In July 2011 the Republic of South Sudan achieved independence, concluding what had been Africa’s longest running civil war. The process leading to independence was driven by the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement, a primarily Southern rebel force and political movement intent on bringing about the reformed unity of the whole Sudan. Through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, a six year peace process unfolded in the form of an interim period premised upon ‘making unity attractive’ for the Sudan. A failed exercise, it culminated in an almost unanimous vote for independence by Southerners in a referendum held in January 2011.
Violence has continued since, and a daunting possibility for South Sudan has arisen – to have won independence only to descend into its own civil war, with the regime in Khartoum aiding and abetting factionalism to keep the new state weak and vulnerable. Achieving a durable peace will be a massive challenge, and resolving the issues that so inflamed Southerners historically – unsupportive governance, broad feelings of exploitation and marginalisation and fragile ethnic politics – will determine South Sudan’s success or failure at statehood.