Sudan: Deals Are In The Air


November 9, 2017: The presidents of Sudan (Bashir) and South Sudan (Kiir) met for two days of meetings on the 1 st and agreed to settle their border dispute and begin reopening the ten closed border crossings and enforcing the demilitarized zone. The two leaders also reaffirmed their earlier agreement not to support rebels from the other Sudan. South Sudan also agreed to begin repaying $3.2 billion in oil pipeline fees for moving oil to foreign customers via Sudanese pipelines. The initial payment of $262 million will be made using oil (which South Sudan has), not cash (which it has little of). Continued payments apparently depend on Sudan preventing smugglers from moving weapons to South Sudan. Oil revenue supplies nearly all the South Sudan government income. But the oil cannot be easily sold unless Sudan allows that oil to move through Sudan to an export facility via a pipeline.

Foreign diplomats stationed in South Sudan report that all remained calm in the capital while the president Kiir was negotiating in Sudan. Despite the continuing unrest throughout the South Sudan and anger at the Kiir government there is still a lot of South Sudanese who want peace and change.

Rebel leaders have been urging that peace talks be revived by ignoring Salvaa Kiir and Riek Machar and seeking other South Sudan leaders to negotiate a peace deal. This suggestion has some appeal. South Sudan president Salvaa Kiir is Dinka. The senior rebel (SPLM-IO) leader, Riek Machar, is Nuer. The civil war, from the beginning, was a very personal feud between Kiir and Machar made worse by the traditional rivalry of those two tribes. It is generally agreed that Kiir is corrupt and mainly out for himself and his Dinka supporters. Machar has opponents within the SPLM-IO and that is one reason why he remains in exile in South Africa. Back in South Sudan the government finds that the main cause of the rebellion, corruption, was still widespread and causing more pro-government groups to rebel or become neutral. What this proposal comes down to is persuading Kiir and Machar to go into exile, with an amnesty and help with their financial security. Kiir has already stolen and exported a lot of cash while Machar (who is more outspoken and hostile about corruption) does not. Removing these two men from the scene has a certain appeal but is unlikely to happen. Kiir still believes he can prevail, which is possible in the short run. But that would produce a lasting blood feud between the Dinka and most of the other tribes of South Sudan.

In South Sudan refugees in camps around the capital complain that foreign aid groups running the camps are working with the government to conceal the wretched living conditions most of the refugees (nearly all South Sudanese) have to endure. Another example of the culture of corruption that prevails in Sudan and South Sudan. Up north Sudan leader Bashir, under indictment for war crimes in Darfur, accuses foreign aid groups of exploiting the misery in Darfur to keep locals dependent on the refugee camps. Bashir has been playing nice lately, trying to generate some good will in the UN to get the war criminal business dismissed and the peacekeepers out of Sudan.

Corruption is a problem on both sides of the civil war and the UN has had some success on freezing bank accounts and finding stolen funds belonging to senior leaders on both sides who have had individual sanctions imposed. But the aid donor nations are not happy with the endless calls for more money to keep refugee camps growing and going on what seems to be a permanent basis. Everyone wants change but doesn’t quite know how to go about it.

Meanwhile the neighbors are not pleased with the continuing chaos in Sudan, particularly South Sudan. In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) there are at least 400 South Sudan rebels taking refuge from their civil war across the border. The chaos in South Sudan makes it easier for all manner of outlaws to move around and do what they want (as long as they can bribe or intimidate the locals).

November 7, 2017: In South Sudan the army lost another dozen or so Dinka officers to the rebels along with about 200 troops. This group switched allegiance to SPLM-IO rebels because of the corruption and mismanagement in the capital. The defectors complained of troops not being paid and favoritism shown to tribal affiliation when it came to promotion. Most of the defectors were also unhappy at how the former chief of staff Paul Malong was being treated.

November 6, 2017: In Sudan the president declared a state of emergency for Gezira state (100 kilometers southeast of the capital) because political factions in the state were escalating their disputes and chaos was becoming common.

November 5, 2017: In Sudan the government revealed that last week, in western Sudan (South Darfur) RSF paramilitaries seized 19 tons of hashish after a brief gun battle with the smugglers. RSF received a tip that the smugglers would be moving the drugs (from South Sudan and Ethiopia) to Khartoum, the Sudan capital.

November 3, 2017: In the South Sudan capital the government encountered resistance when they ordered general Malong to give up most of his 30 bodyguards. Since the end of August former army chief of staff General Paul Malong has been "confined to his home for security reasons." If it sounds like house arrest, it probably is, even though the government denies Malong is under arrest. Malong was fired as chief of staff in May after other generals accused the army of tribal bias. Malong is a Dinka and has many supporters in the army.

