Sudan: Senseless Violence and Unyielding Demands

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July 2, 2014: After agreeing to establish an interim government and then hold national elections, South Sudan’s government and the rebels have failed to agree on how to form the interim government. South Sudan’s president Salvaa Kiir insists that there will be no interim government unless he is president. Meanwhile, rebel leader Riek Machar has begun re-organizing the rebel movement along the lines of a national government. Machar is appointing senior members of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM/O) to lead what he calls national committees. SPLM/O is now the official name of the rebel organization.  Machar is definitely making a statement about his ability to form and run a national government. For example, Machar appointed a former South Sudanese general and governor of Unity state as chairman of his committee for peace and reconciliation. Mabior Garang (a Dinka and son of SPLM founder John Garang) has been designated the leader of the SPLM/O national committee for information and public relations. The main point of disagreement is not who shall have what job but the rebel proposal that the constitution be changed and there be a federal form of government (as in the U.S. and India) where the states have a lot of power. The rebels see this as a long-term solution to the many tribal disputes in South Sudan. The current federal government does not want to give up a lot of power to federal states.

July 1, 2014: The South Sudan rebels are accused of deliberately kidnapping the pilot of an aircraft delivering relief supplies to Jonglei state on June 2nd and demanding $1.5 million for the return of the pilot and his aircraft. The rebels claim the pilot was involved in a plot to assassinate one of their leaders. The aid agency that hired the pilot call this absurd and simply a cover for a criminal scheme. Other aid groups demand better protection for the 22 medical facilities they are operating. In the last month various armed groups have attacked some of these facilities, destroying some of them and killing 58 patients (apparently gunmen from opposing groups).

June 30, 2013: Recent Sudanese attacks in South Kordofan state are being called war crimes. In particular Sudanese Air Force attacks on the town of Tangal (from May 15 to May 22) and on the town of Kauda (May 26 and May 28) were horrific. Sudanese forces dropped over 200 bombs on Tangal alone and nearly all the victims were civilians. Meanwhile, Sudan’s military and para-military forces are continuing what the government calls a decisive summer offensive against Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

June 29, 2014: Sudan’s governor of North Darfur state claimed that government security forces killed Ali Karbino, the leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement for Justice (SLMJ) and a dozen SLMJ fighters on June 27. The government delayed the announcement in order to confirm Karbino’s death. According to the Sudanese government, Karbino’s force, mounted on wheeled vehicles armed with heavy infantry weapons (machine guns, grenade launchers), attacked the village of Alquba (north of the town of Kutum).  A Sudanese Army unit was in the town working with Border Guards militia and local security forces. The Sudanese forces defeated the attack and captured over 30 vehicles and 15 SLMJ fighters.  A group of nomadic herders contradicted the government story, after a fashion. According to the nomads, the government force actually attacked the SLMJ fighters. The herders had complained to the government forces that the SLMJ fighters had attacked them, killed ten members of their tribe, and stolen several camels.

June 28, 2014: Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) rebels attacked a Sudanese Army position near the town of Alatmor (South Kordofan state, east of the state capital Kadugli) and claimed they destroyed a T-55 tank and a half-dozen other vehicles as well as killing 15 Sudanese soldiers. Sudanese government security forces, including personnel from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia, seized Alatmor on June 6. The SPLM-N also claimed that its forces shelled Kadugli.

June 27, 2014: The president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, once again told opposition political parties that they cannot ally with the rebel Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF). The SRF is an umbrella organization representing Sudan’s major armed rebel movements. The SPLM-N and the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) are key members of the SRF. Bashir called the SRF a group of traitors. Bashir warned his political opponents that he regards contact with the SRF as a “red line” that will negatively affect national elections scheduled for 2015.

June 26, 2014: The upper chamber of South Sudan’s parliament ratified the peace agreement between the government and Jonglei-state-based rebel group (SSDM/A Cobra faction). The agreement establishes the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) in Jonglei state’s Pibor and Pochalla counties. The agreement is an attempt to give local tribes more authority. Three tribes in the area, the Murle, Anyauk and Kachipo, support the GPAA. Another local tribe, the Jie tribe, has told the government it does not fully support the GPAA arrangement.

June 23, 2014: A Sudanese court has ordered that a Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death for apostasy be released from prison and her death sentence canceled (annulled). The 27 year old woman had a Muslim father and a Christian mother. When she married a Christian man and became a Christian the Sudanese government charged her with apostasy. Sudan is an Islamic republic and its criminal code forbids conversion from Islam to another religious faith.

Representatives of the South Sudan government and South Sudanese rebels ended their mutual boycott of negotiations and held a day-long session. However, both sides said that they had made no progress on forming an interim government. The latest peace agreement stipulates that the sides form a transitional government implement a ceasefire by August 10.

.June 21, 2014: Ngok Dinka tribal leaders in the disputed Abyei region rejected a UN resolution which calls for a new joint administrative organization to run the area.  The Dinka want UN peacekeepers to keep the peace. They distrust joint security forces involving Sudanese government security forces. In May the UN Security council renewed the UNISFA peacekeeping mandate for Abyei.

Jun 20, 2014:  The U.S. government condemned air attacks by the Sudanese Air Force on civilian targets in South Kordofan state. The U.S. believes that on June 16 Sudanese forces struck a hospital run by an international medical aid group in the town of Farandella. Several civilians were wounded in the attack, including medical staff members.

Aid groups complain that a temporary refugee camp near the UN base at Bentiu (capital of South Sudan’s Unity state) is rapidly deteriorating.  Around 45,000 people are in the makeshift camp around the UN base. They are relying on UN peacekeepers to protect them from civil war-related tribal violence. Over 100 children have died in the camp since the end of April. Malnutrition, pneumonia and diarrhea plague the camp.

June 19, 2014: South Sudan insists it is fully committed to implementing the new peace agreement and ending the civil war.  However the current South Sudan president inists that he must be president of any transitional government since he is the country’s duly elected president.

June 18, 2014: Angry policemen in Jonglei state protested the South Sudan government’s decision to pay them a single month’s salary even though they are owned two months pay. In addition to police in Jonglei state, personnel in wildlife protection units and prison guards in the state have not been paid for two months. In the city of Bor, a disgruntled prison guard fired at several Sudan Peoples Liberation Army officers to demonstrate his anger. The unpaid security personnel claimed that senior police commanders had stolen pay money by having “ghost policemen” on their payrolls. In 2013, a South Sudan government audit found that at least 11,000 ghosts (non-existent police officers) were drawing pay.

June 15, 2014: A Chinese oil company operating in Sudan’s West Kordofan state has begun testing personnel for possible exposure to radiation. An oil exploration device which uses a radioactive material was improperly stored at a field location and up to 70 workers may have been exposed. The Chinese government is trying to determine how much radiation the workers received. Very dangerous accidents like this are one of the numerous risks faced by companies and their employees working in danger zones around the world. However, sub-Saharan Africa has more than its share of environmental and security challenges. As Mao becomes a distant memory, China has encountered increased criticism for its "natural resource imperialism" in sub-Saharan Africa. Beijing, however, long ago concluded that the pay-off in access to natural resources still outweighs the political price. China imports substantial amounts of South Sudanese and Sudanese oil. Chinese companies are actively involved in oil exploration and oil production in both Sudans. (Austin Bay)

 

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