South Sudanese authorities have canceled Independence Day celebrations initially planned for July 9 for the second year in a row, due to a shortage of funds and the possibility of violence. South Sudan's oil-dependent economy is on the brink of collapse and the poor economic conditions accompanied by years of civil war have created a highly tenuous security environment.
Due to high domestic sociopolitical tensions generally and a history of violence on Independence Day specifically, protests and violence cannot be ruled out in the run up to, and on, July 9.
On the eve of the fifth anniversary of independence, on July 8, 2016, violence broke out in the capital Juba, triggered by rumors of the kidnapping of opposition leader Riek Machar by men loyal to President Salva Kiir. These rumors led to clashes in Juba between forces loyal to the president and former rebels loyal to Machar. The fighting, which lasted four days, caused the deaths of 300 civilians and the displacement of 60,000 people to neighboring countries.
Two years after splitting from Sudan in 2011 to become "South Sudan," the country became embroiled in a power struggle between Kiir and Machar. This political crisis escalated into a military conflict in December 2013. The conflict has pitted Kiir's Dinka ethnic group against Machar's Nuers. Other ethnic groups have also created militias that have allied with one side or the other, creating a complex network of opposing sides. Fighting intensified in the summer of 2016, especially in Yei state, resulting in thousands of people fleeing the area. The number of South Sudanese citizens displaced by the conflict currently stands at some 3.5 million.
Most Western governments advise against nonessential travel to South Sudan. If travel is necessary, ensure that proper security protocols are in place and maintain a low profile at all times as criminals may target foreigners due to their perceived affluence.
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