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The War in South Sudan

Following decades of fighting, South Sudan formally became an independent state in July 2011. There was high expectation for growth and many believed they would not see another conflict in the country they fought so hard and so long for. However, war erupted in Juba in mid-December 2013 and quickly transformed into a national, political and ethnic crisis.


Since then, nearly 4 million people have been displaced. Of these more than 2 million have fled to neighboring countries, mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The crisis has made it hard for people to plant crops, disrupted livelihoods and markets and forced host and displaced communities to share the little they do have, leaving half the population facing extreme hunger. (Source: Oxfam).


South Sudan’s war began after President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused his former deputy Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of attempting a coup. Fighting has since killed more than 50,000 people, with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO) the main parties to the conflict.


A peace agreement was signed in August 2015, during Malong’s time as army chief, but the war has since splintered into myriad inter- and intra-communal conflicts, incorporating previously localised disputes over land, resources, and power. Observers say the dynamics change almost daily.


Peace talks have continuously failed and the security situation is unpredictable at best in many parts of the country. The nation is largely divided along ethnic lines – especially since the creation of new states, now a total of 32 – and traditional front lines are changing into widespread guerrilla warfare, with numerous militias also involved in the fighting. 




The Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD)-led peace process has proven difficult to resurrect. Opposition groups say IGAD partner states Uganda and Kenya (accused by the UN of fueling the conflict by supplying weapons) are on Kiir’s side. Some are arguing for the African Union and the UN to take over.


While some observers still back the IGAD process and think it’s important to give it the best chance possible, others see it is an outside intervention that has already failed and blame it for helping to further fragment the conflict.


The mandate for Kiir’s transitional government is due to run out in July and a government spokesman warned on Friday, 6 April, that any foot-dragging during negotiations by the opposition could lead to fresh elections.


The UN has warned that any attempt to hold elections before the country is in a more stable environment only risks deepening and extending the conflict. (Source: IRIN)