McMichael (2010). Landmines and Land Rights in Southern Sudan
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After two civil wars spanning almost fifty years, Southern Sudan is the recently created autonomous region of the Republic of Sudan. The ten states forming Southern Sudan cover a vast, generally sparsely populated area2. While there are no reliable statistics to examine demographic and socio-economic trends, those that are available indicate that the region is one of the least developed in the world3.
Although more than 90 per cent of the region is suitable for agriculture, it remains heavily dependent on food-importation and international food aid. Basic infrastructure is generally absent and many regions are remote from markets and services. Around 70 per cent of the population live mainly off subsistence agriculture4, a fundamental economic activity in a country with a small industrial sector (excluding oil) and which, in the absence of safety nets, is an important key to poverty alleviation and food security.
The newly named Southern Sudan is the product of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the 22 year long second civil war (1983-2005). The Southern referendum for independence is planned for early 2011 and is providing uncertainty. The conflict between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and non-state armed groups in the South, principally the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), resulted in an estimated two million deaths and the long term displacement of around 4.5 million people5. Like many other post-conflict situations, the signing of the CPA has been characterised by the return of a massive number of the displaced population.
The level of suspected mine/Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) contamination is regarded by many as a key obstacle to the reconstruction and development of Southern Sudan. In particular, it has severely affected the road network and the revival of agricultural activities. It complicates access to land and undercuts food production in large areas which are suspected to be unsafe. The clearance of mines/ERW in the region is therefore regarded as an essential part of larger humanitarian and recovery efforts.