South Sudan: formerly Sudan (1983 – first combat deaths)

Tasneem Jamal Africa

Updated: June 2015

The Conflict at a Glance

Who (are the main combatants): The Government of South Sudan, with the support of Uganda, opposes rebel militias; there is also dissension in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The current outbreak of violence is largely between supporters of the government led by President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former Vice-President Riek Machar. There are disputes between Sudan and South Sudan over borders, oil production and support for rebel groups.

What (started the conflict): In December 2013 President Salva Kiir accused former Vice-President Riek Machar of responsibility for a failed coup. Soldiers and rebels loyal to Machar – who is from the Nuer tribe – began to fight official SPLA security forces, which is largely Dinka, as is Kiir. The conflict is largely fallen along ethnic lines.

When (has fighting occurred): South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July 2011, after a 22-year civil war and a six-year interim power-sharing agreement. In the summer of 2013 President Kiir dismissed Machar and the entire cabinet; violence broke out in mid-December and continued in 2014.

Where (has the conflict taken place): Much of the 2013 fighting occurred in Pibor County in Jonglei state (in the southeast, bordering on Ethiopia). Rebel general David Yau Yau claimed to be fighting for increased rights for the Murle people. His attacks left more than 350 dead and more than 23,000 displaced. In December fighting began in the capital city of Juba and quickly spread to Unity, Eastern Equatoria, and Jonglei states, focusing on key oil cities.

Summary
Type of Conflict
Parties to the Conflict
Status of the Fighting
Number of Deaths
Political Developments
Background
Arms Sources
Economic Factors

Summary

2015 Political elections were postponed two years and President Kiir’s term was extended by three years amid ongoing negotiations. Peace talks continued; following pressure by the international community a peace agreement was signed by all parties in mid-August. In violation of this peace deal, President Kiir created 28 states and appointed new governors late in the year. Low-intensity sporadic conflict persisted, largely in the Equatoria region. President Kiir announced plans to normalize the currency exchange rate.

2014 While there were many attempts at ceasefires and peace talks, the rainy season did the most to reduce violence. Among limited international actions, the United States and European Union imposed sanctions on two military officials, UNMISS reprioritized its mandate, and China banned arms imports and committed 700 soldiers as a peacekeeping force. An attack on Bentiu killed hundreds and another on a UN camp in Bor killed 58 and injured 98. Massive numbers of civilians were displaced; many found refuge in UN camps. While famine was narrowly averted, food insecurity loomed as a major concern in 2015. Precise death tolls were unavailable, but estimates of conflict deaths ranged from 50,000 to 100,000. Both the UN and Human Rights Watch reported serious human rights violations. Violence between the Dinka supporters of Salva Kiir and Nuer supporters of Riek Machar contributed to ethnic divisions.

2013 South Sudan’s second year of independence was marked by ongoing violence, particularly interethnic fighting between Murle, Nuer, and Dinka civilians and soldiers. The first half of the year saw major violence in Jonglei state involving SPLA forces, Dinka majority villages and rebels loyal to David Yau Yau. Numerous attacks displaced tens of thousands and left more than 350 dead, including five UN peacekeepers. The government announced a cessation of hostilities with Yau Yau after successful peace talks at the end of the year. Tensions with Sudan remained high over the disputed region of Abyei, which voted to join the South in an unofficial referendum in October. Conflict over export of South Sudan crude oil through Sudan also continued, with Sudanese President al-Bashir threatening to close pipelines. Over the summer, President Salva Kiir dismissed Vice-President Riek Machar and his entire cabinet, leading to political instability. In mid-December, Kiir accused Machar of an attempted coup and violence broke out in the capital city of Juba. It spread quickly across the country, largely adopting ethnic divisions. The UN called the humanitarian situation “dire.” In late January 2014, the UN estimated that there were at least 739,100 internally displaced people, more than 123,400 who had fled into neighbouring countries, and nearly 70,000 people seeking refuge inside UN compounds. Estimates of conflict deaths ranged between 1,000 and 10,000.

2012 In its first full year as an independent nation South Sudan continued to be wracked by conflict. Clashes in the border region with Sudan over oil resources resulted in 10 days of interstate conflict. Oil production was shut down for most of the year and austerity measures contributed to social unrest. Attacks by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) against rebel militia groups killed many civilians, although exact numbers were not available. Estimates suggest that there were as many as 2,000 conflict deaths. Although peace negotiations broke down several times, by the end of the year the governments of Sudan and South Sudan had reached agreements on oil exploration and transport, border demarcation, demilitarization, and nationality.

2011 Voter turnout for the January referendum on independence for Southern Sudan was extremely high, approaching 99 per cent in some states. Both African Union and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) observer missions commended the electoral commission for the successful conduct of the referendum and declared the process free and fair. On February 7, the results of the referendum were announced: Southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly for secession. The Republic of South Sudan officially became a country on July 9.

Beginning in June, the resource-rich regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, both ethnically connected to the South but excluded from the 2011 referendum process and secession, were sites of heavy fighting between rebel forces and the Sudanese army. There were reports that Sudanese forces were systematically killing and displacing civilians. The United Nations reported that hundreds died, while more than 200,000 fled from the border regions into South Sudan and Ethiopia. The UN created two new missions: United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA); and United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).

2010 Interethnic conflict; cattle raids; and clashes between government forces, rebels and armed civilians caused between 400 and 1,000 deaths. Sudan held its first multiparty elections in 24 years. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Southern Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit were both reelected.

2009 Interethnic conflict, attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and clashes between government and rebel forces killed between 1,500 and 2,500. Violence intensified, with reported increases in the targeting of civilians, particularly women and children. In October, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and other opposition parties signed a declaration agreeing to a democratic transition for Sudan and calling on the National Congress Party (NCP) to pass a number of laws before April 2010 elections. Voters were slow to register and there were accusations of fraud and vote buying. President Omar Hassan al- Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The International Court of Arbitration in The Hague reached a decision on the new borders of the disputed Abyei region in Sudan. Both sides pledged to respect the ruling.

2008 Renewed North-South conflict between the government of Sudan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) and various ethnic groups left 200 dead. Violent conflict in the disputed region of Abyei displaced tens of thousands; by June, an agreement had been reached to send a joint force there. Progress to ratify Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement stalled because of increasing fragmentation among rebel groups and uncertainty over a potential warrant for Sudanese President  al- Bashir’s arrest by the International Criminal Court.

