a memorial for all wars: the Polynational War Memorial


South Sudanese Civil War

Years: 2011-2017
Battle deaths: 4,639 [1]
Non-state conflict, battle-deaths: 577 [3]
Onesided violence: 2,267 [2]

Nation(s) involved and/or conflict territory [note]
South Sudan

Published: 2014-08-06 20:01:03 | Updated: 2018-08-12 16:36:52

Fighting between the Government of Sudan and southern-based rebels has a long history. Between 1983-2005 the Sudanese Government fought SPLM/A (Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army) in a conflict over government power.

In 2005 fighting stopped as a result of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement (CPA) signed 9 January that year. On 9 July 2011 South Sudan became an independent state after a referendum, six years after the signing of the CPA.

The new regime in Juba was immediately challenged by the two rebel groups SSDM/A (South Sudan Democratic Movement/ Army) and SSLM/A (South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army), which were both supported by the government in Sudan. Fighting started about one month after the country’s independence and continued throughout the year.[1]

The conflict with SSDM/A ended after negotiations in February 2012. The SSLM/A fought the Government of South Sudan during 2011 and 2012. In late April 2013 President Salva Kiir announced a presidential pardon to all rebels active in South Sudan. The leaders of SSLM/A accepted this amnesty and thereby ended their rebellion. The SSLM/A troops became integrated into the National Army.[2]

Despite the violence between the Government and SSDM/A and SSLM/A subsiding, fighting did not end. On the contrary the fighting over governmental power saw two new groups entering the stage. These were the SSDM/A – Cobra faction and SPLM/A In Opposition.[3]

The SSDM/A – Cobra faction, led by David Yauyau rebelled in Jonglei state. His main motivation was claimed to be the underdevelopment of Pibor County in Jonglei and the lack of local power-sharing with the Bor government. The Cobra Faction signed a peace agreement on 30 January 2014.[4]

Far higher intensity of violence was however recorded in the fighting between the Government of South Sudan and the second rebel group, the SPLM/A In Opposition. This conflict started in mid-December 2013 with a battle between different factions within the Presidential guard in the capital Juba. One of the factions was loyal to the sitting president, Salva Kiir, and the other faction was loyal to the former vice-president Riek Machar, who had been ousted from the government in July 2013.
The fighting started in Juba but quickly spread to other areas. Battles were particularly fierce in Bor, Malakal, and Unity, three strategically important states. According to the South Sudanese government the fighting started after a coup attempt. However, this claim was denied by the rebels and generally international experts support this denial.[5]

In August 2015, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – led negotiations resulted in a comprehensive peace agreement between the Government of South Sudan and SPLM/A In Opposition. The 2014 peak in violence levels subsequently dropped, but neither this nor the agreement lasted after clashes broke out in the capital, Juba, in 2016. Nonetheless, IGAD continued striving to salvage the peace process and talks at the end of 2017 resulted in a ceasefire being declared.[6]

Salva Kiir belongs to South Sudans largest ethnic group, Dinka, whereas Riek Machar is from the second largest group, Nuer. Even though the ethnic aspect of the conflict between Juba and SPLM/A In Opposition should not be exaggerated, its ethnical dimension also led to attacks between Nuer and Dinka[7], a dyad which has been included in this conflict.

There are many other ongoing ethnic conflicts in South Sudan that can be connected to the groups mentioned here. One of the most violent, that between the Lou Nuer and Murle, is described in a separate article.

Main source:

Uppsala Conflict Data Program (Date of retrieval: 2018-08-12) UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, Uppsala University. Conflict page, South Sudan: Government http://ucdp.uu.se/#/conflict/11345


[1]    UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, Uppsala University retrieved 2018-08-12
[2]    UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, Uppsala University retrieved 2018-08-12
[3]    UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, Uppsala University retrieved 2018-08-12
[4]    Wikipedia: South_Sudan_Democratic_Movement#SSDM/A_-_Cobra_Faction retrieved 2018-08-12
[5]    UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, Uppsala University retrieved 2018-08-12
[6]    UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, Uppsala University retrieved 2018-08-12
[7]    UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, Uppsala University retrieved 2018-08-12


Data Sources

[1] Battle deaths: UCDP Battle-Related Deaths Dataset v. 5-2017 (link) (1989-2017) #11345
Low: 3,685 High: 8,110

[2] UCDP One-sided Violence Dataset v. 1.4-2017 (link) including actors: / Government of South Sudan / SPLM/A In Opposition
Low: 2,240 High: 2,817

[3] UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset v. 2.5-2017 (link) including dyads: / Dinka vs Nuer / SPLM/A-North vs SPLM/A-North - MA faction
Low: 567 High: 675

More about sources


NOTE! Nation data for this war may be inconlusive or incomplete. In most cases it reflects which nations were involved with troops in this war, but in some it may instead reflect the contested territory.



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