Developing southern Sudan's economic programs (I)

(Flint, Michigan USA) - At the conclusion of the CPA in January 2005, no transportation infrastructure existed as the rudimentary structures that existed before the war had been destroyed, fallen into disrepair, or were mined. There were only few rudimentary schools with neither school supplies nor trained teachers. There were no health services except for few emergency services provided by international humanitarian agencies. The supply of trained local human resources was and is very thin. No banks or any financial infrastructure existed. The Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS), unlike other post-colonial governments started from zero. Therefore, the staffing of the various structures to spearhead the administration and development of the territory in the post-war period has been a daunting task.

During the war, the major towns of Juba, Malakal, and Wau, plus a few other administrative centers were controlled by the Government of Sudan (GOS), while the countryside and a number of other administrative towns were run by the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM). The Government towns were basically garrison towns supplied from Khartoum. Civilians even dared not to go outside the perimeters of these towns for cultivation because of insecurity and fear of land mines. Even in oil producing states such as Western Upper Nile (Unity), the population was being cleared from the land to make room for further oil exploration. Moreover, the oil was never spent on improving the living conditions of the indigenous people.

Some of the areas that had been under SPLM administration had established some economic base for development, but most had not, especially those in contested areas with government forces, militia, and the Lord Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group backed by the Sudan Government. The areas under SPLM/A that had reached almost a post-war stage of development included Western Equatoria, Lakes, and the southern parts of the states of Central Equatoria, Jonglei, and Warap. Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, and Western Upper Nile were the areas most devastated by militia activities.

Socio-economic development that had taken place in Western Equatoria and other relatively peaceful parts of Southern Sudan had largely been financed by the USAID and run either directly by the USAID or indirectly by NGOs contracted by the USAID. While most international agencies operating in Southern Sudan, for the entire war period, concentrated on short-term humanitarian activities, USAID initiated some development activities from the mid-1990s. USAID was later on followed by UNICEF.

Generally, development in SPLM administered areas started after the SPLM Convention of 1994. From 1983 to 1994 SPLM emphasis was on military mobilization and gaining of territory. On the economic side, an economic commission was established to initiate public investment especially in natural resources such as gold, livestock, and fisheries. A few health facilities were set up. In 1990, the SPLM created the Friends of African Children Education (FACE) Foundation for education of minors under SPLM care. The SPLA/M re-bounced in 1994 from iits split of August 1991, and re-organized itself in a National Convention of New Sudan.  Hence, began the movement’s focus on establishing governmental structures and socio-economic development activities.

A civilian authority, separate from the SPLA, was created in 1996.  SPLM-appointed administrators took up posts at the national, regional, and county levels. Most staff was military. Over time, some were trained in administration. They worked without salary and had no services to provide except helping to mobilize resources for the war effort, keeping local security, resolving disputes and helping in the distribution of relief resources. The presence of the SPLM/A in the countryside helped keep some of the peacetime intra- and inter-ethnic conflicts to minimum.

The private sector also began to organize themselves into farmers and traders associations especially in Narus, New Site, and Kapoeta (Eastern Equatoria), Kajo-Keji, Lainya, Marabo, Yei (Central Equatoria), Meridi, Mundri, Tombura, and Yambio (Western Equatoria), Tonj (Warap), Rumbek and Yirol (Lakes), and Panyagor (Jonglei). With assistance from the USAID, the economies of these counties began to recover; and were producing surplus for both the local and export markets. Growth was picking up fast especially in retail trade, restaurants, motels, drug stores, crafts, etc. Schools were being re-established; and these counties had almost reached the post-conflict environment except for random, high altitude bombing by the Khartoum government airforce. A new initiative was launched to revitalize the agricultural sector. A USAID five-year $22.5 million Southern Sudan Agricultural Revitalization Project was to increase the capacity for agricultural production and marketing by: increasing access to agricultural skills and technology; increasing access to capital for agricultural enterprises; and increasing the capacity of commodity networks to facilitate expanded trade. It targeted agricultural producers all over the New Sudan; regardless of political affiliation. Special emphasis was placed on assisting communities and equitable participation of women in all project components. The project specifically focused on supporting agriculture and business skills training in food crops, agricultural technology, forestry, livestock, wildlife, and fisheries; establish a central information and data analysis collection and dissemination unit; provide capital for agricultural enterprises through a finance institution; and strengthen agricultural commodity networks.

Soon the project area reverted to a cash economy. Surplus production was realized in Western Equatoria and southern Central Equatoria. Increased incomes led to increased volume of, and diversified, imports of salt, sugar, washing soap, textiles, wheat flour, beverages, cereals, footwear, fuel and oil, building materials (iron sheets, cement, timber, nails).  Exports of hides, coffee, oil seeds, honey, and palm oil, and timber increased. There was also an increase in livestock marketing from Tonj to Rumkek, Western and Central Equatoria, and Uganda.

Recognizing the importance of cattle in Southern Sudan, especially among the Dinka and Nuer, UNICEF moved from a pure food relief orientation to incorporate a community-based vaccination and animal health service project under the Pan African Rinderpest Control Initiative. The project provided free vaccines, trained and equipped community animal health workers, and promoted livestock markets. Existing veterinary personnel were recruited and more local personnel were trained as the program expanded. UNICEF provided vaccines and equipment. Veterinary auxiliaries and stockmen supervised and managed the vaccination campaigns with minimum supervisory support from UNICEF. In some areas, UNICEF provided vehicles; otherwise vaccinators walked and were paid with food for their family. Success of the program in terms of reduction of rinderpest outbreaks encouraged pastoral communities to   request inclusion of other diseases in the program.

*Dr. Yongo-Bure is associate professor of Social Science at Kettering University, USA. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it