2007 The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) halted participation in the National Congress (NC) over disputes involving the ratification of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The SPLM gave the NC until January 9, 2008 to demonstrate significant progress and threatened a return to conflict. Although many concerns were resolved, border demarcation, specifically the status of the Abyei region, remained a significant issue. The Kush Liberation Front (KLF), a new rebel faction in the northern territory of Nubia, emerged in response to a proposed development project that would displace Nubians. After a violent clash between Sudanese and Chadian forces, the two governments signed a non-aggression pact, but tensions remained.

2006 A Khartoum-imposed demobilization and demilitarization program resulted in renewed hostilities between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) that left approximately 200 dead. The fighting was some of the worst since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) came into force in 2005. SPLM/A clashes with the youth rebel group known as the White Army resulted in close to 300 deaths.

2005 Significant progress was made in implementing the 2004 peace accords. A new central government of national unity was formed and an autonomous South Sudan government was established. Low-level fighting in eastern Sudan between the Sudan army and rebel Eastern Forces threatened to escalate.

2004 Peace talks made significant gains with the signing of protocols. Talks were suspended in July, but began again in October. Although a ceasefire was extended, it was reportedly violated by both the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). On December 31, a permanent truce between the government and the SPLM was reached after both sides signed a comprehensive peace agreement.

2003 As peace talks continued, the ceasefire between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the government remained intact. Some violence early in the year left approximately 100 dead. Assisted by regional and international actors, the two sides were close to signing a power-sharing agreement by year’s end.

2002 Peace talks made some headway, the government agreed to a referendum in 2008 to determine self-government in the South. But the year also saw some of the heaviest fighting in the war’s history in the Western Upper Nile region.

2001 There were major clashes between government and rebel forces. Reportedly government-sponsored attacks on civilian targets continued. In January, rebel forces attacked oil regions in Southern Sudan for the first time; offensives against oil installations continued during the summer. In June, one of the largest government military operations since 1992 was launched against rebels in the Nuba region, followed by the U.S. appointment of a Special Envoy and movement toward a regional ceasefire by November. Thousands died from the conflict and associated famine.

2000 Clashes between government forces and rebel groups continued; the government intensified aerial bombardment of civilian positions in the South. Hundreds of people, including civilians, were reported killed.

1999 Limited ceasefires failed to end persistent clashes between government forces and rebel groups.

1998 Civil clashes continued in the first half of the year in the north, west, and south between the government and two main rebel factions — the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). A July ceasefire allowed humanitarian agencies to offer relief to the victims of a famine that plagued much of Southern Sudan. Two previously government-controlled Southern towns were taken over by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in March.

Type of Conflict
State control
State formation

Parties to the Conflict

1. Government of South Sudan: South Sudan officially seceded from Sudan on July 9, 2011 after the results of a February 7 referendum indicated overwhelming support for separation. Salva Kiir Mayardit, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), first Vice-President of Sudan and President of the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan, became South Sudan’s first President. The birth of the new country followed a 22-year civil war and a six-year interim government. With 97 per cent of parliamentary seats (160) held by the SPLM party, South Sudan is essentially a one-party state. In July 2013 President Salva Kiir dismissed Vice-President Riek Machar and his entire cabinet after months of internal struggle.

1a. Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC): This splinter group began in 2009 and is the second largest party in the Legislative Assembly, with four seats.

In relation to:

2. Government of Sudan: A north-south power-sharing interim Government of National Unity was established with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005. Omar Hassan al-Bashir of the National Congress Party became president of Sudan and Salva Kiir Mayardit of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) first vice-president, and president of the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan, established in October 2005. Both al-Bashir and Kiir were re-elected in April 2010. On February 7, 2011, the results of a referendum on secession were announced, with Southern Sudan voting overwhelmingly for independence. The Republic of South Sudan was officially declared an independent state on July 9, 2011. In 2009 President al-Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity and in July 2010 for his role in a genocide. Sudan has reportedly supplied weaponry to anti-government forces in South Sudan.

Supported by:

3. Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A): Under the 2005 CPA, the SPLM/A became part of the Government of National Unity. In 2010, however, a conflict arose between northern and southern factions of the SPLM, with the northern faction boycotting elections. After South Sudan separated from Sudan, the SPLM, led by Salva Kiir, became the majority ruling party and the SPLA became the country’s official security force. A faction of the SPLM/A emerged in Sudan, calling itself SPLM/A-North. Additional ex-rebel groups have been integrated into the official security forces.

4. Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO or SPLM/A-IO): In December 2013 President Salva Kiir fired Vice-President Riek Machar and the cabinet. Machar then formed the SPLM-IO as an opposition group to the SPLM. The SPLM-IO has troops from many different ethnic groups, including a large number of Nuer soldiers, who defected from the SPLM/A after its forces massacred Nuer in December 2013. After a peace agreement between the SPLM and SPLM-IO was signed in August 2015, there was talk of the SPLM-IO joining the SPLM government in a power-sharing arrangement. Machar reorganized the SPLM-IO in December 2015.

5. Uganda: In January 2014 Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni confirmed that 1,600 Ugandan soldiers were fighting alongside South Sudanese government forces. More than 40,000 Ugandan citizens had been evacuated since the December 2013 conflict began. With the support of the African Union, Ugandan forces set up a rapid response centre to intervene in regional conflicts. In 2014 the involvement of regional actors in South Sudan was criticized by some who feared that such action would further destabilize the region.

Versus

Rebel groups:

6. South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SSLM/SSLA): Formed in 1999 during Sudan’s civil war, the SSLM/A is one of the largest rebel groups in the region. The group switched sides several times during the civil war and again right before South Sudan’s independence, accusing Juba of corruption and tribal favouritism. under Peter Gatdet it reemerged in April 2011 in Unity State. In April 2013, 3,000 SSLA fighters handed in their weapons after receiving presidential pardons; they were integrated into official SPLA security forces in August and September.

