The South Sudan civil war that began in December 2013 has led to over 15 percent of the 12 million South Sudanese being forced to flee their homes to escape the violence (gunfire as well as rape and looting). Over 100,000 of these refugees sought safety in or near UN peacekeeper camps. Nearly half the population is suffering from severe shortages of food or housing. Over 50,000 have fled to Kenya and more will follow. The economy, weak to begin with, is further cripplied by all the violence. Oil production, the main source of government income (along with foreign aid) is down nearly 50 percent (to 160,000 barrels a day). Getting accurate data on the damage is difficult because there are few roads and lots of trigger happy young men out there with guns. This limits the mobility of reporters or even UN investigators. The fighting has killed over 10,000 so far but it is difficult to get accurate numbers. It is also difficult to distinguish between deaths from the civil war and from those involving old tribal feuds and an increase in cattle stealing by men with newly acquired firearms. These cattle raids have long been common in the region but were not as deadly before the arrival of cheap firearms in the 1990s (as Cold War era armories in former communist nations were sold off at bargain prices by criminals and corrupt officials). Before the civil war the police and army could be expected to go after tribesmen who slaughtered a lot of people during a cattle raid. Now the security forces are busy fighting each other and the armed cattle thieves are operating with impunity and inflicting heavy casualties.
There have been some novel suggestions in South Sudan about how to halt the fighting. One recent idea relies on an idea that has been around for a long time. Some 2,500 years ago in Greece playright Aristophanes created and presented a comedy called “Lysistrata” in which the women of Athens and Sparta decide to withhold sex until their men in an effort to halt the seemingly endless Peloponnesian War. A group of South Sudanese women peace activists appear to have read the play. The women activists, during a mid-October meeting in the capital of Juba, issued a statement calling on South Sudanese women to deny their husbands sex until the civil war ends. Several of the women currently serve or have served in South Sudan’s government. One prominent member of the group said that the women have a very serious goal: to “advance the cause of peace, healing and reconciliation.” Critics immediately dismissed the “no sex” statement as ineffective and a stunt. However, if framed as a media gambit to attract attention to an activist organization that is urging negotiators to reach a permanent peace settlement, then the “sex strike” ploy was reasonably successful. There are potential downsides. In “Lysistrata” the no-sex campaign ignites a war (but a very funny one!) between the sexes. (Austin Bay)
October 23, 2014: Raiders in South Sudan’s Jonglei state stole 200 cattle in the Bor county area. The South Sudan government described the theft as regrettable and promised that the thieves will be arrested and brought to justice. The raid was the first large-scale cattle theft since former rebel leader David Yau Yau signed a peace deal with the South Sudan government. Yau Yau is an ethnic Murle. A South Sudan official reported that people attempting to trail the stolen herd found hoofmarks leading towards the Pibor area, which is a predominantly Murle tribal region.
October 22, 2014: No surprise here: Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has announced that Sudan's current president, Omar al-Bashir, will be the NCP presidential condidate in the April 2015 national elections.
October 21, 2014: Mediators working for East Africa’s Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) told journalists that they see progress in negotiations between South Sudan’s government and rebels. The IGAD statement is very different from October 6 when talks were suspended. Mediators said the most positive news was that the government and rebels have agreed to “the principle of federalism” as the basis for governing the country. The government and rebels have discussed some very specific issues regarding the structure of a transitional government, to include the size of the parliament and size of the cabinet. One difficult issue is the “dispute resolution mechanism” governing the duties and decisions of the transitional government’s executive branch (ie, the president). IGAD’s current chief negotiator is Seyoum Mesfin, who once served as Ethiopia’s foreign minister.
October 17, 2014: Minni Minnawi, commander of the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) has relieved four of his lieutenants. Minnawi accused his subordinates of treason, sabotage and of providing Sudan intelligence services with information. The subordinate commanders had accused Minnawi of corruption and nepotism. One of Minnawi’s former subordinates denied Minnawi’s accusations. Yes, an SLM-MM splinter faction has formed, but the faction’s leaders are demanding reforms in the organization.
October 16, 2014: The South Sudan government denied rebel allegations that Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) ethnic Dinka soldiers murdered a group of SPLA ethnic Nuer soldiers in Upper Nile state. The government called the allegations false and said the allegations were propaganda intended to seed suspicion within the SPLA.
