Sudan: All Talk, No Peace


July 28, 2014: Sudan now says that it intends to play a major role in ending South Sudan’s civil war. Sudanese statements have vacillated between claiming to have a strict hands-off policy in regards to South Sudan’s war to offering to facilitate mediation. Now Sudan’s official policy is to promote regional mediation. These are the Sudanese government statements. Government-directed actions have been more opaque. Both sides in the civil war have claimed that Sudan has interfered. There are complaints that Sudan has played the rebels off against the government in order to weaken both. In January the Sudanese president said that his government supported South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir.

July 26, 2014: A Sudanese Islamic militant organization has thanked the Islamic State (name now preferred by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL) for re-establishing the Islamic caliphate.  The group, Al Attasam bel-Ketab wa al Sunna, is an extremist faction of the Sudan-branch of the Moslem Brotherhood.  In recent years the mainline branch has promoted political reform and begun opposing President Omar al Bashir.

July 25, 2014:  The new chief of staff of South Sudan’s Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA, the national military) declared that repeated ceasefire violations by both government and rebel forces hinder successfully ending the civil war.  The SPLA chief of staff also said that major offensive operations by government forces to re-take specific rebel-held areas will not bring the rebellion to an end. Many of these attacks have produced short-lived gains on the battlefield but have made negotiations more difficult. The chief of staff, Awan was governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state. Despite these statements, government forces counter-attacked and re-took the town of Nasir (Upper Nile state).  Heavy fighting signaled the government assault began on July 24. Rebel forces withdrew on July 25. The government claimed that 83 rebel fighters were killed in the battle. Rebels took Nasir on July 21.

The Sudanese Christian woman who was sentenced to death for apostasy has now been officially spared execution. The woman, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, has also been allowed to leave Sudan for Italy. For almost a month she was housed in the U.S. embassy in Khartoum.  Mrs. Ibrahim said she was never a Molem. Her mother was Christian and her mother raised her. The Sudan government argued that since her father was Moslem she is also a Moslem.

July 23, 2014:  Rebel and South Sudan government forces fought a battle in the Ayod area (South Sudan’s Jonglei state). The government accused the rebels of attacking its positions in the region. It also claimed its forces killed 52 rebels.

The U.S. government warned that if South Sudan and rebels fail to engage in productive negotiations and form a transitional national government, South Sudan faces an imminent famine. According to U.S. estimates nearly four million South Sudanese face famine conditions. The U.S. position is rather blunt. The U.S. says the famine would not be the result of natural disaster, but would be a man-made catastrophe.

July 22, 2014: Sudanese opposition groups accused members of the government’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of attacking and robbing five people in Khartoum this week. The RSF is under the command of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). The RSF operates something like an official Janjaweed militia. The outfit is supposed to fight rebels in the Darfur region and in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

International observers in Nasir (Upper Nile state) reported that South Sudanese rebels now control the town.

July 21, 2014: UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) observers accused South Sudan rebel fighters of a major ceasefire violation. The rebels have launched a concerted attack to re-take the town of Nasir (Upper Nile state). The attack appears to be the biggest ceasefire violation since the ceasefire (Cessation of Hostilities Agreement) was declared in May. A rebel leader accused the government of trying to arrest a senior rebel commander in the Nasir area and said that the rebel fighters were trying to defend themselves. Another rebel sources claimed that rebel forces had killed around 100 government soldiers in the firefight. Nasir is near the Paloich oil field.

July 20, 2014: A group of armed men wearing masks attacked the headquarters of a major opposition newspaper in Khartoum. The gunmen physically assaulted the editor and several staff members. The editor was beaten unconscious was hospitalized. The editor had recently appeared on a television show and argued that Sudan needs to “normalize” relations with Israel. This would mean recognizing Israel’s existence.

July 17, 2014: Dinka Ngok officials and village leaders in the disputed Abyei region accused the Sudan government of being behind an armed raid on the Dinka’s Gong e Mou cattle camp which left at least five people dead and two wounded. Some 300 head of cattle were also stolen, though most of the cattle were later recovered by peacekeepers in the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Gong e Mou is near Abyei town (main town in the district).  Peacekeepers intercepted the main raiding force near the village of Wun e Ruok. They also clashed with a small group of fleeing attackers near Nyin a Cuoor (a crossing on the Nyamuora River). The peacekeepers recovered between 250 and 280 cattle. South Sudan officials believed the attackers consisted of Misseriya tribe nomads reinforced by members of a militia sponsored by the Sudan government. The “Arabized” Misseriya tribe claims resident rights in Abyei. South Sudan identified the pro-Sudan militia as the South Sudanese United Movement (SSUM). South Sudan claimed the attackers were armed with Russian-made light automatic weapons.

July 15, 2014: The South Sudan government claimed that that several SPLA soldiers from the Wau and Mapel tribes defected in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state. The defectors looted the village of Mayom Akueng rel and then fled into Sudan.

July 13, 2014: The UN said that the civil war is destroying South Sudan’s economic prospects. Fighting in Unity state has brought oil production in that state to a virtual halt. Rebel forces and government forces have repeatedly skirmished over oilfields in Unity state. Rebel forces in Upper Nile state have probed the Paloich (Poloich) oilfield. South Sudan is producing between 160,000 and 180,000 barrels of oil a day. In 2011 South Sudanese fields produced around 350,000 barrels a day.  The UN also estimated that 830,000 people have been displaced by South Sudan civil war. Most of them are housed in makeshift camps.

July 11, 2014: The EU has imposed personal political and economic sanctions on two South Sudanese military commanders.  Political and economic sanctions usually entail travel restrictions, travel denial, financial asset freeze and financial seizure. The EU said it has evidence that rebel general Peter Gadet and South Sudan SPLA general Santino have ordered their respective forces to violate ceasefire agreements. Gadet and and Deng are also linked to atrocities committed between December 2013 and June 2014.

July 6, 2014: Opposition groups in Sudan are accusing Sudanese president Omar al Bashir of using the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary organization as a personal army. At first Bashir’s decision to expand and deploy tine RSF in South Kordofan was seen as an attempt to use Janjaweed militia scorched earth tactics against the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) rebel movement.  Bashir was indicted for genocide in Darfur by the International Criminal Court; Janjaweed militia atrocities played a major role in Bashir’s indictment. Bashir claimed he had no control over the Janjaweed fighters. He also claimed that the Sudanese Army was fighting them. However, opposition political leaders said this was a lie. Allegedly, numerous janjaweed fighters were turning up in the Central Reserve Police (another paramilitary reserve organization) and the Border Guards. Now political opponents are making the argument that Bashir’s support within the Sudanese military (Suduanese Armed Forces) is weakening, hence his reliance on the RSF.

July 4, 2014: Relief agencies are complaining that the on-going civil war in South Sudan has made delivery of food, medicine and other aid items all but impossible. They also report that the South Sudan government is very hesitant when relief agencies ask for permission to deliver humanitarian assistance in rebel-controlled areas.  The government makes the classic argument that rebel forces steal the food and medicine. No doubt that happens. However, South Sudan is also under intense pressure from the EU, the U.S. and the relief agencies themselves to let truck convoys pass through government lines to rebel areas. Areas controlled by the South Sudan government also rely on food and medical aid.

July 3, 2014: South Sudan’s government said that it is ready to resume discussions with rebels on the formation of an interim transitional government. The government also said that it is prepared to conclude a peace agreement by mid-July with the rebel Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Opposition (SPLM/O).





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