7. South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA): The SSDA was formed in 2010 by former SPLA general George Athor after he failed to become Jonglei state governor. Most SSDA fighters are from the minority Murle tribe, which is involved in a longstanding dispute with the Lou Nuer tribe over grazing rights. The SSDA did not accept President Kiir’s amnesty offer in April 2013 and, sometimes under the leadership of David Yau Yau, continued to clash with government forces.

8. Major-General David Yau Yau: was appointed overall commander of revolutionary forces in Jonglei in April 2012 by SSDA and SSLA leadership. His stated goal was to win greater rights for the Murle ethnic group, rather than to overthrow the government, but he remains popular with anti-government forces across South Sudan. Yau Yau’s group was responsible for many attacks in 2013, leaving more than 350 dead, including five UN peacekeepers. While SSLA forces surrendered in April 2013, many rebels remain loyal to Yau Yau and continue to fight in Jonglei. On January 6, 2014, the government announced the cessation of hostilities with Yau Yau after successful peace talks.

9. Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF): SPLM-N, JEM, and two other factions of the SPLM joined forces against Khartoum, after the 2011 secession. In April 2013, the SRF attacked towns in central Sudan.

10. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM): Formed in 2003 and led by Khalil Ibrahim, JEM has been active against Sudanese military forces in Darfur. JEM militants allied with the SPLM-N in 2011 and moved some forces to the border regions. JEM leader Ibrahim was killed in the fighting soon after. JEM has approximately 5,000 combatants and is heavily armed. Sudan has accused JEM of ties to the Chadian government, although the group was expelled from Chad in February 2010. In June 2013, JEM was blamed for an oil blast in Abyei region, which it denies.

11. The White Army: This southern-based youth militia is supported by the Lou Nuer peoples. The proliferation of firearms during the civil war resulted in a growing number of armed militias and more armed clashes and deaths, especially during the annual migrations of cattle to water-rich areas of Southern Sudan. Originally formed to provide self-protection, the White Army became involved in the civil war. After the CPA was signed, attempts were made to disarm the militias, which were seen as a threat to the government of Southern Sudan. SPLM/A’s forced disarmament campaign led to resistance and violent clashes in late 2005. Subsequent disarmament initiatives emphasized a voluntary approach. Some communities have since rearmed and contribute to ongoing insecurity in the Jonglei state. Considered a volatile group, the White Army takes its name from the white ash rebels put on their faces as protection from insects. The group’s claims to have as many as 25,000 armed men have not been confirmed. In the violence at the end of 2013, the White Army reaffirmed its anti-Kiir position, loyalty to former Vice-President Machar, and commitment to regime change.

12. The Maban Self-Defence Force: in 2014 this group was blamed for the deaths of six aid workers in the Maban region; the UN then removed 220 workers from the region. Little is known about this group.

Inactive/old rebel groups:

13. South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF): The SSDF was involved in the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005), aligned with the Government of Sudan. The SSDF integrated into the SPLA forces in January 2006, in accord with the CPA.

14. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA): This umbrella organization of 13 political parties was formed in 1989 to oppose the regime of President Omar al-Bashir. After fighting in the second civil war, the NDA disarmed when the CPA was signed. In its 2005 agreement with Khartoum, the NDA was granted ministerial posts in the government of Sudan. Past support for the NDA came from the governments of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Uganda. Groups in the alliance include: Sudan Alliance Forces, Beja Congress Forces, and New Sudan Brigade.

15. The Eastern Front: This coalition, made up of Beja and Rashaidah Arab rebel groups (the Beja Congress and the Free Lions respectively), is based in eastern Sudan. They seek a more equal distribution of oil profits and greater political representation. The Eastern Front and the Sudanese government signed the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement on October 14, 2006, in Asmara. Members of the Eastern Front have been incorporated into the Government of National Unity.

16. The Kush Liberation Front (KLF): Abdelwahab Adem formed this armed rebel group in Sudan’s northern territory of Nubia in 2007, reportedly in response to government proposals for electricity-producing dams, which would displace hundreds of thousands of Nubians and submerge hundreds of archeological sites. The Government of Sudan is still pursuing these projects amid ongoing protests. The Nubians view themselves as a distinct ethnic group in Sudan, with a distinct language and culture. Because many Nubians feel that the central government is using dams to exterminate Nubian culture and seize their land, there is widespread support among them for the KLF. The KLF claims a friendly relationship with rebels in Darfur, but denies receiving any support from them.

International Actors:

17. United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA): Implemented June 17, 2011, it was created to support the demilitarization of Abyei as negotiated in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The operation is authorized to use force to protect civilians and provide humanitarian aid in the border regions. In November 2013, UNISFA’s mission was extended to May 2014. In October 2014, it was extended to February 28, 2015.

18. United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS): Implemented July 9, 2011 as a successor to UNMIS for an initial period of one year, UNMISS is mandated to consolidate peace and security and to help establish conditions for development in South Sudan. In December 2013 the Mission grew from 7,900 to 13,823 personnel to strengthen peacekeeping operations during the political and security crisis. Its focus shifted to protecting civilians, facilitating humanitarian assistance, monitoring and reporting on human rights, and preventing further intercommunal violence. A November 25 resolution extended this mandate until May 30, 2015.

19. United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS): UNMIS was tasked with monitoring and supporting the political, military, humanitarian and developmental aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Its mandate officially ended on July 9, 2011.

20. African Union (AU): South Sudan joined the AU shortly after independence in July 2011. The AU argued against unilateral actions in Abyei and does not recognize the results of the unofficial referendum held in Abyei in October 2013, which indicated overwhelming support for joining South Sudan.

21. Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD): IGAD mediated peace talks between Sudan and Southern Sudan between 1999 and 2005, and again in 2010 and 2011. In January 2014, in the midst of a new violent outbreak, IGAD mediated talks in Ethiopia between former South Sudan Vice-President Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir, establishing a precarious ceasefire.

Status of the Fighting

2015 Conflict increased in April; tensions between Sudan and South Sudan escalated when Sudan bombed areas in South Sudan suspected to be linked to the Sudan Revolutionary Front. Fighting also broke out in Malakal late in the month between government troops and the Shilluk ethnic group under the command of the SPLA. Ten thousand people fled back to ethnic Shilluk territory, with an additional four thousand seeking shelter with UNMISS. Low-level conflict in West Equatoria and West Bahr el Ghazal continued during the summer. In accordance with the peace deal that went into effect August 30, Ugandan forces completely withdrew from the area on November 2; they had been involved since December 2013.  

