EXECUTIVE SUMMARY—As SOFREP reported Thursday, the violence in South Sudan is indicative of the overall trend in the decline of regional security and stability across the Sahel and Central Africa.  In the past several days, what allegedly began as a minor dispute between rival ethnic fashions among military forces in South Sudan, has escalated to widespread chaos and disorder, with divisions being drawn along ethnic and political lines.  As US and other western nations evacuate their non-essential personnel and restrict travel to the country, there have been several significant developments in-country.

BACKGROUND—The majority of tension in South Sudan is derived from a combination of ethnic and political divisions.  Currently, there are two primary players to the conflict and these divisions, one being current South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, of the Nuer tribe, and the second being former Vice President Riek Machar, of the predominant Dinka tribe.  Both of these players are backed by loyalist and rebel forces, respectively, with a number of armed militant groups operating independently of both.

South Sudan Ethnic Distribution, courtesy of BBC

POLITICAL POWER STRUGGLE AT CORE OF CONFLICT—After Machar was removed from his position by Kiir this past July, ethnic tensions have been steadily on the rise in South Sudan.  Amidst claims that Machar was only released from service in an effort to eliminate or weaken his chances at winning the upcoming 2015 presidential elections, the additional political divisions between the two competing tribes has only further exacerbated the ongoing violence.  Since the onset of widespread conflict this past week, Machar has also reportedly called on the army to oust Kiir from office, which has created further divisions in the country.

Former VP Machar, left, and current President Kiir

19DEC13: GOVERNMENT LOSES CONTROL OF KEY CITY—Following a UN announcement on Thursday that the situation in South Sudan was relatively stable, it was reported that rebel forces loyal to Machar had seized control of Bor, the capital city of Jonglei, South Sudan’s largest state.  Preliminary damage assessments from the Red Cross in South Sudan report at least 19 civilians were killed during this exchange.  This event is significant because it demonstrates the lack of control government forces are able to exert over centers of gravity in South Sudan.  It was also reported that several government officers had defected to the rebel forces, which further identifies the struggles of maintaining control over various armed factions based on ethnic divisions.

20DEC13: UN MISSION IN JONGLEI OVERRUN—As roughly 34,000 civilians currently flock to UN bases for protection following the breakout of violence across the country, the UN reported early Friday that one of its main missions in Jonglei state was overrun, resulting in the targeting and killing of two Indian peacekeepers supporting the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).  Additional reports of other UNMISS peacekeepers being threatened by the ongoing violence emerged as well, prompting many to be evacuated and reconsolidated.  Following this announcement, the UN Security Council met Friday to determine an appropriate response and course of action that would help stabilize the country.  This event is significant because it demonstrates the highly reactionary and ill-prepared status of UN peacekeeping operations currently working to provide security in South Sudan, and indicates that additional UN resources will be necessary to provide effective security and relief in-country.

20DEC13: UGANDAN AND US FORCES DEPLOYED TO JUBA—In an effort to stabilize the decline of security in South Sudan, several foreign nations have elected to support South Sudanese government forces in securing affected regions.  The UN Security Council condemned all violence and demanded a political solution to the conflict be implemented immediately.  President Obama announced Friday that a “combat-ready force of approximately 45 US military personnel”  were being sent to South Sudan in order to protect any remaining US citizens and property.  Uganda also announced the deployment of several hundred of its soldiers, in an effort to assist its citizens in evacuating the capital.  Preliminary reports suggest that these several hundred Ugandan soldiers fall under Special Forces Command and will assist in securing the city itself.  This is significant because it highlights the inability of South Sudanese forces to effectively control the security environment, especially in high-profile regions such as the capital city and other population centers.  The rapid deployment of both US forces and Ugandan special forces also highlights the desire of third parties for a quick end to the violence.  By securing major population centers and providing order in the capital city, government forces pose less of a risk of engaging in ethnic violence with rebel forces and are more likely to adhere to more structured security efforts.