Skip to main content

Sudan & South Sudan


Escalating tensions

Following South Sudan’s secession in July 2011, tensions between Sudan and South Sudan remain. Continued clashes along the shared border and disputes over oil resources, territory and citizenship rights brought the two countries back to the brink of all-out war in April 2012.

The international community has condemned the escalating tensions and called for the resolution of all outstanding issues by 2 August 2012. Outlined in the African Union roadmap of 24 April 2012 and endorsed by the UN Security Council, this united international position on Sudan and South Sudan is not only unprecedented but also represents the most viable way forward for the two countries.


South Sudan: Africa's newest country

South Sudan seceded from the north to become Africa’s newest country on 9 July 2011, after Southerners voted for their independence in a referendum in January 2011. This referendum was an important condition of the peace agreement that ended a 22-year civil war between North and South in 2005.

After gaining independence, South Sudan still faces significant challenges, particularly in relation to internal security and stability. The shutdown of oil production in January 2012 and the consequent loss of revenue has brought the country to the brink of economic collapse and it will need external support to build state institutions and tackle its economic and social development.

Resolving outstanding issues with its northern neighbour, including oil resources, demarcation of borders, citizenship rights and the status of contested areas, is important to allow the South build a viable and sustainable country.


Sudan’s internal conflicts

In Sudan, human rights abuses and restrictions on the public sphere continue to be reported. Economic austerity affecting some of Sudan’s poorest communities has led to widespread protests in urban centres around the country.

In South Kordofan and Blue Nile, conflict and massive food shortages have forced more than 200,000 people to flee across the border into South Sudan and Ethiopia and left many more displaced and without basic essentials like food and medicine.

Meanwhile in Darfur, human rights abuses and restrictions on the public sphere continue to be reported. The arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in March 2009 for President Omar Al-Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide has yet to be enforced.


A peaceful future

The Elders believe that the possibility of a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between Sudan and South Sudan still exists, and hope to see the leaders of both countries to rebuild the relations reflected in the deep and inter-connected histories of their peoples.


The Elders' position

To foster stability and economic development in both countries and the wider region, leaders from Sudan and South Sudan must address several outstanding issues:

  • Reach agreements on oil resources and other outstanding economic issuesto facilitate the resumption of cross-border trade;
  • Agree on and demarcate their borders;
  • Define citizenship rights for Southern Sudanese resident in Sudan and northern Sudanese resident in the South;
  • Resolve peacefully the status of the contested Abyei area.

The Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) must also commit to a process to end the conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and allow immediate and unconditional humanitarian access to those areas and populations affected by conflict.

Meanwhile, the international community and humanitarian donors must support the people of both Sudan and South Sudan to help build the conditions for long-lasting peace, good governance and development. The united international position – endorsed by the African Union and United Nations and calling for the resolution of all outstanding issues – must be implemented. Dialogue is the only way to ensure a peaceful future for the people of Sudan and South Sudan.


The Elders' work

Peace in Sudan became a top priority for The Elders as soon as the group was founded. After visiting Sudan on their first mission together in 2007, The Elders have conducted private diplomacy and advocacy and spoken out at select moments.

Jimmy Carter and Lakhdar Brahimi returned to Sudan to meet President Omar al-Bashir, which paved the way for a second delegation to the region, led by Desmond Tutu, in July 2012. The Elders continue to monitor events in Sudan and South Sudan closely.


The Elders' visits to Sudan

The Elders’ first mission

Desmond Tutu, Lakhdar Brahimi, Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel travelled to Sudan in October 2007 to highlight the humanitarian tragedy caused by the conflict in Darfur. This was the Elders’ first ever mission as a group. 

In Khartoum and Juba, the Elders met political leaders from North and South Sudan, political party representatives, UN agencies, African Union officials and diplomats. In Darfur, they spoke to tribal leaders, women’s groups, civil society leaders and internally displaced persons. The Elders called for an end to the atrocities and the displacement of millions of people in Darfur, as well as for greater protection for the victims of ongoing violence.

Observing the referendum

In January 2011, Elders Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan led the Carter Center observation mission for the Southern Sudan Referendum.

Supporting the African Union-led peace negotiations

In May 2012, Jimmy Carter and Lakhdar Brahimi returned to Sudan to meet President Omar al-Bashir. Concerned by the heightened and dangerous tensions in the region, they spoke in detail about the problems in Sudan and strongly encouraged a return to dialogue between Sudan and South Sudan.

This visit paved the way for a second Elders’ delegation to the region in July 2012. Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson and Martti Ahtisaari travelled to Addis Ababa, Juba and Khartoum to meet political leaders, African Union officials, UN diplomats and civil society representatives. They also visited a refugee camp in South Sudan, calling attention to the humanitarian crisis resulting from fighting across the border in Sudan.

Keep up to date with The Elders’ COVID-19 digest:

Sign up to receive regular updates about The Elders’ activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will never share your email address with third parties.

Keep up to date with The Elders latest News and Insight:

Sign up to receive monthly newsletters from The Elders. We will occasionally send you other special updates and news, but we'll never share your email address with third parties.


I would like to find: