The South Sudan civil war has now lasted two years. It started small as a violent skirmish in the capital, Juba, between Dinka soldiers loyal to president Kiir and Nuer soldiers loyal to former vice president Machar. Kiir is a Dinka and Machar is a Nuer. The Dinka and Nuer are the two dominant tribes in South Sudan and their rivalry is ancient. So far the war has killed somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 people. It is very hard to confirm casualty figures because the violence has been intense and widespread and the combat zone is very hostile to journalists. Traveling in South Sudan is difficult in peace time; there are few quality roads and air transport is expensive. It is more difficult when roving bands of guerrillas and roving army units are blocking roads and trying to ambush one another. Everyone agrees that the civil war has exacerbated the food situation in South Sudan. An estimated four million people face food shortages and possible starvation. War is hard on farmers because going out to tend your crops and you might get killed. Your produce may also be stolen -- or appropriated to feed a military force. The war also makes food deliveries very difficult. The UN has around 12,500 peacekeepers in South Sudan. A substantial number of the troops are now tied down defending six large internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps with over 185,000 people. There are around 1.5 million more IDPs inside South Sudan nut no one is quite sure, and some people have returned to there homes. Around 650,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries. That number is fairly solid. Do the math; at one time or another the war has forced over 2.3 million people to flee their homes. In August 2015, negotiations sponsored by IGAD (East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development) and the AU (African Union) got both sides to sign a peace agreement. Despite that sporadic fighting between rebel and government forces has continued. Unity state has been the scene of some of the bitterest fighting. It also has some of the nation’s largest oil fields. (Austin Bay)
December 28, 2015: Several rebel political leaders have asked the South Sudan government to reverse the decision to create 28 new states in South Sudan. The rebels argue that the decision undermines the August peace agreement. They also pointed out that the government made the arbitrary decision on its own while government and rebel negotiators were meeting in in the South Sudan capital. The negotiators are still discussing how to implement the power-sharing arrangement. The rebels regard the 28 new states decision as a violation of the agreement.
Sudan rebels claim its fighters stopped a Sudanese Army attack in the Torda area (Blue Nile state) during a battle lasting seven hours. The rebels then pursued the retreating government force. All told, the rebels claimed to have destroyed three vehicles and killed 13 enemy soldiers.
December 25, 2015: A bombing attack by the Sudanese Air Force killed two people in Dubo El Omda (East Jebel Marra, Darfur region). A witness reported a Sudanese Air Force Antonov transport dropped seven barrel bombs and thought the plane was trying to bomb a convoy of 25 vehicles that was in the area. The Sudanese Air Force typically uses Soviet-era Antonov-12 transports as bombers. Bombs are pushed out of the back of the aircraft. Barrel bombs are improvised bombs and are ideal for use on transports as they roll right out and are rigged to explode on contact with the ground.
December 24, 2015: The South Sudan government announced that it has “dissolved” the countries ten states and replaced them with 28 new ones. The government also named new governors for each state. The government had been contemplating increasing the number of states for some time, arguing that it would put government closer to the people and help give minority tribes more say in their own affairs. However many government supporters and rebels don’t like the idea since it may undermine the August peace agreement. Rebel leaders had said just that before the peace deal was signed. However, the rebels did not issue an immediate response to government decision.
December 21, 2015: In the South Sudan capital 150 representatives of SPLM-IO (South Sudan's rebel Sudan peoples Liberation Movement In Opposition) returned after two years in exile in Ethiopia. The rebel contingent will help create a transitional government as mandated by the August peace settlement.
December 20, 2015: The Sudan government is hearing more complaints about Shifta militia attacks from Ethiopia. Sudanese claim that in the last two months Ethiopian militias have killed nearly three dozen Sudanese. A Sudanese local defense force repelled one attack in November. This issue is complicated. Apparently, several hundred Ethiopian farmer began working land inside Sudan’s El Gedaref state (eastern Sudan, Al Qadarif in Arabic). The Ethiopians dispute Sudanese control of the land.
December 17, 2015: A court in Sudan has charged 25 Muslim men (three of them in their teens) with apostasy, which is punishable by death. The men have been released on bail and told further court proceedings will be held in February. They were arrested in November while listening to an imam who teaches what dictator Omar al-Bashir’s government says is a wrong version of Islam. The men are ethnic Hausa, a tribe whose homeland is in northern Nigeria. Khartoum has a large Hausa community. For centuries the Hausa have been involved in Saharan and cross-Sahel trade.
December 16, 2015: The UN awarded medals to 225 soldiers in China’s peacekeeping contingent serving with UNAMID in Darfur. The Chinese contingent consisted of three engineer companies. While deployed they renovated an airport and built over 50 kilometers of roads.
December 15, 2015: Today marks the second anniversary of the beginning of the South Sudan civil war. The UN Security Council marked the date by approving the deployment of an additional 1,100 peacekeeping troops to South Sudan.
December 10, 2015: As the dry season begins, rebels in Sudan’s in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states accused the government of preparing a new offensive. Peace talks recessed at the end of November. The government said that it believes the rebels are preparing to resume hostilities.
December 9, 2015: South Sudan rebels accused the government of launching air attacks on a rebel cantonment area in Upper Nile state. The rebels also accused government forces of launching an infantry attack on rebel positions in Owech (Upper Nile state).
December 8, 2015: Around 3,000 people have fled violence the Wau county area in Western Bahr el Ghazal state. The refugees said they fled fighting between South Sudan government forces and rebel forces. Some of the refugees said their village had been shelled with heavy weapons. At least one of the battles occurred in the Bessellia area.
December 4, 2015: Fighting in Western Equatoria state between armed groups and the South Sudan Army (SPLA) has led to a refugee surge. The UN reported that 4,000 South Sudanese have fled to the Congo’s Dugu Territory (northeastern Congo).
November 30, 2015: Negotiations between Sudan and the SPLM-N (Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North) rebels are in recess. The parties have not reached a permanent cessation of hostilities agreement. Negotiators said Sudan and the SPLM-N are discussing a pullback of Sudanese Army personnel and Sudanese security forces from positions held by the SPLM-N in South Kordofan state.