Monday July 9th 2012 marked South Sudan's first anniversary as an independent state. But one year down the road, what is there to celebrate for this newborn polity? Faced with political instability and enduring external and domestic threats to its security, the nascent state of South Sudan has evolved into a patronage and crisis management tool for the ruling elite, putting the benefits of governance well beyond the reach of the majority of the population.
There is little doubt that continuing conflict with Sudan, extreme underdevelopment and dependence on oil revenues will ensure that South Sudan remains a state in emergency for years to come. In many ways the characteristics and uses of this emergency dominate domestic political calculus. Essential institutional reforms have been postponed, as has any real democratic opening. Until a measure of calm in South Sudan's relations with Sudan is achieved, donors will have to look for areas of engagement where their objectives do not interfere with the short-term interests of a government that subsists on a war footing. In this regard South Sudan's decision to suspend oil production and the subsequent need to generate alternative revenues may offer new opportunities.