|Sudan People's Liberation Army|
Flag of South Sudan
|Service branches||Ground Force|
Air Force and Air Defence
|Headquarters||Wunyiek, Aweil East State|
Mapel, Wau State
|Commander-in-Chief||President Salva Kiir Mayardit|
|Minister of Defense||ِِِKuol Manyang Juuk|
|Chief of General Staff||General Gabriel Jok Riak (since 4 May 2018)|
|Active personnel||210,000, with paramilitary forces of an estimated 19,100|
|Budget||10,240,750,031 SSP ($78,615,712) [2016/17]|
|Percent of GDP||0.86% (2015 est.)|
|Domestic suppliers||Military Industry Corporation|
|Foreign suppliers|| Israel|
United States of America
|History||Military history of South Sudan|
The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) is the army of the Republic of South Sudan. The SPLA was founded as a guerrilla movement against the government of Sudan in 1983 and was a key participant of the Second Sudanese Civil War. Throughout the war, it was led by John Garang.
Following John Garang's death in 2005, Salva Kiir was named the new Commander-in-Chief of SPLA. Following South Sudan's independence in 2011, the SPLA became the new republic's regular army. As of 2018, the SPLA was estimated to have 185,000 soldiers as well as an unknown number of personnel in the small South Sudan Air Force. As of 2010, the SPLA was divided into divisions of 10,000–14,000 soldiers.
In May 2017, it was reported that South Sudanese President Salva Kiir was restructuring the army and changing its name from the SPLA to the South Sudan Defense Forces (SSDF). In August 2017, it was reported that the new name would be the South Sudan People's Defense Forces (SSPDF).
In 1983 a number of mutinies broke out in the barracks of the Sudanese army in the southern regions, most notably in Bor. These mutineers would form the nucleus of SPLA. By June 1983 the majority of mutineers had moved to Ethiopia, or were on their way towards Gambella. The Ethiopian government's decision to support the nascent SPLA was a means of exacting revenge upon the Sudanese government for their support of Eritrean rebels.
SPLA was led by Commander-in-Chief John Garang de Mabior. SPLA struggled for a united and secular Sudanese state. Garang stated that the struggle of the South Sudanese was the same as that of marginalized groups in the north, such as the Nuba and Fur peoples. Until 1985, SPLA directed its public denouncements of the Sudanese government specifically at Nimeiri. During the years that followed, SPLA propaganda denounced the Khartoum government as a family affair that played on sectarian tensions. SPLA denounced the introduction of sharia law in September 1983.
In the village of Bilpam, the first full-fledged SPLA battalion graduated in 1984. The name 'Bilpam' would carry a great symbolic importance for SPLA for years to come, as the epicentre of the uprising. After Bilpam, other SPLA training camps were established at Dimma, Bonga and Panyido.
SPLA launched its first advance in Equatoria in 1985-1986. During this campaign, SPLA were confronted by a number of pro-government militias. The conduct of SPLA forces was chaotic, with many atrocities against the civilian population. The SPLA drove out around 35,000 Ugandan refugees (that had settled in Equatoria since the early 1980s) back into Uganda.
SPLA had a complicated relationship with Anyanya II. Anyanya II forces blocked the expansion of SPLA between 1984 and 1987, as Anyanya II attacked SPLA recruits heading towards the SPLA based in Ethiopia. Anyanya II also attacked civilians believed to be SPLA supporters. The conflict between Anyanya II and SPLA had a political dimension, as Anyanya II sought to build an independent South Sudanese state. SPLA did however try to win over the leaders of Anyanya II to their fold. The Anyanya II commander Gordon Kong Chuol aligned with SPLA in late 1987. Other sectors of Anyanya II would follow his example over the coming years, rendering the remainder of Anyanya II (allied with the Sudanese government) marginalized.
