A quick chronological look at South Sudan’s 2.5 years of independence, with a more detailed overview of the last two month’s events that pushed the country to the brink of a civil war
July 9, 2011: After decades of civil war with the North that left millions dead, South Sudan becomes a new country on the map, gaining independence from Sudan through a referendum. Juba is named the capital and Salva Kiir is the country’s first president. As much as 75% of the long-fought-over oil stays in the South, but the North maintains control over the infrastructure used for export.
August 18, 2011: Just a month after South Sudan proclaims independence, clashes between Murle and Lou Nuer groups in Jonglei state leave at least 600 dead and 985 wounded. The fighting involves cattle raids, with Murle stealing close to 40,000 cows as a revenge for Lou Nuer’s recent attack. According to State Governor Kuol Manyang, the inter-ethnic clashes in the area are the result of underdevelopment, competition over resources and general poverty.
September 2011: The cabinet votes to name Ramciel – 125 miles north of Juba – as the country’s future capital. The late SLPA leader John Garang allegedly wanted to place the capital in this location, considered the geographic center of South Sudan.
October 2011: Kiir makes his first official visit to Khartoum as head of state. The two countries are to set up a taskforce for resolving their ongoing disputes.
November 2011: South Sudan blames Sudan for the bombing of Yida refugee camp, holding around 20,000 people at the time and located just 12 km south of the border. Khartoum denies any involvement. Kiir says his country won’t retaliate for the attack.
December 2011 – January 2012: Lou Nuer attack the town of Pibor in retaliation for the August cattle raid. According to the UN estimates, more than 20,000 people are displaced as a result of fighting.
January 19, 2012: Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir agrees to Kenya’s invitation to set up a meeting between Sudan and South Sudan to help resolve the number of issues, including the dispute over oil transit fees. Kiir turns down the invite. He reasons it with al-Bashir’s refusal to honor Kiir’s invitation to Juba after the president of South Sudan visited Khartoum in October.
January 20, 2012: As part of an ongoing dispute over transit fees, South Sudan halts its oil production in response to Khartoum blocking export from Port Sudan. As a consequence of export shut down, South Sudan is forced to cut all public spending in half, except for salaries.
March-April 2012: Clashes between Sudan and South Sudan take place in the oil-reach area around the town of Heglig on the border of two countries. The Southern town of Bentiu is bombed by Sudanese airplanes.
May 2012: The talks between the neighbors resume and Sudan pledges to pull its forces out of Abyei border area.
August 2012: Some 200,000 refugees escape the violence on the border, making their way south.
September 27, 2012: After several days of talks in Ethiopia, Kiir and al-Bashir sign a number of deals on trade and security, but no agreement on border issues is reached.
February 18, 2013: Kiir restructures SPLM, ordering more than 100 generals to retire.
March 2013: More than a year after the shutdown, South Sudan and Sudan agree to resume oil production and transit.
June 18, 2013: Kiir suspends Cabinet Affairs Minister Deng Alor Kuol and Finance and Economic Planning Minister Kosti Manibe Ngai over a multi-million dollar corruption scandal.
July 23, 2013: Kiir sacks his entire Cabinet, along with Vice President Riek Machar. All national ministers and deputy ministers are suspended, and the number of ministries is reduced from 29 to 18 in a major power reshuffle. A former rebel leader James Wani Igga takes Machar’s place a month later.
August 27, 1013: Interior Minister Aleu Ayeny Aleu reports that 11,000 fake names were discovered on the payroll of South Sudan’s police, with another 16,000 under investigation. The corruption scheme cost the government $9 million a month.
December 6: Machar speaks up against Kiir’s “dictatorial behavior,” indicating the growing division within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.
December 16: Kiir claims to have defeated a coup attempt allegedly staged the night before by his political rivals headed by Machar. Arrests are made, the international airport is shut down, and 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew is imposed. The former vice president denies the coup claims and states that the fighting broke out when presidential guards from the ruling Dinka group attempted to disarm Nuer guards – the group Machar belongs to. The violence led to country-wide clashes among the two largest ethnic groups in South Sudan.
December 17: Two days of fighting between the Nuer and Dinka factions of Sudan People’s Liberation Army put the death toll into hundreds and leave large areas of Juba in ruins. The airport is reopened and U.S. state department orders all non-essential officials to leave the country.
December 18: Machar’s forces are reported to have captured Bor, a key town 130 miles north of Juba.
December 19: Foreigners are being evacuated from South Sudan as violence escalates and spreads beyond Juba, and the country is at risk of a civil war. Two peacekeepers and 11 civilians are killed as armed forces attack the UN compound in Akobo, Jonglei state. Britain sends a plane to 150 of its nationals.
December 20: More than 36,000 people from South Sudan are reported to have fled to Kenya since the conflict began. UN reports that one of its bases, hosting 14,000 civilians, is surrounded by 3,000 armed men.
