South Sudan FlagNGO Law Monitor: South Sudan

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated: 11 February 2015

Update: The Government of South Sudan has come close to enacting two highly controversial pieces of legislation: the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Bill (formerly the Voluntary and Humanitarian Non-governmental Organizations Bill) and the National Security Service (NSS) Bill. The enactment process for both pieces of legislation stalled after opposition from national NGOs and international organizations, with the NSS Bill subject to a legal dispute about whether the parliament may unilaterally adopt and pass the Bill into law without the assent of the president. The latest draft version of the NGO Bill, which was released in August 2014, included a number of restrictive provisions, but was withdrawn in October 2014 after NGOs and international organizations voiced concerns with the Bill. However, it is anticipated that the NGO Bill will be considered by Parliament in the spring parliamentary session.

In addition, the Ministry of Labor in September 2014 released a Circular, which on its face called on all NGOs and companies to fire foreign workers within a one-month deadline, but after international outcry the Circular was withdrawn. However, the Government did enact three media bills amid a high degree of controversy about the extent to which the legislation protected the media profession from intimidation and harassment.

Meanwhile, civil society members continue to face intimidation and harassment regarding participation in the ongoing peace talks and relations with government are tense.


Sudan’s 22-year civil war was brought to an end on January 9, 2005, when the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A), the main rebel movement in Southern Sudan, and the Government of Sudan signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). During the civil war, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Southern Sudan focused primarily on providing humanitarian relief for the beleaguered population. The few NGOs that conducted advocacy in southern Sudan during the war focused their attention on human rights abuses committed by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and did not devote as much attention to abuses committed by southern rebel groups. Many NGOs at that time were based in Nairobi, Kenya, since the situation was too dangerous for them to maintain offices in most parts of southern Sudan.

The CPA heralded the first step on the road to independence for South Sudan six years later in 2011, and provided an opportunity for NGOs to expand and strengthen their activities relating to human rights, advocacy and social services. NGOs increasingly began to scrutinize human rights abuses committed by the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and its heavy-handed security sector. With its origins as a guerilla movement, the GOSS was often uncomfortable with this public scrutiny from NGOs. Since NGOs were viewed primarily as humanitarian groups, government officials did not always recognize and appreciate the full scope of potential NGO activities. As a result, the legal framework regulating NGOs from the civil war era continued to pose barriers to most NGO operations that were unrelated to humanitarian activities. There was also a great lack of clarity within the government about which governmental bodies were supposed to regulate NGOs and even whether the 2003 NGO Act was supposed to govern NGOs after independence in 2011.

NGOs since independence in 2011 have reported greater levels of government scrutiny of their activities and harassment by security personnel, particularly when they engage in advocacy or other programs that differ from or are contrary to the government’s programs. It is imperative for NGOs, the government and other stakeholders to come to an understanding about the diverse range of activities of NGOs and the essential role NGOs can play in democratic and economic development of South Sudan. This would likely help ensure that any new draft law is enabling and that the government would also implement it in an enabling way.

Despite several attempts to introduce a new law to replace the 2003 NGO Act and create more clarity in South Sudan’s legal framework governing NGOs, no such draft law has been passed in parliament— though the Non-governmental Organizations Bill (formerly Voluntary and Humanitarian Non-governmental Organizations Bill) is currently pending. The latest version of the Bill has some improvements from previous versions but remains far from being an enabling law.

In January 2014, South Sudan became mired in a violent political and ethnic conflict. Civil society has been torn apart by the conflict, as has society at large. Humanitarian NGOs are facing increased pressure from the national military and other armed groups, while humanitarian supplies have been looted and aid workers have been killed. Advocacy organizations also have to deal with interference from government agencies. The space for engaging government on issues relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms had been shrinking for many years and the conflict closed of much of the space that was left. The conflict has also affected funding cycles. International donors are rethinking their approach to development and relief assistance and this has made it hard for NGOs to plan ahead. Many projects, particularly those in conflict zones, have come to a standstill.

