The situation in South Sudan is volatile and new armed groups frequently emerge. An estimated 40 armed groups are active. ?
Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A): Created in 1981, the SPLA signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, which ended the civil war with Sudan, and called for a referendum on South Sudan independence. SPLA’s political branch, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), has ruled South Sudan since its independence in 2011.?The leader of the SPLM/A and current president is Salva Kiir. In 2013, the SPLA was estimated at 210,000 soldiers. Since the civil war began in 2013, around 35,000 fighters defected to the armed opposition.? On 2 October 2018, Kiir issued a decree to rename the SPLA as South Sudan People's Defence Forces (SSPDF). ?
Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in-Opposition (SPLM/A-IO): The SPLM/A-IO was created in 2013 by former Vice President Riek Machar, after he was accused of plotting a coup to overthrow President Kiir. The SPLM/A-IO was initially based in the Nuer heartland of Unity, northern Jonglei, and southern Upper Nile states. However, in 2016, the group gained a significant presence in Central and Western Equatoria, and Fertit areas of Bahr el Ghazal.?In the Equatorias, it became an umbrella group for armed groups that was formed out of tensions between the Dinka and local cattle herders.?The opposition is highly divided, and many defections to other opposition armed groups, as well as to the opposition within the government, are reported since July 2016. ? At the beginning of May, the SPLM-IO faction led by Taban Deng announced they will join SPLM. ?
The White Army: The White Army describes a loose network of Nuer community defence groups based in Greater Upper Nile and Jonglei. The White Army claims the SPLA has failed to protect Nuer communities. White Army groups are the largest force in Greater Upper Nile and Jonglei, and are estimated to number around 25,000 fighters.? They maintain a non-commital stance towards the SPLM-IO.?
South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army(SSDM/A)-Cobra faction: In 2013, a former SSDM/A commander, David Yau Yau, broke from the former SSDM/A and created the Cobra Faction. An estimated 500–1,000 soldiers form the core of the armed group. The group mainly operates in Pibor and Jonglei. Since Yau Yau was appointed deputy defense minister in Kiir's government in 2014, the new leader of the movement is Lieutenant General Khalid Botrus Bora.?
National Democratic Movement (NDM): The opposition political party was formed in August 2016 by former Minister of Agriculture, Lam Akol. It vows to overthrow the government.? The creation of the offshoot movement created a divide in Shilluk armed opposition groups and weakens a unified opposition front against government forces in Greater Upper Nile. Defections of SPLM-IO members to the NDM were reported on 19 December 2016.? In February 2018, the NDM joined the South Sudan Opposition Alliance. ?
National Resistance Front/Army (NRA): The NRA is an opposition group created on 4 January 2017 by former Yei River County governor Cosmas Bidali Wori-Kojo, who defected from Kiir's government in October 2015. It claims to have forces in Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria, Bahr al Ghazal, and Upper Nile.?
National Salvation Front/Army (NSF/A): Former deputy chief of logistics, Thomas Cirillo, created the NSF/A on 6 March 2017. Cirillo resigned from the South Sudanese army a few weeks before and criticised President Kiir for targeting non-Dinka ethnic groups. The group committed itself to unifying opposition factions to fight the current government.?On 12 March 2017, the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army(SSDM/A)-Cobra faction, led by Khalid Boutros, merged with the NSF/A.?
South Sudan Opposition Alliance: In February 2018, nine opposition groups announced the formation of an alliance. This alliance does not include the SPLM/A-IO. The groups are: the Federal Democratic Party (FDP), the National Salvation Front (NAS), the National Democratic Movement (NDM), the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), the South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM/A), the South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC), the South Sudan Patriotic Movement (SSPM), the South Sudan United Movement (SSUM/A), and the United Democratic Alliance (UDRA). ?
South Sudan United Front: On 10 April, former military chief Paul Malong announced the formation of a new opposition group. ?