Despite official implementation of the peace deal, sporadic low-level conflict continued, largely in the Equatoria region (Al Jazeera). UNSC extended the UNMISS mandate to July 2016 and authorized the use of drones.  

2014 Ceasefires were reached in January, August and November, but attacks and clashes persisted. While there was generally less fighting during the rainy season that began in May, there were intense clashes in July; fighting picked up in November. UN and Human Rights Watch reports emphasized the brutality, detailing the targeting of civilians, war crimes and human rights violations. Among the most deadly incidents was an attack on the city of Bentiu in which hundreds of non-Nuers and Nuers who were seen as not supporting the rebels were killed. Radio stations incited ethnic violence. In April armed rebel youths attacked a UN camp in Bor, killing 58. After six South Sudanese aid workers were killed in Maban in August, the UN removed 220 aid workers from the area. Some analysts were concerned that this conflict would exacerbate problems between Ethiopia and Eritrea and between Uganda and Sudan; these states all have interests in South Sudan and are experiencing additional strain from the influx of refugees. Uganda deployed troops to South Sudan in December 2013, officially authorizing their intervention in January 2014. Their initial mandate was to evacuate Ugandan nationals and help protect infrastructure, but they also joined South Sudanese government troops in operations against opposition forces.

2013 Interethnic fighting among Nuer, Murle, and Dinka groups intensified, with violence in July leaving many dead and hundreds injured. In April, a revenge attack by SPLA soldiers on a hospital in Eastern Equatoria left 20 dead, including four medical staff. In August, dozens of SPLA soldiers were jailed for human rights abuses in Jonglei, and hundreds of protestors took to the streets in Juba against deteriorating security. David Yau Yau and his rebel group led many attacks in Pibor county, Jonglei, on SPLA soldiers, Dinka majority villages, and UNMISS peacekeepers. The fighting displaced tens of thousands and left at least 350 dead, including five UN peacekeepers. On January 6, 2014, the government announced cessation of hostilities with Yau Yau after successful peace talks.

On December 15, President Salva Kiir accused former Vice-President Riek Machar of an attempted coup, which Machar denied. Fighting broke out between soldiers loyal to Machar and other SPLA soldiers, with sides firnubg along ethnic lines (Dinka vs. Nuer). In the first few days of violence, between 400 and 500 people were killed, including two Indian UN peacekeepers. The towns of Bor, Bentiu, Malakal, among others, changed hands several times between December 2013 and February 2014. The UN base in Jonglei was attacked on December 20. After 10 days of fighting, the UN announced a doubling of peacekeeping and police forces to 14,000 troops, and the international community called for an end to hostilities. In January 2014, the UN estimated that there were at least 739,100 internally displaced people, more than 123,400 who had fled to neighbouring countries, and nearly 70,000 seeking refuge inside UN compounds. Reports of the number killed range from 1,000 to 10,000. A ceasefire took effect January 24, 2014 after talks in Ethiopia, but thousands of civilians and aid workers continued to flee ongoing violence. Fighting broke out again in mid- February 2014, with the UN calling South Sudan a dire humanitarian situation.

2012 In January, an estimated 8,000 Lou Nuer youth attacked Murle civilians in retaliation for 2011 cattle raids. According to UNMISS, some Nuer youth wore SPLA uniforms. NGOs reported approximately 2,000 Murle deaths; UNMISS reported approximately 900 Murle deaths, in addition to at least 276 Lou Nuer deaths. The SPLA began to kill, rape and torture Murle civilians in March. In response, some Murle youth joined rebel militias. In military campaigns against the rebels, the SPLA killed and injured many civilians. Use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force was widely reported. Rebel militias also killed civilians. In August and September, the SPLA clashed with militias loyal to David Yau Yau, killing  approximately 90, including an unknown number of civilians. The UN reported that, despite efforts to clear explosives, 10 people were killed by mines and unexploded ordnance.

Conflict flared around the Heglig oil fields in Sudan, near the border with South Sudan, as SPLA invaded Sudan and captured the area. Sudanese forces dropped bombs and initiated ground attacks on South Sudan,  killing and injuring dozens in the border region. The UN Security Council called for the immediate withdrawal of all armed forces from disputed areas. Plans for peace negotiations began after South Sudan withdrew its troops from the oil fields, but attacks and bombardments along the border continued.

2011 In June, fighting between the Sudanese army and forces led by the northern faction of the SPLM erupted in the border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Unconfirmed eyewitness reports stated that Sudanese forces used ethnic-cleansing tactics, systematically killing and displacing civilians. Satellite images were taken of what appeared to be three mass graves in South Kordofan.

2010 Tribal violence, cattle raids, and the fallout of April national elections caused injuries and deaths. An estimated 200,000 people fled their homes. In January, 140 people were reportedly killed and 90 wounded, and 30,000 head of cattle stolen by cattle raiders. There were numerous clashes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and civilians who refused to disarm, in violation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Failed electoral candidate General George Arthor and a group of mutinous soldiers violently contested the election of the Southern Sudan President. Otherwise, the elections were relatively peaceful. Khartoum bombed the disputed border region between Bahr el Ghazal and southern Darfur in November and Southern Sudan in December, in violation of the CPA.

2009 An additional 250,000 fled their homes in Southern Sudan, adding to the 4.9-million internally displaced in Sudan. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) attacked villages, killing and abducting civilians. Reports stated that women and children were increasingly targeted by rebel forces and the LRA.

2008 Fighting broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Abyei town in May. Scores were killed and more than 50,000 displaced. The Abyei Road Map Agreement was signed by the National Congress Party of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement on June 8. It authorized a joint military force and a civilian administration in Abyei, and referred the question of borders to the Permanent Court of Arbitration. But the situation remained tense; in June, a UN observer was shot in the head during a clash between SPLA and SFA troops near Abyei. An attempted coup in May by rebels based in Darfur killed an estimated 465 people. The Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group fleeing Uganda, was also responsible for killing and abducting civilians in Southern Sudan.

