For South Sudan and Sudan it is the question of the decade: how to keep rebel groups from using the territory of one Sudan to attack the other. If that sounds confusing, the situation is confusing. Sudan accuses South Sudan of harboring Sudanese rebels. South Sudan, in turn, says Sudan harbors and bankrolls rebels opposed to South Sudan. But that may be changing. Earlier this year South Sudan and Sudan agreed they both had to do a better job of policing their border areas. That would help stop rebel groups who move from one country to another. In the last two months both countries have taken steps to implement this policy. Friction, however, remains. In early October Sudan gave South Sudan two months to expel anti-Sudan rebels from South Sudanese territory or it would no longer abide by the agreement to keep South Sudan rebels from using Sudanese territory. The South Sudan government is still fighting a civil war with the SPLM-IO (Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement In Opposition), so dealing with Sudanese rebels is not a top priority. The United States is encouraging Sudan and South Sudan to adhere to the agreement. The U.S. is a harsh critic of Sudan, but supports Sudan’s contention that anti-Sudan rebels use bases in South Sudanese territory. South Sudan is still miffed that Sudan has let SPLM-IO’s senior leader Riek Machar stay in Sudan.
November 1, 2016: The UN fired the Kenyan general (Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki) commanding the 16,000 UN peacekeepers in South Sudan. Ondieki was accused, in a recent UN report, of being responsible for the poor performance of peacekeepers during four days of fighting in Juba (the capital) last July. During that violence the peacekeepers in the capital performed poorly or not at all, even when a mob invaded a UN compound and attacked unarmed UN staff. By the end of the week Kenya had not only denied the accusations but ordered the thousand Kenyan peacekeepers in South Sudan to return home and said it would not provide the 4,000 additional peacekeepers it had agreed to send. Kenya accuses the UN of making Ondieki the scapegoat for the many known problems (corruption, conflicting Rules of Engagement and politics in general) that cripple UN peacekeeping operations.
Britain agreed to send 80 soldiers to South Sudan where they will support an emergency aid operation in the country. The 80 medical troops are part of a contingent of 100 British soldiers reinforcing the 300 soldiers already deployed in South Sudan.
October 31, 2016: The U.S. has extended economic and political sanctions on Sudan for at least one more year. The Americans said that Sudan continues to mistreat its people and support policies that create international security problems. The United States first imposed sanctions in 1997.
October 30, 2016: A senior Sudanese official once again denied accusations that Sudanese forces have used chemical weapons on rebels and civilians. The official statement came a week after the (SPLM-N) rebel group withdrew from peace discussions with the Sudan government. The SPLM-N said that evidence of chemical attacks by Sudanese forces in the Darfur region was convincing. The SPLM-N is the main rebel group in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
October 26, 2016: Two South Sudan rebel groups, the SPLM-IO and the Cobra Faction, have released 145 child soldiers (those under age 18) serving with their forces.
October 23, 2016: Sudan’s political opposition umbrella group, Sudan Call, is threatening to launch nation-wide sit-ins if the government to engage in serious discussions on comprehensive political and economic reforms. Sudan Call also criticized the government for failing to agree to a humanitarian truce with armed groups in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. In March 2016 the government and Sudan Call signed what is called the “Roadmap Agreement” (for peace and political dialogue). The African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) sponsored the Roadmap Agreement. Now Sudan Call says the government has failed to keep essential agreements.
October 21, 2016: South Sudan ordered every Sudanese rebel group in South Sudan to leave its territory. A South Sudanese military official said that former rebels who chose to go to a refugee camp would have to disarm. Sudanese officials could inspect the camps to make sure former rebels were disarmed. The South Sudan statement came after the US said that it has evidence that Sudanese rebels still use South Sudanese territory.
October 19, 2016: Riek Machar, former South Sudan vice president and leader of the SPLM-IO, announced that he intends to return to South Sudan. He is currently in exile in Sudan. Machar stated that he wants to revive the South Sudan peace process and intends to return by the end of the year. Machar asserted that the man who replaced him as vice president, Taban Deng Gai, has no support. Machar and Deng both belong to the Nuer tribe but Deng has never commanded troops in battle and lacks the respect of SPLM-IO soldiers. South Sudan says that Machar can return but he cannot participate in politics.
