After a protracted civil war and failed attempts to gain autonomy from the Sudanese
government in Khartoum, South Sudan proclaimed its independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011. The people of South Sudan had overwhelmingly voted for freedom in an independence referendum earlier that year. The mainly Christian South Sudanese, had complained for years
of being economically neglected by Khartoum, which also imposed Islamic laws and
restrictions upon the population.
Led by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the independence movement brought to an end the longest-running civil war in Africa, establishing the world's newest nation.
But the jubilant mood was short lived as almost immediately after independence, divisions emerged within the SPLM. A power struggle between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar resulted in President Kiir sacking his vice president and the entire cabinet in July 2013.
By December 2013, President Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup and a full civil war broke out. The country was split along ethnic lines. Kiir is from the Dinka ethnic group, which constitutes roughly a third of the population, while Machar is from the Nuer, which constitutes about a fifth. But with nearly 60 ethnic groups, the main factions have broken up into even smaller fighting factions over the years of the conflict, and some analysts say the major players have begun losing their grip over them.
We have resolved to overcome the past and face the
future with a renewed sense of purpose, and it has stirred
a forgiveness and reconciliation,"
- Parliament speaker James Wani Igga
Five years after the proclamation of independence, the world's newest country has been devastated by a relentless internal conflict and resulting population displacement and economic woes.
Nearly 1 out of every 4 South Sudanese has
to flee for their lives
The brutal tactics adopted by all sides that aimed to cleanse rival areas of people, have left the population scarred and traumatised.
2.5 million people
have been displaced as
of the fighting of
a total population of
One of the key issues is total impunity. Across the board you have really a dysfunctional system where people with power, people with guns, seem to be able to do whatever they want and know they are not going to get any comeback."
- Rupert Colville, UN Commissioner for Human Rights
The United Nations has accounted for 850,619 refugees seeking shelter in countries neighbouring South Sudan. But most people are internally displaced, either living in refugee camps or hiding in remote swamps and villages, where they hope fighters cannot reach them.
Hover over regions to see the number of refugees
Famine and hunger further threaten the lives of millions of South Sudanese, as the fighting has disrupted farming and cultivation, rendering people unable to sustain themselves and dependent on donations and aid agencies. But rival fighting groups have been documented raiding aid convoys, NGO headquarters, and hospital stores, so often this help does not reach those who are in need.
Aid organisations estimate that 3.9 million people are at risk of starvation owing to food and water insecurity across the country.
Poverty has swept the country, with 300 percent inflation - due to the combined effects of war, corruption and the near collapse of the oil industry, which accounts for 98 percent of government revenues.
A peace agreement was negotiated in August 2015 on the condition that Riek Machar would return to South Sudan as vice president, but the process was delayed on numerous occasions.
Machar returned to the capital in April 2016 as part of the peace deal, where he was sworn in as vice president again, and a transitional government of national unity was established with Machar and Kiir coming to a power sharing agreement.
But clashes continue between armed groups. In the most recent flare up in June, dozens of people were killed and more than 120,000 displaced from their homes in the city of Wau during fighting between Dinka SPLA fighters and other tribes.
At the end of June, the government announced the cancellation of independence day celebrations for the five year anniversary owing to the economic and political situation in the country.
Written by Anna Nigmatulina
An @AJLabs production
Alia Chughtai and Mohsin Ali