Nilotes form the majority of the population in South Sudan, an area that is believed to be their original point of dispersal. They also today constitute the second-largest group of peoples inhabiting the African Great Lakes region (after the Bantu peoples), with a notable presence in southwestern Ethiopia as well.
Southern Sudanese voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Sudan in January 2011, with 98.83% of voters reportedly preferring to split from the North. On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became an independent state, with Kiir as its first president. Kiir positioned himself as a reformer, using his inaugural address to call for the South Sudanese people "to forgive, though we shall not forget" perceived injustices at the hands of the northern Sudanese over the preceding decades and announce a general amnesty for South Sudanese groups that had warred against the SPLM in the past. A few weeks later, he publicly addressed members of the military and police to warn them that rape, torture, and other human rights violations carried out by armed personnel would be considered criminal acts and prosecuted aggressively by the Ministry of Justice.
Kiir faced the first real crisis in his presidency of the Republic of South Sudan in early August 2011, when clashes over cattle erupted between Lou Nuer and Murle people in Jonglei and Warrap states, leaving over 600 dead. Kiir ordered the army to deploy to the unrest-hit areas to quell the violence, and the South Sudanese government claimed the next day that fighting had ended.