Timeline: South Sudan’s history at a glance

February 16, 2019
Written by Kristin Myers
Photo by Kieran McConville

South Sudan hasn’t known peace since it became an independent nation in 2011. Take a look at the timeline below for a peek into the country’s history, from its violent split from Sudan through to today.


2005: Comprehensive peace agreement

After years of conflict, a Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese government and Southern Sudan is signed. Southern Sudan is made a semi-autonomous region and guaranteed a referendum on independence within six years.

2010: Salva Kiir elected president

Salva Kiir Mayardit is elected president of Southern Sudan with 93% of the vote.

A young girl hangs the South Sudan flag following the country's independence referendum

A young girl hangs the South Sudan flag following the country’s independence referendum. (Photo: Timothy McKulka / USAID)

2011: Independence

January 9-15, 2011: Independence Referendum

Southern Sudanese people vote to decide whether to secede from Sudan. Nationals around the world cast their votes.

February 7, 2011: South Sudan Separates

After nearly a month, the votes are in. With an overwhelming 98% majority, Southern Sudan votes to separate from Sudan.

July 9, 2011: Independence is Official

After decades of fighting with the north, South Sudan is recognized as an independent nation.

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2013-15: First Conflict

July 24, 2013: Cabinet Fired

President Kiir fires his entire Cabinet, including Vice President Riek Machar.

December 15, 2013: Violence Erupts

After a few months of relative calm, violence erupts and fighting breaks out between government forces and soldiers loyal to Machar.

Residents of Tomping, a UN base that is now housing some 16,000 people

Residents of Tomping, a UN base that housed some 16,000 people following an outbreak of violence that began in South Sudan in 2013.

January 23, 2014: Ceasefire

The South Sudanese government and Machar’s forces sign a ceas-fire.

March 29, 2014: Over 1 Million Flee

The UN reports that more than 1 million South Sudanese have fled their homes, including over 800,00 internally displaced.

May 1, 2015: One year later, over 2 million displaced

In just over one year, the UN estimates that the number of South Sudanese displaced by violence has more than doubled, reaching 2.2 million. This forced migration crisis also begins to cause food shortages and increasing rates of disease.

August 16, 2015: Peace Deal Signed

President Kiir signs a new peace deal with Riek Machar after threats of UN sanctions.

19 year old Nyakama Mayiel holding her 8 month old daughter

19 year old Nyakama Mayiel with her 8 month old daughter, Nyabila, at one of the Concern nutrition centers in Bentiu Protection of Civilians (POC) site in Unity State, South Sudan. Nyakama’s family fled their home near Bentiu in July 2015 when their village was attacked and destroyed.

2016-18: Fragile peace and renewed conflict


April 26, 2016: Machar Reinstated

President Kiir reinstates Riek Machar as Vice President as a part of a deal to end South Sudan’s civil war. He is sworn in in April.

July 7, 2016: Violence Breaks out Again in Juba

Fighting breaks out between government forces and soldiers loyal to Vice President Machar. Hundreds are left dead, and Machar flees the country.

July 25, 2016: Machar Removed Again

President Kiir removes Riek Machar as Vice President for the second time, replacing him with Taban Deng Gai. Machar’s camp calls the replacement illegal.

August 2, 2016: Huge Numbers Flee South Sudan

UN High Commissioner for Refugees says more than 60,000 people have fled South Sudan since July due to fighting.

November 11, 2016: “Outright Ethnic War”

Concerned by the ongoing conflict, the UN warns that South Sudan is at risk of “outright ethnic war.” Shortly after stating this, the UN seeks an arms embargo against South Sudan through the Security Council. In December 2016, the embargo is blocked.

PoC camps for Nuer

Internally displaced South Sudanese line up for water at a Protection of Civilians site in South Sudan, 2017. (Photo: Noel Molony)

January 17, 2017: “Credible Pressure”

Reuters cites a confidential UN report, calling for “credible pressure” to be applied to South Sudan.

February 10, 2017: 1.5 Million Refugees

UN High Commissioner for Refugees says that number of refugees who have fled South Sudan tops 1.5 million, making it one of the world’s largest refugee crises.

February – June, 2017: South Sudanese Famine

The UN and South Sudanese government declare famine in two counties of Unity State. The famine is officially undeclared in June of 2017, although food insecurity still remains high.

14 month old Anger Adim Garang, a boy, is one of twins admitted to the outpatient therapeutic program (OTP) run by Concern in Maduany in Aweil North, South Sudan. Pictured here with Monica Mawien a supervisor with the Concern community nutrition team. (Photo: Kieran McConville/ Concern Worldwide)

2018-Present: Peace, Redux


September 12, 2018: Second peace treaty

An agreement is signed by the South Sudanese government and its main political opposition. The deal offers some hope for peace, but a hard road forward for bringing the peace deal to fruition.

2019: Risk, insecurity, and violence remain

While the peace deal holds, nearly 7 million people are threatened by food insecurity, with the United Nations declaring that “without scaled-up humanitarian assistance, more and more people are at risk.” Sexual violence against women and girls remains “endemic.”

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