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South Sudan felt effects of Sudan crisis as economy suffered, refugee flows increased and Sudanese fighters crossed border; violence persisted and opposition forces formed new alliance.
Outbreak of fierce fighting in neighbouring Sudan had immediate knock-on effects. Fighting that erupted 15 April in Sudan (see Sudan) had significant implications for its southern neighbour. On economic front, conflicting reports emerged that clashes in Port Sudan between Sudan’s army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) damaged port and oil pipelines, threatening oil exports that make up 85% of South Sudanese govt’s revenue; South Sudanese pound, meanwhile, 15-22 April lost almost 10% of its value compared to USD. On security front, group of dislodged RSF fighters 19 April entered Renk county, Upper Nile state, prompting army same day to issue ultimatum for group to disarm or leave; incident demonstrated risk of conflict spillover. On humanitarian front, authorities in Renk county 24 April reported 10,000 refugees had crossed border as Sudanese fled fighting. Meanwhile, Intergovernmental Authority on Development 16 April appointed President Kiir, along with Kenyan and Djiboutian counterparts, to mediate conflict in Sudan.
Violence persisted in several states. In Jonglei state, armed youths 3 April reportedly killed two and stole 2,000 head of cattle in separate incidents in Wickol and Padiek areas; unknown gunmen 27 April attacked World Food Programme convoy. In Abyei Administrative Area, govt official 9 April reported alleged rebels loyal to Gen Stephen Buay Rolnyang, leader of South Sudan People’s Movement-Army, 7 April killed 11 Nuer youth in Rumamer county. In Central Equatoria state, unknown assailants 11 April killed four in Mangalla Payam area.
In other important developments. Armed groups and opposition entities not party to 2018 revitalised peace agreement 12 April signed Memorandum of Understanding in Sudanese capital Khartoum, forming new alliance dubbed South Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance; in statement issued same day, actors cited “need for united opposition” to “change the regime in Juba”. Meanwhile, Juba 2-3 April deployed around 345 additional soldiers to Democratic Republic of Congo as part of East African regional force’s fight with M23 rebel group.
Tensions between President Kiir and VP Machar escalated after Kiir fired ministers, violence persisted, and UN extended mission mandate.
Kiir fired defence and interior ministers, triggering political crisis. In hugely provocative move aimed at undercutting VP Machar, President Kiir 3 March sacked Defence Minister Angelina Teny, Machar’s wife, and Interior Minister Mahmoud Solomon; Kiir same day removed defence ministry from Machar’s portfolio, replacing it with interior ministry. Opposition next day condemned move, saying it violated 2018 peace agreement. Kiir and Machar 10 March held meeting in capital Juba that ended in deadlock. In another breach of peace deal, Kiir 29 March appointed member of his own party, Chol Thon Balok, as defence minister. Still, immediate return to major conflict remains unlikely. Meanwhile, Rome peace talks between govt and holdout opposition groups 20 March resumed, but sides failed to agree on agenda and 24 March adjourned talks until May.
Kiir moved to consolidate control over political base and security forces. Kiir 3 March reorganised cabinet in Warrap state, removing leaders close to potential rival Akol Koor Kuch, director of Internal Bureau of the National Security Services; 8 March fired FM and Warrap politician Mayiik Ayii Deng. Kiir 13 March reconfigured South Sudan People’s Defence Forces leadership to ward off threats to his rule, elevating commanders close to his inner circle with ties to Sudan’s military regime.
Violence persisted in several states. In Jonglei state, unknown gunmen 16 March killed at least 15 civilians at Thiep fishing site between Ulang and Akobo counties. In Western Bahr al-Ghazal state, leftover mortar shell 16 March exploded, killing at least ten in Jur River county. In Jonglei state, unknown assailants 17 March ambushed over 100 humanitarian trucks, killing two. In Upper Nile state, unknown assailant 26 March detonated hand grenade, killing one in Malakal town.
UN extended mission mandate. UN Special Envoy for South Sudan Nicholas Haysom 6 March called 2023 “make or break” year for South Sudan with “fast-closing window of opportunity” to create conditions for 2024 elections. Security Council 15 March renewed mandate of UN Mission in South Sudan for one year, with increased emphasis on civilian protection.
Govt lifted suspension of Rome peace talks ahead of Pope’s visit, reports emerged of troop build-up in restive Upper Nile, and violence persisted in several other states.
Kiir lifted suspension of Rome peace talks ahead of papal visit. As part of his “pilgrimage of peace”, Pope Francis 3-5 Feb visited capital Juba, meeting privately with President Kiir on first day. To mark Pope’s arrival, Kiir 3 Feb formally lifted suspension of Rome peace talks with holdout opposition groups, but groups’ leaders raised doubts about govt’s intentions. Meanwhile, govt 21 Feb announced beginning of extended transitional period lasting until Feb 2025.
Reports of mobilisations in Upper Nile state emerged throughout month. Concerns grew early Feb about possible resumption of hostilities in Upper Nile state, where late 2022 fighting pitting ethnic Shilluk “Agwalek” forces under Gen. Johnson Olony against Nuer forces, predominantly backed by Gen. Simon Gatwech, killed hundreds and displaced thousands. UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) 1 Feb stated it was concerned about reported build-up of Agwelek forces, who may want to regain territory lost late 2022. Officials in Jonglei state warned renewed violence could spill into Jonglei. Agwalek forces 24 Feb harassed UNMISS patrol. Situation in Upper Nile began to de-escalate late Feb, however, following Juba’s efforts to defuse tensions among local commanders.
Violence remained rampant elsewhere. Clashes between Twic Dinka from Warrap State and Ngok Dinka from Abyei Administrative Area continued, with Ngok Dinka 3 Feb attacking Twic communities, killing three; Twic Dinka 6, 13 Feb attacked Alal county in Abyei, killing dozens. In Central Equatoria state, armed Kuku youths 2 Feb attacked Bor Dinka cattle camp in Kajo Keji county, killing several herders; Dinka cattle keepers same day retaliated, killing over 20 civilians. Luacjang armed groups from Tonj East county, Warrap state, 21 Feb attacked Payam communities of Rumbek North county, Lakes state, killing at least 36. Deadly clashes between South Sudan’s Toposa and Kenya’s Turkana communities 5-8 Feb left 13 dead near Nadapal border crossing in disputed border territory Ilemi Triangle.
Month saw progress on peace deal implementation, while space for civil society continued to shrink; intercommunal violence spread in several states as dry season began.
Govt made some progress toward implementing 2018 peace agreement. President Salva Kiir 1 Jan signed ten laws critical to delayed “roadmap” for implementation of peace agreement, including Constitution-Making Act and Political Parties Act, as concerns about inclusivity of constitution-making process persisted. Final batch of unified armed forces 14 Jan graduated in Bentiu city, nearly four years after 2019 deadline, but questions remain over forces’ lack of command structure, weaponry and budget. Head of UN Mission in South Sudan 26 Jan announced UN will provide assistance on technical preparations for elections. Meanwhile, Kiir 28 Jan announced return to Rome peace talks with holdout opposition groups.
Fighting in Upper Nile decreased, but violence spread elsewhere amid dry season. In Jonglei state, Lou Nuer and Bor Dinka armed groups 30 Dec-2 Jan attacked Likuangole town of Greater Pibor Administrative Area; suspected cattle raiders from Murle ethnic group early Jan attacked several villages in Uror and Duk counties, leaving dozens dead. In disputed Abyei Administrative Area, armed Nuer and Dinka Twic youths 2 Jan attacked Rumamer village, killing 13. In Warrap state, Dinka youths from Rumbek North 10 Jan killed five Dinka civilians in Tonj East village; suspected armed youth from Abyei and Unity state 27 Jan raided cattle camp in Twic county, killing at least 16. In oil-rich Ruweng Special Administrative Area, clashes 7 Jan broke out between national security forces guarding oil fields and cattle herders from Unity state, killing three. Meanwhile, hostilities in Upper Nile de-escalated.
Authorities continued to erode space for civil society. National Security 3 Jan arrested six journalists working for state broadcaster, accusing them of disseminating embarrassing video of President Kiir. Military intelligence next day arrested activist and human rights defender Samuel Garang in capital Juba for alleged links to holdout opposition leader Paul Malong. Meanwhile, gunmen in South Sudan People’s Defence Forces uniforms 11 Jan abducted former Western Equatoria Minister of Information, Charles Kisanga, in Juba; 14 Jan released him.
As fighting wreaked havoc in Upper Nile state, violence escalated in Jonglei, killing dozens and forcing around 30,000 civilians to flee.
