South Sudan

The Republic of South Sudan is the world’s newest country, covering an approximate area of 619,000 square kilometers, estimated to be one third of the total land area of Sudan. The country became independent on July 9, 2011 after two civil wars with Sudan. The wars, which spanned 50 years, have delayed development of basic infrastructure, human services such as education and health, agricultural investment and agricultural extension. Violent conflict between South Sudan and its northern neighbor over resources and revenues, as well as over cultural and religious differences, formally ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. The CPA established the Government of National Unity (GNU) and the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) and supported wealth and power-sharing arrangements during a six-year interim period for peace building.

During the interim period, a fragile peace persisted even as conflict over access to resources and political control continued in the oil-producing regions straddling the North-South border. Despite constant turmoil and tension, the GoSS was able to maintain a degree of political independence that allowed it to adopt its own constitution (subject to the terms of the national 2005 Interim Constitution) and legislation, including a Land Act enacted in February 2009. In addition, with the support of foreign aid, South Sudan began to establish and develop the institutions necessary to promote economic growth and prosperity.

South Sudan is the most oil-dependent country in the world, with 97% of its revenue coming from oil. The oil reserves lay along the North-South border, and 75% of the reserves of the former country are located in the South. But South Sudan lacks the necessary infrastructure to refine, transport and ship the oil, and depends on the existing infrastructure in the North. The oil-dominated economy makes South Sudan extremely vulnerable to changes in oil prices and oil production levels, and dependent on its relationship with Sudan.

Despite South Sudan’s abundance of oil and other natural resources, its population remains poor, due in large part to the effects of protracted conflict and apparent lack of transparency and accountability to equitably distribute oil resources. The country’s 10 million people comprise over 200 tribal groups with a variety of lifestyles that depend upon crop agriculture, pastoralism and mixed crop and livestock agriculture. Some progress has been made in the interim period to address challenges facing South Sudanese. However, the country continues to respond to numerous obstacles that impede its ability to grow a diverse economy not solely dependent on oil. The GoSS has attempted to create employment opportunities, to support returning IDPs through reestablishing livelihoods and basic necessities, and to maintain a fragile peace not only with Sudan, but also among South Sudan’s diverse ethnic groups, which compete over land, water and other natural resources. The government is committed to addressing current barriers to economic development. Over the short-term, its priorities are to continue: (1) improving governance; (2) achieving rapid rural transformation to improve livelihoods and expanding employment opportunities; (3) improving and expanding education and health services; and (4) deepening peace-building efforts and improving national security.




Did you miss the online discussion on the meaning and application of “legitimate land rights?” Watch the recording here.



USAID has developed two mobile applications, or apps, that support land tenure and land use. Watch this video about the apps now.



Interactive map with information on U.S. Government (USAID and MCC) programs that strengthen land tenure and property rights.