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Hostilities between Twic Dinka from Warrap state and Ngok Dinka from disputed Abyei area escalated, leaving scores dead amid retaliatory violence and reported army involvement.
Violence spiked in Abyei area and Warrap state, killing dozens. Border skirmishes 13 Nov erupted between Twic Dinka from Warrap state and Ngok Dinka from disputed Abyei Administrative Area; Abyei officials accused national army, which is prohibited from entering Abyei (a demilitarised zone), of fighting alongside Twic youth, though army denied allegations. Hostilities reportedly left dozens dead. Violence 19 Nov intensified again when armed Twic youths entered several villages in Abyei in attacks, killing at least 27. Head of UN mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, 23 Nov said recent violence killed at least 75 and urged govt to investigate. Meanwhile, Sudan conflict neared Abyei (see Sudan) and could aggravate tensions between Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities given latter’s proximity to paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and recruitment campaigns of Sudan’s warring parties.
President Kiir reconstituted key electoral institutions. As 2024 elections inched closer, President Kiir 3 Nov reconstituted National Election Commission (NEC), Political Parties Council and National Constitution Review Commission. Failure to appoint single opposition candidate to NEC leadership, which will play crucial role in conduct of polls, prompted Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) to reject its composition.
South Sudan deployed first Necessary Unified Forces (NUF). After four-year delay, South Sudan 15 Nov deployed first 750 NUF members as stipulated in peace agreement. Deployment sparked controversy as most troops selected are former members of South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, army of governing party; troops were also deployed to Tonga town (Upper Nile state), where hostilities between SPLM-IO and govt-allied Agwalek militia reignited late Oct, raising fears NUF could intervene against SPLA-IO.
In another important development. Security forces 10 Nov increased presence in capital Juba during President Kiir’s trip to Saudi Arabia, triggering rumours of coup attempt; army leadership dismissed Inspector General of National Police Services. President Kiir 27 Nov reshuffled cabinet, replacing Warrap state governor and three national ministers.
UN denounced repression of civil society amid growing concerns about readiness for 2024 election, key opposition commanders defected to govt, and insecurity continued in several states.
UN condemned govt repression amid concerns about election. UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan 5 Oct issued damning report on civic space in light of 2024 elections, accusing govt and intelligence agency of abuses against journalists and civil society members, and “extreme intolerance towards expressions of criticism”; report concluded that free and fair elections are unimaginable under current conditions. Govt next day cancelled visit of UN special rapporteur on human rights of internally displaced persons. Interim Chair of Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) – tasked with tracking implementation of 2018 peace agreement – Maj Gen Charles Tai Gituai 5 Oct warned lack of progress on election-preparedness is creating uncertainty and urged govt not to abandon constitution-making provisions of peace deal. Briefing UN Security Council, RJMEC Chief of Staff Berhanu Kebede 23 Oct highlighted importance of reconstituting Political Parties Council and National Election Commission before elections.
Collapse of main opposition movement continued unabated. In severe blow to VP Riek Machar’s diminished People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), Unity State Commander Lt. Gen Simon Maguek Gai 10 Oct defected to govt along with several division commanders; Maguek Gai returned to Leer County (Unity State) to mobilise disaffected youth, raising fears of armed confrontation with Machar’s forces; Jonglei State sector commander Lt. Gen Michael Wal Nyak 19 Oct defected. Loss of two key commanders drastically reduced SPLA-IO’s military capacity in Unity and Jonglei states.
Insecurity persisted in several states. Unknown assailants 11 Oct killed four civilians in Budi County, Eastern Equatoria state. Attack by Twic county youth 13 Oct killed four in Athonyi village, Abyei area. Skirmish between two Dinka communities 15 Oct killed three in Twic East County, Jonglei State.
Juba hosted meeting on Sudan crisis as refugees faced hunger crisis. UN World Food Program 3 Oct warned of looming hunger crisis for South Sudanese returnees fleeing war in Sudan. Juba 24-25 Oct hosted Sudan’s Juba Peace Agreement signatories for discussions on ending war.
Opposition denounced controversial election bill amid ongoing disagreements about South Sudan’s readiness for 2024 poll; insecurity escalated in several states.
Opposition decried controversial election bill. Parliament 18 Sept hastily passed National Election Act amid pressure from President Kiir. VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) boycotted vote and staged walkout over last-minute amendment giving president-elect right to appoint additional 5% of legislators, saying bill went against peace agreement and would lead to “undemocratic” poll; stance raises possibility of SPLA-IO boycotting 2024 vote as disagreement on prerequisites for credible election persisted. Other aspects of bill, such as increase in number of MPs from 250 to 332, dashed hopes for simplified and cheaper govt; Kiir 26 Sept signed bill into law. Kiir same day appointed Angelina Teny, former Defence Minister and Machar’s wife, as new Interior Minister; Teny’s sacking from Defence Minister position in March had caused controversy for violating peace agreement.