Despite the constraints on civil society, NGOs are still playing a role in various initiatives aimed at resolving the country's current crisis. When the crisis subsided in mid-2014, there was renewed attention on the need for reconciliation, and people realized that there were multiple reconciliation initiatives operating in the same space, including the Committee for National Healing, Peace and Reconciliation (CNHPR), the Peace Commission, and the Specialized Committee for Peace and Reconciliation in the National Legislative Assembly. To better coordinate activities, these three bodies came together to form the National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation (NPPR). This platform benefits from civil society input, but is nonethless considered in the government camp and therefore still somewhat politicized.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms  NGOs
Registration Body Ministry of Justice, Relief and Rehabilitation Commission
Barriers to Entry Multi-tiered registration, high cost, arbitrary denial, mandatory registration
Barriers to Activities Renewal of registration, excessive governmental  supervision, harassment
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy Advocacy groups under scrutiny
Barriers to International Contact Work Permits for foreign employees
Barriers to Resources None
Barriers to Assembly Excessive force used on protesters

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Key Indicators

Population 11,090,114 (April 2013 est.)
Capital Juba
Type of Government Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth Unknown
Literacy Rate Male: 40%
Female: 16% (2000 census)
Religious Groups Christians (majority), Animists, Muslims
Ethnic Groups Dinka, Kakwa, Bari, Azande, Shilluk, Kuku, Murle, Mandari, Didinga, Ndogo, Bviri, Lndi, Anuak, Bongo, Lango, Dungotona, Acholi, among more than 50 others.
GDP per capita $900 (2012 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 171 (2013); n/a (2014) 1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index n/a 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index n/a 100 – 0
Transparency International 173 (2014) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 6
Civil Liberties: 6 (2014)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 2014
Rank: 1 (2014) 178 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements[1] Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) No --
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) No --
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) No --
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (Op-ICESCR) No  --
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) No --
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) No --
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women No --
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 2013**
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) No  --
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2011
Regional Treaties    
African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) No 1996
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Yes 2000
Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa Yes 2013

[1] The UN secretary general has been raising the issue of South Sudan’s accession to international treaties with the Government of South Sudan. South Sudan has not finished the ratification process, but has made significant progress towards ratification of the CRC, CAT and CEDAW. Parliament endorsed thsee treaties and the president signed them into law, but the government has not yet completed the final step of depositing the letter of ratification with the UN, despite bringing copies of the letters with them to the most recent UN General Assembly in NY. Still, however, other major human rights treaties remain un-ratified, including the ICCPR, the ICESR and the ACHPR.
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

**Bill passed by parliament awaiting the president's signature

Constitutional Framework

The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan was ratified on July 7, 2011 by the South Sudan Legislative Assembly and came into force on the day of independence of South Sudan – July 9, 2011. The Transitional Constitution replaced the existing Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan of 2005. Relevant constitutional provisions include:

  • Article 3. Supremacy of the Constitution. (1) This Constitution derives its authority from the will of the people and shall be the supreme law of the land. It shall have a binding force on all persons, institutions, organs and agencies of government throughout the Country.
  • Article 5. Sources of Legislation. The sources of legislation in South Sudan shall be: (a) this Constitution; (b) customs and traditions of the people; (c) the will of the people; and (d) any other relevant source.
  • Article 9. Nature of the Bill of Rights. (2) The rights and freedoms of individuals and groups enshrined in this Bill shall be respected, upheld and promoted by all organs and agencies of Government and by all persons. (3) All rights and freedoms enshrined in international human rights treaties, covenants and instruments ratified or acceded to by the Republic of South Sudan shall be an integral part of this Bill.
  • Article 25. Freedom of Assembly and Association. (1) The right to peaceful assembly is recognized and guaranteed; every person shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form or join political parties, associations and trade or professional unions for the protection of his or her interests. (2) Formation and registration of political parties, associations and trade unions shall be regulated by law as is necessary in a democratic society.