Another force which confronted SPLA were the Murahaleen militias in northern Bahr el-Ghazal. Warfare between SPLA and Muraleheen began in 1987. By 1988 SPLA controlled most of the northern Bahr el-Ghazal. Unlike the Anyanya II, however, the Murahaleen had no political ambitions.
In March 1986, the SPLA kidnapped a Norwegian aid worker of the Christian NGO Kirkens Nødhjelp (Norwegian Church Aid). Moorcroft writes that by this time '..[t]raining, weapons, and discipline improved as the guerillas scored more and more victories.. In November 1987 the guerillas captured the small town of Kurmak near the Ethiopian border. It was 450 miles from the capital, but the nearby dam provided most of Khartoum's electricity.' The government showed itself very nervous about containing the SPLA advance.
SPLA boycotted the 1986 elections. In half of the constituencies of southern Sudan elections could not be held due to the SPLA boycott.  In September 1989, the RCC invited different sectors to a 'National Dialogue Conference'. The SPLA refused to attend.
On November 15, 1988 SPLA entered into an alliance with the DUP. The two parties had agreed on the lifting of the state of emergency and abolition of sharia law. The press release was made public through an announcement on Radio SPLA. After DUP rejoined the government, a ceasefire with SPLA was achieved. After the elections, negotiations between SPLA and Sadiq al-Mahdi had been started. But the talks were aborted as SPLA shot down a civilian airplane. 60 people were killed in the attack.
With the NIF coup d'état in 1989, all peace talks ended. SPLA launched a major offensive between 1989 and the fall of the Ethiopian Derg government in 1991. It captured various towns, such as Bor, Waat, Maridi, Mundri, Yambio, Kaya, Kajo-Kaji, Nimule, Kapoeta, Torit, Akobo and Nasir. By the middle of 1991, SPLA controlled most parts of southern Sudan with the exception of the major garrison towns (Juba, Yei, Malakal and Wau) Between January 21 and January 29, 1990 SPLA shelled Juba town. SPLA forces also moved into the Nuba Mountains and the southern parts of the Blue Nile State. In comparison with its 1985–1986 offensive in Equatoria, the conduct of SPLA was now more orderly.
But the downfall of the Derg government in Ethiopia in May 1991 caused a major set-back. The Ethiopian government had provided the SPLA with military supplies, training facilities and safe-haven for bases during 18 years. Soon after the change of government in Ethiopia, SPLA accompanied hundreds of thousands of refugees back into Sudan.
A split in SPLA had simmered since late 1990, as Lam Akol and Riek Machar began to question Garang's leadership. Lam Akol began secretly contacting SPLA officers to join his side, especially amongst the Nuer people and Shilluk people. The situation deteriorated after the fall of the Derg. As the Derg regime crumbled, Lam Akol published a document titled Why Garang Must Go Now. The split was made public on August 28, 1991 in what became known as the Nasir Declaration. The dissidents called for democratization of SPLA and a stop to human rights abuses. Moreover, the dissidents called for an independent South Sudan (in contrast to the SPLA line of creating a united and secular Sudan). Kong Coul joined the rebellion. The 'SPLA-Nasir' was joined by the SPLA forces in Ayod, Waat, Adok, Abwong, Ler and Akobo. A period of chaos reigned inside SPLA, as it was not clear which units sided with Garang and which units sided with SPLA-Nasir.
Garang issued a statement through the SPLA radio communications system, denouncing the coup. Nine out of eleven (excluding himself) SPLA/M PMHC members sided with Garang. The mainstream SPLA led by John Garang was based in Torit. The two SPLA factions fought each other, including attacks on civilians in the home turf of their opponents.
As of 1992 the Sudanese government launched a major offensive against SPLA, which was weakened by the split with SPLA-Nasir. SPLA lost control of Torit (where SPLA was headquartered), Bor, Yirol, Pibor, Pochalla and Kapoeta.
