The rebels have been fighting the Sudanese government for decades in a long, drawn-out civil war that has caused widespread death and devastation. They want to separate from the rest of Sudan to form a new state, South Sudan. The majority of the Sudanese people are Muslim, but in South Sudan the dominant religion is Christianity. The South Sudanese feel that their religion is constantly being suppressed by the Sudanese government and that independence from Khartoum is the only way that they will ever be able to practice their faith in peace.
However, the Sudanese government is not prepared to acceded to the rebels' demands and so the war drags on, decade after decade, making life harder for the ordinary folk such as Nya and her family, who find themselves caught up in the middle of a bloody, bitter conflict.