2007 The Sudanese government threatened military action after what it described as a Chadian military attack left 17 Sudanese soldiers dead. Deby claimed that Chadian forces were chasing rebels into Sudan, where he said they were receiving protection from Sudanese troops. Despite the signing of a non-aggression pact by Chad’s President Idriss Deby and Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al- Bashir, tensions between the countries remained high. Many feared that the failure to ratify key elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including the redeployment and demobilization of troops in northern Sudan, would jeopardize previous gains. Fighting in the northern territory of Nubia between anti-government protestors and Sudanese troops killed four; an estimated 24 people were injured and approximately 36 Nubian leaders, as well as four journalists, were arrested in the protests. The Kush Liberation Front formed in Nubia.

2006 In the south  the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) clashed with the White Army while attempting to enforce a government-imposed disarmament program. Clashes over cattle-watering rights between the Lou Nuer and Jikany peoples caused civilian fatalities as well as mass displacement. Government-aligned militias remained in the Yuai area. Many were killed in the worst fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the government-backed South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) since the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Escalating violence in the Upper Nile and Jonglei regions forced Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) to suspend operations and withdraw personnel.

2005 Violence between Dinka and Zande ethnic groups erupted in May in Lakes state and in December in Western Equatoria state in Southern Sudan. There were clashes in eastern Sudan between the Sudanese government and the rebel alliance, the Eastern Forces in June, with heavy casualties reported on both sides. Government troops and protestors clashed in several cities, including the capital Khartoum. Thousands of Dinka refugees began returning to Southern Sudan in December.

2004 Reported conflict in Upper Nile and Bahr al-Ghazal appeared to violate a ceasefire extension. A significant number of civilians returned to parts of Bahr al-Ghazal. A joint project of the SPLA, Sudanese government, and aid agencies began to clear landmines in the South.

2003 In spite of a ceasefire agreement, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and government forces clashed in early 2003, primarily in the Western Upper Nile region. There were few reported incidents of conflict for the rest of the year, possibly due to the presence of an international Verification and Monitoring team and Civilian Protection Monitoring team.

2002 A tentative peace agreement did not prevent clashes between government and Southern forces. The most violent confrontations occurred in the Western Upper Nile, one of the country’s richest oil regions. Both sides were accused of targeting civilians.

2001 Fighting continued between government and rebel forces. In June, the government undertook the largest offensive against the Nuba since 1992. In January and again in August, oil installations were the target of rebel offensives. The government continued aerial bombardments of rebel and civilian targets.

2000 Fighting between government forces and rebels continued, mainly in the Kassala province in the northeast and Bahr el Ghazal in the South. There was intense fighting in Bahr el Ghazal. Government aerial attacks on civilian positions in the South intensified.

1999 Fighting between government forces and rebel groups in the South and the North continued. At the end of the year, government forces controlled some garrison towns in the South and two-thirds of the northern part of the country. Government aerial bombardment of civilian targets in rebel-held areas continued.

1998 The fighting slowed but did not stop with a July ceasefire, which permitted humanitarian relief into the ravaged, famine-stricken regions of the South. Steady fighting continued in the north and east where the ceasefire was not in effect.

Number of Dead and Displaced

Total: The conflict in Sudan led to the deaths of an estimated two million people. Since the Republic of South Sudan became independent in 2011, between 52,000 and 104,200 people have been killed in conflict.

2015 According to ACLED 3,152 people were killed: 2,239 as a direct result of armed conflict and 846 in violence against civilians (ACLED, Real time Complete All Africa File, results filtered for South Sudan, 2015).

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP): The UNHCR reported 265,887 refugees and 632 asylum seekers residing in South Sudan in June 2015 (UNHCR). An additional 744,102 refugees and 3,885 asylum seekers were reported to have originated from South Sudan. According to the UN OCHA, there were approximately 1.6 million internally displaced persons by December 2015 (UNOCHA).  

2014 Aid organizations have condemned the poor tracking of conflict deaths in South Sudan. International Crisis Group estimated that since December 2013, 50,000 people had died, although a more accurate number could be as high as 100,000.

Refugees and IDPs: According to UNHCR, there were 508,553 refugees and 4,091 asylum seekers from South Sudan and 1,251,050 IDPs in July 2014. As many as 100,000 IDPs were living in UN Protection of Civilians sites.

2013 According to International Crisis Group, more than 1,400 people were killed and hundreds wounded. The dead included at least 34 soldiers, 153 militants, and more than 1,000 civilians. Most deaths occurred at the end of the year during an intense outbreak of violence related to accusations of an attempted coup by former Vice-President Riek Machar. In January 2014, 200 people drowned in a Nile ferry accident while attempting to flee the fighting. Violence continued in 2014, with reports of as many as 10,000 people killed.

In May, more than 23,500 people fled the fighting in Jonglei state. In mid-2013, there were an estimated 401,433 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Sudan. By the end of January 2014, the UN estimated that there were at least 739,100 IDPs, while more than 123,400 had fled into neighbouring countries. More than 70,000 sought refuge at UN bases.

In mid-2013, the UNHCR estimated that there were 102,651 South Sudanese refugees and 25,546 asylum seekers in neighbouring countries. By April 2014, nearly 342,000 had fled to Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia seeking refuge.

2012 International Crisis Group reported the deaths of approximately 364 people, while the U.S. Department of State reported between 1,278 and 2,096 deaths.

2011 The United Nations reported hundreds killed in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, while 200,000 Sudanese fled South Kordofan for South Sudan. In September, the UN reported that nearly 30,000 Sudanese had fled from the Blue Nile region into neighbouring Ethiopia and South Sudan.

2010 Between 400 and 1,000 people were killed in ethnic conflict, cattle raids and clashes between government forces, rebels and armed civilians. Fighting displaced an estimated 200,000 people.

2009 Between 1,200 and 2,500 people were killed in Lord’s Resistance Army attacks, cattle raids, ethnic conflict and clashes between government and rebel forces. LRA attacks killed approximately 188 and displaced 68,000 between January and September.

2008 Fatalities exceeded 200.

2007 According to verifiable reports, government soldiers killed four civilians during an anti-government protest by Nubians in June and 17 soldiers were killed by the Chadian military. Unconfirmed reports claimed that hundreds died.

2006 An estimated 500 people were killed.

2005 More than 250 people, mostly civilians, were confirmed killed; many more likely died in remote regions of heavy fighting.

