South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa's longest-running civil war.
Made up of the 10 southern-most states of Sudan, South Sudan is one of the most diverse countries in Africa. It is home to over 60 different major ethnic groups, and the majority of its people follow traditional religions.
Independence did not bring conflict in South Sudan to an end. Civil war broke out in 2013 when the president fell out with his then vice president, leading to a conflict that has displaced some 4 million people.
A power-sharing agreement was signed between the warring parties in August 2018 in a bid to bring the five-year civil war to an end.
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President: Salva Kiir Mayardit
Salva Kiir Mayardit became president of South Sudan - then still part of Sudan - and head of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 2005, succeeding long-time rebel leader John Garang, who died in a helicopter crash.
Mr Kiir was re-elected as president in multiparty polls in the south in April 2010. In July 2011, when South Sudan became independent, he became president of the new state.
Just two years later, however, the country was engulfed by civil war when Mr Kiir sacked his entire cabinet and accused Vice-President Riek Machar of instigating a failed coup.
In August 2018, after five years of civil war, Mr Kiir signed a power-sharing agreement with rebel leader Machar and other opposition groups in a bid to end the brutal conflict.
Constitutional guarantees of media freedom are not respected in practice, and journalists risk harassment and detention over reports deemed unfavourable by the authorities.
Radio is the most popular medium. Private local stations, some of them with foreign funding, broadcast alongside the state-run national network.
Some key dates in South Sudan's history:
1956 - Sudan becomes independent but southern states are unhappy with their lack of autonomy. Tensions boil over into fighting that lasts until 1972, when the south is promised a degree of self-government.
1983 - Fighting starts again after the Sudanese government cancels the autonomy arrangements.
2011 - South Sudan becomes an independent country, after over 20 years of guerrilla warfare, which claimed the lives of at least 1.5 million people and more than four million were displaced.
2012 - Disagreements with Sudan over the oil-rich region of Abyei erupt into fighting, known as the Heglig Crisis. A peace deal was reached in June 2012 that helped resume South Sudan's oil exports and created a 10km demilitarized zone along the border.
2013 - Civil war breaks out after the president, Salva Kiir, sacks the cabinet and accuses Vice-President Riek Machar of planning a failed coup. Over 2.2 million people are displaced by the fighting and severe famine puts the lives of thousands at risk.
2018 - Renewed bid to end civil war leads to a power-sharing agreement between the warring sides.