South Sudan

Working to support peace processes in Africa
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South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 agreement that brought civil war to an end.

Made up of the 10 southern-most states of Sudan, South Sudan is a diverse country home to over 60 different major ethnic groups. Shortly after independence, civil war broke out in 2013 following a dispute between the president and his then vice president. A power-sharing agreement was signed between the warring parties in August 2018 in a bid to bring the five-year civil war to an end however implementation has proven difficult. The political conflict has fed into ethnic tensions.


Capital City


Salva Kiir Mayardit



Mixed Presidential System

Government System


English, Arabic, Juba Arabic, Dinka, Bari, Zande, Nuer

Major Languages


South Sudan is home to more than 60 ethnic groups, separated into three language families. Northern Nilotic peoples like the Dinka, Nuer, and Shilluk live across the northern and eastern part of the country.

Ethnic Groups


The majority of South Sudan people are Christians alongside a significant number of Muslims and Animists and other traditional folk religion practitioners.


South Sudan's People

5 m
1 %
1 %


More than two million children, or over 70%, are out of school in South Sudan, putting at risk their futures and the future of the country. Some of the out-of-school children are living in pastoral communities, moving with their cattle and are not able to attend regular classes. The largest group of out-of-school children in South Sudan are girls. Poverty, child marriage and cultural and religious views all hinder girls’ education. South Sudan still has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the world. South Sudan’s education ranking in Africa 48 out of 54 countries.


Since conflict erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, violence and food insecurity have displaced more than 2.2 million people – internally and to neighbouring countries – and left millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), already active in South Sudan prior to the crisis, responded quickly to the rapidly expanding humanitarian needs and continues today to implement an integrated, multi‐sector approach to reach displaced and conflict-affected populations across the country. Through the Displacement Tracking Matrix, IOM serves as a key source for data and analysis on displaced populations in South Sudan, providing reliable information to inform humanitarian response planning.

The Economy

1 bn
20 %
50 %
Work in agriculture
130 th
In World

Primary Resources

Water, fertile agricultural land, gold, diamonds, petroleum, hardwoods, limestone, iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver

Secondary Resources

Agriculture, forests, hydropower, marble/dolomite, aluminum, scrap iron, aircraft parts, sawn wood, gas turbines

Social, Economic, and Governance indicators

Taken from the Ibrahim Index of African Governance

40 rd
Overall Governance
35 th
Human Development Score
30 rd
Sustainable Economic Opportunity score
30 rd
Safety & Rule of Law score

Ranked out of 54 African countries

Gender representation

Around 90% of South Sudan’s women cannot read or write

The government of South Sudan has set ambitious goals for the education sector, hoping to improve the South Sudanese education system in terms of equity and equality for all children.

Timeline of important events


Sudan gains independence.


First Civil War lasts nearly 20 years.


Fighting breaks out again between north and South Sudan, under leadership of John Garang's Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), after Sudanese President Jaafar Numeiri abolishes South Sudan's autonomy. Second Civil War.


Famine hits Sudan resulting directly in the death of 250,00 citizens. Warring factions used food and famine as a weapon of war.


Military seizes power in Sudan, Omar al-Bashir assumes leadership through a coup.


Sudanese Islamist leader Hassan Al-Turabi's party, the Popular National Congress, signs memorandum of understanding with the southern rebel SPLM's armed wing, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Mr Al-Turabi is arrested the next day.


Talks in Kenya lead to a breakthrough agreement between southern rebels and Sudanese government on ending the civil war. The Machakos Protocol provides for the south to seek self-determination after six years.


Rebels in Darfur stage an uprising. Sudanese military forces and militia allies responded by killing tens of thousands.


North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ends civil war; deal provides for a permanent ceasefire, autonomy for the south, a power-sharing government involving rebels in Khartoum and a south Sudanese referendum on independence in six years' time. Former southern rebel leader John Garang is sworn in as first vice-president. John Garang is killed in a plane crash and is succeeded by rebel leader Salva Kiir Mayardiit. Conflicts in the Darfur region continue.


