In South Sudan fighting in the northeast, around Malakal city and the nearby oil fields continues. The violence began a week ago with skirmishes between government and rebel forces and kept escalating until it became full scale battles three days ago. Each side blames the other for starting and sustaining the violence.
Foreign aid groups, who work with the government personnel on a regular basis, report extensive corruption in South Sudant. This results in much of the foreign aid being stolen and not getting to the people it was intended for. This is not surprising. South Sudan was recently rated the second most cprrupt (175 out of 176 countries) nation in the world for 2016. Sudan ranked 170 out of 176. Not surprisingly nearby Somalia was rated the most corrupt nations in the world and has held that dubious distinction for a decade. This is surely a record, but not one any nation cares to brag about. Corruption in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index is measured on a 1 (most corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt) scale. The most corrupt nations (usually North Korea, Somalia or, since 2011, South Sudan) have a rating of under fifteen while of the least corrupt (usually Denmark) is often 90 or higher. The current South Sudan score is 11 compared to 14 for Sudan, 12 for North Korea, 40 for China, 29 for Russia, 72 for Japan and 74 for the United States. A lower corruption score is common with nations in economic trouble. African nations are the most corrupt, followed by Middle Eastern ones. What is happening in South Sudan is happening throughout Africa and for the same reasons. Fixing an existing culture of corruption has proved a most difficult challenge.
February 1, 2017: In Sudan the government ordered the destruction of 25 Christian churches in the capital. Most of the 41 million Sudanese are Moslem but three percent are not. Instead half of this minority are Christian and half practice ancient tribal religions. South Sudan was created in 2011 after decades of fighting over religious persecution of the Christian majority there. After the 2011 partition Sudan said that the northerners would create an Islamic state and that means little tolerance for kaffirs (non-Moslems). Most (60 percent) of the 11 million South Sudanese are Christians and they, along with the smaller number of Christians in the north have been increasingly (especially since the 1970s) victimized by northern attempts to Islamize the entire region. In South Sudan only about six percent of the population are Moslem and about 30 percent adhering to tribal religions.
The UN is seeking to obtain another 4,000 peacekeepers from African nations and is having some success. These would be sent to South Sudan but it may take until the end of the year to obtain and deploy the entire force.
January 31, 2017: Sudan will end all food and fuel subsidies by 2019. The end of consumption subsidies has stirred political opposition throughout the country, including members of the ruling party. The state finance ministry says the country can no longer subsidize energy and food prices like it could before 2011. When South Sudan became independent, Sudan lost about 70 percent of its daily oil production and that was followed by the prices for exported oil falling by more than half. The government now has a lot less to spend. Reports that the U.S. will end its late 1990s trade embargo of Sudan offer the country a measure of hope. The U.S. government said that it appreciates Sudan’s participation in the fight against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). Sudan is also involved in operations against Shia rebels in Yemen. Sudan must still meet to other U.S. requirements before the embargo is lifted. For example Sudan must treat its own people better and eliminate the government sponsorship of tribal militias that fight rebels and other tribes the pro-government trines have long feuded with. The government tolerates criminal activity (rape, murder, robbery, slaving) by its supporters and thid is what got the president-for-life of Sudan indicted for war crimes. Eliminating this criminal behavior will take a lot of doing. It must also take genuine steps to ending its various military conflicts. Darfur is the one receiving the most prominent mention. Ending the embargo would make it easier for Sudan to receive hard currency remittances from Sudanese working overseas. It will also make it easier for foreigners to invest in Sudan. The lifting of U.S. sanctions was announced January 13.
January 30, 2017: South Sudan rebels (SPLM-IO) claim to have repulsed an attack by soldiers in Upper Nile state. The rebels claim that the soldiers were aided by figthers from two Sudan rebel groups (JEM and SPLM-N). The attackers retreated back to their bases in nearby towns (Khor and Gabat) after having suffered dozens of casualties and losing three armored vehicles, including a T-72 tank.
January 29, 2017: Ethnic and inter-communal violence continues to erupt throughout South Sudan. The violence routinely disrupts food distribution and government efforts to control the violence are at best haphazard. UN and AU (African Union) officials demanded that the South Sudan government and rebels immediately cease hostilities. The fear is that the current violence will evolve into mass atrocities -- in other words, genocidal violence. The demand has been made before and the fighting didn’t stop. The UN, AU and IGAD (East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development) are considering imposing harsh targeted individual economic and political sanctions against leaders of both the government and rebel factions. AU and IGAD diplomats take the position that the August 2015 compromise peace agreement can still work. Interestingly enough, the South Sudan president attended the conference where this was discussed and agreements to try sanctions arrived at.
