Yida, in Unity State. Over 36,000 more refugees are estimated to be at other sites or located in border areas.[22] Humanitarian agencies are involved in over 30 operations in the country but are "stretched to capacity".[23]

14. Sudan has carried out several aerial attacks on targets in the border area since independence, some of them on refugee camps within South Sudan. The UK has condemned these attacks.[24] Many NGOs have stopped working in border states of South Sudan due to increased conflict and risk of conflict.[25]

Box 2: Perspectives of the North

Sudan and South Sudan have had a tense relationship since secession, with the oil dispute, frequent border clashes, and both sides accusing the others of supporting rebel groups in each other's territory. In the West, Sudan is often presented as the aggressor in these disputes. It was clear from out visit to Khartoum, however, that many Sudanese resent the negative portrayal of their country, especially as they co-operated with the secession of South Sudan and agreed to relinquish most of their oil fields. There is a common perception that Sudan has demanded $36 per barrel as a transit fee but the Sudanese claim that this figure also includes provision for transitional compensatory payments which it was agreed they would receive to help them adjust to the loss of oil revenue when South Sudan became independent.


15. Following independence, the Government of Sudan requested that South Sudanese people living in the north determine their citizenship and residency status by 8 April 2012. More than 360,000 people of South Sudanese origin have subsequently "returned" since independence (many families have been based in the north for generations).[26] GRSS and the international community are attempting to accommodate the returnees in settlements and residential areas, but resources are stretched. Returnees are faced with multiple obstacles, ranging from land disputes and security concerns to early and forced marriage, due to economic hardship and lack of livelihood opportunities, and tensions over access to food, water and firewood.[27] A January 2012 inter-agency assessment of returnee conditions in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state found that in the areas where returnees planned to settle, there was a lack of essential drugs in all health facilities, limited access to safe drinking water, an acute food shortage due to poor crop performance and a lack of shelter and non-food items.[28] We visited returnees at the permanent Nyotic Angui settlement in Lakes State[29] and in residential areas of Torit.
Box 3: Discussions with returnees at Nyotic Angui settlement in Lakes and in residential areas of Eastern Equatoria, 4-5 December 2012

People told us of the difficulties they had faced on their journey from the north. Some people's luggage had been confiscated at the border; others had been wounded. There were few opportunities to gain employment, even for the many people who had previously had skilled employment in the north. It was difficult to know where to earn money. Many people spoke only Arabic, yet English had been declared the official language of the new South Sudan. Those in Nyotic Angui camp were dependent on food hand-outs. Water and sanitation facilities in the camp were extremely limited, with no proper toilets. Parents were concerned for their children's safety when going to the bush at night because there was a risk of attack by wild animals.

16. By March 2012 more than 500,000 people remained in Sudan who were required to either regularise their residence status or leave the country. The majority are expected to move to South Sudan.[30] The Minister was "very concerned" at the "major cliff edge facing us". There was a risk that people could find themselves "stateless"—or, more precisely, they would not have legal status—because there was no South Sudanese Ambassador in Khartoum to facilitate the process. DFID was engaged with both Sudan and South Sudan to try to find a resolution. The Minister stressed that DFID might need to "divert resources" to assist returnees.[31] We note that Khartoum and Juba have subsequently signed a memorandum of understanding to co-operate in the transfer of more than 300,000 people to the South. But the International Organisation for Migration has said that the 8 April deadline represents a "massive logistical challenge" to both governments and the international community.[32] There are concerns that people of South Sudanese origin who remain in the north could be victimised should continue to tensions escalate between the two countries.

Tribal conflict and rebel militias

17. Tribal fighting continues in a number of states as it has done for hundreds of years. In recent years, in a country awash with small arms from the civil war, the stakes have been significantly raised. In Jonglei State alone—which has a long tradition of violent conflict between tribes, clans and subclans caused by cattle-raiding and competition for resources—hundreds of people were killed and tens of thousands displaced in 2011.[33] An attack by the Lou Nuer tribe on Murle communities in Jonglei State in December 2011 is estimated to have displaced 60,000 people, with an unknown number killed (see Box 5 on page 35).[34] The Government of South Sudan declared Jonglei a disaster zone and asked humanitarian agencies to accelerate life-saving assistance. A revenge attack by the Murle tribe in March 2012 resulted in at least 220 deaths.[35] Melinda Young, Save the Children, told us that the violence in Jonglei was becoming "more brutal", with more civilians, women and children targeted for abuse, including abduction and killing.[36]

18. Rebel militias have been active in South Sudan throughout 2011, particularly in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states. Some are armed rebellions against the government, alleging electoral fraud by the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), whilst others cite land issues or tribalism as a reason for taking up arms. Four significant rebel groups signed peace agreements with the GRSS but some others operating in Upper Nile and Unity remain outside the fold. A serious attack took place in October 2011 by the South Sudan Liberation Army on Mayom Town in Unity state, which left at least 50 fighters and civilians dead. Aid agencies were warned to leave a week previously.[37]

19. In total, rebel militia attacks and tribal violence displaced more than 350,000 South Sudanese people in 2011.[38] Giving evidence, Mr Stephen O'Brien MP, DFID Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, warned that "the current level of internal violence and cross-border conflict is seriously threatening to, at the very best, delay [DFID's] programme".[39]

Food security

20. In January 2012 the UN's World Food Programme estimated that around 2.7 million people (about one third of the population) in South Sudan would require food aid in 2012—an increase from 1.4 million people in mid-2011. This was due to increased food prices, conflict, market disruption from border closures (with Sudan) and an increase in demand from returnees and refugees.[40] WFP Country Director Chris Nikoi warned: "A gathering storm of hunger is approaching South Sudan".[41] That same month the UN High Commissioner for Refugees described the humanitarian situation in South Sudan as "acute" and "fragile": the country could face a "humanitarian disaster of enormous proportions".[42]

21. Failure to reach agreement on the outstanding matters from the Comprehensive Peace Agreement process—most notably oil-revenue sharing, border demarcation and the status of the disputed border region of Abyei—threaten the prospects for peace and development within South Sudan's short lifetime as an independent nation. We are deeply concerned at the prospect of a humanitarian crisis given the loss of South Sudan's oil revenue, combined with the increasing number of returnees and refugees arriving in the country and ongoing inter-tribal violence.