In a parliamentary report dated February 25, 2013 on the Transitional Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2013, the “Committee of Legislation and Justice of the National Legislative Assembly” and the “Committee of Legislation, Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of States” decided to extend the deadline for adopting and presenting the draft Constitutional text and Explanatory Report to the President until December 31, 2014. As a result, there will likely not be a permanent Constitution until 2015.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

The national legal framework governing civil society and NGOs is defined more by gaps and uncertainty than by a clear, predictable framework. Nonetheless, relevant (and potentially relevant) national legislation affecting NGOs includes the following:

The NGO Act, 2003
The NGO Act, 2003 remains the law in effect in South Sudan today because of a clause in Part Fifteen of South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution of 2011, which states: All current Laws of Southern Sudan shall remain in force and all current institutions shall continue to perform their functions and duties, unless new actions are taken in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. The NGO Act, 2003 establishes the basic framework for NGOs operating in South Sudan. The Act addresses many key issues in the “lifecycle” of an NGO, including registration, suspension and cancellation, financing, reporting, and penalties.

The Companies Act, 2012
Article 7 of the Companies Act, 2012, defines a “company limited by guarantee” as “a company having the liability of its members limited by the memorandum to the amount that the members undertake in the memorandum to contribute to the assets of the company if it is being wound up.” This company form is made available in many common-law legal systems as a non-profit company. It would seem that individuals seeking to form a non-profit legal entity in South Sudan could take advantage of this organizational form, and thereby avoid some of the regulatory strictures of the NGO Act. At the same time, however, registration under the Companies Act would not entitle a “company limited by guarantee” to the tax or other benefits available under the NGO Act or the benefits of registering under the RRC, such as the ability to book flights with UN agencies.

The Broadcasting Corporation Act, 2013, The Media Authority Act, 2013 and The Right of Access to Information Act, 2013
These three media bills were passed by Parliament and signed by the president, amid a great deal of controversy. Although the president's spokesperson claimed that the laws had been passed, the relevant institutions refused to make the laws publicly available for many weeks. When the laws were released in September/October 2014, the signature date was 2013, which conveniently put it within the 30-day time period required for the president to sign legislation passed by Parliament. Several pieces of previous legislation, such as the Mining Act, 2013, followed a similar pattern, raising suspicions that legislation was being backdated to comply with constitutional requirements. As there is typically little or no access to legislation after it is passed by Parliament and before it is signed by the President, it is often not possible to determine when changes have been made to the law.

National Security Service (NSS) Bill, 2014
The South Sudan Parliament passed the National Security Service (NSS) Bill, which caused a walk-out by some MPs in Parliament protesting the controversial provisions of the Bill that give powers of arrest without warrant, detention, and interrogation for an unspecified period. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and a number of national NGOs, such as Sudd Institute, put out position statements opposing the legislation. The president has sent the Bill back to Parliament with comments, but Parliament is yet to incorporate the president’s comments. There has been argument surrounding the process, with Parliament claiming that the Bill spent more than 30 days with the office of president, a period which may warrant the parliament to unilaterally adopt and pass the Bill into law without the assent of president.

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

1. Non-governmental Organizations (NGO) Bill

The Draft Non-governmental Organizations (NGO) Bill (formerly Voluntary and Humanitarian Non-governmental Organizations Bill) was discussed in a public hearing on November 29, 2013. Revisions were made, and a new draft version of the Bill was released in August 2014. The new draft, which included a number of restrictive provisions, was withdrawn after CSOs advocated for the withdrawal of the draft and that the government consider their recommendations for a more enabling Bill. However, it is anticipated that the draft will be considered by Parliament in the spring parliamentary session. An analysis below discusses the draft NGO Bill's restrictive provisions:

Criminalization of unregistered voluntary activity. The NGO Bill violates the freedom of association by mandating that all NGOs register and by prohibiting any NGO that has not been registered from operating. Aggravating the problem, the Bill criminalizes the carrying out of voluntary activity without a registration certificate, with penalties including a fine of up to 10,000 South Sudanese pounds (approximately $2,000).

Creation of NGO Board. The Bill envisions the creation of a highly politicized NGO Board as a regulatory body with powers that are more likely to impede – rather than facilitate – the functioning of civil society. Among other functions, the Board is authorized to “coordinate the work of all national and international” NGOs, thereby inviting excessive government supervision; to “provide policy guidelines” to NGOs “for harmonizing their activities with National Development Plan for South Sudan,” thereby raising questions about NGO activities that fall outside of the National Development Plan; and to “prepare and publish a code of conduct for self-regulation” of NGOs in South Sudan, thereby mandating government leadership over a self-regulatory initiative.

