Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia have reached an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s operation and the distribution of Nile River water. A decade ago, Egyptian concern for its downstream water rights led to sharp diplomatic protests and saber-rattling. This new agreement addresses issues like filling the GERD’s reservoir, policies regulating water release during droughts and procedures for handling emergencies related to the dam. The agreement was announced in Sudan on February 14. The United States, taking the role of “external mediator,” hosted a late January meeting in Washington that helped hammer out the “joint responsibility” for managing drought crises agreement. The U.S. has good relations with Egypt and Ethiopia while Sudan wants the U.S. to remove it from the Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) list. Though the February 14 announcement described the deal as final, that wasn’t quite accurate. A couple of thorny issues remain unsettled. Ethiopia claims Egypt has dropped its demand that Ethiopia guarantees Egypt 40 billion cubic meters of water annually. Egypt claims it has not dropped the demand. The GERD reservoir’s fill rate is another issue. Egypt argues that if the GERD’s reservoir fills too quickly it will reduce the Nile River’s flow and thus limit the Aswan High Dam’s electrical generation capability. So Egypt wants seven years for the initial fill. Ethiopia, however, wants to fill it in four years. Nevertheless, the agreement is good news. Once it is filled, the GERD’s reservoir will serve as a hedge against drought for all three nations. The GERD will also supply electrical power to a region running from Kenya and Uganda through both Sudans to Egypt. (Austin Bay)
February 22, 2020: Finally, a good sign in South Sudan that the six year-long civil war may end. Today in the capital, South Sudan’s senior rebel leader Riek Machar was sworn in as the nation’s first vice-president, which completes a key element of the peace agreement and forwards the establishment of what diplomats now call South Sudan’s Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGONU). Attempts to form the “Transitional Government of National Unity” failed so many times and got so far off schedule that mediators decided to add the qualifier“Revitalized.” Machar’s chief antagonist, South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, attended the ceremony. When Kiir spoke he urged forgiveness and conciliation. He specifically asked members of the Dinka and Nuer tribes to forgive one another. Kiir is Dinka, Machar is Nuer. They are the two largest and most powerful ethnic groups in South Sudan. Ethnic rivalry between the two groups sparked the civil war. Time will tell if Kiir and Machar can co-exist and cooperate. There is a lot to forgive and much to reconcile. The latest estimated death toll in the civil war is slightly over 400,000. (Austin Bay)
Meanwhile in Sudan, pro-democracy activists claim the RSF (Rapid Support Forces, militia, which is still commanded by accused war criminal Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, controls several gold mines in the country. According to the accusers and an anti-corruption group, the RSF sells the gold without Sudanese government supervision. RSF-controlled gold sales are made without proper contracting and accounting procedures. It is a documented fact that in 2017 the RSF seized North Darfur state’s Jebel Amer gold mine. Critics claim the RSF and Dagalo exert significant control over three other goldmines in Sudan and illegal gold sales have made Dagalo a wealthy man. Reformers contend the outlaw gold mining operations are examples of how the RSF, and other security services, run a “parallel economy.” Dagalo continues to serve on Sudan’s governing Sovereign National Council (SNC). Reformers believe Dagalo’s economic and political power confirms the deep-seated corruption tolerated and encouraged by former dictator Omar al Bashir, has not been eliminated. (Austin Bay)
February 21, 2020: In Sudan, the government reported a spike in human and livestock deaths caused by Rift Valley fever. The Red Sea state city of Aryab appears to be a hotspot.
In South-Sudan the pro-Sudan Misseriya tribe has rejected the South Sudan government's decision to declare Abyei South Sudanese territory. So far Sudan has not reacted to that declaration. The Misseriya want Sudan to oppose the South Sudan decision. Interestingly enough, the Misseriya are also asking Sudan and the government of Sudan’s West Kordofan state to support a new round of peace negotiations between the Misseriya and the Ngok Dinka tribe in Abyei. The Misseriya are in a bind with both Sudan and South Sudan. On January 21 Misseriya militiamen killed 35 Ngok Dinka in Abyei while another 40 people were injured. Investigators serving with the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) determined that Misseriya tribesmen had conducted the attack. The semi-nomadic Misseriya tribesmen entered Abyei from Sudan’s South Kordofan state. South Sudan contends that Abyei is a historically Dinka enclave. A referendum held in 2013 in Abyei, over 95 percent of the voters (99 percent according to some reports) favored joining South Sudan. Sudan rejected the referendum results, but that was when Basher was still in power. The Ngok Dinka tribe are the original inhabitants of Abyei, Christian, part of one of the largest tribes in South Sudan and, not-surprisingly, eager to be part of South Sudan.
February 20, 2020: The South Sudan government and the rebels announced they will form a coalition government on February 22 as required by the September 2018 peace agreement.
In Sudan, 53 demonstrators were injured in a clash with police. The SPA (Sudanese Professional Association), the leading pro-democracy group in Sudan, condemned the violence and demanded Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the SNC (Sovereign National Council) fire the interior minister (who controls police forces).
February 19, 2020: In South Sudan, the president has agreed to rebel demands that South Sudan return to ten states. The current president wanted 32 but that was widely opposed. So now South Sudan will reinstitute the ten state organization is had at independence in 2011. The country will also have three special administrative areas. The concession by the president removes one of the biggest sticking points in forming a new transitional government in South Sudan.
February 17, 2020: In Sudan, it was agreed that the military and civilian members of the SNC would have to approve letting the ICC (International Criminal Court) try deposed dictator Omar al Bashir. The ICC meets in the Netherlands. The possibility of permitting an ICC trial of Bashir, and possibly three other members of his regime, was raised earlier this month.