Insecurity, including abuses by govt forces, intensified. Unknown assailants 16 Sept killed four in ambush on Akobo-Bor road (Jonglei state). Unknown assailants 23 Sept attacked UN children fund (UNICEF) convoy that had been delivering aid in Central Equatoria State, killing two aid workers and destroying humanitarian supplies; UNICEF subsequently paused deliveries to area. Month saw President Kiir’s South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), disgruntled by low wages, step up abuses. Notably, SSPDF soldiers 7 Sept extrajudicially executed civilian in Bor town (Jonglei). SSPDF commander 17 Sept reportedly executed former commander of Pochalla area (Greater Pibor Administrative Area) who had allegedly begun mobilising Anyuak youth after army sacked him; ensuing fighting between SSPDF and Anyuak youth 17-18 Sept killed at least ten, with SSPDF using helicopter gunships against Pochalla town’s population.
President Kiir engaged in flurry of diplomatic activity. President Kiir 4 Sept hosted Sudanese army leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Juba, 17 Sept welcomed Sudanese delegation led by Darfur governor Minni Minawi. Kiir 14 Sept visited Ugandan President Museveni in Ugandan capital Kampala, 18 Sept met UN Sec-Gen António Guterres in New York, and 28 Sept met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russian capital Moscow. President’s frequent foreign trips indicated confidence in measures undertaken to coup-proof regime.
President Kiir appointed ally as finance minister amid deteriorating relations with U.S. over Juba’s economic management; concerns about country’s preparedness for elections persisted.
U.S. issued business advisory over govt’s economic mismanagement. Minister of Petroleum, Puat Kang Chol, and Minister of Roads and Bridges, Simon Mijok Mijak, 3 Aug appeared in front of Public Financial Management (PFM) Oversight Committee, reportedly painting grim picture of govt’s economic mismanagement. Chol presented numbers that revealed misappropriation of oil income while Mijok reportedly described non-transparent procurement process for road building project and vastly inflated prices for its development. Days after presentation and amid years of mounting frustration, U.S. Department of State, Labor and Commerce 14 Aug issued advisory warning U.S. companies that conducting business with enterprises linked to South Sudanese govt officials or their families comes with “reputational, financial and legal risks”. Move marked significant escalation from previous warnings of business dealings with sanctioned individuals and companies. Meanwhile, President Kiir 3 Aug sacked Finance Minister Dier Tong Ngor and replaced him with Bak Barnaba Chol, who hails from Kiir’s home state Warrap; appointment set to tighten Kiir’s grip on public resources.
Stalled election preparations raised concerns. Head of UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Nicholas Haysom 2 Aug said country “is not yet ready for elections”; UNMISS Deputy Head Guang Cong 10 Aug reiterated warning, while interim chairperson of peace monitoring mechanism Charles Tai Gituai same day said authorities had made no progress on implementing key sections of peace deal. Despite concerns, govt 15 Aug said South Sudan would hold elections in 2024 according to schedule without implementing key provisions like census, border demarcation and provisions for displaced populations. VP Machar 29 Aug met with South Africa’s Deputy President Paul Mashatile in capital Juba, with latter offering to help resolve “challenges that may hinder free and fair elections”.
In other important developments. UNMISS 28 Aug reported thousands of South Sudanese refugees had returned to Akobo town from Ethiopia, owing to “ethnically fuelled violence within refugee camps in the Ethiopian Gambella region” and food shortages. Juba 3 Aug acceded to international Convention on Cluster Munitions.
President Kiir announced candidacy in 2024 presidential election amid chorus of international and local voices warning that country lacks conducive environment for free and fair poll.
Govt began election campaigning. Ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IG) pushed forward with preparations for presidential election scheduled for Dec 2024 amid hopes it will provide international legitimacy and end sanctions regimes. President Kiir 4 July confirmed election would take place and announced he would run for president at rally in Wau city, Bahr el Ghazal state.
Array of actors raised concerns about elections. International and local actors raised concerns about lack of political will to hold competitive elections as well as lacklustre implementation of revitalised peace deal (R-ARCSS). Notably, head of UN mission in South Sudan 6 July said country is “not yet ready” for “free, fair and credible elections”. Leader of R-ARCSS signatory party National Democratic Movement 9 July said credible elections “will not be possible…under the current conditions and (given) status of implementation of the R-ARCSS”. Prominent members of VP Machar’s Sudan’s People Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) also voiced concern, as did holdout opposition leader of National Salvation Front Thomas Cirillo on 10 July. Several other holdout opposition leaders and civil society organisations 13 July issued statement accusing govt of organising “sham election”. SPLM-IO deputy chairman 23 July reiterated party “is ready for elections that are free, fair and credible, not sham elections”. SPLM-IG pressed ahead despite warnings, though one SPLM-IG official 10 July claimed party is discussing further extension of transitional period.