2004 Unconfirmed reports indicate that an estimated 600 civilians were killed.

2003 Between 30 and 100 people were killed as a direct result of the conflict–a significant decline in numbers from the previous few years.

2002 By October, at least 1,300 civilians and combatants had been killed in the fighting. Thousands of civilians died from war-related famine and disease.

2001 More than 1,500 combatants were killed. Consequences of war, including famine, killed thousands of civilians.

2000 Hundreds of people were reported killed in the fighting.

1999 While an accurate death toll was not available, many observers reported fewer deaths than in the previous year.

1998 At least 70,000 deaths were reported from the war-induced famine in the first half of the year, with a significant, though unknown, number of deaths stemming directly from the conflict. Most conflict dead were civilian.

Political Developments

2015 In mid-February June elections were postponed for two years while political negotiations continued. In March Parliament extended the terms of President Kiir and other elected officials by three years (Reuters).

A united international community pressed for peace talks. In March IGAD announced the formation of IGAD-Plus to include the AU, China, the EU, and Troika members (the United States, United Kingdom, and Norway) in peace talks. In May the merging of the IGAD peace process and the SPLM reunification process was announced. A July IGAD-Plus mediation resulted in a draft peace agreement. All parties to the conflict signed the peace agreement and declared a permanent ceasefire effective August 30 (International Crisis Group).

By December President Kiir had unilaterally dissolved Sudan’s original 10 regional states and created 28 new ones, appointing 28 new governors; oil-producing areas remained under federal control (Al Jazeera). In December Riek Machar reorganized the SPLM/A-IO amid discussions on whether the SPLM/A-IO should remain an independent party or rejoin the governing SPLM.

2014 Two weeks into the conflict, the African Union created a commission to investigate reports of war crimes; as of February 2015 the report had not been released. Discussions of an arms embargo against South Sudan continued: the EU had an arms embargo in place, but other countries were still supplying arms. China declared that it would stop selling arms to South Sudan. UNMISS extended its mandate to May 2015. China announced that it would send 700 troops as a peacekeeping force. The United States and EU imposed sanctions against select military leaders on both sides. In November the United States announced that it would introduce a draft resolution for further sanctions at the UN. Alarms were raised about the state of democratic rights in South Sudan; reporting on harassment of media representatives, Human Rights Watch expressed concerns about freedom of the press. The government’s new security bill enabled security forces to arrest and detain without a warrant. Among many attempts at peace talks was a power-sharing agreement in which Machar would become prime minister and Kiir president; it collapsed over disagreements on the distribution of power. Grassroots peacebuilding efforts were organized through the National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation (NPPR).

2013: Relations with Sudan were somewhat better. In March, the two states agreed on a demilitarized border zone and an oil revenue methodology. Sudanese President al-Bashir visited South Sudan in April for the first time since independence and established a Joint Security Committee (JSC). However, South Sudanese President Kiir and al-Bashir repeatedly accused each other of supporting rebels. Al-Bashir threatened to close oil pipelines later in the year. In an unofficial referendum in late October, the Ngok Dinka tribe in Abyei voted almost unanimously to join South Sudan. Sudan dismissed the results and South Sudan did not endorse the results. In November, the UN extended the Abyei peacekeeping mission until May 2014.

In January, more than 30 top army officers were dismissed. In April, 3,000 South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) fighters surrendered following an offer of presidential amnesty and were integrated into the SPLA. In August, dozens of SPLA soldiers were jailed for human rights abuses in Jonglei state, and hundreds of civilians protested deteriorating security. In early January 2014, the government announced cessation of hostilities with rebel David Yau Yau after successful peace talks.

In June, Kiir dismissed Ministers of Finance and Cabinet Affairs, who were reputedly involved in a multimillion-dollar scandal. After months of power-struggle, on July 23, Kiir sacked Vice-President Riek Machar and all cabinet and deputy ministers. A week later, Kiir announced a new, smaller cabinet with James Wani Igga the new Vice-President. On December 15, Kiir accused Machar of an attempted coup, which Machar denied. Days later, 10 high-ranking political figures were arrested for collaborating with Machar; another five remained at large. There were clashes between soldiers loyal to Machar and other SPLA soldiers; violence quickly escalated along ethnic lines–Dinka vs. Nuer. At the end of January 2014, seven politicians were charged with treason in connection with the alleged coup attempt. Negotiations began in Ethiopia on January 4, 2014, mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and a ceasefire took effect on January 24. However, accusations of violations came from both sides; new violence broke out in Malakal in mid-February.

2012 In June, South Sudan formally complained to the UN Security Council about the continued Sudanese presence in Abyei. Negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan, mediated by the African Union, began in March and reached agreement on issues of nationality and a border demarcation process before falling apart. The talks restarted in September and in December, initial agreement was reached on the demilitarized zone and oil exploration and transportation fees. In May, Jonglei tribal leaders signed a peace agreement. In December, a UN peacekeeping plane was shot down by the South Sudanese Army; four crew members died. The government claimed that the plane had been mistaken for a Sudanese aircraft. According to UNICEF, eight children employed by the SPLA were demobilized; hundreds of cases of SPLA child soldiers were unresolved. UNICEF reported 250 confirmed cases of SPLA recruitment or use of children at the end of year. South Sudan conducted campaigns to discourage families from sending children to SPLA military camps.

2011 The Republic of South Sudan officially became a country on July 9 after southerners overwhelmingly chose secession in a January referendum. There was heavy fighting in the resource-rich regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, both historically sympathetic to the South, but excluded from the referendum process. Rebel groups in these regions, including SPLM/A-N (a faction of the SPLM formed after secession), JEM and two other SPLM/A factions, came together to form the Sudanese Revolutionary Front and clashed with the Sudanese army. Malik Agar, leader of SPLM/A-N, called on the international community to pressure President al-Bashir to end attacks on civilians. The Sudanese government accused Juba of supporting rebel groups in South Kordofan. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement urging “parties to immediately cease all hostilities and allow access to the humanitarian agencies to all affected areas to provide vital assistance to the civilian population.”

2010 Sudan held its first multiparty elections in 24 years. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Southern Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit were reelected. Observers from the European Union and the Carter Center reported that the elections failed to meet international standards. Despite this, the results were internationally recognized and the United States pledged to work with the elected government. Preparations for the January 2011 referendum on independence for Southern Sudan continued proceeded.