SPLA made two attacks on Juba in June–July 1992. SPLA nearly captured the town. After the attacks, the Sudanese government forces committed harsh reprisals against the civilian population. Summary executions of suspected SPLA collaborators were carried out. On September 27, 1992 the deputy commander-in-chief of SPLA, William Nyuon, defected and took a section of fighters with him. SPLA re-captured Bor on November 29, 1991.
As of the mid-1990s, the majority of the population of Southern Sudan lived in areas under the control of either the mainstream SPLA or SPLA-Nasir.
Following the signing of the CPA, a SPLA reorganisation process began. This process was actively supported through funding from the United States. In 2005, John Garang restructured the top leadership of SPLA, with a Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Oyay Deng Ajak, and four Deputy Chiefs of General Staff; Maj. Gen. Salva Mathok Gengdit (Administration), Maj. Gen. Bior Ajang Aswad (Operations), Maj. Gen. James Hoth Mai (Logistics) and Maj. Gen. Obuto Mamur Mete (Political and Moral Orientation).
The initial organization of the SPLA, based on divisions, was put together in mid-2005 but not actually put into practice in the field until early 2006. It was based on six divisions (in Upper Nile State; 2nd Division: Equatorias; 3rd Division: Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap states; 4th Division Unity State; the 5th Division in Lakes State, the 6th Division, SPLA personnel in the Joint Integrated Units) and four independent brigades. The four independent brigades grouped SPLA forces in Southern Blue Nile, Bor (Jonglei), the Nuba Mountains (South Kordofan) and Raja (Western Bahr el Ghazal).
Probably more important than the reorganization was the Juba Declaration agreement that was signed between Salva and General Paulino Matiep on 8 January 2006. Matiep commanded the South Sudan Defence Forces, the largest and best-equipped militia that remained beyond SPLA control up to that point. Paulino was appointed as a Deputy Chief of Staff, his subordinate generals became part of the SPLA without any reduction in rank, and about 50,000 SSDF were added to the SPLA payroll. The number of generals in the SPLA also rose as Salva promoted hundreds of existing SPLA officers to match the arriving ex-SSDF generals. By 2011 and independence, the SPLA had 745 generals. At about the same time, the legislature voted to double the base pay of an infantryman from the equivalent of $75 a month (the rate under Khartoum's control) to $150 a month.
In 2007–08 the independent brigades in Blue Nile, Bor, and the Nuba Mountains became the 10th, 8th, and 9th divisions, respectively. The 9th and 10th Divisions thus fell north of the 1-1-56 Independence dividing line between North and South Sudan. The last independent brigade, in Raja, became part of the 5th Division.
In 2007, the SPLM/A established a Ministry of Defence. Gen. Dominic Dim Deng an SPLA veteran and distinguished General, was chosen to become the first Minister for SPLA Affairs subsequently the first political officer of the SPLA. General Dim died in a plane crash in 2008 alongside his wife Madam Josephine Apieu Jenaro Aken and other SPLA officers. He is buried alongside his wife at the SPLA headquarters in Bilpham, Juba.
Deputy Chief of Staff (Logistics) James Hoth Mai replaced Oyay Deng Ajak as Chief of General Staff in May 2009.
In 2010 U.S. diplomats reported that Samora "made a point to discuss how the SPLA needed to be reorganized. He stated that the SPLA was top heavy, carrying nearly 550 general officers and providing more than 200 security guards for each minister."
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement stipulated that the SPLA in northern Sudan were to move south of the 1956 North-South boundary during the interim period, excepting those part of the Joint Integrated Units, composed of equal numbers from the SPLA and the Sudanese Armed Forces. Officially, this move did take place, in 2008, with the 10th Division relocating its headquarters to Guffa, five kilometers south of the Blue Nile-Upper Nile border, and most of its troops to al-Fuj, Yafta and Marinja on the southern side. However some fighters, more than 1,600, actually remained north of the line. In early June 2011, following the lack of progress on popular consultations in Southern Kordofan & Blue Nile, the SAF attempted to forcefully disarm Nuba SPLA soldiers, and fighting began in Southern Kordofan. After the fighting began, former SPLA 9th and 10th Division fighters proclaimed themselves as the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLA-N), under Malik Agar as Chairman and Commander-in-Chief.
