On July 9, 2011, a new African nation was born; South Sudan declared its independence and became the 54th African nation and 193rd member of the United Nations. This came to be after the people of South Sudan overwhelmingly supported the secession (with about 99% of voters in favor) of South Sudan from Sudan in a popular referendum held from January 9 to 15, 2011. The referendum was held on the basis of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement which was signed between the government of Sudan and the The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)/ The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in 2005, ending decades of war.
As a person from the second youngest African nation, Eritrea, I am both excited and frightened for this newborn state. This is because it seems like only a few wrong turns is all it takes for things to go bad within a short period of time after independence; for Eritrea, it only took 7 years. Issues that arose as the result of Eritrea breaking away from Ethiopia, left unresolved, eventually led the two countries to war in 1998 and have made the effects of the war that much more painful. In the Sudan context, the citizenship issue of South Sudanese in the north and northerners in the South, as well as the unresolved border issues, could lead to a potentially turbulent future. But, I digress.
South Sudan is already enacting key laws to ensure the smooth functioning of its government and economy. A Transitional Constitution, approved by the South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) on July 6, 2011, was enacted on July 9, 2011, following its signing by General Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of South Sudan. The country has also enacted a Central Bank law, which established the Central Bank of South Sudan, paving the way for the launch of the South Sudan Pound. Legislation on mining, a sector key to the country’s economy and one that potential investors will be closely watching, is currently being developed. In addition, the President of South Sudan issued Presidential Decrees to dissolve the government and form a new caretaker government on July 10, 2011.
Here at the Law Library of Congress, where a major part of our functions is to research foreign law for the United States Congress and executive agencies as well as provide reference assistance to private patrons, we are welcoming South Sudan in our own way. I have been assigned as the Foreign Law Specialist for this country and have even started receiving inquiries on the laws of South Sudan. We have also instructed our field offices in Africa to collect primary as well as secondary sources on the laws of South Sudan. In addition, we have created a Guide to the Laws of South Sudan page, which includes quick links to sources on South Sudan that we hope will prove helpful to researchers.