History, Language & Culture South Sudan
South Sudan was settled by many of its current ethnic groups during the 15th–19th centuries. After the Sudan region was invaded in 1820 by Muhammad Ali, viceroy of Egypt under the Ottoman Empire, the southern Sudan was plundered for slaves. By the end of the 19th century the Sudan was under British-Egyptian rule. Although the north accepted British rule relatively quickly, there was greater resistance in the south. Because of this, British energies in the north were free to be directed toward modernization efforts, whereas in the south they were more focused on simply maintaining order, leading to a dichotomy of development between north and south that continued for several decades. After Sudan became independent in 1956, numerous governments over the years found it difficult to win general acceptance from the country’s diverse political constituencies, especially in the south. An early conflict arose between those northern leaders who hoped to impose the vigorous extension of Islamic law and culture to all parts of the country and those who opposed this policy. The latter group included the majority of southern Sudan’s population, many of whom were already up in arms over fears that the south would be further marginalized by the northern-based government; those fears led to a lengthy civil war (1955–72). The Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972 ended the conflict only temporarily, and in the next decade widespread fighting resumed with the second civil war (1983–2005). Numerous discussions, cease-fires, and agreements between southern leaders and their northern counterparts occurred but yielded very little success until the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended warfare and generated an outline of new measures to share power, distribute wealth, and provide security in Sudan. Significantly, it also granted southern Sudan semiautonomous status and stipulated that a referendum on independence for the region would be held in six years. Despite some obstacles, the eagerly awaited referendum did take place: a weeklong vote on independence for southern Sudan was held January 9–15, 2011, with the results indicating the south’s overwhelming preference to secede. The country of South Sudan declared independence on July 9, 2011.
South Sudan is a multilingual country, with over 60 indigenous languages spoken. The official language of the country is English which was introduced in the region during the colonial era (see Anglo-Egyptian Sudan). Some of the indigenous languages with the most speakers include Dinka, Nuer, Bari, and Zande. Both English and Juba Arabic, an Arabic pidgin used by several thousand people especially in the capital city of Juba