The Government of Southern Sudan named the SPLA General Headquarters outside Juba 'Bilpam'. The headquarters staff was expanded after 2008 to match the ten-division structure. This expansion coincided with the completion of the GHQ facility at Bilpam, built by DynCorp with funds from the U.S. State Department’s Africa Peacekeeping Program (AFRICAP).
Work on a national security strategy began in late 2012.
This article needs to be updated.October 2014)(
On December 15, 2013, fighting broke out in Juba between different factions of the armed forces in what the South Sudanese government described as a coup d'état. President Salva Kiir announced that the attempt had been put down the next day, but fighting resumed December 16. Military spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer said that some military installations had been attacked by armed soldiers but that "the army is in full control of Juba." He added that an investigation was under way.
Eventually the Sudan People's Liberation Movement split into two main factions, divided on the issue over leadership of the ruling party:
The coordination of the April-July 2015 attack by the SPLA-IG in Unity State — involving multiple divisions across multiple sectors — indicates a high level of operational planning from Juba. The ferocity by which people were chased into the swamps to be killed was aimed at annihilating the SPLM/A-in-Opposition’s support base, and led to a systematic destruction of villages and towns.
The Tiger Faction New Forces (also called Tiger Faction or 'The Tigers') split from the SPLA in late October 2015. A Shilluk militia, it aimed reversing the division of South Sudan into 28 (later 32) states in order to restore the territory of the Shilluk Kingdom to its 1956 borders. Led by Yoanis Okiech, the TFNF started an insurgency against the SPLM government. In the course of 2016, however, it also came into conflict with the SPLM-IO rebels, leading to Okiech's death and the group's destruction in January 2017.
Over the course of the war, the SPLA has become dominated by Dinka, in particular Dinka from greater Bahr el-Ghazal. The Panel of Experts wrote in 2016 that '..While other tribes are represented in SPLA, they are increasingly marginalized, rendering the multi-tribal structure of the army largely a façade that obscures the central role that Dinka now play in virtually all major theatres of the conflict. (S/2016/963, 8)
A cessation of hostilities agreement was agreed in December 2017, but it never really took effect. The negotiations stalled over disagreement among the parties about power sharing, future security arrangements and whether Riak Machar could return from exile to political life in South Sudan. In early May 2018, a two-day meeting of the Parties to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) started in Addis Ababa. The parties were to take stock of the progress so far of the R-ARCSS, the pending tasks, and debate the way forward.
The SPLA is commanded by the Chief of General Staff (COGS). Deputy Chief of Staff (Logistics) James Hoth Mai replaced Oyay Deng Ajak as Chief of General Staff in May 2009. James Hoth Mai was superseded by Paul Malong Awan as COGS in 2014, and Malong was superseded by James Ajongo Mawut (May 2017-April 2018). On 28 April 2018, Chief of General Staff James Ajongo Mawut died in Cairo from a short illness. He was replaced by General Gabriel Jok Riak on 4 May 2018.
The COGS oversees five directorates, each led by a Deputy Chief of General Staff (DCOGS):
The SPLA currently has nine divisions and a small air force, all of which report to the DCOGS, Operations:
According to a 2015 security agreement with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition, military forces currently stationed in Juba, Bor and Malakal are to be moved to bases at least 25 kilometers outside of each respective city. The Presidential Guard at Giada Barracks and SPLA's General Headquarters in Bilpam are authorized exceptions to the agreement.
As of 2013 the SPLA's land forces operated the following heavy equipment:
As of 2013 the South Sudan Air Force operated the following aircraft:
According to the 2013 ion of the International Institute for Strategic Studies' report The Military Balance, South Sudan's defence budgets since 2011 have been as follows:
|Year||South Sudanese pounds||US dollar equivalent|
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