Violence raged in Upper Nile state, displacing thousands. Fighting pitting ethnic Shilluk “Agwalek” under Gen. Johnson Olony against Nuer forces, predominantly backed by Gen. Simon Gatwech, continued unabated in Fashoda county. Thousands of civilians early Dec fled to Kodok town and Malakal civilian protection camp after Nuer forces late Nov razed Aburoc village in Fashoda county’s north. Nuer forces began surrounding Kodok, prompting Agwalek militia early Dec to reinforce town as fears of imminent attack grew. President Kiir 7 Dec sent ammunition and additional soldiers to push back Nuer forces, compelling them to retreat south; UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) same day deployed 30 additional troops to deter attacks on civilians. Agwalek troops and President Kiir’s South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) 13 Dec attempted to intercept Nuer forces near Wau Shilluk village, but Nuer forces reportedly won battle.
Hostilities in Jonglei killed dozens and displaced thousands. In Jonglei state, armed Lou Nuer and Dinka Bor armed youth 26-27 Dec attacked Murle community in Gumuruk and Likuangole towns of Greater Pibor Administrative Area, killing at least 50 and forcing SSPDF forces to withdraw from Gumuruk; SSPDF 28 Dec recaptured town. UN humanitarian agency 29 Dec reported around 30,000 people displaced by violence. Escalation marks collapse of local peace deal signed in 2021 in Pieri town under UN auspices. UNMISS and international partners, including Intergovernmental Authority on Development and Troika (U.S., UK and Norway), 28 Dec urged govt to address spiralling violence.
Economy deteriorated further, ruling party began preparations for 2024 elections. In sign that hundreds of millions of dollars in International Monetary Fund support have failed to stabilise economy, South Sudanese pound further depreciated against U.S. dollar. UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan 1 Dec said Central Bank “printed in excess of 270 billion South Sudanese pounds ($423 million)”, effectively doubling currency in circulation and driving inflationary spiral. Meanwhile, ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement 6 Dec endorsed President Salva Kiir as candidate for 2024 presidential elections.
Conflict persisted in Upper Nile state, govt suspended Rome peace talks with opposition groups, and World Food Programme laid bare dire humanitarian situation.
Rampant violence continued in Upper Nile state. Fighting pitting ethnic Shilluk “Agwalek” forces under Gen. Johnson Olony against Nuer forces, predominantly backed by Gen. Simon Gatwech, continued during month. Notably, ethnic Nuer community militias early Nov marched into Fashoda county, killing unknown number of people and prompting Agwalek forces 26 Nov to engage and force their retreat late Nov; meanwhile, Agwalek forces 10 Nov shelled Nuer positions from Atar town. UN mission in South Sudan 19 Nov expressed deep concern about violence and urged parties to halt fighting; President Salva Kiir and First VP Riek Machar have echoed calls, despite likely supporting fighting themselves, on opposing sides.
Intercommunal violence persisted in Central Equatoria and Warrap states. Unknown gunmen believed to be cattle herders from Jonglei state 11 Nov killed five civilians in Ngerjebe village, Juba county of Central Equatoria state; state governor next day issued 72-hour ultimatum to all cattle herders to leave state. Violence between Kuok and Luach-Abuong communities 18 Nov left five dead in Tonj East county, Warrap state.
Govt suspended peace talks with major rebel groups. Following progress in Oct on restarting talks between govt and holdout opposition groups in Italy’s capital Rome, govt 21 Nov abandoned initiative, accusing rebel groups of using dialogue to “buy time to prepare for war”. Opposition groups decried decision; notably, Non-Signatory South Sudan Opposition Group same day said it was dismayed by move and urged Juba to reverse decision, while National Salvation Front 25 Nov said govt’s “allegations are unfounded”. Decision came after leader of South Sudan People’s Movement/Army (SSPM/A) Gen. Stephen Buay Rolnyang 19 Oct proposed Unified Front among all non-signatory opposition groups to “challenge the regime physically”.
In other important developments. World Food Programme 3 Nov published report stating that 6.6mn people, over half country’s population, are affected by acute food insecurity, malnutrition, famine and rampant insecurity. NGO Global Rights Compliance 24 Nov published report accusing govt and opposition of committing war crimes through routine use of mass starvation and forcible displacement.
Rebel groups pursued anti-govt alliance as Rome peace talks appeared set to resume, ruling party expelled VP Machar from leadership structure, and violence remained rampant in several areas.
Amid possible resumption of peace talks, major rebel groups sought alliance. Holdout opposition leaders, including head of National Salvation Front (NAS) Thomas Cirillo, former army chief Paul Malong and former Sec Gen of ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Pagan Amum mid-Oct held consultations with African and Western officials in Italy’s capital Rome ahead of expected renewed talks with govt; peace talks began in 2019 but broke down in Aug 2021. Meanwhile, in move likely aimed at strengthening groups’ hand at negotiations, head of splinter group Sudan People’s Liberation/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) Kitgwang faction Gen Simon Gatwech Dual 9 Oct called for alliance of holdout opposition groups, 15 Oct met with NAS high-ranking representatives to discuss proposal.
President Kiir ousted Machar from vice chairmanship of SPLM. In move aimed at undermining VP Riek Machar, ruling SPLM led by Kiir 20 Oct expelled Machar along with former Sec Gen Pagan Amum from party leadership, accusing them of trying to build up their own political parties. Machar 24 Oct rejected move, saying “no faction can dismiss any member of the other factions from SPLM”.
Split in breakaway faction of Machar’s SPLM/A-IO continued to fuel violence in Upper Nile state. Fighting pitting ethnic Shilluk “Agwelek” forces under Gen. Johnson Olony against Nuer forces, predominantly backed by Gen. Simon Gatwech, persisted. Notably, Nuer forces 8-9 Oct attacked Shilluk territory around Kodok area, Fashoda county, displacing thousands and killing unknown number of civilians. Nuer forces 12 Oct retreated after counter-attack by Shilluk Agwelek forces, with clashes then occurring in Atar area of Jonglei state.
In other notable developments. Fighting over disputed border that erupted late Sept between neighbouring Dinka groups from Abyei Administrative Area and Twic County, Warrap state, left scores dead, according to UNMISS statement published 14 Oct; govt 13 Oct deployed troops to ease tensions. UN Humanitarian Agency 11 Oct reported that fourth consecutive year of major floods have affected at least 909,000 people across country.
Monitoring body confirmed roadmap to extend transitional govt’s rule to 2025; deadly violence persisted, notably in Upper Nile state as fighting erupted at site for displaced persons.
Roadmap to extend transitional period until Feb 2025 confirmed. Members of Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, responsible for tracking implementation of 2018 peace agreement, 1 Sept confirmed extending transitional period beyond anticipated Feb 2023 end until Feb 2025; extension provides additional 24 months for govt to address outstanding tasks of agreement. UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) chief Nicolas Haysom 16 Sept told UN Security Council that next few months will be litmus test for political parties to demonstrate their commitment to roadmap. Meanwhile, nearly 7,000 troops from Bahr el Ghazal region 21 Sept integrated into unified forces, and another 1, 701 troops from Jonglei state capital, Bor, on 27 Sept; creating unified armed forces command remains key provision of 2018 peace agreement.
Violence persisted, notably in Upper Nile state with hundreds reportedly killed. In Upper Nile (north east), fighting continued between breakaway splinter factions of VP Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) after ethnic Nuer Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual removed ethnic Shilluk Gen. Johnson Olony as deputy of his “Kitgwang” faction in Aug. Notably, UN 8 Sept reported that fighting between Gatwech- and Olony-aligned groups had erupted day before near Adidiang island where thousands forced to flee fighting had taken refuge; according to unconfirmed reports, up to 300 people were killed in attacks. In Greater Pibor Administrative Area (east), unknown assailants 13 Sept killed herdsman and stole 21 cattle. In disputed Abyei Administrative Area along border with Sudan, armed youth from Twic country (Warrap state) 25 Sept reportedly attacked Aneet and Agok villages, killing six.
Security situation remained fragile in Unity state, UN called for accountability. Amid persistent high level violence in Unity State, UNMISS and UN Human Rights body 6 Sept released joint report on fighting from 11 Feb to 31 May between forces loyal to President Kiir and elements of SPLM/A-IO loyal to VP Machar in Unity state. Report found that fighting left 173 civilians killed and 45,000 displaced, highlighted need for accountability for abuses to address ongoing conflict.
