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George Athor established the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (SSDM/A) after he failed in his bid for governor of Jonglei in 2010. Largely through his access to military support from Khartoum and Eritrea, he was able to attract other dissenting commanders, including Gatluak Gai in Unity, David Yau Yau in Pibor county, Jonglei, and Shilluk commanders Johnson Olony and Alyuak Ogot in Upper Nile. Athor signed a ceasefire agreement in January 2011, but talks broke down and violence re-erupted between the SSDM/A and SPLA the following month. Yau Yau and Gai signed separate agreements in June and July, respectively, but Gai was later murdered, reportedly by his deputy, though it is widely believed the SPLA was responsible. Yau Yau was awaiting integration into the SPLA in Juba until he re-defected to Khartoum in June 2012 and resumed insurgent activity in Jonglei a month later (see Cobra faction).

Athor was killed on 19 December 2011, reportedly while entering South Sudan from Uganda, and Peter Kuol Chol Awan became SSDM/A commander-in-chief. In February 2012 the GRSS announced that the SSDM/A had signed a peace deal, and on 8 March Awan travelled to Juba and surrendered to the SPLA. But Olony denied that Awan represented all SSDM/A factions, and his SSDM/A-Upper Nile group remained active along the Sudan-South Sudan border—operating out of South Kordofan into Upper Nile throughout 2012 and into the first half of 2013 (see Upper Nile faction). In addition, there were reports of potentially hostile remnants of Athor’s troops in Pigi county, Jonglei, as late as August 2013, but they do not appear to constitute a significant threat.

In late September 2013, some 1,300 of Athor’s men were in Oinykibol training centre in Eastern Equatoria. They had been disarmed, had completed training, and were awaiting formal integration. Use the left and right navigation bars for information on the remaining active SSDM/A factions.  

Updated 6 November 2013