October 16, 2016: Heavy fighting broke out around the town of Malakal (Upper Nile state, South Sudan). The government claimed rebels attacked government positions in the area. The government claimed it defeated the attacks and killed 56 rebel fighters.
October 14, 2016: A South Sudanese rebel force overran a government garrison in Lalo (near Malakal). The rebels killed at least 15 government soldiers.
October 13, 2016: Several aid groups are accusing the Sudanese military of using chemical weapons against rebels. Sudan has vigorously denied the accusations. The government has faced prior allegations that it employed chemical weapons in the Darfur region. Now, however, it is accused of using chemical weapons on “multiple fronts.” The accusers have evidence that earlier this year Sudanese aircraft dropped chemical-laden bombs on rebels in the Jebel Marra area (central Darfur). Rebels reported severe skin burns -- the type associated with mustard gas. Mustard gas really isn’t a gas -- it is a toxic chemical that burns and blisters the skin. That’s why it is called a “blister agent.” When inhaled, mustard gas scars the lungs. Mustard gas was used extensively a century ago in World War I. Mustard isn’t as deadly as nerve agents, but it can kill. One estimates is that at least 250 children have died from exposure to mustard gas and other chemical agents (possibly chlorine). As for the other fronts there is evidence that in March 2016 Sudanese forces launched a mustard gas attack on villages in the Nuba Mountains. (Austin Bay)
October 12, 2016: The American military command overseeing U.S. military operations in Africa, AFRICOM, has confirmed the F-16s based at AFRICOM’s Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti could be used to respond to threats to Americans in South Sudan. The aircraft deployed in July when new fighting broke out between the government and the rebel SPLM-IO. It turns out the U.S. State Department requested the deployment of strike aircraft. On July 7, South Sudanese government troops fired on U.S. diplomats in the South Sudan capital.
October 11, 2016: The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) has resumed airdropped food supply operations in South Sudan. The drops had been temporarily suspended due to a squabble with the government over flight clearances. Most WFP airdrops are conducted in Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile states.
October 10, 2016: The UN now says Sudan has accepted 100,000 Syrian refugees since 2011. However, only 5,500 have officially registered with the Sudan government. Lack of official registration can have economic consequences -- to include the inability to take a job.
October 8, 2016: South Sudan accused rebels in Central Equatorial state of attacking a truck convoy and killing 21 people. The attack took place between the town of Yei and the capital, Juba. The rebels denied the accusation. However, peacekeepers had received reports of violent attacks on civilians in the area.
October 5, 2016: Sudan and Egypt signed what diplomats call a “comprehensive partnership agreement” that facilitates bilateral cooperation in numerous areas including border crossing and border control. Egyptian objectives include liberalized trade laws and the free movement of goods between Egypt and Sudan as well as cooperation in combating extremism. Sudan emphasized that Sudan and Egypt will continue to cooperate to protect Saudi Arabia.
October 4, 2016: IGAD (East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development) said that the peace in South Sudan was “fragile” and wants the government and rebels to revive the August 2015 peace agreement.
October 2, 2016: Sudan and the SPLM-N broke off “informal consultations” without reaching a humanitarian access agreement in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Both sides accused the other of insincerity and lack of commitment to resolving the issue. The SPLM-N said the Sudan government delegation had no intention of making any concessions, much less what the rebels insist is an essential requirement. The talks, sponsored by Uganda and mediated by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, were held in Ethiopia. This is a bad sign because there had been indications that an aid delivery agreement was possible. Once that agreement was reached and implemented, the rebels would be willing to consider some of the government’s political demands.
October 1, 2016: Sudan indicated that some South Sudanese SPLM-IO rebels who fled in South Sudan in July may remain in Sudan, at least temporarily. However, they cannot use Sudanese territory to launch new attacks on the South Sudan government.