Signatories of 2018 peace deal approved roadmap to extend transitional govt’s rule beyond Feb 2023 amid fierce criticism; deadly fighting displaced tens of thousands in Jonglei and Upper Nile states. Signatories of 2018 peace deal 4 Aug signed roadmap further extending transitional period beyond its anticipated Feb 2023 end; extension provides additional 24 months for transitional govt to address outstanding tasks of agreement, with elections to take place in Dec 2024 and transfer of power in Feb 2025. Troika (U.S., UK and Norway) 3 Aug denounced move citing lack of “inclusive consultation” with “all relevant parties”. Non-signatory armed groups, other opposition movements and civil society actors including People’s Coalition for Civil Action 6 Aug created joint platform to oppose transitional govt and “categorically” rejected term extension. Despite criticism, Council of Ministers 5 Aug approved roadmap and submitted it to parliament for approval. Meanwhile, nearly 22,000 troops from former rival groups 30 Aug integrated into unified armed forces; integration of first batch of former rebels originally scheduled to take place in 2019 according to peace deal. Violence continued in Mayom county, Unity state, as nascent rebellion of Gen. Stephen Buay faced security operations along Sudan’s border. Notably, alleged govt forces 7 Aug reportedly executed four of Buay’s men after Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces same day arrested them in Sudan’s al-Fula town and handed them over to South Sudanese authorities. Defence Minister Angelina Teny 9 Aug condemned executions and said investigations were under way. Meanwhile, Kitgwang faction – which broke away from VP Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) – continued to face internal challenges. Kitgwang leader, ethnic Nuer Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual, 9 Aug removed ethnic Shilluk Gen. Johnson Olony as his deputy. Clashes between Gatwech- and Olony-aligned groups 14-15 Aug broke out in Tonga town and neighbouring Panyikang county, Upper Nile state. Fighting by 18 Aug spread to Jonglei state as Olony’s reinforcements clashed with SPLM/A-IO in Diel military base (Pigi county), before advancing to New Fangak county. UN humanitarian office 19 Aug reported that fighting had displaced around 27,000 people since 14 Aug.
Controversial proposal to extend coalition govt’s time in power beyond Feb 2023 ratcheted up political tensions; violence continued in multiple areas. Media outlets late July reported President Kiir and VP Machar around 26 July agreed to extend their time in power for 24 months after end of 2018 peace deal’s transitional period in Feb 2023. Earlier in month, after senior Kiir allies 15 July submitted draft roadmap detailing extension plan to complete peace agreement’s implementation, Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), civil society actors and other political leaders criticised lack of deliberation and called for more inclusive process to define way ahead. Dissident Gen Stephen Buay Rolnyang 9 July called to replace Kiir and Machar through violence, while holdout opposition leaders Thomas Cirillo and Paul Malong, Pagan Amum and others 15 July announced broader opposition alliance. U.S. 15 July confirmed withdrawing funding to peace-monitoring bodies, citing a lack of progress on peace deal provisions. Meanwhile, South Sudan People’s Movement/Army (SSPM/A) led by Gen Stephen Buay Rolnyang late July engaged in hostilities in Mayom county, Unity state, with over 30 fatalities recorded; notably, group 22 July killed Mayom county commissioner, 26 July attacked South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSDPF) reinforcement convoy. Violence flared in Eastern Equatoria state when suspected ethnic Murle, Tennet and Buya gunmen 7 July launched cattle raid in Kapoeta North County; county commissioner 11 July claimed about 235 people killed, but figure likely exaggerated. Also in Eastern Equatoria, armed men 11 July shot dead chief of Madi ethnic group in Nimule city (Magwi county), prompting locals to accuse Dinka Bor cattle keepers. Kitgwang faction, which split from Machar’s SPLM/A-IO in 2021, split again when its deputy leader, Gen Johnson Olony, 12 July attempted to replace Gen Simon Gatwech as faction leader; internal tensions mid- to late July led to clashes in Magenis area (Upper Nile state), Pieri town (Jonglei state) and Panyikang county (Upper Nile state), while political cadres and military commanders met in Khartoum to contain crisis. Meanwhile, controversy persisted over dredging of Nile tributaries. In response to public outcry against initiative, Kiir 11 July halted dredging activities until further environmental assessments are completed.
Ruling party launched preparations for elections planned for 2023, sparking tensions in parliament; high levels of cattle-related violence persisted in several states. VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) MPs 13 June walked out of Legislative Assembly in protest at alleged procedural irregularities during late May approval of Political Parties Amendment Bill; vote marked key step on road to general elections set for 2023. President Salva Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Government (SPLM) in June also launched party registration drive and reshuffled officials at state and local levels to advance political mobilisation. Notably, Kiir 6-8 June replaced Chief Administrator of Ruweng Administrative Area and two deputy governors in Jonglei and Upper Nile states. Meanwhile, revival of project to dredge Nile waters sparked backlash. Govt 8 June confirmed it signed deal with Egypt in 2021 on dredging of White Nile tributaries by Egyptian companies. Lawyer around 13 June filed lawsuit against govt at East African Court of Justice, arguing project will cause “damages to the environment” and “substantial and irreparable loss” of pastoral and agricultural livelihoods. In Warrap state, govt forces 25-26 June clashed with cattle keepers in Tonj North County; Warrap govt said 18 senior and junior officers killed, while locals put death toll at 43. Local authorities in Warrap’s Twic county 27 June said attacks by armed youth from Abyei Administrative Area previous day left several people killed and hundreds displaced. In Unity state, tension persisted between ethnic Nuer sub-groups as authorities in Mayendit county early June reportedly accused individuals from Leer county of attacking Haak Nuer civilians. In Central Equatoria state, suspected herders 24 June killed nine people in Juba county’s Lokiliri village, prompting state govt to deploy forces in area. Ugandan troops early June briefly deployed into Eastern Equatoria state after accusing South Sudanese gunmen of raiding cattle in Uganda; subsequent gunfire between govt forces and Ugandan forces 4 June left at least one South Sudanese soldier dead in Magwi county. Meanwhile, World Food Programme 14 June announced reduction by almost one third of food aid to country despite soaring needs due to funding shortages and rising costs.
Cattle-related violence increased in Eastern Equatoria state and persisted in Unity state; security situation remained precarious in Abyei Administrative Area. Cattle-related violence surged in Eastern Equatoria state amid presence of ethnic Dinka herders from neighbouring Jonglei state. Notably, cattle raid 10 May reportedly left at least 20 people killed in Nimule locality, Magwi county. Following 14-15 May grassroots discussions with host community leaders, herders started moving back to Jonglei. In Jonglei state, attack by suspected cattle raiders from Pibor Administrative Area on cattle camp near Duk Padiet town 4 May left at least 13 people killed. UN mission in South Sudan 6 May said April outbreak of internecine fighting in southern Unity state’s Leer county left 181 people killed and 40,000 displaced. Renewed violence erupted as suspected armed youths from Unity state’s Mayendit and Koch counties 15-16 May launched cattle raids in Leer county; 28 people killed and 30 wounded. In Warrap state, Gogrial East county authorities 10 May said clashes between locals and youths from Unity state’s Mayom county 7-8 May left 21 dead and 22 injured in Gamdhang village. Meanwhile, fresh fighting reported 8-9 May between Ngok Dinka from Abyei Administrative Area (disputed between Sudan and South Sudan) and Twic Dinka from Warrap state in Malual-Aleu area in Abyei and several villages of Warrap state; several people reportedly killed. Following increased violence in Abyei area over past months, UN Security Council 12 May renewed mandate of UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) for six months; govt next day urged UNISFA to stabilise Abyei, threatened to deploy govt forces in area, a move that would likely lead to tensions with Sudan. During UNISFA-facilitated peace conference in Uganda between Dinka Ngok and Misseriya communities involved in Abyei conflict, community leaders 19 May signed peace accord. UN Security Council 26 May renewed arms embargo on South Sudan, as well as targeted sanctions including travel bans and asset freeze against individuals and entities for one year.
While main signatories of 2018 peace deal reached new agreement on unified armed forces command, deadly fighting displaced thousands in north. Following late-March spike in tensions between President Kiir and his long-time rival, VP Riek Machar, leaders 3 April agreed to implement key provision of 2018 peace agreement and form unified armed forces command; under Sudanese-brokered security deal, Kiir’s forces got 60% of key leadership posts in national security institutions, while Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) and South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) took remaining 40%. Following deal, Machar immediately announced he would lift weeks-long suspension of participation in security and ceasefire mechanisms that underpinned 2018 peace deal. Kiir 12 April ordered military officers loyal to Machar be officially integrated into unified army command. Violent clashes 8 April erupted between Machar’s SPLM/A-IO and forces allied to govt in Leer county of Unity state; local authorities 11 April reported around 14,000 people displaced and at least 35 killed, including SPLM/A-IO senior leader James Gatjung Dok, in several days of fighting. In Upper Nile state, govt forces and SPLM/A-IO troops mid-April accused each other of attacks in Maban county. Ethnic Misseriya militiamen from Sudan 13 April attacked three villages in disputed Abyei Administrative Area, reportedly killing over 40 people. Violence also continued in Jonglei and Lakes states. Notably, cattle-related violence 16 April reportedly killed four people in Jonglei’s Nyirol county. Lakes state authorities said four people killed and five wounded 1 April in Rumbek East county when youth from Unity state carried out cattle raids. Intercommunal clashes 8-12 April reportedly killed at least eight people in Eastern Equatoria state and neighbouring Greater Pibor Administrative Area (south east). UN Food and Agriculture Organization Representative in South Sudan Meshack Malo around 12 April said “two-thirds” of country’s population “will likely face hunger between May and July”.
