When South Sudan formally declared its independence from the Republic of Sudan in July 2011, jubilant celebrations in the world’s newest country were almost equally matched by gloomy predictions about a failed state in the making. The past two years have done little to dispel the dire predictions that institutions in the South would not be able to cope with the enormous challenges of building a viable state.
While not formally ranked in the 2012 Fund for Peace Failed States Index, the available data suggest that only three countries in the world score worse on indicators of state failure. This is also borne out in the latest “Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in South Sudan” (.pdf), from March, which documents continuing anti-government and intercommunal violence, serious human rights violations, massive economic problems, widespread food insecurity, tense relations with Sudan, a steady stream of refugees from the North and high levels of internal displacement. While the report also notes some improvements compared to last year, South Sudan clearly has a long way to go on the road to stability.
Yet, the pattern of developments over the past two years does not suggest that there will be any significant improvements anytime soon. This is primarily because South Sudan’s problems are of a long-standing, systemic and regionally embedded nature. Resolving them will require concerted local, regional and global efforts, and the conditions for this to happen simply will not materialize for the foreseeable future.