South Sudan officials are meeting for peace talks concerning the country's past two weeks of incessant violence. The violence is a result of tight tensions caused first when South Sudan President Salva Kirr fired his vice president Riek Machar in July. The two men come from South Sudan's two largest ethnic groups, Dinka and Nuer, respectively, of which have historically been at odds.
The Nuer community was rilled up by Machar's termination and in December, when Dinka guards tried to disarm Nuer guards, afraid they might start a coup, fighting began to break out across the country.
Now, after two weeks of severe violence that has caused even U.S. injuries, peace talks are ongoing.
South Sudan is the world's newest country becoming sovereign in 2011, and it looks as though it may be on the brink of civil war.
Here's what you need to know about the country's history:
The Egyptian wali Muhammad Ali Pasha army conquered northern Sudan. The regions were already logistically, culturally, religiously and economically tied and Sudan had been under partial Egyptian rule at different points since the pharaohs. Muhammad Ali was seeking to supplant the Ottoman Empire by growing his own and attaining Sudan was his first goal. Under his rule, Sudan and Egypt were administered as one political entity under the idea of "unity of the Nile Valley." This continued throughout his son's reign, Isma'il Pasha, under whom the rest of Sudan was conquered.
The Suez Canal opened, making Egypt and subsequently Sudan's economic and geographical location strategically important for the Western powers, particularly the United Kingdom.
Isma'il Pasha establishes Equatoria, a province in southern Sudan, to colonize the area, but was unable to extend Egyptian power to the region. Al-Zubayr Rahma Mansur controlled the south Sudan region, setting up his own army and eventually controlling all local trade.
Isma'il appoints al-Zubayr governor of Equatoria, after having attempted, and failed, to defeat or kill him since the province was first set up.
In 1877, al-Zubayr travels to Cairo to ask for governorship of Darfur as well and Isma'il puts him under house arrest, ending the merchant's control of the region.
Isma'il Pasha's government racked up an immense amount of debt owed to the Great Powers, primarily Britain and France. In failure to pay, the French and British governments began to control Egyptian and Sudanese finances. In an attempt to rouse the Egyptian people and kick the European powers out from financial control, Isma'il Pasha was forced to relinquish his powers in preference for his son Tewfik Pasha, who was much more open to European cooperation. The ascension of Tewfik at the hands of foreign governments angered the Egyptians and the Sudanese, who were coming to resent more and more the influential power Western countries were having on the Nile Valley.
Those feelings of resentment culminated in the Urabi Revolution, a revolt against Tewfik and the European influence in the country, led by Colonel Ahmed 'Urabi.
The Urabi Revolution succeeded. Unable to oppose the revolt, Tewfik gave in to Urabi's demands: the firing of Turco-Circassian generals, those who held the highest rank but whom were not Egyptian or Sudanese, and the creation of an elected government. A new chamber of deputies was established with many of Urbani's allies.
In 1882, the European governments stepped in and overthrew the Urabi government. Though the power was officially restored to Tewfik, the British government had a large hand in Egyptian and Sudanese affairs until 1932.
Though resentment amongst Egyptians and the Sudanese didn't wane with the re-empowerment of Tewfik, British troops occupying the majority of northern Egypt, particularly in Alexandria and near the Suez Canal, made it difficult to protest. In Sudan, however, military presence was limited and eventually a revolt began. Led by Sudanese religious leader Muhammad Ahmad, the goal was to overthrow both the British government and the Egyptian monarchy, which was seen as secular and Western-leaning. In its place, Ahmad wanted to establish a pure Islamic government.
The strength of the Mahdi Revolt surprised both Tewfik and British troops and they were forced to withdraw from almost all of Sudan. Following their retreat, Ahmad implemented traditional Islamic laws and encouraged the Sudanese to continue to fight the British. Ahmad considered all of Sudan and Egypt to be under his rule.
