In January 2011, South Sudan held a referendum to decide between unity or independence from the central government of Sudan as called for by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the country’s decades-long civil war in 2005. According to the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), 98.8% of the votes cast were in favor of separation. In February 2011, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir officially accepted the referendum result, as did the United Nations, the
African Union, the European Union, the United States, and other countries.
On July 9, 2011, South Sudan officially declared its independence. The Obama Administration welcomed the outcome of the referendum and recognized South Sudan as an independent country on July 9, 2011. The Administration sent a high-level presidential delegation led by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, to South Sudan’s independence celebration on July 9, 2011. A new ambassador is also expected to be named to South Sudan. South Sudan faces a number of challenges in the coming years. Relations between Juba, in South Sudan, and Khartoum are poor, and there are a number of unresolved issues between them. The crisis in the disputed area of Abyei remains a contentious issue, despite a temporary agreement reached in mid-June 2011. The ongoing conflict in the border state of Southern Kordofan could lead to a major crisis if left unresolved. The parties have yet to reach agreements on border demarcation, citizenship rights, security arrangements, and use of the Sudanese port and pipeline for oil exports. South Sudan also faces various economic, government capacity, and infrastructure challenges (see “Development Challenges”).
The United States maintains a number of sanctions on the government of Sudan. Most of these sanctions have been lifted from South Sudan and other marginalized areas. However, existing sanctions on the oil sector would require waivers by the executive branch. The U.S. Congress is likely to deal with these issues in the coming months.