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


The Conflict at a Glance

Who (are the main combatants): The Government of South Sudan, with the support of Uganda, opposes rebel militias. Violence is largely between supporters of the government of President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former Vice-President Riek Machar. There is dissension within the ranks of the South Sudanese military, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). South Sudan also has disputes with Sudan, the country from which it separated in 2011, over borders, oil production, and support for rebel groups. In January 2016, a UN report accused all parties of war crimes and recommended an arms embargo (International Crisis Group).

What (started the conflict): Animosity between the Dinka and Nuer tribes has inflamed the conflict. In December 2013, President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, accused former Vice-President Riek Machar (from the Nuer tribe) of being responsible for a failed coup. Soldiers and rebels loyal to Machar began to fight official SPLA security forces, which are largely Dinka. Attacks by rebel general David Yau Yau left more than 350 dead and more than 23,000 displaced. He claimed to be fighting for increased rights for the Murle people and was allegedly supported by the Sudanese government.

When (has fighting occurred): In July 2011, South Sudan seceded from Sudan, 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; major violence broke out in mid-December and has continued since.

Where (has the conflict taken place): In December 2013, fighting began in the capital city of Juba and quickly spread to Unity, Eastern Equatoria, and Jonglei states, focusing on key oil cities. Much fighting occurred in Pibor County in Jonglei state, in the southeast of the country, bordering on Ethiopia.

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


2017 Fighting had spread across the country, with new fighting in the Greater-Upper Nile region. Caused by armed violence and a collapsing economy, a humanmade famine was declared in the northern state of Unity in February.  In June, South Sudan was no longer classified as being in a state of famine, because of increased aid, but 6-million people were still at risk of starvation.

The situation for children also greatly deteriorated in 2017. It is estimated that armed forces have recruited more than 19,000 children (up from 17,000 in 2016) as child soldiers or for other nefarious purposes.

Some estimates suggest that 85% of the nearly 4-million people who have been displaced by armed violence are women and children. There have been reports that the South Sudanese government is spending its oil revenue on weapons for the armed forces rather than to help civilians in dire need.

Although a ceasefire was declared in December, fighting has continued.  The ceasefire is a first step in negotiations, which include the revision of a realistic timeline for elections.

2016 In January, President Kiir appointed 50 members of the SPLM-IO opposition to parliament and reestablished SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar as first vice-president in a transitional unity government. SPLM-IO forces arrived in Juba, and Machar was sworn in April 26. However, sporadic fighting increased in June, and with no progress on implementation of the peace deal, the SPLA-IO prepared to return to war (International Crisis Group). In July, clashes between government forces and the SPLA-IO in Juba killed at least 272 (Al Jazeera). The Dinka, some uniformed and some not, killed 39 civilians and four police officers in Wau, most ethnic Balanda of the Fertit Tribes. Within a week, 50,000 were displaced from Wau (Al Jazeera).

After hesitating for several months, the South Sudanese government agreed to accept UN-mandated regional protection forces (RPF) in November (Al Jazeera). In September and October, the South Sudanese government had negotiated the RPF’s tasks and troop contributors with the UNSC Delegation (International Crisis Group). Feelings of political marginalization increased among non-Dinka groups (UNSC Report). In December, the UN Special Advisor on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng, called for a UN Security Council arms embargo to prevent ethnic violence from escalating to genocide (Al Jazeera). Later that month, the United States presented this proposal to the Security Council, but it was not accepted (Al Jazeera).

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 gained independence in July 2011, after a February referendum indicated overwhelming support for separation from Sudan. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (and leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and first Vice-President of Sudan), transitioned into the role of President of the new country. Independence followed a 22-year civil war and a six-year interim government. In July 2013 President Salva Kiir dismissed Vice-President Riek Machar and his entire cabinet after months of internal struggle.

Initially 97 per cent of parliamentary seats (160) were held by the SPLM party. In January 2016, President Kiir appointed 50 members of the SPLM/A-IO opposition to parliament (International Crisis Group). Machar was reinstated as first vice-present in 2016, but was sacked shortly after (International Crisis Group).

a. Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC): This SPLM 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: Sudan has reportedly supplied weaponry to anti-government forces in South Sudan.

In January 2005, a north-south power-sharing interim Government of National Unity was established through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The National Congress Party’s Omar Hassan al-Bashir became President of Sudan. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) first vice-president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, became president of the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan, established in October 2005.  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. In April 2010, both al-Bashir and Kiir were reelected. In February 2011, the Government held a referendum on secession in which Southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly for independence. The Republic of South Sudan was officially declared an independent state on July 9, 2011.