December 21: Gunfire strikes three U.S. military planes sent to evacuate U.S. nationals in Bor area. Four service members are wounded and flown to a hospital in Nairobi, all reported to be in stable condition.
December 22: Rebels seize control of the main oil-producing state, Unity, and its capital Bentiu.
December 23: Kiir says he’s ready to sit down and talk with Machar “without preconditions.” The latter says he is ready for negotiations as long as the 11 former ministers arrested in relation to the alleged coup are released. Britain sends the last evacuation plane and warns that it might not be able to help those who stay behind. Kiir says his army is ready for a move on Bor and Bentiu, two strategic towns currently controlled by Machar’s forces.
December 24: The United Nations reports that it uncovered three mass graves around the country, with dozens of bodies in each. Kiir’s forces claim to have retaken the town of Bor. The UN Security Council votes to send 5,500 additional peacekeepers to South Sudan, for a total force of 14,000.
December 25: Close to 2,000 South Sudanese are reported to have crossed the border to Uganda while escaping the violence in their home country. A total of 16,000 people of various nationalities have fled to Uganda since the conflict began. In his Christmas address, Kiir promises an end to the killings of civilians, encourages people to maintain hope, and urges anyone who’s stirring up violence in his name to stop it immediately. He says he is ready for a dialogue with all his opponents.
December 26: Kiir meets with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for peace talks in Nairobi. No representatives from Machar are present at the meeting, and South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth says no formal contact with him was established. Fighting is reported in Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile, another key oil-producing state. Military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer says Machar’s soldiers control half of Malakal, and the government is getting ready to retake Bentiu.
December 27: During the talks in Nairobi, Kiir commits to end hostilities. Lueth says that as long as rebel forces abide by the ceasefire, government soldiers won’t be taking steps to reclaim Bentiu. Meanwhile, Machar says that not all of his conditions for ceasefire have been met. The government has only agreed to release eight out of 11 senior politicians and critics of the president, despite Machar’s requirement for all 11 to be freed. Only two are released so far. The leader of rebel forces says proper talks must be held and monitoring mechanisms established for any deal to be reached, and that he has a negotiating team ready to begin such talks. Machar says rebels currently control the entire Unity state, three-quarters of Upper Nile and all of Jonglei, except for its capital Bor. The Canadian government withdraws staff from South Sudan. UN reinforcements start arriving in the country. As many as 120,000 people are reportedly displaced and more than 1,000 are dead as a result of the violence. About 63,000 are sheltered in the UN camps around the country, 25,000 in Juba alone, fearing for their lives if they leave.
December 28: The “white army,” or 25,000 young people supporting Machar, are reported to be marching on Bor, the strategic town that the government forces have reclaimed a few days earlier.
December 29: Conflicting reports come from South Sudan, some stating that the army has disbanded, while others saying that the fighting in Bor has resumed.
December 30: Aguer reports that Machar’s army is still advancing on Bor, with government forces preparing to hold them off. UN says 180,000 people are now displaced by the conflict. Uganda President … threatens Machar with military action, should the rebels fail to enter peace talks.
December 31: Machar agrees to peace talks in Addis Ababa. His delegation will be headed by Rebecca Nyandeng, the widow of late SPLA leader John Garang. The town of Bor changes hands once again, falling under rebel control. UK gives £12.5m aid to assist refugees with medicine and clean water.
January 1: The delegations representing both sides of South Sudan’s conflict arrive in Ethiopia for peace talks. As many as 200,000 people are considered misplaced by the conflict.
January 2: Machar’s soldiers are getting ready to march on the capital, government forces report. South Sudan’s army also says it’s advancing on two towns currently controlled by the rebels.
January 3: Government forces are moving to retake Bor, the military reports.
January 4: Machar says his forces will hold back from advancing on Juba, in hopes of achieving a negotiated settlement in Ethiopia. The start of peace talks is pushed to Sunday as the two sides disagree over agenda. Fighting is reported in South Sudan’s capital.
January 5: Army general is reportedly killed in the fighting in Bor. Gunfire is also reported in Juba. Peace negotiations in Addis Ababa are delayed once again as the government refuses to meet the rebels’ condition of releasing 11 detainees.
January 6: Al-Bashir arrives in South Sudan for talks with Kiir, while China – the main investor in South Sudan’s oil – expresses concerns over the conflict, calls for immediate ceasefire.
January 7: The delegation representing South Sudanese government and the rebels begin peace talks in Addis Ababa. The negotiations were previously delayed by the rebels’ demand that the government must free the 11 high-profile political prisoners. A regional group called the Intergovernmental Authority on Development sends envoys to Juba to negotiate the release with Kiir. The government delegation rejects the demand to release the prisoners after the initial Addis Ababa meeting.
Some of the sources used for this article: