1. This is the Republic of South Sudan — the youngest country in the world. It has been embroiled in an escalating cycle of political and ethnic-fueled fighting since Dec. 15.
2. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in a referendum in January 2011. Nearly 99 percent of participants voted for secession, ending decades of fighting, including a 39-year-long civil war.
3. The conflict was in large part motivated by South Sudan’s political and economic alienation from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. South Sudan is rich in oil, but one of the least developed countries in the world.
4. Many also resented Khartoum’s perceived marginalization of South Sudanese identity. South Sudan has more than 60 cultural and linguistic groups; most are Christian, or practice indigenous religions, while north Sudanese are largely Arab and Muslim.
5. The Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) was the main resistance movement in the south against the north. The SPLA was undermined by internal differences over polices and strategies from the start.
John Garang (L) led the SPLA from 1983-2005.
6. In 2005, the SPLA signed a peace agreement officially ending the Sudanese Civil War. The agreement created a power-sharing system between north and south political factions.
7. When Garang died in a helicopter crash. Salva Kiir succeeded him. Kiir (R) favored southern secession. After South Sudan became independent, he became president.
Kiir ® and former vice president Riek Machar (now on the run) at a memorial service for Garang.