Fighting between main signatories of 2018 peace deal threatened govt’s unity, herder-farmer violence increased across various states, and deadly clashes peaked in disputed Abyei area. In Upper Nile state, fighting 19-20 March erupted in Maiwut county between President Kiir’s South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) and VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO); violence 24 March spread to Longechuk county. SPLM/A-IO 22 March pulled out from peace monitoring mechanism, citing recurrent SSPDF attacks against its bases in Upper Nile and Unity states. Troika countries (U.S., U.K. and Norway) supporting peace deal next day expressed concern and called on govt to salvage 2018 peace agreement. SSPDF 24 March said SPLM/A-IO “officially at war” with SSPDF. Machar 26 March rejected Kiir’s directive issued previous day on unification of command structure of regular forces. Machar 28 March said SSPDF forces previous night surrounded his house in capital Juba, said move “weakens trust and confidence building”; Kiir immediately downplayed military deployment to Machar’s house, saying it was regular security routine. Violence continued in Eastern Equatoria state between herders from Jonglei state and local farming communities: Bor Dinka cattle keepers 2 March raided Abara village (Magwi county), killing at least five and displacing hundreds of residents, in apparent retaliatory attack for 27 Feb clashes in same county which left at least 20 Bor Dinka pastoralists killed. In neighbouring Central Equatoria state, suspected Dinka herders around 13 March killed 19 people in Lokiliri Payam, Juba county. In Jonglei state, clashes between suspected Murle cattle raiders and local cattle keepers 7 March left at least 13 people killed in Duk county. In Unity state, cross-border violence between South Sudanese cattle herders and Sudanese nomadic pastoralists 6 March killed seven people and injured 11 others in Payang-gai cattle camp, Rubkona county. In disputed Abyei Administrative Area along border with Sudan, suspected Misseriya militiamen from Sudan and suspected Dinka militiamen from Twic county (Warrap state) 5-6 March killed at least 47 people, including many Ngok Dinka. UN Security Council 15 March extended peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for one year until 15 March 2023.
Fighting continued between VP Riek Machar’s forces and breakaway Kitgwang faction; rebel group National Salvation Front faced military pressure in Equatoria region; intercommunal and other violence persisted. Clashes between Machar’s Sudan’s People Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) on one hand, and breakaway Kitgwang faction headed by Simon Gatwech and govt-aligned forces on the other, 6 Feb reportedly killed ten in Nasir and Longechuk counties of Upper Nile state. Fighting mid- to late Feb also pitted Machar loyalists against either Kitgwang or President Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Government forces in several counties of Unity state. Repeated clashes between Thomas Cirillo’s National Salvation Front (NAS) and South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) reported late Jan and early Feb in Lainya and Wonduruba areas of Central Equatoria state, and in Western Equatoria state. Gen Paul Malong’s holdout rebel group South Sudan United Front (SSUF) and SSPDF soldiers 9 Feb also reportedly clashed near Lakes state’s capital Rumbek; SSUF 11 Feb claimed to have killed six govt soldiers. Intercommunal and other violence continued in several states. Cattle-related violence 7 Feb killed five in Uror county of Jonglei state. Lakes state police reported security forces and suspected criminals 9 Feb clashed, leaving at least six killed in Cueibet county. Assailants believed to come from Twic county (Warrap state) 10 Feb reportedly killed four people in Rumamer county of Abyei Administrative Area. Violent clashes between youth from Ruweng Administrative Area and youth from Guit county (Unity state) 12 Feb left at least 23 dead near Longlei village, Unity state. Jonglei state authorities said armed men from Ayod and Nyirol counties 18 Feb attacked cattle camp in Uror county leaving 16 people dead and sparking several days of intercommunal clashes. Eastern Equatoria state officials said clashes between cattle raiders and pastoralists 27 Feb left at least 20 people dead in Magwi county. Unidentified gunmen 28 Feb attacked UN food convoy in Gadiang area, Jonglei state, leaving at least one injured.
Breakaway Kitgwang faction of VP Machar’s forces signed agreement with President Kiir to become part of 2018 peace deal, prompting end of Machar-Kitgwang hostilities; intercommunal violence persisted. Talks between Kitgwang faction officials – who broke away from Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) in Aug 2021 – and Kiir’s govt 11 Jan started in Sudan’s capital Khartoum; both sides 16 Jan reached agreement for Kitgwang faction to become part of 2018 peace deal and be integrated within South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF). Machar next day ordered his forces to stop hostilities with Kitgwang forces, saying 2018 ceasefire between SSPDF and SPLM/A-IO now applies to Kitgwang. Meanwhile, SPLM/A-IO forces 8-14 Jan clashed with SSPDF in Upper Nile state, resulting in at least three fatalities; SPLM/A-IO around 24 Jan accused SSPDF of attacking its position in Unity State’s Koch county twice in last two weeks. Suspected SPLM/A-IO forces 10-12 Jan attacked local chief and other civilians in Jur River county, Western Bahr El Ghazal state; at least two killed on both sides. Meanwhile, holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) 13 Jan claimed to have repelled SSPDF attack on NAS positions in Central Equatoria state’s Juba county 5 Jan; also said authorities arrested 14 civilians including local chiefs, women and youth on charges of supporting NAS. Intercommunal violence continued in several states. In Jonglei state, suspected ethnic Murle armed group 23 Jan killed at least 32 ethnic Dinka people in Baidit locality, Bor South county. In Lakes state, intercommunal clashes between Atuot-Luac and Jieleek clans 8 Jan left one dead in Yirol West county. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, violence by Sudanese pastoralists reportedly spiked in late Dec-early Jan. Notably, state authorities said Masseriya tribesmen from Sudan 4 Jan launched attack in Yihn Pabol area in Aweil East county, leaving two dead and four injured. World Food Programme Representative in South Sudan Matthew Hollingworth early Jan warned year ahead could be country’s hungriest ever as “food insecurity is at horrific levels”.
Deadly fighting erupted between VP Machar’s forces and breakaway faction, and between govt forces and NAS insurgency; stalled military integration process caused growing alarm. Clashes between Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) forces of VP Riek Machar and breakaway Kitgwang faction 26 Dec reportedly left 50 killed in Magenis area, Upper Nile state. Kitgwang faction 28 Dec claimed control of Amoud and Okuri areas, said Machar’s forces cleared from northern Upper Nile; SPLM/A-IO same day confirmed Kitgwang forces 27 Dec took over Amoud base. After Kiir late Nov promised return to Rome peace talks with armed groups outside of 2018 deal, including Thomas Cirillo’s National Salvation Front (NAS) insurgency in Central and Western Equatoria states, fighting between NAS and govt forces 7 Dec reportedly left seven dead in Central Equatoria’s Lainya county; incident represents most serious flare-up of insurgent violence in area in recent months. NAS next day warned of pending “scorched-earth offensive” by govt forces in Central Equatoria’s Morobo county, said govt plans to clear area of its population to pave way for gold mining. Intercommunal violence persisted. In Eastern Equatoria state, Kenyan Turkana raiders 5 Dec attacked South Sudanese Toposa cattle keepers in Nadapal area in Kapoeta East county, leaving two killed and three injured; local officials reported five people killed 13 Dec during cattle-related attack in Komiri Payam, Budi county. In Lakes state, armed Nuer youth from Panyijar county (Unity State) 1 Dec reportedly attacked and killed three people in Amongpiny area, Rumbek Central county. In Unity state, cattle-related fighting between armed youths from Leer and Mayendit counties 2 Dec killed at least six. In Jonglei state, amid series of cattle raids and abductions attributed to ethnic Murle raiders, armed men 5 Dec reportedly abducted five children in Nyirol county. Both regional and UN monitors expressed growing alarm over stalled implementation of 2018 peace deal, particularly failure to unify ex-warring security forces into national army. Charles Tai Gituai, interim chair of peace monitoring body, 8 Dec warned stalled security process leading to “growing frustrations”. UN Sec-Gen Special Representative Nicholas Haysom 15 Dec also stressed new “headwinds” could threaten peace accord.