November 2, 2017: The South Sudan the government admitted that it was broke and that, not corruption, was the reason may troops (and other government employees) had not been paid on time.

In southern South Sudan (Yei River state) army and SPLM-IO rebels fought over control of the town of Ombachi Payam.

November 1, 2017: In South Sudan (Northern Liech state) rebels clashed with soldiers blocking the way to a UN refugee camp where the rebels were bringing some of their wounded. The rebels apparently withdrew before suffering any more casualties. Refugee camps frequently become informal bases for the people responsible for the violence. In this case the government forces are guarding the main roads and other routes refugees would use to reach the camp.

October 31, 2017: In western Sudan (Darfur) RSF militiamen ambushed some armed smugglers headed east towards the capital (Khartoum) and seized two truckloads of hashish (19 tons of it). The RSF were operating in Darfur as part of a major security operation that began in mid-October. Some 20,000 paramilitary (Janjaweed) fighters of the RSF (Rapid Support Forces) were sent, under army and police supervision, to forcibly disarm 8,000 former Janjaweed fighters belonging to the SRAC (Sudanese Revolutionary Awakening Council) and led by a prominent local tribal leader Musa Hilal. The RSF was also told to crack down on all sorts of criminal behavior as well. The RSF was formed in 2013 from members of Janjaweed (pro-government tribal militias) that participated in some of the more notorious operations in the Darfur region. In 2013 some pro-government Arab tribes had turned to fighting each other because subsidies (for fighting black African tribes) from the government have been cut in the last few years because the government lost control of the oil in the newly independent South Sudan. For more than a decade the government has been trying to deal with the side effects of using the Janjaweed. One aspect of this was imposing more discipline on the RSF and improving their pay and benefits. The fact that the RSF turned over 19 tons of smuggler hashish is a good sign. Several more tons of hashish may also have disappeared along the way but that won’t be clear for a while. Meanwhile president Bashir is using the better behavior of the RSF to support his call for the refugee camps in Darfur to be closed and the refugees, as well as the non-Sudanese foreign aid workers, to all go home along with all the other UN personnel, including the peacekeepers. The UN is inclined to go along with this, under right conditions, because there are more pressing need for foreign aid and peacekeepers (both in limited supply) elsewhere.

October 30, 2017: In the south (Maridi State) there were several clashes between the army and rebels over the weekend, leaving at least six dead.

October 26, 2017: In the northwest (Aweil State) some 70 rebels from the SSPA/SSPM rejoined the government forces.

October 25, 2017: The South Sudan government ordered tribes that move their herds of animals freely along the southern states of Jubek, Yei River, Imatong, Maridi and Amadi must no longer cross state borders seeking pasture and water for their animals. This order is in response to growing complaints from farmers in all those states because herders from other states come around and destroy crops while seeking pasturage for their animals.

October 23, 2017: In central South Sudan (Gok state) the state governor has asked the national government to discourage members of parliament from Gok state encouraging more fighting between factions of the Dinka tribes. This violence has been more frequent this year and in the last week over a hundred have died and many more wounded. The violence is getting worse and it is generally over ownership of cattle and access to territory.

October 20, 2017: In South Sudan a rebel faction (SSDF, South Sudan Democratic Front) has left the main rebel alliance (SPLM-IO) and joined another rebel organization. This is becoming more common because SPLM-IO negotiated a 2015 peace deal that fell apart and the SPLM-IO leader, former vice-president Riek Machar is stuck in South Africa. He arrived there in late 2016 when he feared for his life in the South Sudan capital. Machar soon found himself confined to a house outside of Pretoria, though that is disputed by South African authorities. Nevertheless Machar is not available in South Sudan.

October 18, 2017: In southern South Sudan (near the White Nile River and the Ugandan border) two rival rebel factions have been fighting for nearly a week and at least three people have been killed and many more wounded. The fighting was apparently over control of a supply route from Uganda that many rebel factions depend on.

October 16, 2017: In South Sudan an army officer accused of leading 2016 attacks on foreign aid workers was found dead in his cell, where he was awaiting trial. Doctors, after about a week, concluded it was natural causes and at that point the media was told.

October 14, 2017: In southeastern South Sudan Toposa tribemen crossed the border into Kenya and attacked a high school, killing a teacher and six students. This was part of a feud between Kenyan and South Sudan students at the school. The Toposa are herders and have long feuded with other tribes in South Sudan and Kenya.




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