South Sudan’s early history is barely documented. Today’s most important Nilotic peoples groups Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk are believed to have lived in the area since the 9th century, while the Azande folk group is believed to have immigrated during the 16th century.
When Ottoman Egypt began to subjugate Sudan in the 19th century, the African peoples of the South became victims of a comprehensive slave trade, which laid the foundation for the contradictions that resulted in the modern state of Sudan’s division in 2011.
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The Egyptian Kediv (Deputy King) Ismail Pasha initiated a formal colonization of the South and founded in 1870 the province of Equatoria, corresponding to about half the now independent state of South Sudan. British influence over Egypt and Sudan increased from the end of the 19th century and was formalized through the so-called Anglo-Egyptian condominium 1899. In practice, the whole of Sudan was ruled as a British colony, but the administration of the northern and southern parts differed markedly. While the British in the northern Arab-dominated part built up a modern social structure, including major investments in education, the principle indirectly left a large number of local leaders in charge of the southern area, which meant that the development of the region went very slowly. Arab influence in the south was counteracted and trade between the regions was kept to a minimal level. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of South Sudan.
In June 1947, at a North Sudanese initiative, a conference was held in southern Sudan’s central city of Juba on the future of the country. The delegates from the United Kingdom and Sudan decided that the two halves should be jointly governed. But the weak representation of the South Sudanese at the conference meant that their region was subordinate to Sudan’s independence in 1956. Almost no South Sudanese were included in the committee that prepared the independence.
The discontent in the south led to an armed uprising there already in 1955, a year before independence, which developed into a civil war that continued until 1972. The initially divided resistance movement was gathered in the early 1960s in the Southern Sudan Resistance Movement (SSRM).), whose military branch was called Anyanya (‘snake gift’). Through a peace agreement concluded in Addis Ababa, South Sudan was granted regional autonomy. SSRM leader Joseph Lagu got a post as second vice president for the entire country. A fragile peace prevailed until 1983, when the Khartoum government broke the agreement and decided that Islamic Sharia law should be introduced throughout the country, including the mainly Christian or animist South.
However, religious contradictions were just one of the reasons why a new civil war broke out in 1983. It also included the memories of the slave trade and the African peoples’ sense of continued oppression under the Arab rulers. Control of the southern provinces’ natural resources also played an important role. The water of the Nile had always had a vital role for the semi-nomadic, livestock-feeding peoples of the South, and the work from the late 1970s to direct water from the papyrus swamp in the Sudd region to the White Nile’s main sheep helped to trigger the revolt in 1983.
Moreover, from the late 1970s large oil deposits were found in the south. The leader of the new revolt was Army Colonel John Garang, belonging to the Dinka. He had participated in the first civil war and then made a career in the Sudanese army. He formed the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), with the political branch of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The 22-year-long Second War is estimated to have cost about 2 million people’s lives – either directly as a result of the fighting or indirectly through starvation and disease caused by the war. About 4 million South Sudanese were evacuated from their homes and about 200,000 South Sudanese women and children are estimated to have been robbed and sold as slaves by troops from the north or their southern allies.
Partly as a result of old contradictions between South Sudan’s ethnic groups, partly due to political differences, the SPLA/SPLM was split on several occasions. The Khartoum government actively suppressed the contradictions, a fragmentation tactic that has been widely used since the British colonial era. The north side also recruited several local militia groups that were deployed against SPLA.
While the SPLA was originally intended to work for a democratic Sudan with far-reaching self-government for the south, the ambition gradually became to create an independent state in the south. When a peace agreement, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), was concluded in Naivasha, Kenya in January 2005, it was stated that the residents of the south would enjoy self-government for six years, after which they would be given the position of independence in a referendum. When this referendum was conducted in January 2011, about 99 percent of the participants said yes to the formation of a new state.
Since independence on July 9, 2011, South Sudanese politics has been completely dominated by SPLM, whose leader since Garang perished in 2005, Salva Kiir, is president. The country has been characterized by both internal and external contradictions. The relationship with Sudan has been tense, mainly because of two issues: how the revenues from the oil produced in South Sudan but exported via Sudan should be distributed and to which country the oil-rich area Abyei should belong. The conflict over oil revenues led to armed fighting several times in 2012 before an agreement between the countries was concluded that year. The abbye issue has so far remained unsolved.
The government has also had an uprising in the state of Jonglei to deal with. In addition, at the end of 2013, civil war broke out between government forces and troops led by former Vice President Riek Machar, who had been dismissed earlier this year. The contradictions between the Dinka and Nuer people groups are considered to be the basis of the conflict, described by President Kiir as an attempt at a coup d’état. A peace agreement was signed in 2015, and Machar was re-installed as vice president but went on the run and was subsequently deposited in a new outbreak in the capital Juba in July 2016 and then spread. The armed conflict, which has been going on in various parts of the country even during the period of formal peace, has hit the civilian population very hard. In April 2017, more than 1.8 million South Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers were located in one of the neighboring countries.