South Sudan Military

To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that SSPS stands for South Sudan.

The total force figures for South Sudan’s armed forces are about 185,000 active personnel, all in the Army (2018, IISS). The UN has had peacekeeping forces in the country since 2005 (see UNMIS and UNMISS), where Norway has contributed personnel and observers (14 personnel per 2018).

South Sudan Army


The Army supplies include about 80 T-72 tanks (in addition, a smaller T-55 type). In addition, the Army has armored personnel vehicles, self-propelled artillery, medium-heavy artillery, short-range anti-aircraft missiles and anti-aircraft artillery. An air component has one light transport aircraft, two training aircraft and light attack aircraft of the L-39 Albatros type, and 17 helicopters, of which five Mi-24 combat helicopters.

Civil War in South Sudan

A civil war in the new state of South Sudan broke out on December 15, 2013 following a conflict between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and former Vice President Riek Machar since July of that year.

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Background to the conflict

South Sudan became an independent state following the release from Sudan in 2011. The split of Sudan was the result of a peace treaty from 2005 following two civil wars between the north and south, from 1955 to 1972 and from 1983 to 2005. The peace agreement meant a referendum where the people of the south could vote for the establishment of a separate state in 2011. In the election, 99 percent voted for secession, and the state of South Sudan was created the same year.

It turned out that resistance to the north was a unifying factor for the population of different ethnic backgrounds in the south. The country lacked both reliable political institutions and important state institutions such as health care and education. In addition to a weak state apparatus, South Sudan had no strong common national identity – neither before nor after the establishment of the state.

The political conflict

The liberation movement SPLM/SPLA (Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army) had state power in South Sudan after the detachment. Former rebel leader Salva Kiir Mayardit became South Sudan’s first president and Vice President Riek Machar became vice president.

In July 2013, President Salva Kiir deposed Vice President Riek Machar. Later that year, the SPLM party conference ended with gunfire in a military camp outside the capital Juba on December 15, 2013, and Salva Kiir accused Riek Machar of attempted coup. The conflicts between the two have a historical backdrop, dating back to 1991, when Machar created his own rebel group alongside the SPLA.

In a short space of time, the SPLM was split – mainly along ethnic lines. Salva Kiir is Dinka, and he continued to receive support from his own people, while Riek Machar’s Nuer and his people supported the creation of the SPLM in opposition. In addition, Uganda has supported Salva Kiir, while Sudan is accused of supporting Riek Machar.

Failed peace agreements

During 2014, there were five attempts to secure a peace agreement between the two warring parties, but neither succeeded.

On August 26, 2015, a new and more comprehensive peace agreement was signed by Salva Kiir and Riek Machar following strong pressure from the US Secretary of State and the head of the UN Security Council. Under the agreement, Riek Machar was to be re-elected as Vice President.

On July 7, 2016, armed conflict broke out again between the two parties. Hundreds of people have been killed and many thousands have fled. Throughout the fall of 2016, the UN warned several times that there was a danger of genocide in the country.

In February 2017, famine was declared in several of the country’s states as a result of the civil war and economic collapse.

The Civil War in numbers

During the civil war, more than 50,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million have fled – either to neighboring countries or interned in UN camps. It is estimated that 12,000 children have been recruited as soldiers, while NOK 280 million has been spent on weapons purchases. At the same time, more than six million people are in need of relief, and the country is on the brink of an extensive famine disaster as people are not allowed to cultivate their land because of the war actions.

South Sudan – Juba


Juba, the capital of South Sudan; 772,400 residents (2014). Juba is located on the White Nile in southern South Sudan. The city grew as a trading station in the early 1900s. Juba has been hit hard by two civil wars, and it was not until the peace agreement in 2005 that the city seriously became a financial and service center. As a result of the peace agreement, the city was made the seat of the regional parliament and the UN moved large parts of its presence in the region. The city has also become the center for the oil industry in the country and many foreign banks and oil companies have offices there.