Govt formed state legislatures, nascent talks between President Kiir and breakaway faction of VP Machar’s party on hold, and intercommunal violence persisted. As part of long-delayed implementation of 2018 power-sharing deal, Kiir issued decrees reconstituting state legislatures in nine of ten states, including Upper Nile, Lakes, Western Equatoria and Central Equatoria 6 Nov, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Warrap and Northern Bahr El Ghazal 18 Nov, and Unity 26 Nov; assembly of Western Bahr El Ghazal state yet to be reconstituted. Late Oct military coup in Sudan paused kickstarting negotiations between Juba and “Kitgwang” faction of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), which broke away from VP Riek Machar’s leadership in Aug. Gen Simon Gatwech Dual, Kitgwang faction’s official leader and Machar’s former military chief, 11 Nov declined President Kiir’s proposal to continue talks in capital Juba. Sudanese coup also further weakened Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), currently chaired by Sudan, striking another blow to regional bloc’s already weak capacity to serve as guarantor of South Sudan’s 2018 peace deal. Most devastating floods in 60 years in Oct-Nov submerged vast swathes of land near White Nile, affecting eight of country’s ten states and worsening food insecurity in many areas. Rains temporarily dampened violence in much of country and will likely shorten annual “fighting” season during dry months, usually Nov to April. However, prolonged presence in parts of Equatoria region (south) of many ethnic Dinka herders displaced by floods since last year exacerbated conflict dynamics in area. Meanwhile, Jonglei state (east) officials reported several violent incidents: intercommunal clashes 2 Nov killed ten and injured four in Akobo county; unidentified armed men 8 Nov attacked IDP camp in Twic East county, killing three people and injuring two, next day killed three people and kidnapped three children in separate attacks in Duk County; two separate intercommunal revenge attacks around 19 Nov left at least nine dead in state capital Bor. Warrap state (centre north) authorities 3 Nov reported over 20 people killed and 36 others injured in two separate intercommunal clashes involving Luachjang, Adoor and Thiik communities in Tonj East county 29-31 Oct.
President Kiir launched talks with breakaway faction of VP Machar’s party, raising tensions within unity govt; violence continued in south and centre. In Sudan’s capital Khartoum, govt delegation 2 Oct started formal talks with “Kitgwang” faction of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), which broke away from VP Riek Machar’s leadership in Aug. Splinter group – headed by Machar’s ethnic Nuer former military chief of staff, Gen Simon Gatwech Dual, and prominent ethnic Shilluk warlord, Gen Johnson Olony– demanded all govt seats currently allocated to Machar’s party, sought to negotiate integration into national army, and championed ethnic Shilluk territorial claims around disputed Upper Nile state capital Malakal. In response, Machar’s party rejected Kitgwang faction’s claim to any share of its current govt positions and accused Kiir of fomenting division in SPLM/A-IO ranks that led to split. Violence in Tambura area of Western Equatoria state (south) continued as Juba’s order for all armed groups to leave Tambura by 1 Oct unheeded; humanitarian agencies including World Food Programme and World Vision International reportedly evacuated staff from Tambura after gunshots between warring parties 14 Oct. Conflict took on increasingly communal tones, pitting local ethnic Azande, dominant group in state, against local ethnic Balanda; Balanda seen as loyal to Machar’s appointed state governor, Alfred Fatuyo, while Azande forces largely commanded by Fatuyo’s ex-deputy, James Nando, who last year defected from Machar to Kiir’s camp. Violence also ran high in centre. In Warrap state’s Tonj East and Tonj North counties, intercommunal clashes between Thiik, Luachjang and Lou Paher youth communities around 3 Oct reportedly left at least 35 people dead and another 80 injured, and displaced thousands. In neighbouring Unity state, clashes between forces loyal to senior county official and unidentified armed group 6 Oct killed one and injured another seven in Koch county. UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan 20 Oct expressed “alarm and dismay” over “ongoing threats, harassment and intimidation of prominent human rights defenders, journalists and civil society actors” by “overzealous security services”, said shrinking space for civil society “undermining efforts to achieve a sustainable peace”.
Unravelling of VP Riek Machar’s movement continued, and clashes between armed groups in south continued to prompt mass displacement. New breakaway “Kitgwang” faction from Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) already in disarray: faction’s most powerful warlord, Gen Johnson Olony, 20 Sept expressed readiness to strike limited army integration deal with President Kiir; following Olony’s disavowal, Kitgwang faction indefinitely postponed conference scheduled for late Sept with other opposition leaders to build broader alliance against govt. Meanwhile, heavy fighting reported mid-Sept between SPLM/A-IO forces loyal to Machar and “Kitgwang” faction in Magenis area, Upper Nile state, notably leaving 20 killed 13 Sept. Chair of Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, tasked with tracking implementation of 2018 peace agreement, 23 Sept warned lack of progress on unifying army is worsening insecurity across country. Violent clashes continued to ravage Tambura area of Western Equatoria state (south), reportedly leaving 24 dead 6 Sept; violence, which pits mainly ethnic Balanda forces under Machar’s SPLM/A-IO against ethnic Azande forces of commander James Nando – who defected from Machar to Kiir’s South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) after 2018 peace deal – has displaced 80,000 and killed over 100 since June. Joint Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-UN delegation to area 19 Sept warned of further escalation absent urgent govt action. Insecurity also persisted elsewhere. In Lakes state (centre), armed youth 5 Sept reportedly attacked police station in Rumbek East county; disarmament operation targeting suspected criminals in Cueibet county 8 Sept turned deadly, leaving seven dead. In Jonglei state (east), armed individuals 2 Sept reportedly killed herder in Uror county; 5 Sept reportedly killed two in road ambush in Duk county. In Eastern Equatoria state (south), local officials 12 Sept said unidentified assailants stabbed two SSPDF soldiers to death in Ikotos county. NGO Amnesty International 3 Sept urged authorities to end “new wave of repression against peaceful protests”, including arrests and harassment, since civil society coalition in Aug called for anti-govt protest. UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan 23 Sept accused governing elite of having looted $73mn from public coffers since 2018; govt 27 Sept dismissed claim.
Split within VP Riek Machar’s movement sparked deadly violence; govt faced new calls to stand down, and implementation of transitional security arrangements remained stalled. Military leaders from a rural headquarters of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) 3 Aug claimed to have ousted Machar as movement leader over alleged failure to represent group’s interests, appointed Simon Gatwech Dual as interim leader. SPLM/A-IO forces loyal to Machar and Dual’s splinter group 7 Aug clashed in Magenis area, Upper Nile state, reportedly leaving dozens killed; 17 Aug reportedly clashed again in same area. Few SPLM-A/IO commanders elsewhere publicly backed Dual; SPLM/A-IO deputy chairman and Mining Minister Henry Odwar 11 Aug however resigned from govt, next day said he supported Dual. Meanwhile, following months-long delay, Transitional National Legislative Assembly sworn in 2 Aug, paving way for implementing key steps of peace process including constitutional review and electoral preparation. Intergovernmental Authority for Development chairperson, Sudanese PM Abdallah Hamdok, 19-20 Aug failed to broker agreement between President Kiir and Machar on share of signatory groups in unified national army, with Kiir reportedly demanding 60% of recruits be drawn from his forces. After coalition of civil society groups late July called for country’s leadership to resign and mid-Aug called for countrywide anti-govt protests 30 Aug, govt deployed military and police forces in capital Juba, arrested several activists, shut down internet and threatened to use live bullets; streets 30 Aug remained quiet. Kiir 18 Aug accused members of coalition of non-signatory rebel groups South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) of carrying out “terror attacks”, after unidentified gunmen 16 Aug reportedly killed five people on Juba-Nimule road; SSOMA faction led by Thomas Cirillo, National Salvation Front, immediately denied responsibility; Kiir 30 Aug suspended govt’s participation in Rome peace talks with SSOMA, said negotiations would resume when SSOMA “cease killing innocent people”. Intercommunal violence persisted mainly in centre and south: 31 people killed 15-16 Aug in Tonj East county, Warrap state; seven dead 3-4 Aug in Terekeka county, Central Equatoria state; and about 20 killed and over 20,000 displaced late July-late Aug in Western Equatoria state.
