Historical Background of Southern Sudan

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The Nilotic peoples—the Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk and others—first entered South Sudan sometime before the 10th century. During the period from the 15th century to the 19th century, tribal migrations, largely from the area of Bahr el Ghazal, brought these peoples to their modern locations. The non-Nilotic Azande people, who entered South Sudan in the 16th century, established the region's largest state. The Azande are the third or fourth largest ethnic group in South Sudan (either the Azande or the Bari are third largest). They are found in the Maridi, Yambio, and Tambura districts in the tropical rainforest belt of Western Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal. In the 18th century, the Avungara rose to power over the rest of Azande society and this domination continued into the 20th century. Geographical barriers prevented the spread of Islam to the southerners, thus enabling them to retain their social and cultural heritage as well as their political and religious institutions. The late John Garang de Mabior led the Sudan People's Liberation Army until his death in 2005.
The Azande have had difficult relations with the neighbours, namely the Moru, Mundu, Pöjulu, and the small groups in Bahr el Ghazal, due to the expansionist policy of their King, Gbudwe, in the 18th century. In the nineteenth century the Azande fought the French, the Belgians and the Mahdists to maintain their independence. Egypt, under the rule of Khedive Ismail Pasha, first attempted to control the region in the 1870s, establishing the province of Equatoria in the southern portion. Egypt's first governor was Samuel Baker, commissioned in 1869, followed by Charles George Gordon in 1874 and by Emin Pasha in 1878. The Mahdist Revolt of the 1880s destabilized the nascent province, and Equatoria ceased to exist as an Egyptian outpost in 1889. Important settlements in Equatoria included Lado, Gondokoro, Dufile and Wadelai. In 1947, British hopes to join South Sudan with Uganda were dashed by the Juba Conference to unify North and South Sudan.
It is estimated that South Sudan region has a population of 8 million, but given the lack of a census in several decades, this estimate may be severely distorted. The economy is predominantly rural and relies chiefly on subsistence farming. In the middle of the 2000s, the economy began a transition from this rural dominance and urban areas within South Sudan have seen extensive development. The region has been negatively affected by two civil wars since Sudanese independence – the Sudanese government fought the Anyanya rebel army from 1955 to 1972 in the First Sudanese Civil War and then the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) in the Second Sudanese Civil War for almost twenty-one years after the founding of SPLA/M in 1983 – resulting in serious neglect, lack of infrastructural development, and major destruction and displacement. More than 2.5 million people have been killed, and more than 5 million have become externally displaced while others have been internally displaced, becoming refugees as a result of the civil war and war-related impacts.
A referendum was held from 9 to 15 January 2011 to determine if South Sudan should declare its independence from Sudan, with 98.83% of the population voting for independence. (The results for that referendum were released on 30 January 2011.) Those living in the north and expatriates living overseas also voted. This led to a formal independence on 9 July, although certain disputes still remain such as sharing of the oil revenues as an estimated 80% of the oil in the nation is secured from South Sudan, which would represent amazing economic potential for one of the world's most deprived areas. The region of Abyei still remains disputed and a separate referendum will be held in Abyei on whether they want to join North or South Sudan. The South Kordofan conflict broke out in June 2011 between the Army of Sudan and the SPLA over the Nuba Mountains.
Interethnic warfare that in some cases precedes the war of independence is widespread. Some of these hostilities occurred in Jonglei state, affecting the Murle tribe, and were documented by Human Rights Watch in a 2009 report.
South Sudan is at war with at least seven armed groups in nine of its ten states, with tens of thousands displaced. The fighters accuse the government of plotting to stay in power indefinitely, not fairly representing and supporting all tribal groups while neglecting development in rural areas.