Imposition of “terms and conditions” in certificate of registration. The Bill authorizes the NGO Board to insert “terms and conditions as the Board may consider appropriate” into the certificate of registration, which could lead to the unjustified imposition of territorial or activity limitations.     

Vague grounds for denial of registration. Refusal of registration may follow where the applicant’s activities contravene the principles of Article 6, which are so vaguely stated (i.e., “fairness in selection of geographical areas for allocation of projects,” “accountability to beneficiaries, donors and relevant public institutions,” “sustainability of programmes,” “participation by local communities and beneficiaries,” “respect for the sovereignty of the Republic of South Sudan”) as to open the door to arbitrary government decision-making.

Inviting excessive delay in registration process. The NGO Bill includes no time period within which the Registrar must decide on a registration application, opening the door to indefinite delays in the registration process.

Regular fee for maintaining legal entity status. The NGO Bill requires an NGO to “renew its permit upon payment of a prescribed fee.” This amounts to direct interference with the freedom of association, with the burden falling most heavily on those NGOs that may not be able to afford the costs of registration year after year. ICNL is aware of few other countries in which an annual fee must be paid in order to exercise a fundamental freedom. 

Vague grounds for revocation. The Registrar may recommend that the NGO Board revoke an NGO’s registration for contravening “the provisions of this Bill or the regulations or any other applicable law or any condition of the registration certificate” or “the principles set out in section 6.” The inclusion of such broad grounds for revocation may invite arbitrary decision-making; even a minor infraction could result in a CSO losing its status as a legal entity.

Employment limitations. The NGO Bill sets forth employment limits for NGOs by requiring that the total number of South Sudanese within an NGO not be less than “80% of the total staff of the organization.”

Prior approval for withdrawal. The Bill allows NGOs to withdraw from “any voluntary or humanitarian project, sector or state”  only on the condition that the NGO provides “written notice” to the Board, relevant governmental authority, and the beneficiaries not less than 30 days in advance.

2. National Security Service (NSS) Bill

The president sent the National Security Service (NSS) Bill back to the Parliament with comments, but the Parliament is yet to incorporate the comments. There has been argument surrounding the process, with the Parliament claiming that the Bill spent more than 30 days with the office of president, a period which may warrant the Parliament to unilaterally adopt and pass the Bill into law without the assent of president.

Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of other pending initiatives, write to ICNL at

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

There is one organizational form in South Sudan: the non-governmental organization (“NGO”).

The NGO Act, 2003, in Section 3 defines an NGO as “a voluntarily formed organization or association with a written Constitution stating the aims and objectives of that organization or association for the promotion of social welfare and charity through mobilization of private resources regardless of whether these resources were internally or externally raised.” It then asserts that certain organizations fall within the reach of this definition, including “Churches, Mosques, synagogues, Indigenous Religious Communities or other Relief, humanitarian, Religious organizations or associations operating in the New Sudan in accordance with the provisions of this Act.”

The main concern with the definition is its limited scope. The “promotion of social welfare and charity” does not embrace the full range of civil society purposes, including, for example, human rights, environmental concerns, the prevention of disease, development activities, advocating for the rights of minorities or the disabled, good governance, democracy promotion, or interests that benefit only the members of the group, such as chess or sports clubs.

Public Benefit Status

The Taxation Act, in Section 69 on “Exemptions,” provides for tax-exempt status for NGOs, stating that: “(1) The following income shall be exempted from business profit tax: (a) income of organizations registered with the appropriate government entity as non-governmental organizations with public benefit status to the extent that the income is used exclusively for their public benefit purposes.” Section 88(b) of the Taxation Act on “Exemption from Tax” also says that, “There shall be an exemption from the advance payment of tax for… humanitarian aid when imported by a bona fide organization as prescribed by regulations.”

In order to be eligible for this status, the Taxation Act states that NGOs must register with the tax department within one month of registering with the Ministry of Justice, with late applications penalized up to 50,000 SSP ($12,500).