In 2016, South Sudanese troops were moved five miles south of Sudan and the shared border was opened. However, Sudan announced the closure of the border later that year. On June 6, South Sudan and Sudan agreed to withdraw troops from the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone along their shared border and to stop supporting rebel groups hostile to the governments. South Sudan refused to contribute troops to the regional protection forces set to deploy in 2017 (International Crisis Group).

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. 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. In 2016, more than 70,000 South Sudanese crossed the border to Uganda within a month of July violence in Juba (Al Jazeera). Uganda has refused to contribute troops to the regional protection forces that South Sudan wanted implemented in 2017 (International Crisis Group).


Rebel groups:

5. Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO or SPLM/A-IO): Former Vice-President Riek Machar formed the SPLM-IO to oppose the SPLM, after he was fired along, with the cabinet, by President Salva Kiir in December 2013. The SPLM-IO has troops from several ethnic groups; a large number of Nuer soldiers defected from the SPLM/A after it massacred Nuer people in December 2013. After an August 2015 peace agreement between the SPLM and SPLM-IO, talks on the SPLM-IO’s joining the SPLM government in a power-sharing arrangement took place. In December 2015, Machar reorganized the SPLM-IO. In 2016, the peace agreement between Kiir and Machar collapsed (UNSC Report). Machar confirmed his and the SPLM-IO’s commitment to armed rebellion.

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 allegiances several times during the war and immediately before South Sudan’s independence, accusing Juba of corruption and tribal favouritism. In April 2011, the SSLM reemerged under the leadership of Peter Gatdet in Unity State. In April 2013, 3,000 SSLA fighters handed in their weapons after receiving presidential pardons, and were integrated into official SPLA security forces in August and September that year.

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 over grazing rights with the Lou Nuer tribe. 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: In April 2012, the rebel leader was appointed overall commander of revolutionary forces in Jonglei by the SSDA and SSLA leadership. Yau Yau’s stated goal was to win greater rights for the Murle ethnic group, rather than to overthrow the government; however he remains popular with anti-government forces across South Sudan. His troops were 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 an end to hostilities with David Yau Yau after successful peace talks.

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

10. Justice and Equality Movement (JEM): Formed in 2003, JEM has fought against Sudanese military forces in Darfur. In 2011, JEM militants allied with the SPLM-N and moved some forces to the border regions. JEM leader Khalil 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 denied.

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

Inactive 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 accordance 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, UNISFA was created to support the demilitarization of Abyei as it negotiated 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): UNMISS began July 9, 2011 as a successor to UNMIS for an initial period of one year. The mission 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. In 2016, UNMISS had 15,767 personnel and a budget of $1,081,799,400 (UNMISS Fact Sheet). UNMISS has experienced 48 troop fatalities since its establishment.

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 has argued against unilateral actions in the Abyei area of Sudan. It does not recognize the October 2013 results of Abyei’s unofficial referendum, 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

2017 In February, famine was declared in the state of Unity (also known as the Western Upper Nile). The UN ascribed this humanmade catastrophe to the civil war, violence, and lack of care for civilians.

In March, six aid workers from UNICEF and partner organizations, along with their driver, were killed in the “worst single attack on humanitarian staff” in the country’s civil war. Driving from the capital of Juba to the town of Pibor, they were in a clearly marked NGO vehicle. South Sudan has been considered the most dangerous country in the world for aid workers.

In April, government forces attacked the town of Wau, killing at least 16 civilians and displacing thousands of others. The same month, government forces killed at least 14 civilians in the town of Pajok.

By June, the famine was declared over in Unity, but 5.5-million South Sudanese were still relying on UN Aid to survive and 6-million were severely food insecure.

In July, a meeting was held between African Union and South Sudanese officials to plan for a hybrid court that will evaluate serious war crimes.

In August, the number of people from South Sudan seeking refuge in Uganda surpassed 1-million, while another million have escaped to Ethiopia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. More than half-a-million displaced children in northern Uganda refugee camps are without mothers or fathers.

In September, a convoy driver for the International Committee for the Red Cross was killed in the state of Equatoria, where violence has escalated.

On December 21, representatives of both President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar met in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. A ceasefire was signed by South Sudan’s Transitional Government of National Unity and opposition forces.

