Describing events through 23 February 2016
From April to September 2015, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and associated militias rampaged through southern Unity state in the most destructive campaign of South Sudan’s civil war so far. Since September, intermittent fighting has continued, as government forces have sallied out from bases in the towns of southern Unity, to collect food and attack units of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA–IO). In January and most of February 2016, however, the south of Unity state was largely quiet, as the principal arena of contestation between the two sides moved from the battleground to Juba, the national capital, and to a fight over the future shape of South Sudan. Elsewhere in Unity, the SPLA remains in command of the Dinka counties of Abiemnom and Pariang, the Bul Nuer heartland of Mayom county, and Bentiu, although SPLA–IO forces remain stationed in Rubkona and Guit counties, near the state capital.
Unity’s apparent calm, however, is superficial and tentative, and none of the political problems that arose during 2015 have been adequately addressed. The peace agreement signed by both sides in August mandated that a Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) be created by late November. Although President Salva Kiir of South Sudan finally appointed Riek Machar, the leader of the opposition forces, as 1st vice president on 11 February 2016, the TGoNU has yet to be formed, amid continuing disagreements over the demilitarization of Juba and Kiir’s controversial new plan for the administrative map of South Sudan (see the map).