Egypt attempted to colonize the region of southern Sudan by establishing the province of Equatoria in the 1870s. Islamic Mahdist revolutionaries overran the region in 1885, but in 1898 a British force was able to overthrow the Mahdist regime. An Anglo-Egyptian Sudan was established the following year with Equatoria being the southernmost of its eight provinces. The isolated region was largely left to itself over the following decades, but Christian missionaries converted much of the population and facilitated the spread of English. When Sudan gained its independence in 1956, it was with the understanding that the southerners would be able to participate fully in the political system. When the Arab Khartoum government reneged on its promises, a mutiny began that led to two prolonged periods of conflict (1955-1972 and 1983-2005) in which perhaps 2.5 million people died – mostly civilians – due to starvation and drought.
Ongoing peace talks finally resulted in a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in January 2005. As part of this agreement the south was granted a six-year period of autonomy to be followed by a referendum on final status. The result of this referendum, held in January 2011, was a vote of 98% in favor of secession. Independence was attained on 9 July 2011. Since independence South Sudan has struggled with good governance and nation building and has attempted to control rebel militia groups operating in its territory. Economic conditions have deteriorated since January 2012 when the government decided to shut down oil production following bilateral disagreements with Sudan. (Taken from CIA Factbook 2013)
History of Aim International in South Sudan
Sudan’s first AIM members to work in the country were invited to do so by the Church Mission Society (CMS). Two couples and a baby went into Opari, Sudan in 1949, and were given a warm welcome by their Sudanese neighbours. They were closely followed by two more missionaries and between them they quickly set up a medical clinic and a girls’ school. From the early days, the work in Sudan was also helped by African Christian workers sent out from Congo.
Over the years, civil wars and restrictions placed by the government created difficult conditions. Partial and full expulsions limited the number of AIM personnel in the country and then in the early 1960’s all missionaries were expelled. In 1972 however a peace agreement between south and north Sudan enabled work to be picked up again. The peace was not as permanent as hoped and fighting resumed in the early 1980’s. All AIM members left Sudan in the late 1980’s due to escalating insecurity.
When the missionaries left in the 1960’s the fledgling African Inland Church-Sudan (AIC) was granted premature adulthood. But the church grew dramatically, especially in Eastern Equatoria State and also in Central and Western Equatoria. During the war, the displaced southerners took AIC with them to Khartoum and there are now multiple AIC churches in the area.
In 2004, with the decline of the war, a gradual re-entry of AIM personnel began. With the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005 the door was opened wider. AIM provides a diverse menu of skills and ministries in South Sudan including nursery, primary, and secondary education, health, literacy in mother tongue, leadership development, theological education, and church planting.