22. The decision by the Government of South Sudan (GRSS) to halt production on all its oilfields, despite undoubted provocation from Sudan, has potentially grave economic and humanitarian consequences for the South Sudanese population. It could also precipitate instability in the country. The UK Government must continue to press Khartoum and Juba to seek an equitable and sustainable agreement on the export of oil through Sudan's pipelines. We do not consider there to be any realistic alternative in the next few critical years. It must also be made clear that the UK, and other donors, cannot bankroll South Sudan through this austerity period.

23. We are concerned at the potentially unclear legal status of hundreds of thousands of people of South Sudanese origin living in the north. The UK Government must continue to press Khartoum and Juba to find a resolution to ensure that those who wish to move to South Sudan can do so safely, while those who prefer to remain in the north can have their legal status clarified. Many returnees to South Sudan are living in extremely difficult circumstances and DFID should divert additional resources to assist them if required.

24. DFID is operating in a difficult and fast-changing environment. It has already had to re-focus its development programme as a result of the pressures created by the oil shut-down. Given the mounting humanitarian challenges, we recognise that the Department may need to continue to modify its development plans and focus to a greater extent on humanitarian assistance. The key priority in South Sudan must be to prevent a humanitarian crisis. But, if the country is to develop, it will need to invest in health, education and infrastructure.

8   Ev 84 [DFID] Back

9   Ev 85 Back

10   350,000 barrels per day compared with the former Sudan's 500,000 bpd. Standard Chartered, "South Sudan-Oil in dispute", 27 January 2012.  Back

11   Khartoum proposed the equivalent of $32-36 per barrel, although this figure included provision for transitional compensatory payments which it was agreed they would receive to help them adjust to the loss of oil revenue following independence. South Sudan proposed less than $1 per barrel. Back

12   Khartoum claimed South Sudan owed about $720m in outstanding fees for the July to October period. Back

13   It has been reported that South Sudanese authorities expect such a pipeline to take 11 months to complete, costing $1.5bn. Some commentators believe this is "overly optimistic": difficult geographical terrain means the construction would take three years and cost a much higher amount. Standard Chartered, "South Sudan-Oil in dispute", January 2012 Back

14   Q 83 Back

15   Ev 102; HL Deb, 27 February 2012, col 317WA Back

16   SS17c [DFID] Back

17   Qq 68-69 Back

18   Ev 104 Back

19   Ibid. Back

20   Abyei is located between Bahr el-Ghazal and Southern Kordofan and sits just above the January 1956 boundary between Sudan and South Sudan. The CPA signed in 2005 granted Abyei a special administrative status and the prospect of a referendum in January 2011 to decide whether to join what might then become an independent south. But the referendum was blocked by the Government of Sudan over the question of whether the nomadic, Arab Misseriya should be eligible to vote, and the area remains a recurrent flashpoint. Both governments have forces deployed there. Back

21   The fighting is largely between those whose loyalties lie with either Khartoum or Juba but also incorporates ethnic and tribal dimensions. Many within the 'southern' camp in Southern Kordofan are ethnic Nubans, who sided with the South during Sudan's civil war. They are fighting under the guise of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). Along with the Sudanese Armed Forces, Khartoum loyalists include militia elements belonging to the Arab Misseriya tribe, which has long-standing tensions with the Nubans. Back

22   Estimates as of March 2012. OCHA [UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs] South Sudan, Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin, 8 March 2012. Back

23   Ev 85 [DFID] Back

24   Ev 83, 98 [DFID] Back

25   HL Deb, 20 March 2012, cols 163-164WA Back

26   As of January 2012. Ev 85, Q 127 [DFID].  Back

27   International Rescue Committee, Northern Bahr el Ghazal Protection Stakeholder Analysis Report, November 2011. Back

28   OCHA, Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin, 12 January 2012 Back

29   Led by the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees). Back

30   "South Sudanese leave Khartoum by train", International Organization for Migration press release, 2 March 2012 Back

31   Qq 127, 129 Back

32   "Sudan and South Sudan sign return deal, but April deadline "massive logistical challenge", says IOM", International Organization for Migration press release, 14 February 2012 Back

33   EV 77 [DFID] Back

34   OCHA, South Sudan: Humanitarian Snapshot (as of 27 January 2012), Back

35   "South Sudan cattle raid toll 'passes 200'", BBC News Online, 13 March 2012, Back

36   Q 2 Back

37   Ev 84, 103-104 [DFID] Back

38   OCHA, South Sudan: Humanitarian Snapshot (as of 27 January 2012), Back

39   Q 77 Back

40   OCHA, Consolidated Appeal for South Sudan 2011, July 2011.  Back

41   "South Sudan, World's Newest Country, Faces Hunger Crisis", UN World Food Programme press release, 15 December 2011 Back

42   "UNHCR chief appeals for massive humanitarian support for South Sudan", UNHCR press release, 10 January 2012 Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 12 April 2012