Hundreds die in fighting centred on the southern town of Malakal – the heaviest since the 2005 peace deal. The Darfur Peace Agreements fail.


A joint UN and African Union peacekeeping mission is deployed to Darfur.


International Criminal Court indicts Sudan President Bashir of war crimes and crimes against humanity with three counts of genocide later added. Leaders of North and South reach deal on terms of referendum on independence due in South by 2011.


The people of South Sudan vote in favour of full independence from Sudan. Governments of north and south sign accord to demilitarize the disputed Abyei region and let in an Ethiopian peacekeeping force. UN says at least 600 people are killed in ethnic clashes in Jonglei state.


South Sudan declares a disaster in Jonglei State after some 100,000 flee clashes between rival ethnic groups. After weeks of border fighting, South Sudan troops temporarily occupy the oil field and border town of Heglig before being repulsed. Sudanese warplanes raid the Bentiu area in South Sudan. Some 200,000 refugees flee into South Sudan to escape fighting between Sudanese army and rebels in Sudan's southern border states. The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan agree trade, oil and security deals after days of talks in Ethiopia.


Sudan and South Sudan agree to resume pumping oil after a bitter dispute over fees that saw production shut down more than a year earlier. They also agreed to withdraw troops from their border area to create a demilitarised zone. President Kiir dismisses entire cabinet and Vice-President Riek Machar in a power struggle within the governing Sudan People's Liberation Movement.Civil war erupts as President Salva Kiir accuses his former vice-president, Riek Machar, of plotting to overthrow him.

2014 January

A ceasefire is signed but broken several times over subsequent weeks.


The African Union issues a report documenting rapes, massacres, and deteriorating humanitarian situation.


Riek Machar finally returns to Juba and is sworn in as first vice-president in a new unity government – but is sacked in July after further conflict and goes back into exile. Kenya withdraws its troops from the South Sudan peacekeeping mission. Japanese peacekeepers arrive South Sudan with a broad mandate to use force if necessary.


A famine is declared in parts of South Sudan in what the UN describes as a man-made catastrophe caused by civil war and economic collapse. President Kiir declares unilateral ceasefire, launches national dialogue. The number of refugees fleeing violence in South Sudan to Uganda passes the one million mark, according to the UN.


President Kiir signs power-sharing agreement with Riek Machar and other opposition groups in a bid to end the civil war.

History of Peace Processes

Summary of Current Conflicts

Not long after gaining independence and emerging from civil war, South Sudan slid back into conflict in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir sacked his then-deputy Riek Machar and accused him of plotting a coup. The personal rivalry sparked fighting between forces loyal to the president and rebels allied with Machar. It also deepened a rift between two of South Sudan’s largest ethnic groups – Kiir’s dominant Dinka and Machar’s Nuer people. Facing sanctions and mounting pressure from the international community, the sparring sides signed a power-sharing agreement in August 2015 with the promise to bring peace to South Sudan. But the peace deal fell apart within months as fighting flared up between Kiir’s government forces, Machar’s rebel group and other insurgent factions. After three years of ruinous war and more broken ceasefires, Machar and other rebel factions signed a new ceasefire and power-sharing agreement with Kiir’s government that would maintain Kiir as president and reinstate Machar to his former role as the “first” of multiple vice presidents. Despite the revitalized peace process, lasting peace and stability has yet to be seen. The United Nations flagged reports of fighting in several areas of South Sudan less than a week after the new agreement was signed.

