This will be the last regular update for Sudan and South Sudan. The organized violence there has declined to the point where it no longer qualifies for regular updates. Instead, we will cover any major outbreaks of violence in our updates of neighboring countries or in a Potential Hotspot piece. Past updates for all wars remain available.
Since StrategyPage began in 1999 we’ve retired more wars than we’ve added. As we have noted frequently, the trend since the 1990s has been fewer wars. Those we have retired since 1999 include Haiti (2009), Nepal (2010), Sri Lanka (2010), Central Asia (2012), Ivory Coast (2012), Indonesia (2013), Chad (2013), Uganda (2013), Kurds (2013), Rwanda (2013), Balkans (2013), Ethiopia (2013), Congo Brazzaville (2013), Colombia (2017), Mexico (2017), Myanmar (2020), Algeria (2020), Sudan (2020) and Thailand (2020). Some of these former updates included nearby conflicts that also ended, like Micronesia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
December 29, 2020: The first regular “Sudan” update appeared in 1999. That’s 21 years of continual coverage of an area savaged by constant and complex warfare. StrategyPage’s February 26, 2003 Sudan update rates reviewing. “The Front for the Liberation of Darfur (FLD), yet another Sudanese rebel group, took control of the capital of Jebel Marrah province. The capital is named Gulu, not to be confused with Gulu in north Uganda. Western reports said the FLD put at least 300 fighters into the fight for Gulu. For years the Sudanese government in Khartoum has armed the nomadic Arabized (and Muslim) tribes of Darfur. These militias have attacked the Zaghawa and Fur tribes in Darfur. Now the FLD is striking back, allegedly "on behalf of the minority tribes.”
Interested readers can find the rest of this update in the 2003 archive. That particular update was one of the first reports on the internet analyzing what became known as the Darfur War and later the Darfur Genocide. Credit AFP with publishing a couple of brief wire reports about the initial attacks. One included the location (Gulu). The update’s last three sentences, however, provided the historical, operational and demographic contexts. StrategyPage pegged Darfur as another cruel example of attacks by Sudanese government-sponsored tribes on politically incorrect tribes within Sudan. The update’s last sentence explained why Darfuris fought back, under the banner of the FLD. The attacks continued; the rebels resisted. Darfur’s warfare and slaughter ultimately led to the deployment of the hybrid United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur peacekeeping mission. The peacekeeper’s mandate is scheduled to end December 31, 2020. A residual operation, UNITAMS (UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan) will remain in Sudan. Its mission includes improving internal Sudanese security forces civilian protection capabilities, especially in the Darfur region. Its larger goal is to assisting Sudan’s transition to a civilian government. Sudanese officials know that UNITAMS also has a monitoring mission – keeping an eye on the behavior of Sudanese security forces. Sudanese doubt the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) ability to reform. Many RSF militiamen served in the government-sponsored “janjaweed” militias that savaged Darfur.
Is Sudan now at peace? No. However, since April 2019 Sudan has made great strides towards achieving internal stability. Mass action by the Sudanese people led to the toppling former dictator and war criminal Omar al Bashir -- a truly major stride. War exhaustion was a factor. The majority of the population rejected incessant violence, poverty and authoritarian oppression. For decades Islamist radicals, some tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, dominated Sudan’s domestic and foreign policies. Islamist extremism was one reason the civil war with the South’s predominantly Christian (or animist) tribes erupted.
The current transitional government, led by prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, is a strange hybrid of military officers, economic technocrats, democratic idealists and intelligent but angry people -- angry for many reasons, but primarily angry that authoritarian rule has killed or starved to death hundreds of thousands of people and left Sudan a wreck. The ruling Sovereign National Council (SNC) is a military-civilian hybrid. The goal, however, is free elections and eventual civilian rule. Hamdok knows war is Sudan’s economic and political enemy. His government has made numerous peace agreements with rebel groups and has extended offers to the reluctant. Some of the rebels in these factions have been fighting Sudan since the 1970s. That’s right, on and off war against Sudan for 45 years. Hamdok knows external conflict and economic isolation are also enemies. After paying compensation for American victims of terror attacks connected to Bashir’s dictatorship, Sudan is now off the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) list. SNC-governed Sudan no longer behaves like a quasi-Iranian ally. It is in the process of making peace with Israel.
