South Sudan Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as SSPS by Abbreviationfinder, South Sudan is characterized by mutual fighting and the SPLM’s total political dominance of the ruling party. Democracy has not developed since the Sudan split in 2011, and the judiciary and other administration are permeated by serious corruption. In the wake of the war, serious crimes against the civilian population have been perpetrated by the government army and resistance groups as well as by militia loyal to either side.

The fact that power lies entirely with a former guerrilla, now the ruling party of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), is a relationship that history has shown has not always been the best solution when a country is to build a future in peace. The SPLM leadership is criticized by the small, weak domestic opposition as well as by foreign judges for not listening to dissenting voices and not giving dissent a chance to influence politics. South Sudan is considered to be at high risk of going the same route as, for example, Eritrea and developing into an authoritarian one-party state.

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It is very difficult to work within NGOs or as advocates for democracy and human rights. Organizations and their members risk death threats, harassment and arbitrary arrests of the security service. In many cases, the vulnerable have felt compelled to leave the country. The background is that the government often believes that the organizations work for hostile or foreign power with the goal of overthrowing the power holders.

According to the transitional constitution, at least a quarter of the seats in Parliament and the government are to be held by women. This also applies at the state and local level. The law is far from always observed, especially at the local level.

According to Transparency International, South Sudan is one of the world’s most corrupt countries. It was placed second in the organization’s index of corruption in 180 countries in 2019 (see the full list here). Only Somalia had worse corruption problems.

Freedom of expression and media

South Sudan’s transitional constitution guarantees freedom of the press and opinion, but in reality for the country’s independent media a difficult life, mainly due to harassment by the army and the security service and political pressure from the government and the state party SPLM.

Freedom of movement for media workers is limited. Journalists risk being arrested if they have rewritten, for example, high-level corruption in society. It has happened that newspaper editions with content that dissuade political holders have been seized.

During the civil war, the situation has worsened further for the media. More and more journalists have been arrested or threatened by the army. International human rights groups have accused the security service of intimidating the media into silence and thus stoking all debate about the causes of the war.

South Sudan was ranked 139th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders Index of Press Freedom in the World 2020 (see full list here). It was an improvement with five placements compared to 2018 but a clear deterioration since 2014 when South Sudan was given the place 119.

Judicial system and legal security

South Sudan became independent in 2011 and has yet to develop a functioning legal system. Legal security is very low for the South Sudanese. The main reason for that is the many years of war, ever since the 1950s, that have spread lawlessness.

The courts are heavily burdened by a shortage of trained lawyers. Prosecutors may have to wait a long time for trial. Modern criminal law and customary law are often used in parallel, which contributes to the great deficiencies in the legal security of the individual. The prisons are overcrowded by interns and no prison care exists.

The transitional constitution states that the death penalty can only be punished for “extremely serious crimes” such as murder, terrorism with a deadly outcome and treason. The death penalty must not be punished for persons under 18 or over 69, nor for pregnant or lactating women.

Extrajudicial executions and brutal violence are carried out by the government army and the resistance forces as well as by militia loyal to either side. Torture occurs as well as arbitrary detention. Extremely vulnerable to violence are women, not least sexual violence related to the conflict. Perpetrators of the government army, resistance groups, militia, security services and police are rarely punished for their crimes.



Talk about Abyei beaches

Negotiations on the special referendum on the future status of the Abyei border district collapse. The reason is that the north and south cannot agree on which people should be allowed to take part in the referendum. The South wants only a resident population (often a thinker with a strong connection to the South) to vote, while the North side recommends that nomadic Arab groups should also participate. These nomadic people migrate in and out of Abyei with their livestock herds depending on the season. The referendum on Abyei is included as part of the CPA peace agreement between the north and the south (see January 2005).


Big victory for SPLM in general elections

General elections are held in the Federation of Sudan and in the autonomous Southern Sudan. SPLM leader Salva Kiir Mayardit wins the presidential election in the south by a wide margin and in the self-government parliamentary elections, SPLM takes home a landslide victory. The only challenger in the presidential election is the breaking party SPLM-DC leader Lam Akol. SPLM also wins nine out of ten governor positions. The opposition accuses the SPLM of election fraud and harassment.


Many dead in battles between Nuer and Dinka

Nearly 200 people are killed in cattle raids between Dinka and Nuer in the state of Warrap.

Millions suffer from drought

Long-term drought is plaguing the population of South Sudan, where the United Nations Food Program (WFP) estimates that 4.5 million residents will be in need of food assistance in 2010.

al-Bashir promises to accept the outcome of the referendum

Sudan’s federal president Omar al-Bashir promises to accept the outcome of the referendum on the future status of the South, even if it means dividing the country.