After decades of violent 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 in various other regions. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an East African bloc, has taken the lead on encouraging parties to find a lasting solution to the ongoing conflict through its High Level Revitalisation Forum process as well as bilaterally. On 5 August 2018, parties to the conflict signed the Agreement on Outstanding Issues on Governance and Security Arrangements in Khartoum, Sudan. In September 2018 the main parties signed the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan which has been extended till November till November 2019.
Australia worked as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2013 and 2014 to mitigate the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. This included supporting a revised mandate for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and prioritising protection of civilians, humanitarian assistance and human rights monitoring.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is dire. There are over four million people internally displaced or seeking refuge in neighbouring countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda). The UN estimates that almost half of the population is facing food insecurity and in need of humanitarian assistance. Australia has contributed almost $113 million in humanitarian assistance since the outbreak of conflict in December 2013, including over $60 million since 2017. Australia has a contingent of Australian Defence Force personnel in South Sudan who have been deployed with UNMISS since its inception in 2011. In 2017 and 2018, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade worked closely on peacebuilding with the South Sudanese diaspora in Australia.
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.
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Australian Defence Force deployment to South Sudan
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- The Australian Ambassador to South Sudan is resident in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- South Sudan does not have any official representation in Australia