At the same time, however, there is apparently some confusion among NGOs on the issue of tax-exempt status.  Some NGOs report that in order to receive tax-exemptions, NGOs must also apply to and secure a letter from the NGO Directorate of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. Others report that the standards by which the exemption can be denied are unclear.

Barriers to Entry

Multi-tiered Registration
Under Section 9 of the NGO Act, 2003, every NGO shall submit an application for registration to “the registrar of Societies at the Secretariat for Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development.” In practice, however, the registration system in South Sudan has developed into a two-tiered system, whereby registration is required both at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and at the national-level Relief & Rehabilitation Center (RRC), both located in Juba. Registration at the MoJ is necessary for the applicant to receive legal entity status. Registration at the RRC is necessary for the applicant to receive an operational license.

In addition, NGOs carrying out activities at the state or district level are reportedly sometimes required to register with the state-level RRCs. Furthermore, NGOs reported that they are sometimes required to register with the Ministry of Social Welfare at the state-level and/or county-level. Complicating the registration question further, requirements vary considerably from state to state. NGOs report that some states have a reputation for being particularly difficult environments in which to operate. These states may have their own registration processes and compel NGOs to pay fees to operate within the state, regardless of the NGO’s documentation from the national level MoJ or RRC. In sum, the national-level registration does not, in practice, necessarily entitle organizations to operate at the state level.

At the time of registration, NGO applicants are required to pay a registration fee – at both the MoJ and at the RRC. Some NGOs claim that the MoJ charges as much as 2000 SSP ($500) to process a registration application. Other NGOs reported that registration with the MoJ costs $200.  The Chief Registrar at the MoJ claimed that the official fee was $275 for domestic applicants and $400 for foreign applicants. NGOs reported that registration with the RRC (approximately $100) was cheaper than with the MoJ, while the RRC Chairman stated that the fee was somewhere between $100-$300. Despite the variety of reports on the registration fee, NGOs broadly agreed that even a fee as low as $200 could be sufficient to deter some NGOs from seeking legal status, particularly NGOs in the states that have less financial means than NGOs based in Juba.

According to several NGOs and the Chief Registrar at the MoJ, NGOs are required, in practice, to hire a lawyer to help them complete their applications and draft their constitutions. NGOs that fill out the application and draft the constitution independently are turned away by the Chief Registrar and directed to a lawyer. Since the legal assistance must be paid for, this practical requirement only adds to the financial burden associated with registration. Indeed, it could compel some NGOs to abandon the registration process altogether.

Because of the centralized registration system whereby NGOs are required to apply to the MoJ in Juba, the costs linked to registration are even higher for NGOs based outside of Juba. These NGOs must travel to Juba and perhaps remain in Juba while the application is being processed. This necessarily leads to extra costs for transportation and accommodation in Juba, which may be economically prohibitive for many NGOs.

Arbitrary Denial
Under Section 14 of the NGO Act, 2003, “The [NGO] Board may refuse registration of an NGO if:

a) The activities of the NGO are incompatible with the humanitarian principles as prescribed in Chapter two of this Act;
b) The application contains a false information or suffers from a procedural defect;
c) An NGO fails to submit a constitution as required by this Act;
d) An NGO fails to submit a budgeted programme of action for its project in the field of operations;
e) An International NGO fails to obtain work and residence permits for its expatriate staff employed in the New Sudan;
f) Its registration constitutes a security risk to the New Sudan.”

In practice, NGOs are rarely, if ever, denied registration. At the same time, however, the MoJ claims that it “advises” applicants of an application’s shortcomings so that the NGO can address the problems. The MoJ reportedly examines the name and purpose of the NGO.  If the name is “political” or “governmental,” then the MoJ would recommend that the NGO change its name. If the NGO purpose is to “connect” groups or tribes across borders (such as in Kenya and Uganda), then the MoJ would identify this as problematic.

