GIGA Focus International Edition English

South Sudan’s Newest War: When Two Old Men Divide a Nation

Number 2 | 2014 | ISSN: 2196-3940

  • A political power struggle between South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar resulted in violent clashes between ethnic army factions in December 2013. Since then fighting has spread across South Sudan and claimed the lives of around 10,000 people.

    Analysis South Sudan has experienced several insurgencies since gaining independence in 2011. Nevertheless, the current war has the potential to be more destructive to the country than previous ones because both parties – President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his opponent, former vice president Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer – are instrumentalizing ethnic identities and pulling their communities into their personal feud.

    • A number of latent issues have contributed to the current crisis. These include South Sudan’s dysfunctional political system and inadequate political leadership, the historical distrust between the Dinka and the Nuer, and the country’s unhealthy dependence on oil rents.

    • The civilian population is carrying the cost of the conflict. More than 10,000 people have been killed and more than one million displaced since the outbreak of the latest violence. Livelihoods have been destroyed and more than 3.7 million people, approximately a third of the population, are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity.

    • The short- and long-term economic consequences for South Sudan are harsh. Oil production has dropped by 40 percent, severely affecting the state’s budget. Trade has suffered. In the long run, political instability will jeopardize foreign direct investment in South Sudan.

    • The international community’s reaction has been varied: Neighboring countries have supported the government diplomatically and militarily, while the United States and the European Union plan to impose sanctions on the leaders of both sides of the conflict. China has taken an active role in the ongoing peace process.


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      How to cite this article

      Carlo Koos, and Thea Gutschke (2014), South Sudan’s Newest War: When Two Old Men Divide a Nation, GIGA Focus International Edition English, 2, Hamburg: German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA),


      The GIGA Focus is an Open Access publication and can be read on the Internet and downloaded free of charge at According to the conditions of the Creative-Commons license Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0, this publication may be freely duplicated, circulated, and made accessible to the public. The particular conditions include the correct indication of the initial publication as GIGA Focus and no changes in or abbreviation of texts.

      The German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) – Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien in Hamburg publishes the Focus series on Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and global issues. The GIGA Focus is edited and published by the GIGA. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the institute. Authors alone are responsible for the content of their articles. GIGA and the authors cannot be held liable for any errors and omissions, or for any consequences arising from the use of the information provided.

      Dr. Carlo Koos

      Dr. Carlo Koos


      Thea Gutschke

      Thea Gutschke

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