South Sudan

by Kellin McGowan (June 2021)


Over 2.3 million South Sudanese have fled their home country to flee a humanitarian crisis stemming from violent internal political conflict, representing the largest African refugee crisis and third largest overall.

Here are the key players: 

President Salva Kiir Mayardit: Became Sudan’s first president following South Sudan’s becoming an independent country. Sought to oust then-Vice President Machar, accusing him of an attempted coup. President Mayardit is also the chair of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Former Vice President Riek Machar: Became Sudan’s first vice president following South Sudan’s becoming an independent country. Denying the accusations of an attempted coup, Vice President Machar eventually led a rebel group to overthrow the President.

Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM): Political party established in 1983 chaired by President Marardit. SPLM’s military affiliate, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), led the fight against the Sudanese government during the Second Sudanese Civil War.  

Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO): Opposition group led by the former president created during the South Sudanese Civil War. 

Citizens: Because of the fighting, citizens of the region have had to flee, while those remaining suffer the effects of crippling infrastructure, famine, and extreme poverty. Over eighty percent of those who have fled are women and children. 


South Sudan is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis because of violent political conflict. Because some people have been forced to move to regions with underdeveloped agricultural infrastructure and both militant sides have blocked off food supplies in areas, many in the region suffer from hunger and malnutrition.  


Although the conflict and humanitarian crises within the region have existed for decades, the current crisis in which Sudan finds itself started in 2011, the year the country gained independence. The next year, the President accused the Vice President of spearheading a coup, starting a civil war. 


People seeking to leave South Sudan flee to the following countries: Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic. 

Why is it so hard for South Sudanese refugees to find refuge? 

The trouble South Sudanese refugees face is finding refuge with adequate resources. For example, those refugees living in Bidi Bidi Camp often suffer food and water shortages. Because these camps are small in number and size, overcrowding leads to the spread of infection.