Mandatory Registration
Under the current law and practice in South Sudan, registration is mandatory. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Relief & Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) report that all NGOs in South Sudan must register at the MoJ in Juba and that NGOs must also receive an operational license from the national-level RRC in Juba in order to operate. The RRC describes mandatory registration as a necessary measure to keep track of and organize the activities of NGOs. Most NGOs confirm that to pursue activities in Juba or at the state level, they were required to secure registration certificates from the MoJ and RRC. This practice is consistent with Section 11 of NGO Act, 2003, which states that “[a] certificate of registration shall be a conclusive evidence of authority to operate throughout the New Sudan (section 11).”

The NGO Act, 2003, undergirds the mandatory registration requirement with fines of up to $1000, imprisonment for a term up to six months, or expulsion from South Sudan (in the case of an expatriate) for operating an NGO without a registration certificate.” (section 30) Although these penalties appear not to have been enforced, they may deter unregistered groups from carrying out associational activities.

Barriers to Operational Activity

Renewal of Registration
Section 15 of the NGO Act, 2003, states that: “An NGO, three months before the expiry date of its registration certificate, shall apply to the Registrar of Societies for renewal of its certificate […]”

In practice, both the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Relief & Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) require NGOs to renew their registration annually for a fee of about $100. In other words, NGOs must pay $100 annual fees in order to exercise the right to associate each year.  The renewal at the MoJ involves submitting an annual return, or reporting form, after which the MoJ will stamp “renewed” on the NGO’s certificate.  Moreover, the dual renewal requirement (i.e., renewal at both the MoJ and RRC) doubles the burden and aggravates the issue.

Excessive Supervision
Under the NGO Act, 2003, NGOs are required to submit quarterly and annual progress reports to the government, as well as a certified copy of their annual audit reports (section 26). In practice, however, the quarterly reporting and annual audit requirements are apparently not enforced.

NGOs have raised concerns about government expectations of fees as part of the reporting process at the state and county-level RRCs. NGOs highlight the “creative” ways in which the local RRCs extract payments from NGOs, such as requiring NGOs to complete surveys and submit them to the RRC, along with a $20 fee. The lack of clear rules about the supervision of NGOs leaves open the possibility for state-level officials to issue their own rules on an ad-hoc basis, or to take advantage of the lack of clear regulations to compel NGOs to pay fees. 

Attacks on civil society are part of a growing climate of fear for civil society rights activists and human rights defenders in South Sudan. Such attacks have become more commonplace since 2012.

Barriers to Speech/Advocacy

While the NGO Act, 2003 does not seem to envision a role for advocacy NGOs, there are no specific legal barriers that expressly limit advocacy activities.

That said, it is perceived by many that NGOs conducting advocacy activities are subject to close governmental scrutiny, whereas service providing NGOs are allowed to operate freely. Moreover, well-publicized assaults on civil society activists have created an overall climate of fear, which inevitably creates a chilling effect and may cause many NGOs to avoid speaking out on controversial issues.

Barriers to International Contact

There are no significant barriers to international contact.

Section 29 of the NGO Act, 2003, provides that it “shall be an offence under this Act for an NGO to employ or engage expatriate personnel without a valid work permit” and envisions expulsion, prison, or a $1000 fine for violators. Thus far, however, this provision has not been enforced. In addition, in 2014, the Ministry of Labor released a Circular, which on its face called on all NGOs and companies to fire foreign workers within a one-month deadline, but after international outcry the government backtracked and stated that the Circular was "misunderstood."

Barriers to Resources

There are no significant barriers to resources.

Barriers to Assembly

Public gatherings critical of the government or government policies have triggered heavy-handed government responses. For example, in December 2012, more than 25 protestors in Wau were reportedly killed by the South Sudan Armed Forces (SSAF). None of the SSAF officers who shot at the protestors were prosecuted, while the state government embarked on a series of arrests of people associated with the protests.

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UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Sudan, February 24, 2011
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs None
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes None
U.S. State Department
South Sudan Page
Failed States Index Reports Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 2014
IMF Country Reports
South Sudan and the IMF
CSO Sustainibility Index South Sudan, 2012
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International "The Price of Silence": Freedom of Expression under Attack in South Sudan
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library

South Sudan

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News and Additional Resources

General News

South Sudan security raid lawyers' association meeting and arrest journalists (January 2015)
South Sudan's National Security Service interrupted an election of the South Sudan Bar Association and arrested a reporter covering the event. Speaking to Radio Tamazuj, a witness who asked not to be named said that the Bar Association was carrying out an election for leadership positions when National Security Service personnel came to the venue and asked the lawyers whether they had permission to do the election. Reportedly, an SPLM candidate was expected to not win the election, thus prompting the security service's interruption. Lawyers have boycotted court sessions in protest of the raids by National Security Service personnel against Bar Association elections in both Juba and Wau.

