Persistent Insecurity in South Sudan: A 12-month Outlook


    Since the achievement of independence in 2011, South Sudan has been experiencing persistent insecurity. The civil war erupted in 2013 between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-opposition (SPLM-IO). Despite the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan in 2015 and its revitalisation (R-ARCRSS) in 2018, violence remains endemic. Additionally, the National Security Service systematically violates civil liberties and political rights. As the 2024 elections approach, the tensions between SPLM and SPLM-IO and civil society’s repression will likely rise. 

    Key Judgement 1: Despite the 2018 renewed peace agreement between SPLM and SPLM-IO, violence will highly likely remain endemic in South Sudan over the next 12 months. In particular, communal confrontations are a major insecurity factor. 

    • In December 2013, inner divisions inside the SSD leadership led to civil war. SSD former vice president, Riek Machar, organised the SPLM-IO opposing presidential faction, the SPLM and the national army. [source] [source]
    • The conflict soon assumed an ethnic dimension. While Dinka’s majority sided with president Kiir, the Nuer people aligned with the SPLM-IO. [source] [source
    • On 17 August 2015, the warring parties adopted the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. Nevertheless, the hostilities resumed immediately after. [source]
    • While sometimes effective in protecting civilians, UNMISS has failed several times to intervene against the SSD army’s abuses of civilians and aid workers. [source] [source] [source]
    • In September 2018, the peace process was relaunched. SPLM-IO and the presidential forces signed the R-ARCRSS.[source]
    • The implementation of 2018’s accords proceed slowly, and peace has not been completely re-established. Despite a modest decrease between 2017 and 2019, violence against civilians remains endemic. [source]
    • Even if it is slightly decreasing, SSD internal struggles remain among the 20 most severe ongoing conflicts. [source]
    • Gender insecurity is pervasive. The armed groups often recur to sexual assault, treating girls and women as spoils of war. [source]
    • Since mid-November 2022, approximately ten thousand people have fled Upper Nile State due to increasing conflict. This increases the pressure on the UN protection camp in Malakal which already hosts 37,000 people, despite a capacity of 12,000. [source] [source]
    • On 27 December 2022, communal violence erupted again in Jonglei State, causing the death of almost 200 people and leaving thousands displaced. [source] [source]
    Due to inter-communal conflict and extreme climatic events thousands of people are converging on Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile State. (author’s elaboration ArcGIS)

    Key Judgement 2: It is highly likely that the multi-layered humanitarian insecurity in South Sudan will not improve over the next 12 months. Floods are heavily affecting the population, causing displacement, food insecurity and health issues.

    • In 2021, over 11 million people needed humanitarian assistance. [source]
    • Since 2018, acute food insecurity has been growing. The Greater Upper Nile region is in an emergency situation.[source]
    • The access level to water supply, sanitation and hygiene remain low. This negatively affects health (cholera) and nutrition. [source][source]
    • 67.3 percent of the population lives on $2.15 per day. [source]
    • The increased floods occurrence are fostering the displacement of tens of thousands. The most affected states are Jonglei and Unity. [source]
    • The country’s economy is over-reliant on the primary sector. Floods, droughts and locust invasions threaten livelihood, increasing the tensions between herders and farmers. [source]
    • SSD remains the least developed State of the world according to the 2022 Human Development Index. [source]

    Key Judgement 3: As the 2024 elections approach, South Sudan’s internal political situation will likely worsen over the next 12 months. The National Security Service arbitrarily represses dissent. 

    • Despite mild improvement, South Sudan is one of the most fragile states globally. [source]
    • Government and security forces do not guarantee and often violate civil liberties and political rights. [source] [source]
    • The SSD National Security Service consistently represses dissent. Abuses it commits remain largely unpunished. [source] [source]
    • On 30 August 2021, the central government arrested prominent figures of the People’s Coalition for Civil Action, a pro-democracy, civil society organisation.[source] [source]
    • Despite 2018’s R-ARCRSS, SSD has not yet a permanent constitution. [source]
    • On 7 January 2023, the security forces arrested six journalists because they filmed President Kiir wetting himself during an official ceremony. [source]
    • In December 2024, SSD will hold presidential elections. SPLM party has endorsed President Kiir. [source]

    Intelligence Cut-off Date: 29 January 2023

    Samuele Minelli Zuffa
    Samuele Minelli Zuffa
    Samuele is an Italian international security and intelligence analyst. His main area of interest is Sub-Saharan Africa, where he focuses on climate-conflict nexus, asymmetric warfare untraditional security threats. He complements traditional research methods with Satellite Imagery and GIS investigation.

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