Ethnic violence in South Sudan began as part of the Sudanese nomadic conflicts, continuing since January 2011. The fighting continued throughout the transition process for South Sudan's independent government.
More than a month following South Sudan's independence and secession from Sudan, the fighting escalated after several cattle raids took place during ongoing clashes between the Murle and Lou Nuer, at farms in South Sudan's Jonglei state, killing up to 600 people and injuring up to 985, on 18 August 2011. The clashes took place when members of the Murle group are said to have attacked the majority Lou Nuer, stealing nearly 40,000 cattle. The death toll was originally reported to be as low as 58, but the United Nations said the flow of information had been hampered by vast distances and poor logistics. The UN also said that there was a possibility that as many as 200 people had been abducted. By January 2012, clashes including and stemming from the August cattle raid had left more than 1,100 dead in the region, according to the UN.
Fighting further intensified in late December 2011 and early January 2012 as the Nuer White Army, an armed group of Lou Nuer tribesmen, attacked Pibor and surrounding Murle villages in retaliation for the August 2011 cattle raid. The UN estimated between 20,000 and 50,000 were displaced as a result of the fighting.