2016 In June, fighting increased as the government and SPLA-IO prepared to return to war. Attacks on Kajo Keji (formerly Central Equatoria State) and Raja (formerly Western Bahr el Ghazal State) demonstrated the need for cantonment and disarmament programs in those areas. On June 25, an armed group primarily composed of ethnic Fertit attacked and briefly captured Wau. July clashes between government forces and SPLA-IO in Juba left hundreds of fighters dead, including two Chinese peacekeepers (International Crisis Group). SPLA and SPLA-IO allegedly targeted Nuer clan members with tribal markings on their foreheads (UN News); at least 36,000 were displaced (Al Jazeera). Fighting was also renewed in Nasir (formerly Upper Nile state). SPLA-IO rebels carried out ambushes on Juba-Yei and Juba-Nimule roads, killing more than 30 people and targeting ethnic Dinka clan members (International Crisis Group).

The UN expressed increased concerns about ethnic cleansing and the risk of genocide (Al Jazeera), which President Kiir dismissed (Al Jazeera). Dinka clan members make up the majority of Kiir’s army and their attack in Wau was seen to have been ethnically motivated. At least 20 of the people killed in the Wau attack were Balanda, one of the Fertit tribes. Witnesses said that only people of the Fertit tribes were targeted. Thirty-nine civilians and four policemen were killed; within a week almost 50,000 were displaced. Government soldiers prevented access to the main road leading from the west of the town, and reports from civilians said that attackers were dressed in both government uniforms and civilian clothing (Al Jazeera).

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. Approximately 1.9 million are internally displaced and there are approximately 1.3 million refugees from South Sudan in neighbouring countries (UNOCHA).

2017 According to ACLED, there were some 3, 646 conflict-related deaths in 2017.

IDPS and Refugees: According to UNHCR, in 2017, there were some 668,192 refugees from South Sudan.

2016 The year saw an eightfold increase in casualties from the previous year, with 24,485 killed (ACLED Version 7, Real Time South Sudan File). In September, the number of refugees fleeing South Sudan surpassed one million. This included 185,000 who fled after the July eruption of violence in Juba (UNHCR). In December, UNOCHA reported 1,853,924 people internally displaced by violence (UNOCHA).

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

2017 In May 2017, President Kiir launched a national dialogue. He also announced plans to hold national elections in 2018, against the advice of the UN and AU. On December 21, a ceasefire was signed by government and rebel forces, which called for an immediate end to hostilities.

2016 On January 7, President Kiir appointed 50 members of the SPLM/A-IO opposition to parliament. Parties missed the January 22 deadline for the formation of a transitional government under the August 2015 peace agreement. On January 26, South Sudan troops moved five miles south of the Sudan border and the border was opened on January 27 in accordance with the 2012 deal (International Crisis Group). On the same day, Ugandan President Museveni received Riek Machar in Uganda to discuss the August 2015 deal and Sudan/South Sudan-Uganda relations. In February, the implementation of the peace deal seemed to progress when Kiir appointed Machar as first vice-president and began the movement of government forces 25 kilometres away from Juba, both in accordance with the deal (International Crisis Group).

On February 23, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) announced the implementation of transitional security arrangements, including the arrival of SPLA-IO forces in Juba (International Crisis Group). The first group of SPLM-A/IO arrived on March 28. Machar returned to Juba and was sworn in as first vice-president in a new unity government on April 26. On April 28, the government of South Sudan, SPLM-A/IO, and other political groups formed a transitional government. More than 1,500 SPLM-A/IO soldiers went to Juba. On May 27, the transitional unity government approved the cantonment of SPLM-A/IO forces in Greater Equatoria and Bahrel Ghazal (International Crisis Group).

In June, the government and SPLA-A/IO prepared to return to war with each other, but under pressure from IGAD, President Kiir and Riek Machar declared a ceasefire on July 11 (International Crisis Group). Machar was dismissed from the government in July after further conflict and went back into exile (BBC News). Machar was replaced by Mines Minister Taban Deng Gau, but was rejected by SPLA-IO military leaders and many SPLM-A/IO members (International Crisis Group). The UN assessment team noted that the transitional institutions were only partially inclusive (UNSC Report, p. 2). The government agreed to the AU-endorsed IGAD proposal to deploy regional protection forces (RPF) in South Sudan (Al Jazeera). Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya refused to contribute troops to the RPF (International Crisis Group).

In March, President Kiir sacked finance minister Banaba Marial Benjamin after he wrote that an academic from the disputed Abyei area was “Sudanese” rather than “South Sudanese.” Later in March, Sudan announced the closure of the border with South Sudan (International Crisis Group). On May 22, the government formed a committee to resolve disputes over the border and a number of other issues, as demanded by IGAD (International Crisis Group). On June 6, South Sudan and Sudan agreed to withdraw troops from the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone and to stop supporting rebel groups (International Crisis Group).

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.


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.

