Internal Violence in South Sudan

Internal Violence in South Sudan

Growing internal violence and possible civil war in South Sudan stemming from political and ethnic divisions


Sectarian violence and warnings of imminent civil war continue to emanate from South Sudan, threatening to destabilize the world’s youngest country. Ten thousand people have been killed and more than one million have been internally displaced since fighting broke out in December 2013 between the majority Dinka ethnic group—which also makes up the government security forces—and the Nuer, ousted vice president Riek Machar’s ethnic group. Acute food shortages and the threat of widespread famine could further exacerbate the already dire security situation.

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir’s claim that Machar had orchestrated a coup attempt in December 2013—though denied by the ousted vice president—ignited widened political and ethnic tensions that have been undercurrents in the country since its independence in July 2011. In late December 2013, the UN Security Council authorized a rapid deployment of about 6,000 security forces, in addition to 7,600 peacekeepers already in the country, to aid in nation building efforts, but the international presence has so far been unable to stop the violence. Two attempts by the government and opposition forces to reach ceasefire agreements in January and May 2014 have failed. In May 2014, the Security Council voted to shift the peacekeeping mission’s mandate from nation building to civilian protection, authorizing UN troops to use force.

The United States was a lead actor in facilitating South Sudanese by providing diplomatic support and humanitarian aid, and is currently working to broker peace. However, sectarian violence and political disputes threaten to unravel U.S. efforts to create and maintain a stable South Sudan. 


Please note that this contingency was not identified in the 2014 Preventive Priorities Survey, completed in November 2013. It has been added to highlight a crisis that has emerged since the publication of the survey results. 

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