Africa

South Sudan country profile

  • 5 December 2016
  • From the section Africa
Map of South Sudan

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa's longest-running civil war.

Made up of the 10 southern-most states of Sudan, South Sudan is one of the most diverse countries in Africa. It is home to over 60 different major ethnic groups, and the majority of its people follow traditional religions.

Independence did not bring conflict in South Sudan to an end. The 2013-2015 civil war displaced 2.2 million people and threatened the success of one of the world's newest countries.

FACTS

Republic of South Sudan

Capital: Juba

  • Population 7.5-10 million

  • Area 619,745 sq km (239,285 sq miles)

  • Languages English, Arabic (both official), Juba Arabic, Dinka

  • Major religions Traditional religions, Christianity

  • Currency Sudanese pound

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LEADER

President: Salva Kiir Mayardiit

Image copyright Getty Images

Salva Kiir Mayardit became president of South Sudan - then still part of Sudan - and head of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 2005, succeeding long-time rebel leader John Garang, who died in a helicopter crash.

Mr Kiir was re-elected as president in multiparty polls in the south in April 2010. In July 2011, when South Sudan became independent, he became president of the new state.

Just two years later, however, the country was engulfed by civil war when Mr Kiir sacked his entire cabinet and accused Vice-President Riek Machar of instigating a failed coup.

Government and rebels agreed to attend peace talks in Ethiopia in 2014, and a deal was finally signed under threat of UN sanctions for both sides in August 2015.

Mr Machar eventually returned from exile to be sworn in as first vice president of a new unity government under Mr Kiir in April 2016. However he was sacked months later after renewed conflict.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rebel leader Riek Machar briefly reassumed his old job as first vice president in 2016

MEDIA

Media freedom is fragile in South Sudan, where armed groups, weak legal institutions and political pressures undermine free reporting.

Journalists risk arrest over reports that criticise the government and the ruling party. There have been reported seizures of newspapers, or disruption of their distribution, by the authorities.

The state-owned South Sudan TV has little competition, and the country's poverty and limited electricity has hindered the development of TV media.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in South Sudan's history:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cattle are a source of wealth - and conflict - in South Sudan

1956 - Sudan becomes independent but southern states are unhappy with their lack of autonomy. Tensions boil over into fighting that lasts until 1972, when the south is promised a degree of self-government.

1983 - Fighting starts again after the Sudanese government cancels the autonomy arrangements.

2011 - South Sudan becomes an independent country, after over 20 years of guerrilla warfare, which claimed the lives of at least 1.5 million people and more than four million were displaced.

2012 - Disagreements with Sudan over the oil-rich region of Abyei erupt into fighting, known as the Heglig Crisis. A peace deal was reached in June 2012 that helped resume South Sudan's oil exports and created a 10km demilitarized zone along the border.

2013 - Civil war breaks out after the president, Salva Kiir Mayardiit, sacks the cabinet and accuses Vice-President Riek Machar of planning a failed coup. Over 2.2 million people are displaced by the fighting and severe famine puts the lives of thousands at risk.

2015 - Warring sides sign a peace deal to end the civil war but the conflict continues.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The United Nations has intervened in the civil war which began shortly after independence

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