In January the national government of Sudan (northern Sudan) began cracking down hard on aid operations in Darfur. This isnt the first time this has happened, but for awhile last year it appeared the government had eased up on harassing food and medical aid agencies. That began to change in late 2010 and in January the governments anti-relief policy became quite evident. Now several non-governmental aid organizations are reporting that malnutrition in Darfur is increasing. There are also more reports of government military operations. Connect the dots and the big picture is once again the Khartoum government is using starvation as a weapon. One international aid agency estimates that around 40 percent of all aid workers in Darfur have been expelled since late 2010. There is another angle to this as well. Moving the aid workers out removes eyes from the battlefield. For example, in February a medical aid NGO was kicked out of a sensitive area not far from the Sudan-Chad border (Jebel Marra area). The area has been the scene of very heavy fighting in the past. It may well be once again.
March 27, 2011: The new government in Egypt said it would be the second (after Sudan) to recognize South Sudan as an independent nation, when that becomes official later this year. Egypt is trying to cultivate good relations with all its southern neighbors who border the Nile River, as all these nations are trying to change the 1929 treaty that gives Egypt most of the water in Nile. This could be catastrophic for Egypt.
March 26, 2011: The national government denies that it is permitting over flights of aircraft belonging to nations participating in the Libya no-fly zone operation. The UN had reported that coalition strike aircraft were transiting Sudanese airspace, and doing so with permission. Odds are that the aircraft do have permission. The government wants to be able to tell Muamar Kaddafi that it isnt participating while placating the US, NATO, and other coalition members.
The Darfur rebel organization, Sudan Liberation Army-Abdulwahid Nur (SLA-AN) said that the Sudanese government intends to hold a referendum on Darfurs status later this year. Darfur rebels contend that the referendum cannot be conducted fairly.
March 23, 2011: Image intelligence from civilian satellites indicates that there is a buildup of pro-government combat forces in the disputed Abyei region. There are buildups in three areas: Diffra, Bongo, and Goli. The indicator is the growth in the size of tent cities in those areas. As for Southern Sudanese forces, new Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA, the army of Southern Sudan) units have moved into towns south of Abyei. These reports of reinforcements are unconfirmed. There are SPLA units in the area. There have been several reports of skirmishes involving pro-north militias and the SPLA over the past two months (since the January independence referendum).
Oil revenue negotiations between Sudan (northern) and Southern Sudan continue. Southern Sudan may agree to give Sudan (Khartoum) up to 30 percent of its oil revenue, This will cover use of the pipeline through northern Sudan to Port Sudan. At the moment Sudan (north and south) pumps around 500,000 barrels a day. Southern Sudan, after it becomes independent in July, will own about 70 percent of the oil fields.
March 22, 2011: New clashes have occurred in the disputed Abyei region. A pro-north militia, the Popular Defense Forces, launched an assault on the town of Dungop (east of Abyei), leaving five people dead.
March 18, 2011: The SPLA fought for two days in widely separated battles with the militia force commanded by renegade officer George Athor. This left 34 SPLA fighters and 36 militiamen dead. Several firefights occurred in Upper Nile state and Unity state. Another firefight between Athors militia and the SPLA occurred in Jonglei state.
March 12, 2011: Over the last six weeks UN sources and international aid groups have noticed an increase in armed clashes in Southern Sudan and along the north-south Sudan border. Several incidents involved pro-north militias that are in the south or in a border region. The militias do not want to be incorporated into the SPLA (Southern Sudans army) nor do they want to disband. Thats why the term warlord is starting to crop up in some reports. Here is how that works. The local militia leader believes that during the long north-south civil war he had it pretty good. Since the 2005 peace agreement, one side of the other has had an interest in keeping his militia in place as a contingency force. However, the January pro-independence vote has changed the situation. In the south, the government of Southern Sudan wants to assert its sovereignty. The militia commanders dont like the implications of that. If they join the southern army (SPLA) they lose control. Many southerners believe (with cause) that the north is paying these commanders to make trouble for the south. The thing is, too much troublemaking could ignite another north-south war. The militia commanders might like that, but the governments (north and south) would lose oil revenue—lots of it. Blood means no oil.
March 7, 2011: A pro-northern militia burned the town of Tajalei in Southern Sudan in the Abyei region, as the towns 2,000 residents fled.
March 2, 2011: Over the last four days, at least 70 people were killed in a series of firefights and raids in the Abyei region. One town was reportedly attacked by militiamen in pickup trucks armed with machine guns. Allegedly the militiamen came from the Misseriya tribe. However, a Misseriya spokesman claimed that an SPLA unit started the fighting by attacking a Misseriya camp.