How the African Union is failing South Sudan (January 2015)
On the evening of 29 January, African heads of state gathered in Addis Ababa for a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC). Among the items on the agenda was a presentation by the chairperson of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS), former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo. More than a year after the African Union (AU) announced its investigation into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in South Sudan, the AUCISS was set to formally present its final report to the AUPSC. However, the matter was closed by leaders who urged the public release of the AUCISS to be put off indefinitely. The AUPSC's decision not to publish the AUCISS report casts doubt on the prospects for justice and accountability in South Sudan. CSOs argued that by publicly identifying the individuals responsible for atrocities, the AUCISS report could help to deter further acts of violence against civilians.

New Report Highlights Renewed Government Clampdown on HR Defenders (December 2014)
Throughout 2014, human rights defenders in South Sudan have borne the brunt of a renewed government clampdown, finds a new report published by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP). The report, entitled “For Us, Silence is Not an Option: Human Rights Defenders and the South Sudan Civil War”, documents a worsening pattern of harassment, intimidation, threats, and legislative reforms, all targeting South Sudanese human rights defenders. The full report is available online at:

Joint letter to President Kiir on accession to CAT, CEDAW and CRC (October 2014)
In this open letter, South Sudanese and international organizations urge the President of South Sudan to ensure that instruments of accession to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, are deposited with the Secretary General of the United Nations in New York.

Text of media 'law' still kept secret (September 2014)
South Sudan's Media Authority Act is yet to be published or distributed to the press, in spite of assurances by Presidential Press Secretary Ateny Wek that a copy of the law would be shared with media representatives by 15 September. The bill is said to have become an act of law by signature of the president, but media were neither invited to attend a signing ceremony nor shown a copy of the signed bill.

South Sudan asks NGOs to fire foreign aid workers amid hunger crisis (September 2014)
South Sudan's government issued an order to non-governmental relief organizations to fire employees of foreign origin, saying they must cease working by mid-October. Circular Number 007/2014 was issued under the hand and seal of Ngor Kolong Ngor, South Sudan's Minister of Labour. The circular was copied to immigration and law enforcement agencies as well as six other cabinet ministers (Subsequently, in October 2014, the government said this order was misunderstood).

Civil society leader shot by unknown gunman
(August 2014)
An unidentified gunman shot and injured the head of South Sudan's civil society alliance, Deng Athuai, forcing several people to flee the crime scene for safety. Eyewitnesses say Athuai was shot in the thigh at South African park at around 8.30pm (local time) as he left the place for his hotel in the capital, Juba. This is the second attempt on Athuai’s life after he was first kidnapped at gunpoint in from the Juba-based Nile Beach hotel where he resided in 2011. Community Empowerment for Progress Organiaation (CEPO), a South Sudanese civil society entity said the government should immediately investigate the shooting of the renowned activists.

Regional Visit of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (April 2014)
The AU Commission of Inquiry visited South Sudan and consulted with CSOs including South Sudan Law Society, government institutions, and President Salva Kiir, and conducted a visit to some IDP camps around Juba. This was a part of wider consultation aim at learning what has happened in order to prepare for investigation into human rights abuses and the atrocities that have been committed during ther expertise and advice to the mediators.

National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation launched (April 2014)
The Peace Commission has formed the National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation, which has its membership drawn from several of the country's CSOs. The platform will be independent and non-partisan in carrying out their duties and objectives. The platform plans to consult with both warring parties as well as other institutions and the mediators.

