South Sudan - Tribal Warfare 2013-201?

Alex de Waal wrote in 2016 "South Sudan today is a collapsed political marketplace. The country’s political market was structured by competitive militarized clientelism for access to oil rents. Those oil rents have almost disappeared but the structure of competition is unchanged and the price of loyalty has not reduced to a level commensurate with the available political funding. The result is that political loyalty and services are rewarded with license to plunder. This is inherently self-destructive. South Sudan’s political economy is being consumed to feed its political-military elite.

"President Salva Kiir) provided access to oil rents in return for political allegiance. By this means, he was able to bring the majority of armed groups into the SPLA’s ‘big tent’, but only on the basis of spending most government revenue on an unreformed security sector. This maintained a façade of unity among the political elites. It secured independence. However, the viability of the system was entirely dependent on a continued inflow of oil funds, and when that was shut off in January 2012, it was only a matter of time before the system crashed. When political rivalries for the leadership inevitably emerged, Pres. Kiir did not possess the funds, repressive apparatus, or political skills to maintain his position: the war arose from a mismanaged kleptocracy."

At least ten thousand people were killed in the first month of fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and soldiers backing former deputy, Riek Machar, who was dismissed in July 2013. By New Year 2014 thousands had been killed in tribal warfare that pitted Dinka troops against Nuer combatants. Some 250,000 people had been displaced by the fighting as of 09 January 2014, and while no official death toll has been released, a top U.N. official saidit is likely to be "very substantially in excess of the figure of 1,000 that we know for sure about."

Tensions within South Sudan, the world’s youngest country which only gained independence in July 2011 after seceding from Sudan, burst out into open conflict on 15 December when President Salva Kiir's Government said soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, dismissed in July 2013, launched an attempted coup. Kiir belongs to the Dinka ethnic group and Machar to the Lou Nuer.

After decades of struggle, by 2005 the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) was the dominant single political movement in Southern Sudan, and the genesis of a one-party state. On July 30, 2005, long-time SPLM leader John Garang died in a helicopter crash. The SPLM/A named Salva Kiir, Garang’s deputy, as President of the Government of South Sudan (GoSS). The July 2005 death of Garang and the formation of the Government of South Sudan gave the SPLM opportunities to bring rivals and former adversaries into the fold. The enlargement process intensified factionalism within the SPLM. While the SPLM has no serious political rival in the South, there are internal strains.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit dismissed his entire government, including Vice President Riek Machar, in a decree issued late July 24, 2013. Kiir also removed all deputy ministers. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan’s Minister of Information and government spokesman before the restructuring announcement said a government makeover was overdue and that Kiir acted within the constitution. He rejected any suggestion that the reshuffle, as he called it, might cause instability in the world’s youngest country.

Alarmed by the increased conflict and violence in South Sudan, particularly the eastern state of Jonglei, the Security Council on 23 August 2013 strongly condemned attacks on civilians and the looting of UN and other international aid organizations’ facilities, and called on the Government to expedite safe and unhindered humanitarian access to the people cut off from aid. In a statement to the press, the Council “called on all parties, including armed militias, to exercise restraint, refrain from any acts of violence against civilians" and to “fully respect their obligations under applicable international law, including human rights law and international humanitarian law." An estimated 100,000 civilians in Jonglei alone have been cut off from life-saving assistance as a result of fighting between State and non-state armed actors, and the recent resurgence of inter-communal clashes.

On November 26, 2013 South Sudan’s former Vice President Riek Machar said he was putting structures in place to challenge President Salva Kiir for the leadership of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) ahead of the 2015 general election. Some supporters of the ruling party said he was one of a group of visionless and directionless people in the party who were power hungry and intent on enriching themselves.

In December 2013, the political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar descended into violence, which by the end of 2014 left at least 10,000 people dead and more than 1.8 million displaced.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar agreed 07 November 2014 on a power sharing formula in a deal to establish a national transitional government that would help steer the world’s newest nation to elections. The two warring leaders also called on their troops for an immediate cease-fire during the ongoing peace talks in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

One year after South Sudan's political infighting deteriorated into a deadly conflict, the parties appeared no closer to silencing their guns and getting back to the business of building the world’s youngest nation. Since its 2011 move to independence, the country spiraled into a humanitarian crisis that the UN said left half the population hungry and nearly two million displaced. Politically motivated fighting over the past year alone killed tens of thousands South Sudanese. More than a year of fighting in South Sudan left more than 10,000 people dead.

By the end of 2017 there were three armed structures in South Sudan claiming the heritage of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army: the Government forces (SPLA), the SPLA-IO loyal to Riek Machar (RM) and the SPLA-IO loyal to First Vice-President Taban Deng (TD). The SPLA and the SPLA-IO (RM) were supported by militias: the Dinka Mathiang Anyoor (now largely integrated into the SPLA) and the Nuer “White Army" respectively. The three armed structures and their associated militias favored guerrilla hit and run tactics over conventional battles, achieving success with light arms and minimal training, while living off the land. The Shilluk Agwelek militia had fought alongside both the SPLA and the SPLA-IO, and was primarily focused on the defence of Shilluk lands.

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