February 15, 2020: In South Sudan, after a meeting between the president and the rebel leader the president said that he would agree to the rebel demand that the country return to its ten state pre-civil war state organization. The ten original states would be re-established, plus three "administrative areas": Pibor, Ruweng and Abyei. All three areas have border issues.
In western Sudan (Darfur), the local rebel groups are praising the Sudan government’s decision to let the ICC try former dictator Omar al Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity. They believe an honest trial in the ICC will promote peace in Darfur.
February 13, 2020: In Sudan, the government south to get off the American SST (State Sponsors of Terrorism) list by agreeing to pay $30 million in damages to the survivors of 17 U.S. Navy sailors killed in the terror attack on the USS Cole in October 2000. In addition to the dead, the attack wounded 39 sailors. Sudan, however, denies participating (directly) in the bomb attack. Al Qaeda terrorists in a small boat pulled up beside the destroyer when it was refueling in Aden, Yemen and detonated a bomb in the boat. At the time Sudan was providing sanctuary for al Qaeda.
February 12, 2020: In Sudan, the SNC announced they will hand over former dictator Omar al Bashir to the ICC, where he will face war crimes and genocide charges. Bashir was toppled in April 2019 and Dufanese pro-democracy groups supported sending him to the ICC for trial. No date has been given for the transfer of Bashir to the ICC. There is speculation that the ICC may come to Sudan to conduct the trial. The ICC indicted Bashir in 2009 and in 2010. Bashir faces five counts of crimes against humanity, three counts of genocide and two counts of war crimes.
February 11, 2020: In Sudan, the SRF (rebel umbrella organization) came out in support of a recent request that the UN encourage international financial assistance to support Sudan’s internal peace process.
February 9, 2020: The UN asked the U.S. to remove Sudan from the U.S. SST. The UN believes that said removal will encourage international support for change in Sudan.
In South Sudan, the IGAD (East Africa’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development) mediation team gave the president five more days to reach a decision on South Sudan’s state boundaries issue. The president wants 32 “federal regional states” in South Sudan because it was his idea in the first place. The rebels insist South Sudan must have its original ten states and that has a lot more popular support.
February 8, 2020: Sudan reports that it is now hosting 283,895 registered South Sudanese refugees. Only 76,686 are registered with the UN. The others were counted by Sudanese authorities, including the Immigration and Passport Police (IPP).
February 6, 2020: Sudan announced that aircraft flying to Israel can cross Sudanese airspace. On February 4 the head of the SNC met in Uganda with the Israeli prime minister and discussed normalizing political relations.
February 4, 2020: In Sudan, the recent massive desert locust swarm has arrived and the government fears it faces an agricultural disaster. A new swarm is threatening the Red Sea state. The UN is calling for increased food aid to prevent starvation. The locusts are also plaguing Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. This swarm is one of the largest ever recorded.
February 3, 2020: In western Sudan (Darfur), UN peacekeepers are conducting a series of conferences with the Transitional Government and SRF rebel coalition. The conferences supplement on-going Darfur region peace negotiations being held in South Sudan. The first conference was held outside the capital of North Darfur state. One of the chief objectives was to address the problem of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the region and Darfur IDPs who are refugees in other countries.
February 1, 2020: In South Sudan, the president criticized the UN and its UNISFA Abyei peacekeeping operation for failing to protect the Ngok Dinka. South Sudan said the semi-nomadic Misseriya tribesmen entered Abyei from Sudan (South Kordofan state). South Sudan contends that Abyei is a historically Dinka enclave. A referendum held in 2013 in Abyei, nearly all the voters favored joining South Sudan. Sudan rejected the referendum. However, at the time Bashir was still in power.
January 30, 2020: In Sudan, the SNC is making another international push get off Washington’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Being on the list restricts U.S. government foreign assistance and forbids weapons and defense-related exports. A listed nation cannot import some agricultural goods. The most severe penalties involve bank access, banking procedures and investment restrictions. The U.S. can selectively lift some restrictions. For example, in 2017 to encourage moderation in Sudan, The U.S. lifted or reduced some of the economic sanctions.
January 27, 2020: In Sudan, the transitional government promised one of the main rebel groups (SPLM-N Agar) that it will create a new national military that reflects Sudan’s ethnic diversity. The pledge is included in a peace deal that SPLM-N Agar accepted on January 24. Mediators call the agreement a “framework deal” for other peace settlements within Sudan. SPLM-N-Agar members will be integrated into the new national army. Moreover, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states (which SPLM-N factions partially control) will receive a degree of political autonomy. Another rebel faction (SPLM-N-Alhilu) fields one of the two most powerful rebel armies in Sudan. The other is the Darfur based the SLM-AW. Alhilu favors establishing a secular state in Sudan. Diplomats say that the framework is a good one, but for the deal to secure peace in Blue Nile and South Kordofan Alhilu’s faction must also agree to it.
January 26, 2020: In Sudan, the transitional government has asked all international foreign aid groups to return to the country. The appeal includes NGOs' former dictator Omar al Bashir expelled. The government said aid organizations will be allowed to conduct aid operations “without restrictions.” In practical terms that means Sudanese security forces will not harass their operations and will not hinder their movement within Sudan. The NGOs will be able to operate throughout Sudan, including in rebel-controlled areas. This is particularly good news for the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
January 23, 2020: On the Sudan-South Sudan border a major tribal clash occurred in the disputed Abyei region. Oil-producing Abyei is claimed by Sudan and South Sudan. Initial reports are sketchy, but UNISFA sources report semi-nomadic Misseriya tribesmen attacked a Ngok Dinka village. The attackers killed at least 32 people and burned two-dozen houses. Authorities believe the Misseriya entered Abyei seeking grazing pasture for their cattle. Abyei is the most sensitive region on the contested border and has been since 2011.