Since South Sudan became independent in July 2011, its humanitarian situation has remained acute, exacerbated by conflict, natural disasters and a lack of basic services and jobs. Oil production in the country was halted in January 2012 because of a dispute with the Republic of Sudan over oil revenues. With oil revenues accounting for 98% of the Government of South Sudan (GRSS) budget, it has been forced to introduce austerity measures as a result— including an average 50% cut in non-salary expenditure. The two countries have also recently been involved with clashes in border regions.
Chair of the Committee the Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP said:
“South Sudan’s economy is overwhelmingly dependent on oil revenues, so its citizens have been hit hard since the Government turned off the taps.
We are deeply concerned that we could see a humanitarian crisis and greater insecurity as the country struggles to cope with the loss of oil revenues and increasing number of returnees and refugees arriving.”
The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) expects to spend around £360 million in South Sudan between 2011 and 2015, making it one of the largest recipients of UK bilateral aid. This could be completely compromised if the oil dispute persists for any length of time. The MPs say it must be made clear to the South Sudan Government that the UK cannot bankroll the country through the austerity period caused by the decision to stop oil production. The report also raises concerns about the effectiveness of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)—the UN peacekeeping force—which costs almost half a billion pounds in its first year. UNMISS costs the UK taxpayer £60 million, the same amount as about two thirds of DFID’s annual development and humanitarian budget.
Malcolm Bruce MP added:
“The key priority now for the UK’s aid programme in the country must be to avert a humanitarian crisis. However, the UK and other aid donors cannot be expected to bankroll the country while it struggles on without oil revenues.
The Foreign Office must continue to press Khartoum and Juba to seek agreement on the export of oil through Sudan’s pipelines.”
UNMISS is supposed to consolidate the peace and security conditions necessary for development, but is a hugely expensive operation. The MPs do not believe that UNMISS currently provides value-for-money or that its resources have been deployed most effectively. It has also been slow to produce a peace-building strategy. The Committee does not criticise UNMISS troops on the ground but raises questions about the appropriateness of the mission’s mandate. The UK Government should press the UN for an urgent review of UNMISS’s cost, mandate, assets and operations, including the provision of air transport and deployment. In the medium-term, the aim must be for South Sudan’s army and police to take on primary responsibility for internal security and for dependence on UNMISS to be reduced.
Malcolm Bruce MP commented:
“We do not believe that the UN Mission’s current resources have been deployed most effectively.”
South Sudan is one of the most difficult and high risk environments that DFID is operating in, but the Committee commends DFID for the way it has quickly established and scaled up a full office in Juba. The Committee welcomes DFID’s emphasis on building the capacity of the South Sudanese Government, so that the government can gradually take primary responsibility for the delivery of basic services. The MPs also endorse the emphasis that DFID has placed on improving equality for girls and women in its programme.
The Republic of South Sudan gained independence from the Republic of Sudan on 9 July 2011, following long civil wars that left more than two million dead. The country has some of the worst development indicators globally, particularly in health and education. The maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world and years of conflict have left its society highly militarised. Government capacity at all levels is extremely limited, corruption widespread, and the new country relies heavily on international donors and NGOs to provide services.
Relations between the South Sudan Government in Juba and its counterpart in Khartoum are tense. From 2005 to 2011 oil revenues from production in Southern Sudan were split equally with Khartoum (in the North). Following independence South Sudan acquired about 75% of the former Sudan’s oil output—although it continued to rely on pipelines running north through Sudan to a Red Sea port (Port Sudan) to export oil.
A final settlement on oil revenues has been one of the key sticking points in negotiations between the two countries. Insecurity remains a constant destabilising factor in South Sudan, both internally and on its borders.