October 14, 2014: South Sudan’s government has signed a joint military cooperation agreement with Uganda. Uganda described the agreement as a “long-term” accord. Uganda has agreed to buy weapons and military equipment for South Sudan. Uganda claimed that the military cooperation deal does not violate South Sudan’s ceasefire agreement. Over the past two months, rumors spread through South Sudan to the effect that the government, led by Salva Kiir, would collapse if the Ugandan Army withdrew from South Sudan. The rumors began as Ugandan officials (including president oweri Museveni) met with SPLM-O representatives and discussed how Uganda can help end the South Sudan civil war. The joint military cooperation agreement appears to be a diplomatic response to those rumors. Uganda has insisted that its goal is to stabilize South Sudan.
October 12, 2014: Negotiators for South Sudan’s rebel SPLM in Opposition (SPLM-O) denied South Sudan government claims that they are blocking progress in peace negotiations. The rebels said that they have offered numerous compromises to forward talks on how to structure a transitional government. The rebels pointed out that earlier this year one of their key demands was that president Salva Kiir resign his office. The rebels said that they will now accept a power sharing arrangement. They have proposed that the position of prime minister also have executive powers.
October 11, 2014: A political group of Darfur college students are protesting decisions made by the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA). The students allege that the DRA is letting Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) harass and arrest Darfur students attending universities in Khartoum. The students accused the governing National Congress Party of undermining the DRA.
Ocgtober 9, 2014: The U.S. government said that South Sudan must hold people accountable for war crimes committed during the civil war that began in December 2013.
October 8, 2014: A senior South Sudan rebel officer denied allegations that he has defected to the government. General Tot Joak Koi has a very mixed record. At one time he fought for the Sudan government during the north-south civil war. When the South Sudan civil war began in December 2013 he sided with the rebels (SPLM-O). He took command of a group of rebels in Upper Nile state (Wedakona area). Koi called the allegations lies and an attempt to divide the rebels.
The Sudan rebel umbrella organization, Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF) announced that it is expanding its national strategic political alliance. The SRF is now allied with the National Consensus Forces (NCF). The NCF describes itself as a center-left political organization. The SRF said its current goals are the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir’s dictatorship and stopping the 2015 national elections from being held.
October 7, 2014: The Sudan government is calling attention to a study recently published by the Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization (AIDMO) which concluded that Sudan has large, commercially productive mineral deposits of chrome, manganese and gold. Sudan produced around 35 tons of gold in 2013. However, much of the gold was smuggled out of the country.
October 4, 2014: Four Fur tribe rebel groups from the Jebel Marra area are conducting preliminary peace talks with the governments of Central Darfur state. The actual mountain, Jebel Marra, is in West Darfur state. The discussions include cattle taxes (a very big deal) and laws regulating pasturage. The tribes are interested in development projects, to include new roads.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) requested that Saudi Arabia arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who is under indictment by the ICC for genocide and war crimes. According to the ICC, Bashir is now in Saudi Arabi and is on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Saudi Arabia, however, has not signed the ICC establishment treaty and is not legally obliged to comply.
October 2, 2014: The South Sudan rebel forces and government forces (Sudan Peoples Liberation Army, SPLA) accused each other of ceasefire violations in Upper Nile state and Unity state. The SPLA claimed that rebel forces in the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement in Opposition (SLPM-O) attacked SPLA positions near Renk (Unity state). The SPLM-O accused the SPLA of attacking rebels in Upper Nile and Unity states as well as shelling a civilian facility in Kamel (Jonglei state). The rebels claimed on September 30 government forces attacked rebel defensive positions in Kuer Guina, Thou-Maan-Gor and Wang-Kei in Unity state. The rebels also indicated that they had noticed increased government military activity near Bentiu.
October 1, 2014: The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) denied allegations that UN peacekeepers placed barbed wire fences around South Sudanese army (SPLA) installations. Rumors spread that UN peacekeepers (in one case, peacekeepers from Rwanda) were installing wire around SPLA garrisons to prevent the SPLA from abandoning the garrisons if they were attacked. The SPLA also denied the allegations.