2009 Elections were rescheduled to April 2010. In October, opposition parties and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) signed the Juba Declaration for Dialogue and National Consensus, calling for a democratic transition. The International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes, the first time the ICC has indicted a sitting head of state. Sudan rejected he indictment. The International Court of Arbitration in The Hague determined new borders for the disputed Abyei region in Sudan. Both sides pledged to respect the ruling.

2008 In June, a new Road Map agreement was reached to resolve the situation in Abyei caused by North-South clashes in May. New election laws were passed; under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), elections were to be held in July 2009. In July, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) applied for an arrest warrant against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In the second half of the year, the government of Sudan began a Sudan People’s Initiative for internal dialogue with civilians, engaged in external peace talks in Qatar, promised commitment to UNAMID deployment (in Darfur) and offered assurances of increased accountability. Some analysts saw these moves as diplomatic ploys. There were repeated reports of violations of human and civil rights by the governments in the North and South.

2007 After a violent clash between the armed forces of Chad and Sudan, Chad’s President Idriss Deby and Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir signed a non-aggression pact in Tripoli. In October, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) ended its participation in the coalition government over disputes with the National Congress (NC) on ratification of key elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Outstanding issues included the redeployment of northern troops from southern oil fields, demarcation of borders in the Abyei region and between the North and South, and the fate of hundreds of political prisoners in northern jails. At the end of December, only border demarcation remained unresolved.

2006 An operation to demobilize militia and rebel forces in the South and eastern parts of the country resulted in renewed hostility toward the government in Khartoum. In a statement released by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 appeared to be “crumbling,” as important elements were ignored. Sudan’s first Vice-President, Salva Kiir, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), demanded the arrest of two pro-Khartoum generals, Gabriel Tanginya and Thomas Mabior, who were reportedly responsible for atrocities committed in the Southern town of Malakal in November.

2005 Sudan’s new constitution was ratified in July in accordance with the peace agreement signed in late 2004. In September, after delays caused by the death of SPLM leader John Garang, the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement agreed to a new power-sharing government. Under the agreement, the National Congress Party received 52 per cent of executive positions and the SPLM received 28 per cent. Disagreements remained over control of the energy ministry and other key positions. South Sudan Defence Force militias refused to join the new government. In accordance with the peace agreement, South Sudan formed an autonomous government in October and later ratified a new constitution. In November, the Sudanese government and Eastern Front rebels agreed to future talks.

2004 In June, the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) signed six key protocols, paving the way for a peace settlement. Peace talks were later suspended. Donors began to plan the reconstruction of war-torn Southern Sudan. Peace talks resumed in early October. A permanent truce was reached on December 31 when the government and rebels signed a comprehensive peace agreement.

2003 Kenyan-led negotiations between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Sudanese government continued under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Significant gains included an amendment to the 2002 Memorandum of Understanding on the cessation of hostilities and an agreement on security arrangements. By the end of the year, the sides were close to an agreement on terms for a six-year transition period, as outlined in the Machakos Protocol of 2002. International observers continued to monitor the ceasefire. But obstacles remained, including millions of displaced Sudanese and ceasefire noncompliance by breakaway rebel factions. The UN Security Council expressed interest in actively supporting the peace process.

2002 In January, the military and rebels agreed to a ceasefire in the Nuba Mountains. Peace talks mediated by IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) made some headway. In July, the Machakos Protocol was signed between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). The protocol provided for a six-and-a-half-year interim period, to be followed by a referendum that would allow the people of the South to choose between remaining part of Sudan or forming an independent country. During the interim period, sharia law would not be enforced in the South and a ceasefire would be extended to March 2003. In November, the parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding and agreed to resume talks in January 2003. However, fighting continued; violence broke out in the Western Upper Nile region.

2001 The IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) Peace Process yielded few concrete results. The Egyptian-Libyan Initiative gained greater support from the government and by mid-year Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi was mandated by IGAD to try to merge the two processes. The September 11 attacks on the United States stopped a decision on the Sudan Peace Act by the U.S. Congress. U.S. Special Envoy John Danforth began a six-month confidence-building initiative in November.

2000 In March in Geneva, Switzerland, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) agreed to a total ban on the use of landmines. The Umma Party withdrew from the National Democratic Alliance in March. In May, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir dismissed Hassan Al-Turabi as secretary-general of the ruling National Congress.

1999 In July, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), mediating between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A, revitalized the Sudanese Peace Process by establishing a full-time secretariat in Nairobi. A month later, Egypt and Libya introduced a separate mediation initiative. In November, the Umma Party, one of the rebel groups in the North, signed a preliminary peace agreement with the government. At year’s end, Hassan Al-Turabi, the ideologue of the Islamic government, was sidelined in a power struggle with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

1998 The rebels accused the government of agreeing to cease attacks as a ploy to regroup and rearm.

Background 

A central focus of fighting in Sudan was the attempt by the South, usually described as African and Christian or animist, to gain autonomy or independence from the North, usually described as Arab and Islamic.

But conflict has gone beyond the north-south dimension to include various groups in the North—Muslim and secular—in armed rebellion against the National Islamic Front Government. The southern forces split along regional and ethnic lines in 1991 and were as much at war with each other as with the North.

A Peace Accord in 1997 between the government and breakaway rebel factions in the South established the transitional Southern Co-ordination Council to lead to a referendum, but since the accord did not include the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the war continued. Support for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came from the neighbouring governments of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda.

An Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) process, initiated in 1994, set the stage for more fruitful talks in 2002 and 2003 between the government and the SPLM/A, leading to a peace agreement in 2004.

The regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile are dominated by non-Arab people who largely identify with the southern Sudanese. Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), these regions (rich in natural resources, including oil, agricultural land, water and minerals), along with the oil-rich Abyei, were afforded special status, including a degree of autonomy from Khartoum. They are defined in the CPA as the Protocol Areas. The Protocol for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile also called for a census and elections within four years of signing of the CPA.

In 2006 the CPA appeared to be in trouble. Disarmament programs faltered and numerous clashes in the South were reported between SPLM forces, Khartoum-backed groups and various rebel factions. Although progress in implementing the CPA was made during 2007, disputes over border demarcation remained, particularly in areas rich in oil resources.

