Terms & Key Actors

Brief History:
The new independence of South Sudan is the latest chapter in a long series of conflicts and negotiations in the region. The conflict has roots all the way back to colonial rule, where Sudan’s former British rulers gave Khartoum dominance over the unified country. Since then, the South incurred decades of discrimination and marginalization, which planted the seeds for the southern independence movement. The population in the South is mostly Christian and animist, whereas the North is predominantly Muslim and Arab.

Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)
Signed in 2005, the CPA ended the Second Sudanese Civil War, a conflict that had been raging for over two decades between the North and the South, and created an autonomous regional government that would govern the south for six years. It also required southern representation in Khartoum, and established a power-sharing formula for the SPLM and the National Congress Party, the ruling party in the north. After six years, according to the CPA, South Sudanese would vote in a referendum on whether or not to secede. The referendum was held in January 2011, and nearly 99 percent of South Sudanese voted in favor of secession. Bashir promised to accept the results, and Independence Day was set for July 9, six months after the vote.

Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF)
The official army of the Government of Sudan

Southern People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)
The dominant political party in South Sudan and the name of the national movement for the rights and independence of southern Sudan

Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)
The military wing of the SPLM and the army of southern Sudan that fought for independence during the Second Sudanese Civil War

Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir
President of Sudan

Salva Kiir
President of South Sudan

The Three Areas










Abyei disputed territory on the border of Sudan and South Sudan. It is on the southernmost tip of Southern Kordofan and is one of the most oil-rich areas in Sudan. Abyei was given special status under the CPA, and independent elections were to be held in Abyei to determine its fate. Abyei is mainly inhabited by two groups, the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya. The Ngok Dinka are the only permanent inhabitants of Abyei, whereas the Misserya have permanent settlements to the North and have historically used Abyei as a migration route, often for eight months out of the year.

Southern Kordofan

Officially part of Northern Sudan after the CPA, Southern Kordofan is home to many tribes that fought alongside or supported the SPLM during the Civil War. Southern Kordofan is home to the Nuba Mountains, a region where the Nuba people (largely supportive of the South) and the SPLA had strongholds during the war.

Blue Nile

Located at the far east of the border, the Blue Nile is officially claimed by the North. Most of the people of Blue Nile joined the SPLM during the Civil War though as they had been marginalized and persecuted by the government in the North. The region today is politically, culturally, and socially connected to both the South and the North.


Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
The Enough Project
US Institute of Peace
Al Jazeera