Govt and opposition forces clashed in Greater Upper Nile region. SPLM-IG and SPLA-IO 1 July clashed in Wunkur county, located in disputed territory between SPLM-IG-controlled Ruweng Administrative Area and SPLA-IO-controlled Panyikang county (Greater Upper Nile). SPLA-IO area commander in Longechuk county in Upper Nile 2 July confirmed defection to govt.
Sudan war fuelled more displacement and raised food prices. As of 26 July, over 193,000 people had crossed into South Sudan from Sudan since April. Conflict continued disrupting food supplies along border, causing food scarcity and high prices in north.
Militia forces integrated into army, and intercommunal tensions escalated amid displacement crisis from Sudan where conflict threatens oil exports.
Agwalek militia integrated into army and defections weakened opposition. President Kiir and leader of ethnic Shilluk Agwalek militia, Johnson Olony, 7 June held long-awaited meeting in capital Juba, agreed to officially integrate Agwalek combatants into national armed forces. Leaders of two largest rebel groups not to have signed revitalised peace agreement – South Sudan United Front/Army deputy chief of staff, Dickson Gatluak, 11 June and National Salvation Front’s commander, Kenyi Warrior, 18 June – defected to govt, which could disincentivise Juba from reconvening Rome talks with armed groups outside of 2018 deal.
Sudan conflict enflamed intercommunal violence and threatened vital oil pipeline. UN refugee agency 26 June reported around 117,000 had crossed border from Sudan, mostly returnees, since 15 April. Humanitarian organisations continued to relocate thousands to areas of origin and areas adjacent to existing Protection of Civilians (PoC) camp in Malakal city (Upper Nile state), where intercommunal tensions have been high for months due to fighting between Nuer and Shilluk Agwalek ethnic militia. Empowered by President Kiir’s recognition of Olony, armed Shilluk 8 June clashed with Nuer groups in PoC camp, killing over 20, injuring dozens and raising doubts about UN mission’s (UNMISS) ability to protect camp. Meanwhile, Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces mid-June reportedly threatened to blow up only oil pipeline through Sudan if South Sudan does not stop paying transit fees to Sudanese army; move would prevent South Sudan’s oil export through Port Sudan, with catastrophic economic consequences.
Violence persisted in several states. Clashes during cattle raid between Nuer youth of Panyijiar County and Dinka youth of Rumbek Central County 1 June killed eight in Lakes State. Local official said youth from Unity State 3 June killed 19 in cattle-related attack in Tonj North county, Warrap State. Misseriya tribesmen from Sudan’s Kordofan states 10-15 June killed ten in Warn Ayen area of Aweil East County in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state. UNMISS 16 June revealed number of violent incidents targeting civilians Jan-March 2023 grew by 12% compared to same time period in 2022.
Influx of people fleeing Sudan put pressure on scarce resources in Upper Nile state, raising ethnic tensions; militia leader returned to Juba.
South Sudan struggled to cope with refugee influx from Sudan. As of 23 May, over 73,000 refugees and returnees had reportedly crossed into South Sudan, mostly through Renk county (Upper Nile State), from Sudan where fighting continued (see Sudan). With new arrivals, dire humanitarian situation in Upper Nile deteriorated amid lack of food, clean water and sanitation, raising ethnic tensions. Notably, brawl between two groups of displaced South Sudanese over water in Renk county 15 May killed one; fighting 28 May erupted at water point in Malakal town between Nuer and Shilluk communities. Situation could worsen, especially with coming rainy season. Meanwhile, President Kiir spearheaded Intergovernmental Authority on Development regional bloc’s mediation efforts between Sudan’s warring parties. Sudanese army 8 May sent envoy to capital Juba, paramilitary Rapid Support Forces 17 May reciprocated; fighting continued despite efforts.
Militia leader returned to Juba, more opposition figures defected to govt. After peace agreement with govt in Jan 2022 and months of subsequent negotiations, Shilluk Agwalek militia leader Gen. Johnson Olony 14 May arrived in Juba; unclear whether return will de-escalate tensions in Upper Nile, where Olony was reportedly mobilising for attack on areas along White Nile controlled by VP Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO). Govt 14 May announced dozens of high-ranking SPLA-IO members from Machar’s strongholds in Jonglei and Unity states joined ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement; around two dozen members of Simon Gatwech’s SPLA-IO Kitgwang faction same day joined govt.
Violence persisted in several states. In disputed Abyei region between Sudan and South Sudan, unknown assailants 20 May killed five in Hafir el-Silik area. In Jonglei State, armed group 23 May looted World Food Programme trucks outside UN compound in Bor county.
In other important developments. Legislative assembly 9 May ratified UN convention prohibiting use, production and stockpiling of cluster munitions. UN Security Council 26 May extended sanctions on South Sudan, including arms embargo, for another year.
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 Mach