In 2010 Sudan held its first multiparty elections in 24 years, re-electing Omar al-Bashir as president and Salva Kiir (SPLM) as South Sudan’s president.

In January 2011 Sudan held a referendum on Southern Sudan self-determination and possible secession from the North. The results, announced February 7, showed overwhelming support for secession. The Republic of South Sudan officially became the world’s newest country on July 9, 2011.

The current conflict may be rooted in tribal and factional divisions that were previously hidden by the conflict between North and South Sudan. Fighting began in December 2013 when President Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused former Vice-President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of trying to overthrow him. Machar disputed the claims and launched a rebellion. The ensuing conflict created division along ethnic lines, with many battles fought over control of oil-producing areas.

In 2015 the international community drafted a proposal for a peace agreement; all parties to the conflict signed the agreement and declared a permanent ceasefire. While the ceasefire came into effect August 30, low-intensity conflict persisted throughout the country.

Arms Sources

Russia has been the top supplier of heavy weapons to Sudan since a 2002 agreement, in which Sudan was given rights to manufacture Russian battle tanks in exchange for oil concessions. Sudan received fighter aircraft from the Russian Aircraft Corporation in 2004.

Between 1992 and 2005, 96 per cent of reported transfers of small arms and light weapons were from China and Iran. Chinese companies helped to build at least three weapons factories outside Khartoum, one of which supplies ammunition. Between 2001 and 2012, 58 per cent of Sudan’s reported purchases of small arms and light weapons, ammunition and conventional weapons were from China.

Other arms suppliers included Iraq, Libya, former Soviet bloc states (especially Kazakhstan and Belarus), Yemen and a British arms dealer.

According to Human Rights First, more than 30 countries sold arms to Khartoum in recent years.

Opposition groups received military assistance and weapons from Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda and captured significant quantities of weapons from the Sudanese Armed Forces over the decades.

In 2009 an estimated two million small arms were in the hands of Sudanese civilians. Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), with an estimated 125,000 fighters, had 175,000 small arms. The North had an estimated troop strength of 225,000 and 310,000 small weapons.

Approximately $88-million (U.S.) was pledged to demilitarize SPLM/A rebels in a UN-backed Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Program (DDR) that started in Ed Damezine in February 2009. Also in 2009, the Southern Sudanese government carried out door-to-door confiscation of illegal weapons.

In 2010 the UN expressed concern over the flow of small arms and heavy munitions entering South Sudan. A Ukrainian freighter seized in the Gulf of Aden by Somali pirates and destined for South Sudan was packed with weapons, including 32 Soviet-era battle tanks.

The government of South Sudan accused Khartoum of arming the rebel militias responsible for attacks against Warrap State. Small Arms Survey found that Khartoum had armed South Sudanese rebels with Chinese-made weapons, contrary to end-user agreements with China.

In the first year of independence in 2011, South Sudan received weapons from Russia. In 2012 it imported weapons from Russia and Canada. In 2013 Canada supplied weapons to South Sudan. In 2014 suppliers included Canada and China, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.  Canadian imports consisted of armoured vehicles manufactured by a Canadian company in the UAE. South Sudan voted to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty in June 2013, but has not yet signed or ratified it.

Small Arms Survey reported in May 2014 that the governments of Sudan and South Sudan were major sources of arms to militants, either intentionally arming them or losing weapons to them in battle. Weapons also crossed porous borders between South Sudan and neighbours Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. Many identifying features (such as serial numbers) have been removed from arms in South Sudan, making them hard to trace. According to The Military Balance, the South Sudan military defence budget for 2015 was estimated at $1.35-billion, an increase from the previous year (The Military Balance, Vol. 116, 469).

Economic Factors

Oil in the South is a significant factor in the Sudanese conflict. The discovery of oil in the Western Upper Nile sparked intense fighting between government and southern forces for control of the region.

Despite sanctions by many UN member states, foreign investment quadrupled between 1996 and 2007, to approximately $2.3-billion. China, which purchases two-thirds of Sudan’s oil, invested $7-billion (U.S.), primarily in oil-related projects and infrastructure in Sudan.

Oil, water rights, cattle and pastoral land remained sources of conflict between ethnic groups and a point of contention between oil-rich South Sudan and Sudan. Before secession, oil comprised 95 per cent of Sudan’s gross income. After secession, South Sudan took with it nearly three-quarters of Sudan’s oil production. Approximately 98 per cent of South Sudan’s revenues come from oil; it has huge reserves, but relies on Sudan’s ports for export.

After a 14-month shutdown, an agreement between Sudan and South Sudan allowed oil production to resume on April 7, 2013. In May Sudanese President al-Bashir threatened to shut down oil pipelines if South Sudan supported rebels in Darfur, South Kordofan or Blue Nile states. Al-Bashir renewed his threat in June, accusing South Sudan of supporting rebels, but withdrew it in September after talks with South Sudanese President Kiir. In September 2013 the Ministry of Oil and Petroleum announced that South Sudan had received $969-million since resuming oil production in April, 20 per cent of which was paid to Sudan.

In June 2013 the presidents of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda agreed on the construction of two pipelines across East Africa, one of which would run from South Sudan to Lamu, Kenya. This would relieve some of South Sudan’s dependence on Sudan’s ports for oil export.

The outbreak of violence in late 2013 had China, South Sudan’s largest oil sector investor, worried and fully invested in peace talks. Before secession, China invested approximately $20-billion in Sudan and pledged another $8-billion to President Kiir in 2012 for oil infrastructure projects. Between January and October 2013 China imported nearly 14 million barrels of oil from South Sudan. Between mid-December 2013 and early January 2014, oil production dropped 20 per cent, and 300 Chinese workers were evacuated. By mid-2014, oil production had decreased by approximately a third.

On February 1, 2014 the UN stated that 3.7 million people were in acute need of food as a result of the violence, and called South Sudan a dire humanitarian situation. While famine was narrowly averted in 2014, aid agencies warned that food insecurity was likely to be a major concern in 2015.

In 2015 President Kiir announced plans to normalize the currency exchange rate; doing so would enable South Sudan to access international loans that could support the peace implementation plan (International Crisis Group).  

map: CIA Factbook

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