South Sudan

The Forum in South Sudan


South Sudan, officially the Republic of South Sudan, is one of the newest sovereign states in the world. The recently formed nation emerged as result of the Second Sudanese Civil War and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the conflict in January 2005. The terms of the CPA provided autonomy for south Sudan (while still officially remaining a constituent part of the Republic of Sudan) for a period of six years, after which time a referendum on secession could be held. In January 2011, the referendum on whether South Sudan should become a separate state was held, and 98.83% of the electorate voted for independence. As a consequence, South Sudan became a sovereign state, fully independent from the Republic of Sudan, on 9 July 2011.

While the outcome of the referendum officially broke the ties between South Sudan and Sudan, independence did not immediately ameliorate existing tensions, nor bring a halt to the ethnic and religious violence which had plagued the area for decades. Issues such as the division of oil revenues, and disputes over to which sovereign state certain regions belonged prolonged military tension between the two nations. Moreover, in the immediate aftermath of independence, the South Sudan government faced armed rebellion from a variety of armed groups in the majority of its territory, causing tens of thousands of people to become displaced.

The vulnerability of the new state to political instability became evident in December 2013, when a power struggle between President Salve Kier and his ex-deputy Reek Marchar exploded into violence. The South Sudanese Civil War began when the President accused Marchar and others of attempting a coup. Between 2013 and 2015 supporters of both sides fought each other in a conflict with strong local ethnic divisions, with a cessation of hostilities achieved only through the signing of a peace deal by both President Kiir and Marchar in August 2015. An estimated 300,000 people were killed in the war, with one million displaced by the conflict, and an estimated 400,000 having fled to other countries. In February 2016, President Kiir named Marchar as his vice-president, raising hopes that the peace deal agreed in 2015 will be implemented and the nascent state can move forward on a peaceful, democratic basis.

Current Work

Project Title: Establishing an East Africa Regional Network on Federal-Decentralized Governance under the Intergovernmental Authority for Development, IGAD


Funder: Forum activity funded under two separate contracts:

Swiss Human Security Fund (contracted via IGAD)

Swiss Human Security Fund

Project Description and Major Objectives:

The Forum has been working closely with the Swiss embassy and IGAD since early-2013 to help IGAD establish a practitioners’ network within the region that would support joint activities and mutual learning among the countries within IGAD. Over 2013-2014 the Forum played a supporting role in getting this nascent idea off the ground, often on a rather ad hoc basis with an eye toward developing a permanent network in which the Forum would play a technical support role to IGAD. It was decided during various meetings over 2014 that there would be a one year “interim period” leading up to the finalization of a recommended business plan for establishing the permanent network under IGAD, including a long-term programming strategy. This idea of such a network is part of IGAD’s strategy that sees the strengthening of federal-decentralized governance in the IGAD member countries as a means for improving governance and thereby the underlying stability of this war-torn region.

Countries that benefited from this project include: Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

Past Work

The Forum is implementing a project South Sudan Decentralization Support Program.

The Republic of South Sudan emerged as an independent nation in July 2011 as the culmination of the six-year Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). For most of the previous five decades, South Sudan was in a state of civil war with various regimes in Khartoum. The only exception was the period of the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement of 1972, which also provided South Sudan with significant autonomy but was abrogated by the military government of General Numeri in 1983. Federal-type wealth and power sharing arrangements were cornerstones of the CPA itself, as well as of the subsequent Interim National Constitution and the Interim Constitution for Southern Sudan. The latter, with slight temporary modifications, forms the main basis for the current Transitional Constitution adopted by the Legislative Assembly at the time of Independence in July 2011. Options for federal or other devolved governance arrangements were among the most heated debates during deliberations in the lead up to adopting the Transitional Constitution.

South Sudan shares classic characteristics of nations that have chosen federal constitutional arrangements: it is very large geographically and it is ethnically very diverse including a few major ethnic groups with some history of deep antagonism and divergent views of the best model for national governance. In particular, different groups, to some extent along ethnic lines, disagree about how to balance the need for “shared rule” through strong central government institutions with the need to recognize the aspirations of different groups for their own “self rule” by having certain powers devolved to regional/state governments. In addition to the question of defining the national vision there are also more technocratic issues of designing a system that will help guarantee fiscal efficiency and accountability, as well as generate the potential benefits, and mitigate the risks, of decentralized service delivery.

The Forum of Federations works towards building increased capacity of influential actors involved in all future stages of the constitution making process in South Sudan, as well as increased capacity of the key figures from civil society, media and political parties and other key sectors to lead a process of dialogue and debate over federal-devolved governance issues and their constituents to provide well-informed, more inclusive input into the constitution making process in South Sudan. The Forum will provide training and produce Technical Papers on specially-identified constitutional issues related to devolution/federal governance. It will also produce public awareness materials for leaders from civil society, media, political parties and other key, influential stakeholders will also be trained on issues of federal and devolved governance.

The Forum South Sudan project is funded by the Global Peace and Security Fund (GPSF) of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.