The most recent agreement to merge governments and settle internal borders is facing implementation challenges. The parties were too far behind for the united government to be formed in May as was previously scheduled. Commissions tasked with redrawing internal borders were not formed on time. Although they had stopped fighting, the parties’ armed forces had not stood down – the first step to creating a unified army and police. Given this, Kiir and Machar agreed to wait to form the new government until mid-November, in order to complete the military unification and border demarcation. At the time, they rightly pointed out that “…the unification of necessary forces is the most critical determining factor for the formation of the Reconstituted Transitional Government of National Unity.” Despite this, neither side has implemented the agreement’s safeguards, such as merging their armed forces, designed to prevent a return to war. Kiir and Machar have also resisted face-to-face meetings that could jump-start implementation by building trust and demonstrating commitment to the peace process.

The two main hurdles are that of military unification and border problems. Military unification remains stuck at the first hurdle. Under the agreement, all armed groups were to be assembled at designated sites where fighters could be either disarmed and demobilised, or integrated into the unified armed forces and police. In July the parties reported that the designated assembly sites still lacked food, shelter and medicine. Given the logistical shortfalls, cantonment was not completed. Even if it had been, this progress would still be far short of what was required by the agreement, which calls for the training and the deployment of unified armed forces prior to the formation of the national unity government.

Regarding the border, the 2018 agreement outlined a process to allow the government and opposition to jointly determine the number and boundaries of the constituent states within South Sudan. These had previously been unilaterally chosen by Kiir, allegedly to the benefit of his ethnic group. Although the parties followed this roadmap, they have not been able to solve the issue. Under the agreement, an Independent Boundaries Committee, consisting of representatives of the government, opposition and neighbouring states, was to make a binding recommendation on the number of states in South Sudan. However, government and opposition representatives could not reach a consensus. The committee is supposed to organise a referendum on the issue if it fails to make a recommendation. However, regional stakeholders are instead hoping for a political solution through face-to-face negotiations between Kiir and Machar which seems unlikely given the two’s unwillingness to meet. The entire peace process has therefore been stalled.

Whilst fighting has stopped in most of the country as a result of the stalled peace deal, this has changed nothing for herder groups nursing long-standing grievances unrelated to the national tug of war for power. With the attention elsewhere, armed herders are launching increasingly deadly military-style attacks on rival camps, with women and children among the victims. The reality in these remote communities “is very far from what is happening with the elites in Juba,” United Nations special envoy David Shearer told AFP. Instead of their traditional spears, cowherds now carry automatic rifles that have transformed cattle raids, a generations-old phenomenon, into massacres that have unleashed brutal cycles of vengeance.

Conflict Intervention

Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the government of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in 2005, which paved the way to independence in 2011, describing it as the only successful peace agreement for South Sudan.

Greater Pibor Administrative Area Peace Agreement

May 2014, the government signed a peace agreement called the Greater Pibor Administrative Area Peace Agreement with the largely Murle group, the Cobra Faction of the Movement.

Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan

The Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan was signed in 2015 between the governing SPLM/A, the SPLM/A in Opposition (SPLM-IO) and other smaller groups, known as the Compromise Peace Agreement. This agreement received support, especially its commitments on public reforms, elections and accountability and (vague) references to equal representation and federalism.

Revitalized Agreement to Resolve the Conflict in South Sudan (RARCSS)

On 12 September 2018, a peace agreement – later dubbed the Revitalized Agreement to Resolve the Conflict in South Sudan (RARCSS) – was signed in Addis Ababa by President Salva Kiir, SPLM-IO chairman Riek Machar, and by representatives of the SSOA, the SPLM-FD and a number of political parties. It was signed by “stakeholders” from civil society and by guarantors from IGAD member states, the AU and the UN. The agreement stipulates that its implementation will be done in two stages. First, the Pre-Transitional Phase (PTP) has an eight-month time frame in which parties to the agreement, through the National Pre-Transitional Committee (NPTC), will prepare for the implementation of the R-ARCSS. Phase Two, effectively, is the implementation phase: a three-year period of a Revitalised Transnational Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) to begin at the end of the PTP. The three-year period of the RTGoNU is then to be followed by national elections.