Sudan: The Non-War Intensifies

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June 12, 2012: Several major rebel groups in Sudan united to form the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) in November 2011, to serve as an umbrella political organization. The rebel groups knew that if they could coordinate their political efforts they would improve their ability to challenge the national government. The rebel groups tend to focus on their own local conflicts. They have a good reason: that’s where their homes are and home is the critical front. For example, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) is the main resistance group in Sudan’s western Darfur region. It does occasionally launch forays outside of Darfur (like the great raid on the outskirts of Khartoum) but Darfur is its primary operational area. This also applies to two factions of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), which joined the SRF. (Darfuri rebels man both SLA factions.) The Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) fights Khartoum in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, two south-eastern Sudanese states which border South Sudan. The SPLM-N retains the name Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) from the days when it was part of the greater SPLM, the main southern resistance movement which is now the governing political group in South Sudan. Sudan continues to accuse South Sudan’s SPLM of supporting the SPLM-N with arms and money, and South Sudan maintains it does not. If only to reduce Sudan’s propaganda heat, the SPLM-N needed a name change and a clear alignment with northern rebel groups. The SRF served that purpose. Indeed, many members of the SPLM-N (for example, many of its Nuba members) make it clear that they sincerely wish South Kordofan and Blue Nile were part of South Sudan but they realize that is highly unlikely. The SRF makes it clear that Sudan’s government, led by president Omar al-Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP), is its enemy. The SRF demands that Sudan give its members a better political and economic deal.

Last month the SRF announced that it would not accept any discrete peace deals from Sudan (selective settlements is the diplomatic term). The SRF wants an inclusive settlement with the government. Bashir and his government reject any notion of inclusive settlement.

The SRF also gives the rebels a contact point for coordinating their military operations as well as their political efforts. There is a lot of evidence that the rebels have occasionally coordinated military activities, albeit a loose coordination. The idea is to involve the Sudanese Army in two or three (or more) hot actions at once and keep it off balance. (Austin Bay)

June 11, 2012: Sudan continues to harass South Sudan with over-flights by military aircraft. The south continues to report sporadic artillery and air attacks near the border. However, the slow war between the Sudans is now in a lull. Negotiations are one reason. Another is that Sudan already has its hands full with rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, plus the continuing low-grade turmoil out in Darfur. South Sudan has also proved to be diplomatically agile. It has used its connections with Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia quite well. The north doesn’t want to end up in a fight that brings in Uganda and certainly doesn’t want trouble with Ethiopia. Indeed, South Sudan knows it pays to have friends.

June 10, 2012: SPLM-N claimed that its forces in Blue Nile state had defeated a major government attack on SPLM-N positions in the Silik region (southwest Blue Nile state). The government denied that the attack took place and called the SPLM-N claim a fabrication.

June 9, 2012: South Sudan accused Sudan of illegally maintaining armed military personnel in the disputed Abyei region. South Sudan claimed that UN observers had confirmed the Sudanese Army soldiers remain in Abyei, which is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2046. It appears that the Sudanese Army simply turned 150 soldiers into policemen and they are guarding an oil field in Abyei.

JEM claimed its forces had captured the Umm Ajaja area (eastern Darfur region) in an action that took place on June 8. JEM claimed that its fighters defeated a pro-Khartoum militia force. The Sudanese government, however, denied that any action had taken place at Um Ajaja.

June 8, 2012: Sudan and South Sudan indicated that they will resume negotiations on June 21. The current round of negotiations ended June 7 in a deadlock. The two Sudans could not agree to establish a demilitarized zone, a proposal pushed by the African Union.

June 4, 2012: South Sudans president launched an attack on corruption in his own government. Last month president Salva Kiir announced that he had written to 75 current and former government officials and accused them of stealing from the government. The money is big. According to Kiir, the senior government employees filched almost $4 billion. Kiir said that he wants the money returned and those who return the stolen cash will receive amnesty. South Sudan shut down its oil production in order to avoid the north’s exorbitant oil transport rates. Now that the two Sudans are engaged in a slow war, the shut down has continued and the government is experiencing a money crunch. According to Kiir’s letter, most of the stolen money is stashed in foreign bank accounts.

June 2, 2012: South Sudan now has around 100,000 refugees who have fled fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile state. The flow is not decreasing. Around 4,000 new refugees from Blue Nile enter South Sudan every day. Relief agencies are caring for around 70,000 Blue Nile refugees, but 30,000 (at least) are living in temporary shelters and makeshift huts near the border. The refugees tell the aid workers that more people intend to head south. Between 40,000 to 50,000 refugees from South Kordofan state are also in South Sudan. The aid agencies are concerned that they will begin running short of food, water, and medicine.

The Sudanese government claimed that its forces repelled an attack by the JEM Darfur rebel group on the village of Fataha (North Darfur state). The government claimed it killed 45 JEM fighters. A JEM spokesman said that the fight had occurred but its forces had taken control of Fataha, after defeating a Sudanese Army garrison in the area.

May 30, 2012: The UN has confirmed that Sudan has pulled its troops out of the disputed Abyei region. The UN peacekeeping mission in Abyei reported that the withdrawal was completed on the evening of May 29. Sudan is still allowed to keep police in Abyei and South Sudanese are worried that Sudan has beefed up its police units in the disputed territory.

May 29, 2012: Sudan and South Sudan have begun a new round of negotiations to try and settle a range of disputes. The biggest issue is the oil transport fee Sudan charges South Sudan. At the moment, that looms larger than Sudanese bombing attacks on South Sudanese territory and accusations that Sudan supports South Sudanese rebel groups and vice versa. Control of Abyei is also unresolved but mediators hope that the two sides can reach an agreement on one of the four other major border disputes. The African Union also wants the two nations to agree to establish a demilitarized zone between them.

May 28, 2012: South Sudan accused Sudan of bombing a site in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state (near the border) and overflying South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

Sudan announced that it will withdraw all of its military troops form the disputed Abyei region. The Sudanese Army attacked Abyei in May 2011, and seized control of the territory. The Sudanese government actually called the withdrawal from Abyei a redeployment because it objected to the word withdrawal. The 2005, Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) said that a referendum would be held to decide who would finally control Abyei. The referendum has not been scheduled.

May 27, 2012: The Sudanese military denied allegations that its aircraft had used cluster bombs when fighting rebels in South Kordofan state. Sudan, according to the Sudanese government, does not even possess cluster munitions. The allegations, however, have been backed up by photos of cluster bomblets published in western media that were dropped on the village of Ongolo (South Kordofan state, Nuba Mountain region) on April 15. The cluster bomblets came from a Russia-type RBK-500 cluster bomb.

May 25, 2012: The South Sudanese military denied accusations that its troops have murdered and tortured members of the Murle tribe in Jonglei state. South Sudan acknowledges that the SPLA is continuing to conduct a disarmament drive in Jonglei state. The disarmament drive is part of a campaign by South Sudan to reduce and ultimately end armed tribal clashes in Jonglei.

May 24, 2012: South Sudan and Sudan have agreed to resume negotiations. The new round of negotiations will begin May 29, and will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

 

 

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