Sudan: Running On Empty

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September 24, 2013: The AU (African Union) and neighboring countries are urging Sudan and South Sudan to take serious steps to solve the Abyei dispute. Abyei lies on the border between the two Sudans and is an oil producing region. Regional diplomats refer to Abyei as the likely source of a new Sudan-South Sudan war. The AU has told both governments that the oil export agreement reached earlier this month creates a political opportunity.  In fact the two Sudans agreed to work to resolve border issues after a September 6 th deal on oil. The AU argument is common sense. Both Sudans clearly need oil export revenue. Sudan gets oil transport fees when South Sudan uses its pipelines. A war over Abyei will cost lives and money. However, Abyei pits the Dinka Ngok tribe (which favors the south) against the Misseriya (an Arabized Muslim tribe which favors the north). The Dinka consider Abyei to be their ancestral land.  So far the Sudans cannot agree on the definition of a citizen of Abyei. That is essential, since citizenship determines who gets to vote in any referendum. The AU has proposed a plan for conducting the referendum in October and has announced that the referendum will occur. However, Sudan rejects the plan, arguing the AU is biased in favor of Dinka Ngok residency claims. South Sudan supports the referendum proposal.

September 23, 2013: Sudanese police fired tear gas in the capital to break up a demonstration against the doubling of fuel prices in the capital and other cities. With less money coming from cash-strapped Iran and much less coming from South Sudan for oil transport fees, the government has to make cuts. The heavy subsidies for fuel were a prime target. Fuel (for cooking, generators, and vehicles) now costs 84 cents a liter ($3.20 a gallon). Sudan has avoided Arab Spring violence with subsidies like this, but now the money isn’t there anymore.  

September 21, 2013: The U.S. revealed that its special diplomatic envoy in Sudan has met with several Sudanese rebel leaders. The U.S. official met with the rebels under the auspices of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF, an umbrella organization comprised of rebel groups in Sudan’s Darfur region, Blue Nile state, and South Kordofan state). Three key Darfur rebel groups sent representatives: the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the Sudan Liberation Movement-Abdul Wahid (SLM-AW) faction, and the Sudan Liberation Movement - Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) faction. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement- North (SPLM-N) also had several representatives. The SPLM-N is the main rebel group in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. The rebel leaders discussed security and humanitarian issues with the U.S. diplomat and their desire to achieve what they call a comprehensive political solution in Sudan. They also told the U.S. envoy that they think the UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is a failure.

September 20, 2013: Sudan’s Central Bank estimated Sudan’s bans on South Sudanese oil exports (oil export stoppages) cost their government over $5 billion in revenue. Meanwhile, South Sudan announced that it has increased oil production to 240,000 barrels a day.

The South Sudan president claimed that the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA, South Sudan’s military) has squandered money. The army was accused of corrupt activities like paying “ghost soldiers” (officers pocketing the pay of non-existent soldiers).

September 19, 2013: Numerous American celebrities are asking the U.S. government to prevent Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir from appearing at the UN. Bashir is scheduled to speak at a UN conference in New York in late September. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted Bashir for war crimes and genocide committed in Sudan’s Darfur region. Bashir has traveled to a handful of countries which support the ICC, but none of them arrested him. Though the U.S. government often supports ICC investigations, the U.S. is not a member of the ICC. The U.S. has no compelling legal requirement to arrest Bashir. Moreover, the U.S. has an agreement with the UN to permit the leaders of member nations to attend

September 18, 2013: The Iranian Navy visited Port Sudan, Sudan’s main seaport. The Iranian Navy calls the visiting ships (a destroyer and a fleet support ship carrying naval helicopters) the 27th Fleet. The two warships were escorting 14 freighters and oil tankers, ostensibly to protect them from pirate attacks. Iranian naval vessels frequently stop in Sudan.

September 17, 2013: South Sudanese military forces in Rumbek (capital of South Sudan’s Lakes state) forcibly disarmed a group of cattle herders who had refused to surrender their weapons to state authorities. Two people were killed in the resulting firefight and four were wounded.

September 16, 2013: The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) accused Sudan of bombing the Dilling area in South Kordovan state and wounding two people and killing many cattle.

South Sudan confirmed that it will continue to pursue building an oil export pipeline through Kenya to Kenya’s seaport of Lamu. The announcement is no surprise, even though the new oil export agreement was something of a political success for the south since the north agreed to drop its various political demands, among them that South Sudan cease support for rebel groups operating in the north. For the record, South Sudan vehemently denies that accusation. Despite the new agreement, southerners know Sudan could renege at any moment and stop oil exports. Though some politicians have claimed a pipeline could be built in two years, construction companies have said that three to five years is a more accurate estimate. In fact, two pipelines must be built. South Sudan produces two types of crude, Nile Blend and Dar Blend. The blends now move north through two different pipelines. The Sudanese pipeline system is actually a double pipeline, running from South Sudan to Port Sudan.

September 14, 2013: The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) accused the Sudanese Air Force of bombing the villages of Manadil, Kujuria, Umm Doreen, and Umm Sardaba in South Kordofan state. The Sudanese Air Force used both Antonov transport aircraft rigged as bombers and Sukhoi jet fighter bombers in the raids. Sudanese Army artillery units also fired on the villages.

September 12, 2013: South Sudan announced that the El Tor and Toma South oil fields in Unity state had begun producing oil after being shut down for twenty-one months.

September 10, 2013: The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) currently has 7,561 deployed uniformed personnel (6,787 are troops, 633 are police, and 141 are military liaison officers). The UN Interim Stabilization Force in Abyei (UNISFA) operation is authorized 5,326 military troops. However, as of the end of August, only 3,809 soldiers were deployed. UNISFA has 106 additional military observers and 10 uniformed police. Ethiopia is the sole troop contributor to UNISFA.

September 9, 2013: Gunmen murdered the head chief of the Nimule district in South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria state. The state borders Uganda and Kenya.

 

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