Arms Sources

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

According to Human Rights First, more than 30 countries have sold arms to Khartoum in recent years. Chinese companies helped build at least three light weapons factories outside Khartoum, including one that produces ammunition. Between 1992 and 2005, China and Iran were responsible for 96 per cent of reported transfers of small arms and light weapons to Sudan. Between 2001 and 2012, China alone provided 58 per cent of the small arms and light weapons, ammunition, and conventional weapons reportedly purchased by Sudan. Other arms suppliers included Iraq, Libya, former Soviet bloc states (especially Kazakhstan and Belarus), Yemen, and a British arms dealer.

Opposition groups have received military assistance and weapons from Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Uganda. Over the decades, they have also captured significant quantities of weapons from Sudan’s armed forces.

In 2009, Sudan’s military had an estimated troop strength of 225,000 and 310,000 small weapons, while Sudanese civilians held an estimated two million small arms. In the south, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), had an estimated 125,000 fighters and 175,000 small arms. In February 2009, a UN-backed Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Program (DDR) started in Ed Damezine; approximately $88-million was pledged to demilitarize SPLM/A rebels. The same year, the Southern Sudanese government carried out door-to-door confiscations of illegal weapons.

In 2010, the UN expressed concern over the flow of small arms and heavy munitions into South Sudan. Somali pirates seized a Ukrainian freighter in the Gulf of Aden that was packed with weapons, including 32 Soviet-era battle tanks, and destined for South Sudan. The Government of South Sudan accused Khartoum of arming rebel militias responsible for attacks against Warrap State. The Small Arms Survey found that Khartoum had armed South Sudanese rebels with Chinese-made weapons, contrary to end-user agreements with China.

Since South Sudan won its independence, the new country has received weapons from a few countries, including Russia (2011, 2012), Canada (2012, 2013, 2014), and China (2014). Canadian imports included armoured vehicles manufactured by a Canadian company based in the UAE. In June 2013, South Sudan voted to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty, but has not yet signed or ratified it.

In May 2014, Small Arms Survey reported that the militaries of Sudan and South Sudan were major arms sources for rebels, either intentionally arming rebel groups or losing weapons to them in battle. Weapons also crossed porous borders between South Sudan and neighbours Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. Many identifying features of arms (such as serial numbers) have been removed, 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, 2016, 469).

An Amnesty International report leaked that UK arms company, S-Profit Ltd., was involved in a large arms trade with South Sudan despite an EU arms embargo against South Sudan since 2011 (The Guardian). The director of the company has denied that it supplied arms sources to South Sudan, but the company remains silent regarding any involvement in intermediary roles (The Guardian).


Economic Factors

Southern oil reserves have long been a significant factor in the Sudanese conflict. The discovery of oil in the 1970s in South Sudan’s Western Upper Nile led to massive displacement of the indigenous population and sparked intense fighting for control of the region between government and southern forces. Between 1996 and 2007, foreign investment in Sudan quadrupled to approximately $2.3-billion, despite sanctions by many UN member states. By mid-2017, China, which purchases two-thirds of Sudan’s oil, had invested $15-billion over 20 years in Sudan’s oil sector (Middle East Monitor).

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

Due to heavy violence in oil-producing areas, oil production in South Sudan ground to a halt in the months before and following independence. After a 14-month shutdown, an agreement between Sudan and South Sudan allowed oil production to resume on April 7, 2013. A month later, 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 rebel groups in Sudan. In June 2013, the presidents of Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda agreed to construct two oil pipelines across East Africa, including one running from South Sudan to Lamu, Kenya. When completed, this infrastructure will relieve some of South Sudan’s dependence on Sudanese ports for oil export. In September 2013, al-Bashir withdrew his previous accusations after talks with South Sudanese President Kiir. The same month, the Ministry of Oil and Petroleum announced that South Sudan had earned $969-million since resuming oil production in April, with 20 per cent paid to Sudan.

In 2012, China pledged $8-billion to President Kiir of South Sudan for oil infrastructure projects. Between January and October 2013, China imported nearly 14 million barrels of oil from South Sudan. After a late 2013 outbreak of violence in the oil-producing regions  China, was fully invested in peace talks. 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.

By February 2014, South Sudan faced a dire humanitarian situation, with 3.7 million people in acute need of food. Famine was narrowly averted then, but 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 to enable South Sudan to access international loans that could support peace implementation (International Crisis Group).

In December 2016 UNOCHA reported more than 261,500 refugees in South Sudan (UNOCHA). Most lived in camps in the Upper Nile and Unity states, where conflict has been particularly intense. Tensions over scarce resources have increased between refugees and host communities (UNOCHA).

map: CIA Factbook

Spread the Word