South Sudan is seeking to encourage ethnic reconciliation as a means of reducing conflict. The idea is an old one. Several non-governmental organizations (Catholic and Anglican churches among them) gained a lot of experience in conducting peace talks among ethnic groups during the long-running north-south civil war. The government is apparently discussing using some of these organizations as mediators. However, a debate is going on among South Sudanese government and various ethnic leaders regarding the specifics of a national reconciliation program. Many leaders like the idea in concept but worry that some ethnic groups will try to use a national reconciliation program to promote their own cultural and social goals at the expense of less powerful groups. There is also some disagreement over the term tribal war as applied to several of the conflicts which afflict South Sudan. Many groups that international media describe as tribes are really clans or sub-tribes within larger ethnic groups. For example, the Dinka tribe has around twenty sub-tribes (perhaps more). Describing the conflicts as inter-ethnic or intra-ethnic would be more accurate. Mediators have made this point before. When working with warring clans, they point out to the clans that the clans share ancestors. This gives clan leaders who want to end the conflict a political argument against the hard-core militants. (Austin Bay)
May 29, 2013: The UN Security Council voted unanimously to increase the size of the UN Interim Force for Abyei (UNISFA) peacekeeping force by 1,100 soldiers (to 5,326 troops). The Security Council also demanded that Sudan withdraw security forces from Abyei. Sudan has around 150 special oil services protection police at an oil production facility in Abyei. The heavily armed police violate the UN-backed withdrawal agreement.
May 28, 2013: South Sudan accused Sudan of reneging on agreements to end the dispute over the Abyei region. According to the southerners, the north is using stalling tactics and does not really want to reach an agreement.
May 27, 2013: Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir has pulled out the oil weapon again. Bashir told South Sudan that unless it stops supplying rebel groups in the Darfur and South Kordofan state Sudan will shut down the pipeline system that carries the south’s oil to Port Sudan (on the Red Sea). Bashir made the statement in South Kordofan state while visiting a Sudanese Army unit which had retaken the town of Abu Kershola. Sudan Revolutionary Front rebels took Abu Kershola in April.
May 25, 2013: The Sudanese Army engaged rebels fighting with the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) in North Kordofan state. A rebel spokesman with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said that its fighters defeated a government force in the al-Buta region (southern North Kordofan state). The Sudanese Army claimed it had defeated the rebel group.
May 23, 2013: Tensions remain high in the disputed Abyei region. The African Union and UN-sponsored Abyei Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism has told the UN that its observers report that hostility between the Dinka Ngok and Misseriya tribes is increasing. Since the May 4th murder of Dinka Ngok paramount chief, Kuol Deng Majok, by Misseriya tribesmen, there have been more reports of armed groups from both tribes being out and about. The Abyei Joint Oversight Committee has recommend making Abyei a weapons-free area but it is doubtful that either tribe will listen to the committee. The UN intends to expand the size of its UN Interim Force for Abyei (UNISFA) from 3,973 soldiers (it is authorized 4,200) with the addition of an Ethiopian aviation unit of 227 soldiers. The UN wants to increase the size of the force by 1,126 troops.
May 22, 2013: Sudan’s foreign ministry said that it will support the UN proposal to increase the size of the UNISFA. The foreign ministry emphasized that the UN already has the authority to expand the UNISFA force.
May 21, 2013: The number of people threatened by starvation in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states has dropped from 4.7 million (mid-2012) to 4.1 million. Though this is an improvement, this means there still is not enough food to feed the civilian population in those war-torn states. As a result, civilians continue to flee south. Some 190,000 Sudanese refugees are receiving food aid in camps in South Sudan’s Upper Nile and Unity states.
May 20, 2013: South Sudan’s government informed China’s ambassador to South Sudan that Sudan (Khartoum) is once again blocking the flow of oil exports by shuting down the pipeline which connects the south’s Tharjath field (Unity state) to Heglig for the last three days. Heglig is a disputed region, now controlled by the north. South Sudanese forces and a northern rebel group attacked Heglig in April 2012, South Sudanese oil workers had been harassed by northern security officers. South Sudan pumps around 500,000 barrels of oil a day and China purchases about 75 percent of it. China also supplied the Sudanese government with cash and specialists needed to build the oil fields and the pipeline. This investment only works if China can get the oil out.
South Sudan’s army, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), claimed that its forces had recaptured the town of Boma (Jonglei state). David Yau Yau’s rebel militia force had taken control of Boma earlier this month. Four SPLA soldiers were killed and 12 wounded in the operation while Yau Yau’s militia suffered 20 dead. The rebels denied the government claim.
May 19, 2013: A Dinka Ngok youth group, the Abyei Youth Union (AYU), has demanded that the UN withdraw its UNISFA peacekeeping force from Abyei. The youth group claimed that the peacekeeping mission has failed. The group cited the May 4th murder of Dinka Ngok paramount chief Kuol Deng Majok as an example of the force’s inability to fulfill its basic mission of protecting civilians. Misseriya tribal gunmen killed the chief while he was traveling under escort by UNISFA soldiers. The youth group also mentioned the murder of another Dinka Ngok, which occurred just outside the main UN base camp in Abyei’s Mulmul area.
May 17, 2013: The Sudanese government said that South Sudan had promised that it will not let anti-Sudan rebels operate from its territory. In April Sudan claimed that rebels who launched a motorized attacked on the town of Um Rawaba were based in South Sudan.
South Sudanese rebel commander David Yau Yau announced that he intends to establish a separate state for minority ethnic groups in South Sudan. Yau Yau claimed that the South Sudanese government has deprived ethnic minorities of their rights. Yau Yau belongs to the Murle tribe. His rebel group is based in Jonglei state.