Country marked tenth independence anniversary amid ongoing violence and delays in implementation of transitional agenda. On tenth anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, President Kiir 9 July lamented “lost decade” and warned against “ethnic and regional activism” but lauded “new spirit of dialogue” among civil war belligerents. Kiir 3 July replaced 35 MPs due to sit in Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA); govt 7 and 29 July postponed swearing-in of TNLA initially scheduled for 9 July, now expected for 2 Aug. Govt and factions of South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA, coalition of non-signatory rebel groups) led by Paul Malong and Pagan Amum 15 July resumed talks in Italian capital Rome, 18 July agreed to incorporate Malong’s and Amum’s factions into ceasefire and transitional security arrangements monitoring body; also signed political roadmap scheduling three rounds of talks from Sept to Nov. However, attempts to restart peace talks between govt and SSOMA faction led by Thomas Cirillo, leader of rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), remained stalled. Meanwhile, official body monitoring Sept 2018 peace deal implementation 22 July expressed “critical concern” over delays in setting up unified army, amid reports that soldiers keep abandoning cantonment and training sites over lack of food and medicine. Intercommunal violence persisted in centre, north and south. In Lakes state (centre), suspected armed youth from neighbouring Rumbek East county 13 July reportedly killed three people in separate attacks on Pulthib and Mayom-cuei villages, Yirol West county. In Warrap state (also centre), cattle raid in Tonj East county by suspected armed youth from Tonj North county 9 July left 14 dead. In Unity state (north), clashes between two ethnic Dinka Bek subgroups 13 July killed three in Mayiendit county. In Western Equatoria state (south), intercommunal violence and clashes between forces loyal to Kiir and those loyal to VP Riek Machar throughout month reportedly killed at least three and displaced over 4,000 in greater Tambura area. UN Mission in South Sudan 26 July said it was “deeply disturbed” by recent spate of extrajudicial executions of alleged criminals in Warrap and Lakes states that reportedly left at least 42 people dead since March.
Intercommunal violence continued in centre and south while tensions persisted between govt and holdout rebel group in south. Clashes between ethnic Dinka sub-groups persisted in Lakes state (centre), reportedly killing at least 14 in Rumbek East county 12 June and at least another 24 in Cueibet county 21 June; cattle raids in Rumbek Centre county left at least four dead 2 June and at least another eight 26 June. Also in Lakes state, unidentified gunmen 7 June killed two humanitarian workers in Yirol West county, drawing widespread condemnation. In Eastern Equatoria state (south), intercommunal clashes 23 June killed at least five people in Ikotos county; cattle raid same day left at least four dead in Torit county. Meanwhile, in Central Equatoria state (south), holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) 3 June accused South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) aligned with President Kiir of killing four civilians in Lainya county 1 June; SSPDF next day denied responsibility, blaming NAS instead; latter 11 June claimed it had gathered evidence of “coordinated ethnic-based war crimes” by SSPDF. New round of talks between govt and NAS scheduled for 28 June-1 July in Italian capital Rome did not take place; NAS leader Thomas Cirillo conditioned resumption of talks on security guarantees for his delegates. Govt late June requested to postpone peace talks with factions of South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (coalition of non-signatory rebel groups) led by Paul Malong and Pagan Amum, initially scheduled for 1-4 July, to 10-18 July. Implementation of transitional security arrangements continued to stall, including over differences between Kiir and VP Machar on command structure of unified army; Kiir 8 June again directed official body monitoring peace deal implementation to mobilise necessary funds for graduating first batch of unified army. Head of UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan Nicholas Haysom 21 June lamented delays in formation of unified national army which he said was “critical element” to prevent relapse into conflict. UN Mission in South Sudan 14 June reported 444 civilians killed across country from Feb to May 2021, mainly by civil defence groups, SSPDF and NAS.
Renewed escalation of intercommunal violence in east left 150 dead, and holdout rebel group suspended participation in peace talks amid clashes in south; meanwhile, govt made some progress in implementing 2018 peace deal. In Greater Pibor Administrative Area in east, renewed intercommunal clashes between ethnic Lou Nuer and Dinka on one side and ethnic Murle on the other 10-17 May killed over 150 in Gumuruk area. UN Mission in South Sudan 16 May expressed “deep concern” over “fresh escalation of violence”. UN Security Council 11 May extended mandate of UN peacekeeping force in disputed Abyei region (north) between South Sudan and Sudan, until Nov; intercommunal violence 16 May killed at least 11 people in Abyei’s Dungoup village. Meanwhile, holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) 6 May suspended its participation in new round of peace talks with govt scheduled for 8-12 May, accusing govt of involvement in April alleged assassination of Gen Abraham Wana Yoane, military chief of rebel group allied to NAS. In Central Equatoria state in south, suspected NAS combatants reportedly killed five civilians in Payawa village 12 May and four security forces in Gabada village next day. In Western Equatoria state (also south), President Kiir-aligned South Sudan People’s Defence Forces 14-15 May repelled attack by suspected NAS on their barracks in Maridi county; five reportedly killed. Kiir 10 May signed long-delayed decree reconstituting Transitional National Legislative Assembly to include former rebel opposition groups, paving way for completion of key steps of peace process including constitutional review and preparation for elections; move came after Troika states, Canada, France, Germany and EU 5 May jointly urged Kiir and presidency’s five VPs to take steps to bolster transition. Implementation of transitional security arrangements however continued to lag behind schedule and official body monitoring peace deal implementation, including unification of armed groups into single army, 20 May warned former rebel fighters were abandoning cantonment and training sites due to lack of food and medicine, jeopardising goal to graduate first batch of unified army by month’s end. UN Security Council 28 May extended arms embargo on South Sudan for one year.
President Kiir took steps to consolidate his power and sideline potential rivals, and intercommunal violence persisted in centre. Amid calls for Kiir to step down, latter 10 and 16 April reshuffled key political and security positions, notably replacing Presidential Affairs Minister Nhial Deng Nhial, army chief Gen Johnson Juma Okot, external intelligence chief Gen Thomas Duoth and Deputy Defence Minister Gen Malek Reuben Riak with perceived hardliners and loyalists. Presidential Press Secretary Ateny Wek Ateny 14 April announced general elections initially scheduled for 2022 would be postponed to June 2023 due to delays in implementation of transitional agenda, drawing immediate criticism from VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition. Meanwhile, clashes erupted between Dinka sub-ethnic groups in Lakes state (centre), leaving at least 14 dead in Rumbek North county 7-9 April; 23 killed in Rumbek East county 17-18 April; eight dead in Cueibet county 21 April; and at least 13 more in Yirol West county next day. In Unity state (also centre), suspected armed youths from neighbouring Warrap state 4 April killed at least 18 people in cattle raid in Mayom county. UN Panel of Experts 26 April warned of risk of renewed war amid widening political, military and ethnic divisions. Following late March-early April spate of deadly attacks against commercial truck drivers on South Sudan’s main trade routes with Kenya and Uganda, truckers from two neighbouring countries 3 April went on strike over insecurity, temporarily halting imports and triggering brief trade crisis. Uganda drivers 10 April resumed work after govt deployed military forces along roads to provide additional security. Holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), which govt accused of carrying out ambushes on trucks, 1 April denied responsibility, blaming govt-affiliated forces. Unidentified assailants 20 April reportedly assaulted Gen Abraham Wana Yoane, military chief of holdout splinter rebel group South Sudan National Movement for Change/Army (SSNMC/A), allied to NAS leader Thomas Cirillo, in Ugandan capital Kampala; Yoane 22 April died from his injuries and SSNMC/A same day claimed govt was responsible.
Fighting resumed between govt and holdout rebel group in south, President Kiir achieved formation of state govts amid mounting calls to resign, and intercommunal violence persisted. Deadly clashes resumed in south between govt and National Salvation Front (NAS), which refused to be part of 2018 peace deal. Notably, NAS 14-15 and 18 March reportedly clashed with govt’s South Sudan People’s Defence Forces in Central Equatoria state and Western Equatoria state’s Movolo area; death toll unknown. Following four-day negotiations in Kenya’s Naivasha town, govt and factions of South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (coalition of non-signatory rebel groups) led by Paul Malong and Pagan Amum 11 March signed Declaration of Principles, which forms basis for subsequent political dialogue. Kiir 2 March appointed Upper Nile and Eastern Equatoria’s govts, concluding formation of all ten state govts; national legislative assembly, council of states and some local govts yet to be formed. Meanwhile, Kiir faced rising pressure to step down from senior figures within his political base. Notably, former presidential adviser and prominent ruling party figure Daniel Awet Akot 14 March called on Kiir to hand over power to Presidential Affairs Minister Nhial Deng Nhial. Intercommunal violence persisted in several states. Notably, in Lakes state, clashes between ethnic Pakam and Gok 9 March left ten dead in Mabor cattle camp, Rumbek North county, and fighting between Gok community’s Ayiel and Pagok sections next day killed 17 people in Ngap village, Cueibet county. Unidentified gunmen 28 March killed at least 14 people in Budi county, Eastern Equatoria state; state governor 28 March reportedly survived assassination attempt on Budi-Buya axis that left two people dead. EU 22 March announced sanctions on Kiir-aligned Maj Gen Gabriel Moses Lokujo over his alleged role in abduction and execution of three officers of VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition in May 2020. UN Human Rights Council 24 March renewed mandate of UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for one year.