South Sudan is wretched. Years of civil war and episodic tribal wars have further impoverished people who were already poor – despite the presence of enormous oil fields. Huge problems afflict South Sudan, where the senior leaders are corrupt and self-serving. Many of the worst leaders face individual U.S., EU and UN sanctions. Yet South Sudan’s people are also tired of war. Cattle raids and violent tribal clashes will continue, but the civil war is finally lapsing. South Sudan and Sudan have reached new oil production and pipeline shipment agreements. Both nations need the income. Hope they spend it on food, not weapons. (Austin Bay)
December 28, 2020: Earlier this month UN Security Council acknowledged that the complete withdrawal of peacekeepersl will not be completed by December 31. At the moment around 7,000 uniformed personnel (police and soldiers) and 900 civilian staff are deployed in Darfur. The delay is the result of “logistical challenges.” Darfur is an isolated region—it is hard to get to and hard to leave. Covid19 pandemic restrictions make the withdrawal more complex.
December 26, 2020: Sudan accused the Ethiopian Army of supporting attacks against Sudanese territory. Sudan has now reinforced Sudanese Army units in the Wad Aroud region, in eastern Sudan along the Ethiopian border. Both Sudan and Ethiopia acknowledge they have broken off the latest round of border negotiations. Meetings were being held in the Sudan capital.
December 25, 2020: Pope Francis sent Christmas greetings to South Sudan’s political leaders. He urged them to remember they are committed to implementing the peace agreement. South Sudan is a predominantly Christian area. The peace agreement the Pope referred to is the September 2018 peace process, now called the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).
December 22, 2020: With the impending withdrawal of peacekeepers from Darfur, the UN reminded the Sudanese government that it is now responsible for protecting civilians in Darfur. UN officials point out that peacekeepers will help with training. UN police advisers and support personnel are already in Darfur to help Sudan improve its civilian protection capacities there.
December 21, 2020: Foreign observers accused Sudanese authorities of using excessive force on October 15, 2020 in the town of Kassala. In the incident seven protestors were killed by gunfire and some two-dozen wounded or injured. Personnel from three security organizations were involved: Central Reserve Police (CRP), the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and the Army.
December 20, 2020: Sudan’s energy ministry announced the country will have to rely on imported gasoline and diesel for two months (70 days) as the country’s main oil refinery undergoes maintenance.
December 19, 2020: Several thousand protesters demonstrated in the capital Khartoum and Omdurman (across the Nile from Khartoum). They demanded the government accelerate economic and political reforms. Several demonstrators demanded justice for those murdered by the dictatorship. Today marked the second anniversary of the mass uprising that eventually toppled dictator Omar al Bashir.
December 16, 2020: Foreign food aid officials warned that the food situation in South Sudan has deteriorated since December 1. Several areas are on the verge of famine. One official said western Pibor county has reached a crisis level. Recent flooding and another episode of ethnic violence have contributed to the famine conditions. The flooding killed both cattle and crops. Another report indicated in at least five counties (located in Jonglei, Warrap and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states) up to ten percent of the population faces starvation. Meanwhile, peacekeepers reported that the reunification of South Sudan’s security forces (mandated by the peace agreement) has “stalled.” There are also on-going disputes over the appointment of local commissioners. In some cases, these disputes have led to intercommunal violence. That noted, peacekeepers reported that overall violence in South Sudan has decreased.
December 15, 2020: Egypt held talks with South Sudan. One of the topics was Egypt’s dispute with Ethiopia over the division of Nile River water. Egypt hopes “up river” countries like South Sudan can influence Ethiopian operations of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The GERD, however, is on the Blue Nile. The White Nile flows through South Sudan. South Sudan, however, borders Ethiopia. Ethiopia also supported the southern tribes who rebelled against Sudan.
December 14, 2020: Foreign observers accused the South Sudan government of failing to stop criminal behavior by South Sudan’s NSS (National Security Service). One report accused the NSS of torture.
December 11, 2020: In Sudan, civilian members of the SNC complained that they were blindsided by the government’s decision to allow Russia to build a naval facility in Sudan. The civilians accused the military members of making the foreign policy move with consultation. A senior member of the pro-democracy Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) accused the military of “hijacking” foreign policy. The FFC supports the civilian members of the SNC. Another FFC member added that the decision to alter “Sudan’s relationship with Israel” was also made without consultation. Russia recently received a 25-year lease for a naval installation on the Red Sea.
December 7, 2020: Foreign observers are urging the UN to continue the arms embargo on South Sudan. One report cited attacks from June to April 2020 by South Sudanese government forces on civilians in Central Equatoria state. The report accused the government forces of destroying 110 homes and other structures.
December 5, 2020: UN refugee experts believe that Sudan cannot currently handle the influx of 43,000 Ethiopian refugees. Sudan needs immediate international assistance to care for the refugees.
December 4, 2020:
In eastern South Sudan (Jonglei state) peacekeepers have been asked to halt the local violence there so that food aid can get to areas facing starvation.
December 2, 2020: UN observers believe that over 40,000 people have fled from Ethiopia to Sudan. The refugees are escaping the fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Refugee organizations fear that more will enter Sudan and estimate that another 150,000 could arrive in Sudan over the next six months.