After decades of violent internal struggle, the people of southern Sudan voted for independence in a referendum in January 2011. The referendum was the culmination of a six-year peace process which began with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. The Republic of South Sudan became independent from Sudan on 9 July 2011. The UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) was established in June 2011 to monitor and demilitarise the disputed border region of Abyei, between Sudan and South Sudan, as well as to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.
In December 2013, violence erupted between pro-government forces, supporting President Salva Kiir and anti-government rebel factions led by his former Vice President, Riek Machar, killing thousands. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – with the support of the African Union, the United Nations and the international community – mediated peace talks between the opposing parties which eventuated in the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict (ARC), signed on 26 August 2015. Parties came together in early January 2016 to take forward the agreement and a Transitional Government of National Unity was formed at the end of April 2016, headed by President Kiir, with Riek Machar returning to South Sudan as First Vice President.
Fighting again broke out in Juba in July 2016 after a clash between rival military factions. Riek Machar fled the country and Taban Deng Gai took the position of First Vice President, with the support of Salva Kiir. A tenuous ceasefire is holding in Juba but fighting continues between militias in various other regions.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is dire with famine declared in parts of the country in February 2017. There are over three million people internally displaced or seeking refuge in neighbouring countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda). The UN estimates millions are facing food insecurity and are in need of humanitarian assistance. Australia worked as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2013 and 2014 to mitigate the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan and to manage the instability into the longer term. This included supporting a revised mandate for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), prioritising protection of civilians, humanitarian assistance and human rights monitoring.
Australia has contributed almost $83 million in humanitarian assistance since the outbreak of conflict in December 2013, including over $30 million in 2016-17. Australia has a contingent of Australian Defence Force personnel in South Sudan who have been deployed with UNMISS since its inception in 2011.
South Sudan has significant potential oil wealth, with large oil fields in its Upper Nile and Unity states.
Australia and South Sudan have strong people-to-people links, including a large South Sudanese diaspora resident in Australia.
Australia’s diplomatic representation to South Sudan is from the Australian Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Foreign Minister media releases
Australian Defence Force deployment to South Sudan
Defence air-lift support to the United Nations in South Sudan
Embassies and consulates