The South Sudanese Civil War was a multi-sided civil war in South Sudan between forces of the government and opposition forces. In December 2013, President Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar and ten others of attempting a coup d’état. Machar denied trying to start a coup and fled to lead the SPLM – in opposition (SPLM-IO). Fighting broke out between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and SPLM-IO, igniting the civil war. Ugandan troops were deployed to fight alongside the South Sudanese government. The United Nations has peacekeepers in the country as part of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
In January 2014 the first ceasefire agreement was reached. Fighting continued and would be followed by several more ceasefire agreements. Negotiations were mediated by “IGAD +” (which includes the eight regional nations called the Intergovernmental Authority on Development as well as the African Union, United Nations, China, the EU, USA, UK and Norway). A peace agreement known as the “Compromise Peace Agreement” was signed in August 2015. Machar returned to Juba in 2016 and was appointed vice president. Following a second breakout of fighting within Juba, the SPLM-IO fled to the surrounding and previously peaceful Equatoria region. Kiir replaced Machar as First Vice President with Taban Deng Gai, splitting the opposition, and rebel in-fighting became a major part of the conflict. Rivalry among Dinka factions led by the President and Paul Malong Awan also led to fighting. In August 2018, another power sharing agreement came into effect. On 22 February 2020, rivals Kiir and Machar struck a unity deal and formed a coalition government.
About 400,000 people were estimated to have been killed in the war by April 2018, including notable atrocities such as the 2014 Bentiu massacre. Although both men had supporters from across South Sudan’s ethnic divides, subsequent fighting had ethnic undertones. Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group has been accused of attacking other ethnic groups and Machar’s Nuer ethnic group has been accused of attacking the Dinka. More than 4 million people have been displaced, with about 1.8 million of those internally displaced, and about 2.5 million having fled to neighboring countries, especially Uganda and Sudan. Fighting in the agricultural heartland in the south of the country caused the number of people facing starvation to soar to 6 million, causing famine in 2017 in some areas. The country’s economy has also been devastated. According to the IMF in October 2017, real income had halved since 2013 and inflation was more than 300% per annum.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed on 9 January 2005 between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the government of the Sudan ended the war for independence that started in 1983. Under the terms of the peace agreement, a Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was created and run by the SPLM with a promise that a referendum would be held on independence in 2011. During the six years period of autonomy, the desire for independence kept in-fighting within the SPLM in check, but disputes arose over how to share the oil revenues. One consequence of the war’s end was the oil fields in southern Sudan could be developed far more extensively than was possible during the war and began to be pumped. Between 2006 and 2009, sales of oil brought in an annual average of $2.1 billion U.S dollars to the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region. Disputes between leading personalities in the SPLM over how to appropriate the oil revenues led to recurring tensions. A system emerged during the autonomous period where SPLM leaders used the wealth generated by the oil to buy the loyalty of not only the troops, but the people at large, creating intense competition to control the oil. After the 2011 referendum led to 98% of voters choosing independence from the Sudan, on 9 July 2011 South Sudan became an independent nation.
In 2010, after a disputed election, George Athor led the South Sudan Democratic Movement in rebellion against the government. The same year, a faction of the South Sudan Democratic Movement, called the Cobra Faction, led by David Yau Yau rebelled against the government they accused of being prejudiced against the Murle. His faction signed a cease-fire with the government in 2011 and his militia was reintegrated into the army but he then defected again in 2012. After the army’s notorious 2010 disarmament campaign with widespread abuses of the Shilluk people, who were alleging persecution by the ruling Dinka, John Uliny from the Shilluk people began a rebellion, leading the Upper Nile faction of the South Sudan Democratic Movement. Gabriel Tang, who led a militia allied to Khartoum during the Second Sudanese Civil War, clashed regularly with the SPLA until 2011 when his soldiers were reintegrated into the national army. In 2011, Peter Gadet led a rebellion with the South Sudan Liberation Army, but was reintegrated into the army the same year. In a strategy of co-option known as “big tent”, the government often buys off community militia and pardons its leaders. Others call the use of rebellion to receive public office as “bad culture” and an incentive to rebel.