Govt faced mounting pressure to implement fully Sept 2018 peace agreement as country celebrated first anniversary of transitional unity govt, while intercommunal violence persisted. Body monitoring unification of armed groups into single army — a peace agreement provision – 4 Feb said “protracted delays” in training, graduation and deployment of unified national army “detrimental to lasting peace”. Govt 15 Feb missed self-imposed deadline to finalise appointment of state and local officials, graduate first cohort of unified national army and reconstitute new national assembly. President Kiir 20 Feb formed first state govt, appointing Central Equatoria’s state ministers, county commissioners, chairpersons for state commissions and other officials; 22 Feb formed Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap and Unity states’ govts. Jieng Council of Elders, grouping of prominent ethnic Dinka politicians and elders formerly aligned with Kiir, 19 Feb called on latter and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar to step aside in next election, said they symbolise “failure of leadership and political deadlock”. Intercommunal violence persisted. Notably, in Lakes state in centre, clashes between Rumbek East and Yirol West counties reportedly left two soldiers and three civilians dead 1 Feb, and three others killed 9-10 Feb; in Warrap state, also centre, two separate intercommunal clashes 2-3 Feb left eight dead, while unidentified gunmen 9 and 13 Feb killed 27 civilians; in Upper Nile state in north east, suspected ethnic Nuer militia 2-3 Feb killed at least 23 people. South Sudan Council of Churches and civil society organisations 15 Feb jointly called on govt to stem intercommunal and other violence, internal displacement and soaring inflation. UN 19 Feb noted “massive escalation” in localised violence since signing of peace agreement in late 2018, said scope of violence now “far exceeds” that of 2013-2019.
After months-long deadlock, President Kiir appointed Upper Nile state governor; intercommunal violence persisted. Govt and former rebel opposition groups 18 Jan agreed to power-sharing arrangement for Abyei, Greater Pibor and Ruweng Administrative Areas. After appointing six out of ten deputy state governors in Dec, President Salva Kiir appointed another three 22 Jan; Kiir 29 Jan appointed Upper Nile state governor and deputy governor, ending months-long deadlock with rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar over latter’s initial choice for state governor. Cabinet same day approved establishment of hybrid war crimes court. In Upper Nile state in east, clashes involving several militias continued to spark tensions between Kiir-aligned Dinka Padang and Machar-aligned Nuer communities in Maban county; Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) and Kiir’s forces reportedly clashed throughout month and accused each other of attacking civilians in Maban. In Upper Nile state’s Melut county, cattle raiders 13 Jan killed four,and unidentified assailants 16 Jan killed at least seven civilians.In el-Mogeines border area between Upper Nile state and Sudan’s White Nile state, clashes between South Sudanese gunmen and Sudanese communities early Jan reportedly left at least 17 dead. In Warrap state in centre, unidentified gunmen mid-Jan ambushed vehicle, killing five in Tonj North county; intercommunal clashes 24-30 Jan left at least 14 dead in Tonj North and Tonj South counties. In Lakes state in centre, intercommunal violence early to mid-Jan left at least six dead in Cueibet county; cattle raiders 11-12 Jan killed at least five police officers in Yirol West county. UN Sec-Gen Guterres 15 Jan appointed Nicholas Haysom as new head of UN Mission in South Sudan. Kiir mid-Jan offered to mediate in border dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia (see Sudan and Ethiopia).
Govt and former rebel opposition groups agreed to end stalemate over formation of state and county govts in all but one state; meanwhile intercommunal violence continued. Govt and former rebel opposition groups 9 Dec agreed to move forward with formation of state and county govts, except in contested Upper Nile state, as well as with reconstitution of national legislature; parties agreed to organise peace and reconciliation conference to bring together Upper Nile communities prior to appointment of state governor, over which President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar have been at odds since June; Machar mid-Dec, however, indefinitely postponed conference. Kiir 30 Dec appointed six out of ten deputy state governors. In bid to reassert control over Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), Machar 1-5 Dec organised national party conference; dissent has been mounting in SPLA-IO’s ranks over slow implementation of Sept 2018 peace agreement. Regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development 20 Dec formally confirmed there are no travel restrictions on Machar. Govt and holdout rebel group National Salvation Front early Dec held talks in Italy’s capital Rome but failed to reach breakthrough on draft ten-point Declaration of Principles aimed at guiding future political negotiations. In Central Equatoria state in south, Kiir’s forces and SPLA-IO clashed several times throughout month in Kajo-Keji county. In Western Equatoria state in south, unidentified gunmen 16 Dec reportedly attacked SPLA-IO in Mvolo county. In Upper Nile state in east, unidentified gunmen mid-Dec reportedly attacked SPLA-IO in Maban county. Meanwhile, intercommunal violence persisted across country. In Central Equatoria state, cattle-related violence killed at least 43 throughout month in Terekeka and Lainya counties. In Lakes state in centre, cattle raids and intercommunal violence throughout month killed at least 29 in Yirol east, Cueibet and Awerial counties. In Warrap state, also in centre, intercommunal clashes mid-Dec left seven dead in Tonj North county.
Efforts to form govts at state and local levels continued, and holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) agreed to join peace agreement’s ceasefire monitoring body. Former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) mid-Nov said it would not submit its nominees for state minister and county commissioner positions until President Salva Kiir appoints Machar’s pick for governor of contested Upper Nile state; late Nov reportedly agreed to formation of state and local governments except in Upper Nile state. Machar continued to face mounting dissent within SPLA-IO, whose Sec Gen Peter Tingo 10 Nov resigned, citing Machar’s poor leadership. South Sudan National Dialogue, launched by Kiir in 2017, mid-Nov recommended to return country to 32 states; measure, if implemented, could derail transition as Kiir’s decision in Feb 2020 to revert country to its original ten states had paved way for formation of unity govt. In Italy’s capital Rome, govt and NAS 9-13 Nov held talks aimed at incorporating NAS into peace agreement’s ceasefire monitoring body (CTSAMVM); after briefly walking out of talks, accusing govt of violating ceasefire in Central Equatoria state in south 10 Nov, NAS agreed to join CTSAMVM in Jan 2021. In Warrap state in centre, intercommunal clashes 8-9 Nov left at least 16 dead and several dozen injured in Tonj East county; UN 17 Nov said more than 1,000 people had died in past six months in intercommunal violence in Warrap state. In Jonglei state in east, intercommunal clashes early to mid-Nov left at least 13 dead in Fangak county. In Upper Nile state in east, unidentified gunmen 4 Nov killed two prominent ethnic Shilluk in state capital Malakal. In Central Equatoria state in south, former SPLA-IO senior commander who in Sept defected to Kiir’s forces late Nov reportedly attacked SPLA-IO base in Kajo-Keji county. UN Security Council 12 Nov extended mandate of peacekeeping force in contested Abyei region until May 2021.
Govt and holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) agreed to three-month ceasefire while govt and former rebel groups made slow progress in local power-sharing negotiations. Negotiations between govt and coalition of non-signatory rebel groups, South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), 9-12 Oct resumed in Italy’s capital, Rome; amid internal frictions, SSOMA split into two camps prompting govt to hold separate talks with NAS, during which they agreed on seven of ten principles of draft Declaration of Principles aimed at guiding future political negotiations; NAS 18 Oct said it had agreed to three-month ceasefire and that it would only commit to open-ended cessation of hostilities once parties agreed on all ten principles. Meanwhile, govt and signatory opposition groups 20 Oct broke deadlock over allocation of county commissioner positions and President Kiir next day asked former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar and other parties to submit nominees for ministerial and county commissioner positions; disagreement persisted over appointment of Upper Nile state governor. In Unity state in north, Paul Malong’s SSOMA faction South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A) early Oct defected to Kiir’s forces and 20 Oct launched attack on Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), killing at least one near state capital Bentiu. In Central Equatoria state in south, former SPLA-IO senior commander who in Sept defected to Kiir’s forces 4 Oct launched attack on SPLA-IO base in Kajo-Keji county, reportedly leaving at least two dead. Unidentified gunmen early Oct killed son of former Central Equatoria governor between Juba and Terekeka counties, reportedly prompting reprisal that 9 Oct killed at least six. In Eastern Equatoria state, cattle raids 3-12 Oct left four dead in Torit and Budi counties. Clashes between South Sudanese and Ugandan soldiers along border 27 Oct reportedly left two dead on each side. In centre, intercommunal clashes 7 Oct killed at least ten in Tonj county, Warrap state. Raiders 17-18 Oct killed five cattle traders in Cueibet county, Lakes state. Unidentified gunmen 5 Oct attacked World Food Programme boat-convoy carrying food assistance from Jonglei state to Upper Nile state (east), one crew member missing.