Meanwhile, Kenya has agreed to continue to participate in peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. In November 2016 Kenya threatened to withdraw its thousand peacekeepers.
January 24, 2017: Indonesia announced that it is investigating weapons smuggling accusations made against Indonesian police officers serving with the UN Darfur peacekeeping force.
January 23, 2017: Uganda’s Bidi Bidi refugee camp is being billed as an instant city. Bidi Bidi is about 40 kilometers south of the South Sudan border. As of mid-January 2017, the camp has between 250,000 and 260,000 South Sudanese refugees. Bidi Bidi opened the first week of August 2016 and was designed to hold 40,000 refugees. The fighting between government troops and rebels that broke out in Juba in mid-July quickly spread through the country. That led to a new flood of refugees.
Sudan said that it signed a peace deal with the Darfur SLM-SR rebels.
January 20, 2017: In North Darfur state Sudanese police officers arrested “several” Indonesian soldiers serving with the UN Darfur peacekeeping force on charges of smuggling weapons. The Indonesians had just completed their UN tour of duty and were at the airport in EL Fasher, preparing to fly back to Indonesia. The men arrested had weapons and a “large amount” of ammunition in their possession. The weapons included 29 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 61 pistols, six G3 rifles and four other firearms. The UN sait it alerted Sudanese authorities. The soldiers were later identified as members of the Indonesian Formed Police Unit (FPU), so technically they may have been serving as policemen.
January 18, 2017: South Sudan banned several foreign aid groups from operating in the rebel-held Panyijiar county area (Southern Liech State). There are conflicting reports about the ban. It may be a tit for tat action because rebels detained a government-chartered aircraft in Panyijiar in December 2016. One aid group official said it is trying to work out a new operating agreement with the government.
January 16, 2017: The Sudanese parliament passed legislation that puts the RSF (National Intelligence and Security Services Rapid Support Forces) under the control of the Sudanese military. The 30,000 man RSF was formed in 2013 from members of Janjaweed (pro-government tribal militias) that participated in some of the more notorious operations in the Darfur region.
January 13, 2017: In South Sudan aid groups are asking for help in investigating allegations that 30-60 Sudanese refugees were killed in fighting that erupted December 25, 2016 in a refugee camp near Doro (Eastern Nile state). The violence continued until December 28. Local leaders now say 32 people were killed but that conflicts with other witness reports. One aid group reports 58 people are still missing. Eastern Nile is part of what was once Upper Nile state. The rebels and many international agencies still call it Upper Nile state.
January 11, 2017: Funding shortages have forced the Sudan government to close 11 health facilities and another 49 could be closed. Despite help from the UN and aid organizations, Sudan says it cannot continue to operate the facilities because of shrinking oil income. Many of the facilities considered for closure, however, are in areas where Sudan is fighting rebels: South Kordofan state, Blue Nile state and the Darfur region.
January 8, 2017: Since 2011 people in Sudan have been fleeing fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Many of them ended up in South Sudan. In early 2014, as the civil war expanded, some refugees fled north. Now refugee camps in Sudan are seeing even more refugees from the south. Aid organizations report that Sudan’s White Nile state now hosts around 85,000 South Sudanese. The al Kashafa camp has over 17,000 refugees. There are five other large camps in White Nile state.
January 4, 2017: The Sudan government said that the JEM and SLA-MM Darfur rebel groups have agreed to a new round of informal peace talks.
January 3, 2017: Sudan denied Darfur rebel allegations that its forces had killed 11 civilians and wounded 60 in the Nertiti refugee camp (Jebel Marra area, Darfur). The government accused SLM-AW rebels of committing the crimes. A spokesman for another Darfur rebel group, SLA-MM, said that government-backed militias were involved in the attack. Darfur rebels contend that is openly violating its December 31, 2016 promise to extend the unilateral ceasefire in the Darfur region and in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
January 1, 2017: The UN and several aid groups are reporting that South Sudan is once again the verge of a severe hunger crisis. 70 percent of the country is risk of “extreme levels of food insecurity” (malnutrition and starvation) between now and July 2017.