A Call for the Direct Participation of Civil Society in South Sudan's Peace Talks
(February 2014)
Citizens for Peace and Justice (CPJ), a coalition representing more than 30 civil society organizations, is deeply concerned with the grave human suffering brought about by the conflict in South Sudan... CPJ calls on Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) to provide for the direct and independent participation of civil society in the peace talks currently underway in Ethiopia. We specifically ask that CPJ representatives be given the necessary accreditation such that they can actively participate at all meetings of the parties; contribute proposals for consideration in the talks, including draft language for any agreements; and offer their expertise and advice to the mediators.

Future South Sudan Peace Talks Lie With Civil Society (January 2014)
Cordaid's security and justice expert for South Sudan, Rob Sijstermans, gives an analysis of the South Sudan peace talks and some background to the current conflict. He stresses the need to give South Sudanese NGOs, churches and academia a real say in the peace proces. "Otherwise the South Sudanese people remain voiceless," he says.

Fighting in South Sudan: More Accident than Plot (December 2013)
The sudden appearance of Salva Kiir, South Sudan's president, on television on December 16th was as disturbing for its form as its content. Gone were the trademark black suit and cowboy hat, in their place was a military uniform. Juba, the capital of the fledgeling state, had been rocked by heavy fighting the previous day between factions of the army. Mr Kiir announced that a coup attempt by his sacked vice-president, Riek Machar, had been foiled and that his government was in control.

NGO Bill threatens to hinder civil society’s work in South Sudan, UN rights experts warn (December 2013)
Three United Nations Special Rapporteurs warned that the NGO Bill currently discussed by Parliament in South Sudan threatens the work and independence of civil society organizations in the country. "The Government oversight proposed in the draft law goes beyond simple notification requirements and veers into the territory of excessive control," they stressed.

South Sudan's NGO Bill is 'needlessly repressive' (December 2013)
Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges the international community and South Sudan's trading and development partners in particular to question official moves to push through a repressive civil society draft law in Parliament. The Bill is currently in Parliament, awaiting a third reading likely before the end of November, after which it will be sent to the Council of States before being moved for presidential assent. CIVICUS has previously raised concerns about the freedom to express democratic dissent in South Sudan. There have been a number of instances of reprisals against civil society members critical of official policies in the country. Thus, attempts to pass a restrictive CSO law mark a multi-pronged administrative assault on South Sudan's CSOs.

South Sudan Misses UN Human Rights Council Seat (November 2013)
As the UN General Assembly elected 14 new members to the 47-seat Geneva-based council, which can shine a spotlight on rights abuses by adopting resolutions when it chooses to do so, South Sudan has lost its chance to sit on the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. A group of South Sudanese and international human rights groups urged South Sudan's leadership to its improve Human Rights record. A range of human rights violations have taken place in South Sudan since its independence in 2011, including killings of civilians by security forces and unlawful arrests, the groups said. The groups demanded that South Sudan should ensure that the national Human Rights Commission is fully funded and operational and should sign and ratify core international human rights treaties and conventions, and cooperate fully with the Human Rights Council, including by inviting UN human rights experts to visit the country.

S. Sudan law body condemns threats against Amum’s lawyers (August 2013)
The South Sudan Law Society (SSLS) has strongly condemned threats against lawyers representing the ruling party (SPLM) Secretary General, Pagan Amum after he challenged President Salva Kiir decision to suspend him pending investigation into some of his actions. SSLS said, "We call for the government to conduct an immediate investigation to determine the source of the threats and to take the necessary actions to protect the advocates as they carry out their professional duties.” Samuel Dong Luak, one of the lawyers involved told Sudan Tribune Wednesday that indeed his life was in danger over the former SPLM secretary general’s case. “My brother, I had to flee the country for my dear life after I was threatened,” Luak said from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Cabinet To Regulate State NGOs (July 2013)
The Central Equatoria State (CES) Minister of Information Hon. Jacob Aligo Lo Ladu said the cabinet has resolved that all NGOs should work with line Ministries.  “Before undertaking any project implementation it is better if such organization enter into a memorandum of understanding with the line ministry before implementing any project to avoid duplication of roles,” Aligo told the press. Earlier on the CES government had taken measures to streamline activities of the NGOs. However, the policy has remained mainly in the books and is not yet being realized.

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights in South Sudan

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