Govt and former rebel opposition groups continued negotiations on implementation of power-sharing deal at state and local levels while violence persisted across country. Govt and former rebel opposition groups mid-Sept reached agreement on allocation of ministerial positions at state level, 24 Sept resolved deadlock over total number of counties and agreed on allocation of all but 11 county commissioner positions. President Salva Kiir and former rebel turned VP Riek Machar, however, remained at odds over latter’s pick for governor of contested Upper Nile state. Rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), which refused to be part of 2018 peace deal, continued to launch attacks in Central Equatoria state in south. Suspected NAS combatants 1 Sept killed two civilians in Yiei River county. UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) next day deployed troops to establish temporary base in Lobonok county following recent surge in suspected NAS attacks against civilians and aid workers there; 8 Sept announced its troops had been blocked from reaching Lobonok by govt. NAS next day reportedly repelled joint attack by Kiir’s and Machar’s forces on its positions in Morobo county, five reported dead on both sides. After UNMISS early Sept began withdrawing its forces from civilian protection camps across country, thousands of internally displaced persons 10, 22 and 28 Sept took to streets of capital Juba, Jonglei state capital Bor town and Unity state capital Bentiu, respectively, calling on UNMISS to reconsider its withdrawal. Intercommunal and other violence remained high in centre. In Unity state, cattle raid 9 sept left 17 dead in Mayom county and intercommunal tit-for-tat attacks 20-21 Sept left at least five dead in Mayendit county. In Warrap and Lakes state, attacks by unidentified assailants and intercommunal clashes 1-25 Sept left at least 30 dead in several counties. As govt continued to face massive budgetary shortfalls amid low oil prices, Kiir 16 Sept fired Finance Minister Salvatore Garang Mabiordit Wol along with heads of National Revenue Authority and state-owned oil company Nile Petroleum Corporation.
Govt and former rebel opposition groups reached wider agreement on local power-sharing while disarmament campaign sparked deadly violence in centre. Following months-long deadlock, President Kiir, former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) and Other Political Parties (OPP) 10 Aug signed agreement on power sharing at state and county levels; deal, which complements June agreement on appointment of state governors, allocates seats on state cabinets, state legislatures, county commissions, and county councils. Kiir and Machar however remain at loggerheads over latter’s pick for governor of contested Upper Nile state. In centre, govt-led disarmament campaign in Kiir’s stronghold Warrap state 8-9 Aug triggered clashes between security forces and ethnic Dinka militias refusing to disarm, leaving at least 148 dead on both sides in Tonj East County; UN mission 11 Aug dispatched peacekeeping patrol to area, next day said it had set up temporary base in Tonj town to deter further violence. In south, rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), which refused to be part of Sept 2018 peace agreement, 5 Aug reportedly attacked army base in Gorom Payam, 15km outside capital Juba; NAS claimed eleven soldiers killed. NAS 13 Aug said it had repelled same day attack by Kiir-aligned South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) and Machar’s SPLA-IO on its positions outside Kajo Keji town, Central Equatoria state; four reportedly killed on both sides. NAS 19 Aug killed six bodyguards of VP James Wani in Lobonok County, also Central Equatoria. Intercommunal violence persisted. In Lakes state in centre, intercommunal clash between Nyang and Amothnhom youth 5 Aug left at least six dead in Rumbek Central County. Kiir 13 Aug declared state of emergency in Jonglei state and Greater Pibor Administrative Area in east, citing recent violence between local ethnic Dinka and Nuer on one side, and ethnic Murle on the other, and rainy season-related floods. Govt and Sudan 26 Aug vowed to settle dispute over contested Abyei region.
Intercommunal violence escalated in east leaving dozens dead, implementation of local power-sharing agreement stalled, and ceasefire between President Kiir and VP Riek Machar’s forces broke down in west. In east, intercommunal clashes intensified in Jonglei state. Notably, unidentified gunmen 2 July killed four in Poktap village; suspected ethnic Murle youth next day attacked Duk Padiet town, leaving at least 39 dead; at least seven were also killed 13 July in cattle raid in Pajut town; gunmen reportedly crossing over from Pibor Administrative Area 27 July killed about 17 people in Makol-cuei village. In Lakes state in centre, intercommunal violence 4 July left four dead in Cueibet County. In Warrap state, also in centre, 15 were killed in cattle raid in Tonj North county 24 July. President Kiir 8 July said govt would launch nationwide disarmament program and intercommunal dialogue initiatives to address mounting intercommunal violence. Following June agreement between Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar which granted Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) governorship of contested Upper Nile state, Kiir’s spokesperson 2 July said he would not appoint Machar’s pick General Johnson Olony over accusations he violated peace agreement by not sending SPLA-IO forces to cantonment sites for unification with govt troops into national army; Kiir 20 July urged Machar to nominate other candidate. Machar’s SPLA-IO and Kiir-aligned South Sudan People’s Defense Forces 18-19 July exchanged fire in Wau, Western Bar El Gazal state, after latter 18 July arrested SPLA-IO fighters in Nyabor area. UN Security Council 13 July and regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) next day urged govt to form legislative assembly and implement security arrangements; IGAD 14 July said in absence of progress in implementation of transitional measures by 14 Aug its chairperson would intervene to mediate between parties and attempt to break deadlock. In south, rebel group National Salvation Front, which refused to be part of Sept 2018 peace agreement, 19 July said it had repelled attacks by govt forces on its positions in Liria county 16 July and Lobonok county 18 July, killing five soldiers.
In major breakthrough, President Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar reached agreement on local power-sharing, while intercommunal violence persisted in east and centre, and tensions emerged within Kiir’s political base. Kiir and Machar 17 June reached consensus on appointment of state governors, ending three-month deadlock; Machar obtained appointment of governor of contested Upper Nile state instead of South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA); SSOA to appoint governor of Jonglei state instead. Kiir 29 June appointed eight of ten governors; Upper Nile state governor not appointed despite Machar reportedly submitting nomination; SSOA continued to debate appointment for Jonglei state. Deputy Interior Minister Mabior Garang de Mabior 3 June resigned to protest stalled implementation of transitional security arrangements; official body monitoring unification of armed groups into single army 10 June warned training and cantonment sites “near collapse” over lack of resources and logistical support. Intercommunal violence continued in Jonglei state in east. Notably, suspected ethnic Murle gunmen reportedly killed ten people in cattle raid in Jalle area 17 June; unidentified gunmen reportedly killed 12 people in Makuach area 19 June. Kiir 23 June formed committee to ease tensions between ethnic Dinka, ethnic Lou Nuer, and ethnic Murle. Intercommunal clashes also persisted in centre, allegedly killing 69 in Warrap and Lakes states 25-29 June. Rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), which refused to be part of Sept 2018 peace agreement, 3 June claimed Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition had killed 15 civilians in Central Equatoria state in south 31 May. UN Mission in South Sudan 9 June and EU 11 June called on govt and NAS to abide by truce brokered in Jan. Tensions mounted within Kiir’s political base. relative of Kiir 3 June killed four civilians in clash over land dispute in capital Juba, sparking intra-Dinka tensions and prompting some 1,000 residents to take to streets same day; govt next day established investigative committee. Former political prisoner Kerbino Wol Agok, member of Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group, 5 June announced creation of new rebel group “7th of Oct Movement”; govt forces 14 June killed Agok during military operation in Lakes state, sparking public outcry.
Intercommunal violence between ethnic Murle and ethnic Lou Nuer surged in east leaving hundreds dead; negotiations over local power-sharing between President Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar remained stalled, while clashes between govt and holdout rebel group escalated in south. Intercommunal violence flared up in east and centre. In Jonglei state in east, ethnic Murle 16-17 May reportedly attacked several ethnic Lou Nuer villages in Uror county leaving up to 300 dead. In Warrap state in centre, attack by unidentified assailants 14 May left twelve dead in Apuk North county. In Lakes state, also in centre, inter-clan violence reportedly left fifteen dead 18 May. Kiir 7 May said meeting of six-member unity presidency same day had yielded consensus over appointment of state governors, with six states going to Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Government, three to Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), and contested Upper Nile state to South Sudan Opposition Alliance. Machar immediately rejected purported deal and called on chairman of official peace monitoring body to intervene, who 9 May referred dispute to regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority for Development. Clashes between govt forces – in places together with SPLA-IO – and rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), which refused to be part of Sept 2018 peace agreement, flared up in Central and Western Equatoria states in south. Fighting, which erupted after Jan truce between govt and non-signatory armed groups broke down in April, displaced thousands of civilians in Central Equatoria; NAS claimed it had repelled attack by govt forces trying to take back territory from insurgents in Katigiri village 5 May, killing four soldiers; govt forces 4-14 May reportedly raided NAS positions in several villages in Lainya county. President Kiir 15 May removed Machar from COVID-19 taskforce and appointed VP Hussein Abdelbagi as new chairman. UN Security Council 29 May extended South Sudan arms embargo and targeted sanctions against individuals until May 2021.