A. Boulay - GEO212 - France

The Republic of South Sudan is a landlocked country in northeastern Africa, like Chad.

Part of the Republic of Sudan since the departure of the british administration in 1956, South Sudan became an independent state on July 9th, 2011. The country is bordered by Sudan to the North, Central African Republic to the West, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Kenya to the South, and Ethiopia to the East.


South Sudan, like Central African Republic marks a transition btween Sahelian and Equatorial landscapes. Crossed by The White Nile, the country is dominated by mountains in the South, its highest point is the Imatong Mountain at 3,187 meters. Vegetation sees a transition between sahelian savannas and tropical forest, swamps and grasslands.

Satellite image of Sudan and Southern Sudan. (Source : BBC)


The 2008 disputed census counted 8 260 490 inhabitants. The country is divided in 10 states: Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes, Warrap, Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile. The capital is Juba, which is located in the Central Equatoria state with 250 000 inhabitants.

For years, South Sudaneses have fought the central power in Sudan, legacy of the colonial British Empire. Southerners and northerners had many differences (ethnical, religious, cultural, ...) like in other sahelian countries. And natural resources (water, oil) emphasized those differences.

Following the first Sudanese civil war in the 60's, the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was created in 1972 and lasted until 1983. A second civil war erupted and lasted 20 years until the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, providing a temporary autonomy for South Sudan for 6 years. This agreement also scheduled the referendum on the independence of South Sudan. In January 2011, 98% of Sudanese people voted for the split of the country.

queuetovote_enoughprojectLines of people awaiting their turns to vote on referendum. (Source: Enough Project)

Unfortunately, the 2005-2010 years were not used to solve the potential conflicts on border delineation and oil revenues share between the two soon to be countries. Hence since 2010 troubles have erupted in disputed areas (Abyei Area in South Sudan ; Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile Provinces in Sudan.

The president of the republic Salva Kiir Mayardit elected on 9 July 2011, by 93% of vote, is both chief of state and head of government for four years.

Sudan is ranked 114 by the United Nation’s Human Development Index in 2010, just between Nigeria and Benin. 22% of population is living in towns and the rate of literacy is low with 27% able to read and write correctly.


Several decades of civil war with the North have considerably weakened the economy . In order to maintain an army the government spent large sums of money for arms. As a result today the Sudanese economy is underdeveloped and poverty has settled down on.

For most of the population, subsistence agriculture is the principal activity. Running water and electricity is really hard to get, and is generally produced by diesel generators which are expensive. Roads and communication ways are almost non-existent with only 60 kilometers of paved roads for the whole country.

Livelihood zones in Southern Sudan (Source : FAO)

In spite of this appalling situation, South Sudan would be able to develop its economy thanks to its abundant natural resources. First, the White Nile valley provides the country with one of the richest agricultural areas in Africa. And the pastoral activity is also very important with at least 10 to 20 million heads of cattle. In the south, the Imatong Mountains are a privileged environment for wildlife. Because of these rich and large wildlife places South Sudan could promote tourism in the future, as Kenya did.

Thanks to the White Nile, which is the major Nile contributor, South Sudan can rely on their substantial water resource. 11 sites are already identified, affording to build hydroelectric dams. Indeed, the very large hydroelectric potential, about 3000 MW allows ambitious previsions.

But the principal opportunity for South Sudan is obviously its oil and gas resources. 


CIA World Fact Book

World Bank: World Development indicators

UNDP: Human development indicators

UN Sudan Information Gateway

Satellite Sentinel Project

UNHCR : the UN Refugee Agency

Website of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan

BBC News : Mapping the division

FAO country profile

GIEWS Country Briefs (Sudan)

WHO : World Health Organization (South Sudan)

ARTE : interview of Marc Lavergne (in french)

Tropical to arid

Last Updated ( Friday, 04 November 2011 )