South Sudan Civil War


The world’s newest country, South Sudan, has been embroiled in a civil war since December 2013. The conflict erupted along ethnic lines after President Salva Kiir (a Dinka, the county’s ethic majority), removed Vice-President Reik Machar (a Nuer, the largest minority group). Formed after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, the civilian population of this young republic are overwhelmingly the victims of this conflict, suffering the most significant refugee crisis in Africa. Famine and ethnic cleansing has displaced a third of the population.


Where: South Sudan

Population: 12 million

Deaths: Estimates between 50,000 and 300,000

Refugees/Displaced peoples: 4 million

UN Peacekeepers: 17,000

Key actors

loyal to President Kiir and the Dinka tribe (the largest ethnic group in South Sudan), they stand accused of targeting civilian groups of all non-Dinka minority groups.

loyal to former Vice-President Machar

an eight-country African trade bloc, is mediating peace talks between parties

has a significant presence in South Sudan, through the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)  –  Approximately 17,000 peacekeepers.

The Trump White House, compared with previous administrations, has been indifferent to South Sudan. It was a lead facilitator of the country’s independence, providing diplomatic support and humanitarian aid. Since then, both the US and Europe have imposed sanctions on commanders from both sides

conducted multiple failed peacekeeping missions in Somalia during the 1990s, but has since played a smaller role in resolving the conflict.

Timeline of the crisis

the people of South Sudan vote to become independent of Sudan, with independence day declared on July 9th

The Pibor Massacre (Estimates of between 900 and 3000 people killed)

Civil War ignites after President Kiir dismisses his entire cabinet and Nuer Vice-President Machar in July. The UN Security Council authorizes the rapid deployment of approximately 6,000 security forces, in addition to 7,600 peacekeepers already in the country, to aid in nation-building efforts.

a ceasefire orchestrated by IGAD lasts only a few days before fighting resumes

Hundreds are killed in the Bentiu massacre.

UN Security Council votes to shift the mission’s mandate from nation-building to civilian protection, authorizing UN troops to use force.

civilians are raped and killed in huge numbers as the government launches an offensive on rebel-held Unity state, with 100,000 displaced

Reik Machar returns to Jaba after months in exile and is again sworn in as Vice-President. However, more conflict follows when he is sacked in July and returns to exile, inflaming the conflict.

UN Commission on Human Rights Declares that ethnic cleansing is taking place across the country

President Kiir declares unilateral ceasefire and launches national dialogue.

The number of refugees fleeing South Sudan to Uganda due to violence reaches one million

South Sudanese factions sign a new ceasefire agreement as well as agreeing to provide humanitarian aid to regions affected by the civil war

More than 300 child soldiers are released from captivity by armed forces in South Sudan in a “laying down guns” ceremony

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir signs a peace treaty with his former Vice President to end the civil war

 Violent attacks breakout mere hours after the peace treaty went into effect. Each side blames the other for instigating.

In the Ethiopian capital, a new peace agreement is drawn up between President Salva Kiir and rebel factions. However, the agreement does not address many of the root causes of the conflict, and so is not expected to last.

Rebel leader Riek Machar returns to South Sudan for the first time since he fled the country more than two years ago. He travels to Juba to demonstrate the strength of the peace agreement.

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