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 outbreak of the civil war in 2013 around 35.000 fighters defected to the armed opposition.
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, a claim that was never substantiated. An estimated 35,000 SPLM-IO fighters defected from the SPLA and joined the SPLA-IO since 2013.?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.?
The SPLM/A-IO's strongest armed forces in December 2016 were Johnson Olony and his Aguelek forces from Upper Nile state.?They defected to the SPLM/A-IO in May 2015. Several political parties such as the National Democratic Movement (NDM), and President Kiir's government, have tried to bring them under their umbrella, but have failed.?The Aguelek forces are mainly concerned with securing control of the territory that belongs to the Shilluk in Upper Nile, advocating for a federal system, and building a national army through proportional representation of the population.?
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.? It encompasses both armed and unarmed opposition groups.??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.? Although it is unclear where the armed groups operate, clashes between forces loyal to Lam Akol and the SPLM-IO were reported in Upper Nile in the first week of January 2017.?
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. 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, the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army(SSDM/A)-Cobra faction, led by Khalid Boutros, merged with the NSF/A.?