To be noted, the Mahdi Revolution did not spread to South Sudan, but it did cut the region off, leaving it without resources and soon, Equatoria ceased to existed as an Egyptian province.
Ahmad's successor, Abdallahi Ibn-Muhammad, who had invaded Ethiopia in 1887, invaded the remainder of northern Sudan and Egypt trying to force out the monarchy and British rule. The invasion was stopped by Tewfik's forces and Abdallahi later also withdrew from Ethiopia.
By 1898, Ahmad and Abdallahi had wrecked all previous Turkish and Fung administrative systems and weakened Sudanese tribal unities. Between 1885 to 1898, Sudan's population decreased from 8 million to 3 million due to war, famine, and disease.
After a series of Mahdist defeats, Tewfik and the British regained power over Sudan. An agreement was reached that the country would be under an Anglo-Egyptian rule, administered by a governor-general appointed by Egypt with British consent. During this time, Sudan was ruled as an British imperial possession that sought to reverse the uniting of the Nile Valley. British leadership aimed to end all efforts towards uniting Egypt and Sudan.
In 1916, the British invade Darfur and incorporate the country into the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
British rule separated Sudan into two distinct territories, a predominantly Muslim, Arabic-speaking north and a predominantly Animist, Christian South, where English was encouraged.
The British end their occupation of Egypt, which the exception of the Suez Canal Zone, but continue their occupation in Sudan. Egyptians decry British presence in Sudan as illegitimate and insist of British recognition of King Farouk as King of Egypt and Sudan. The UK doesn't budge.
The Egyptian Revolution begins with strict goals to release Sudan from British occupation.
In 1953, Egypt abolishes the monarchy and new leaders Muhammad Naguib, raised as a child of an Egyptian army officer in Sudan, and Gamal Abdel Nasser decide to officially abandon Egypt's sovereignty over Sudan, believing this would force the British to withdraw.
In 1954, Naguib and Nasser were correct and a treaty was signed guaranteeing Sudanese independence.
The First Sudanese Civil War breaks out, with southern Sudan seeking more regional representation.
Civil war is still raging. Former army lieutenant Joseph Lagu creates a guerilla armed called South Sudan Liberation Movement and forms the first ever command structure for the south to lead secession.
Negotiations with the World Council of Churches and the All African Conference of Churches led to the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement, establishing the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region.
Sudan President Gaafar Nimeiry declared all of Sudan under Islamic rule, even the non-Islamic majority southern region. Soon after, the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was abolished. In response, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) formed, led by John Garang, and the Second Civil War broke out.
The SPLM split along ethnic lines between the Dinka, South Sudan's largest ethnic group, and the Nuer, South Sudan's second largest ethnic group. Ties between he two ethnicities have been tense for a while, with both sides believing the other doesn't have their best interests in mind. SPLM-Nasir was formed for the Nuer.
Later that year, the SPLM-Nasir marched on Bor killing 2,000 estimated civilians. The event is known as the Bor Massacre. 25,000 South Sudanese people died in the following years due to famine.
The Second Civil War ended thanks to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement mediated by Intergovernmental Authority on Development and an autonomous government of south Sudan was formed. The civil war lasted 22 years and was particularly destructive for the south.
The people of South Sudan voted as to weather they should declare independence. The results showed a 98.83% consensus for recession and 6 months later, the Republic of South Sudan was formed.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir fired his vice president Riek Machar, claiming Machar was gunning for the presidency. Kiir and Machar are from different ethnic groups of South Sudan, making tensions tight across the country. Kirr is Dinka, the latest ethnic growth in South Sudan, and Machar is Nuer, the second-largest group.
Conflict between the Dinka and Nuer heated up when Dinka guards tried to disarm Nuer guards, potentially believing they could stage a coup. The fighting between the guards escalated quickly and spread across the country. The antagonists are rebels, often Nuer, and a group called the White Army. The rebels have seized oil-producing territory and may be marching on the city of Bor.