Sudan and South Sudan will hold another joint border committee session sometime in September. This is the joint border technical committee that is attempting to address security issues as well as border determination. The committee has a very big job. It is overseeing implementation of the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ) between the two Sudans and the deployment of joint security forces to monitor and maintain it. Big job is not an exggeration-- SDBZ will run for almost 2,100 kilometers. The South Sudan government recently said that it is taking steps to insure that its forces are at least ten kilometers inside South Sudanese territory. This “buffer distance” is stipulated by the SDBZ agreement, but neither Sudan nor South Sudan have implemented it.
August 27, 2016: The South Sudan government said that its forces have re-opened the main road in Western Equatoria state that an armed group succeeded in blocking for almost three months. The route was never entirely closed, but a group of “armed youth” would erect road blocks that shut down motor transport between the counties of Ezo and Tombura. They would also interdict the highway to Yambio. Officials said that non-governmental aid organizations were had particular problems.
August 26, 2016: A year ago the South Sudan government and South Sudanese rebels signed what is now called the August 2015 peace deal. Is there peace? No. A new phase of the civil war began in early July when government forces clashed with (or attacked) the rebel garrison in Juba. The rebel garrison in Juba was mandated by the peace agreement. Rebel leader Riek Machar, who was South Sudan’s First Vice President, fled in fear of his life. Since then sporadic violence has flared in several areas, among them Unity and Jonglei states. Some rebels have turned on Machar. After Machar fled Juba, the government appointed Taban Deng Gai First Vice-President. Gai had been a rebel negotiator and he accepted the appointment because he said the peace deal could be saved. Machar called Gai a traitor and Machar’s supporters say Gai’s appointment is illegal. Machar is now in Sudan (Khartoum) receiving medical treatment while the fighting in South Sudan continues.
August 25, 2016: Three senior military leaders in Unity state have defected from the South Sudan rebels to the government. The defectors are from the home region (or neighboring areas) of South Sudan’s new First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai. The defectors have left the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) and rejoined the main line SPLM. They are expected to receive high-level jobs in the army. Two of the men are generals, one is a lieutenant-general. The defections have dealt former rebel leader Riek Machar another political blow.
August 23, 2016: South Sudan’s Riek Machar is now in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. He is there ostensibly to receive medial treatment. The Sudanese government called him South Sudan’s opposition leader. That may or may not be accurate. There are several rebel leaders who have made it clear that they intend to pursue a peace deal with the South Sudan government. Machar may have a real health issue. There are several reports that he suffered a severe leg injury which could make it difficult for him to return to South Sudan soon and attempt to regain control of the rebel movement.
August 22, 2016: Sudan is accusing SPLM-N rebels in Blue Nile state of undermining the recent peace talks. The talks were supposed to hammer out a cessation of hostilities agreement for Blue Nile and South Kordofan states and the Darfur region. Rebel leaders have accused the government of undermining the talks and not treating them seriously.
South Sudan’s national police service has agreed to deploy a new operational police training group to the town of Wau (Wau state). The governor of Wau state had demanded an increased police security presence after violence erupted on June 25th. Several thousand citizens of the town were forced to take refuge at UN compound.
August 21, 2016: The South Sudan government claimed that over a hundred White Army rebels fighting alongside SPLM-IO rebels in Jonglei state have been killed over the last two days. At least 20 government soldiers were killed. The government claimed the rebel force attacked an army base in Pajut and the attack was defeated. Pajut is near Uror county, a stronghold of rebels loyal to Riek Machar.
August 20, 2016: At least seven soldiers, and three rebels, were killed in a series of firefights in South Sudan’s Unity state. Rebelsaccused the government of stealing a herd of cattle.
August 19, 2016: South Sudanese opposition official on Friday dismissed reports alleging that the Sudanese government had played active role in a mission to transport their leader, Riek Machar, outside South Sudan.
Sudan has reportedly airlifted South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar from his hideout to Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.
Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir announced he will step down as Sudan’s president in 2020. Bashir took power in a coup in 1989. In the past he has said he was considering leaving power. This time he said he would leave because he is getting old and Sudan needs new leadership.
August 18, 2016: The Sudanese National Council for the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR) demobilized 4,718 former rebels in 2015.
August 16, 2016: The UN blamed South Sudan soldiers for attacking and pillaging the Terrain Hotel complex in Juba on July 11. The hotel is in a neighborhood with residential compounds where many foreign visitors and aid workers live. The soldiers involved had just won a battle over rebel forces. A South Sudanese journalist was murdered during the “rampage” and several foreign women were raped. Moreover, the UN peacekeeping force garrisoned in the area failed to respond to pleas for help. Western media have interviewed several survivors. Five people say they were beaten. Three women confirm they were raped.
August 15, 2016: The Sudan government said that talks with the SPLM-N rebels and with Darfur rebel leaders had collapsed. The government claimed that the rebels are warlords who are invested in war (i.e., invested in keeping the conflict going) and blamed the rebels. Not surprisingly the rebels blamed the government. One of the goals of the talks was to establish humanitarian access routes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
August 14, 2016: It appears South Sudan’s rebels are rearranging as well as regrouping. Over 1,000 rebels belonging to the SSPF have reportedly allied itself with the army and the SSPF (a collection of rebel groups in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state). This is another example of rebel factions refusing to revive the civil war.
August 13, 2016: South Sudan is now indicating that it will consider a new regional peacekeeping force sponsored by the African Union. The force, however, will have to have the UN’s blessing. This force would deploy with the goal of securing the August 2015 peace agreement. East African diplomats are calling it an intervention force. That sounds like the UN’s Intervention Brigade (IBDE) in Congo. These reports may be South Sudan’s way of accepting the UN Security Council’s decision to reinforce UNMISS.
August 12, 2016: Sudan announced it is taking legal action against hackers who attack government websites. Some of the attacks appear to be simply malicious. However, the government also issued a statement saying that there is a national security issue. The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Petroleum were recently hacked.
Despite objections by South Sudan, the UN Security Council has voted to reinforce the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan by increasing the force from 12,000 soldiers to 16,000. The peacekeepers may also be given a “robust mandate.” In Congo that meant some UN units can conduct offensive operations against rogue rebel groups. Some times these are called “coercive operations.” South Sudan called the UN decision “unfortunate” mainly because government forces have committed war crimes. Later the government warned that new UN reinforcements would undermine South Sudan’s sovereignty.
August 7, 2016: The governor of Gbudue state, one of South Sudan’s new “mini-states” barely survived an assassination attempt. Three bodyguards were wounded.
August 6, 2016: East African negotiators (sponsored by IGAD) have managed to get South Sudan’s government and the main rebel organization, the SPLM-IO, to agree to a new round of peace implementation talks. One negotiator said that deal IGAD is proposing would allow both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar to remain in power. Machar is now in hiding.
August 3, 2016: In Sudan SPLM-N rebels in South Kordofan state claimed they defeated government forces in the Nuba Mountain’s Al-Azrag area. There appear to have been at least two battles. In one the rebels claimed they destroyed a government tank and killed over 100 government soldiers. The rebels acknowledged government forces attacked the town of Karkarai.
July 30, 2016: In Sudan several hundred Sudanese who work for the UN and AU (African Union) in Darfur have gone on strike. They allege they have not received promised benefits. Some of the strikers claim that they have been short-changed for over three years. The benefits include overtime pay, pension benefits and medical insurance.