The dry season has ended in Sudan and SPLM-N rebels the government is preparing to start new offensive operations in the Nuba Mountains of Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Previous fighting in the Nuba Mountains has disrupted farming and foreign aid groups expect a new wave of refugees later this Spring. The famine threat in South Kordofan is particularly dire because the 2016 harvest there was poor. The threat of violence and existing food shortages means conditions in the state will get worse.
March 27, 2017: The war in Sudan’ Darfur region sputters on. This month the UN organized another peace conference that focused on conflicts in North Darfur state but included tribal leaders from South, Central and West Darfur states. One of the key issues was the passage of nomadic pastoralists through farming areas. Another was law enforcement.
March 26, 2017: Sudan said it will conduct a series of air force exercises with Saudi Arabia from March 29 to April 12. They will be conducted in northern Sudan (the Meroe area). The two nations agreed to the exercise last year. Saudi Arabian Typhoon and F-15 fighters will participate. The exercises are another indication that Sudan and Iran are no longer allies.
March 25, 2017: South Sudan said it would agree to a ceasefire with rebels but the offer was rejected as a “non-starter” and mere propaganda. The government is facing mounting criticism for its failure to address the famine.
Six aid workers were killed in an ambush in South Sudan as they were traveling from the capital, Juba, to the town of Pibor.
March 25, 2017: The NMLC a Nuba rebel organization in South Kordofan has demanded the right to self-determination for the Nuba Mountain region. The NMLC said it supports dissolving the rebel movements’ current governing secretariat. Observers said this demand is tantamount to an NMLC withdrawal from the SPLM-N (the umbrella orgaization for nearly all South Sudan rebels). The NMLC said it lacks confidence in current SPLM-N leadership. The NMLC, however, does not control military operations. So far SPLM-N military officers in South Kordofan have not commented on the NMLC demand.
March 23, 2017: The UN said South Sudan’s government must respond “to the needs of South Sudan’s people” and address the famine that is gripping the country. On February 20 the UN officially declared a famine in South Sudan and claimed that 100,000 people are currently starving. One million more people face starvation. Aid groups estimate that 4.9 million people in South Sudan will need “food related assistance.” All told from 40 to 50 percent of South Sudan’s population faces food shortages. The UN did not blame the government for causing the famine. In late February an American official called the food crisis in South Sudan “man-made.” That is largely true. The U.S. statement doesn’t explicitly blame the government. Rebel groups have also disrupted farming and they also steal food aid. However, several aid groups do say South Sudan’s government is largely responsible for the deteriorating situation. The government uses food as a weapon to depopulate and weaken areas controlled by the rebels. (Austin Bay)
March 22, 2017: A new Ethiopian general has assumed command of the UN peacekeepers for Abyei. This force of 5,326 troops was created in 2011 to monitor the disputed area (Abyei) and local civilians wnile protecting foreign workers. The workers include humanitarian aid workers and personnel working in Abyei’s oil fields.
South Sudan rebels are threatening to arrest oil company workers in Upper Nile state. The threat came after the government signed a new exploration agreement for Block B3 on March 6. The South Sudan rebels control several oil fields in the state.
Ugandan media claimed a South Sudanese military intelligence officer survived an assassination attempt in Uganda by disarming his attackers. South Sudanese police confirmed the attack and claimed the two would-be assassins were South Sudanese citizens unhappy with changes the South Sudan government has made.
March 19, 2017: South Sudan’s Aweil state acknowledged that famine conditions in the area have forced several thousand people to flee north to refugee camps in Sudan. This is really the third wave of refugees to leave the region. Sudan’s Eastern Darfur state already has around 80,000 South Sudanese refugees. Medical aid workers in South Sudan recently reported that they are seeing an increasing number of cases of malnutrition among children.
March 18, 2017: An Ethiopian diplomatic delegation has arrived in South Sudan’s capital to help South Sudan search for kidnapped Ethiopians who were seized by ethnic Murle raiders earlier this month. The victims (all children) are believed to be in South Sudan’s Boma state.
March 17, 2017: The NSF, a rival to SPLM-IO (the main South Sudanese rebel group) continues to grow. General Faiz Ismail Futur announced that he has resigned from the SPLM-IO and joined the NSF. Futur had commanded SPLM-IO units in the Western Bahr al-Ghazal region. He said that the SPLM-IO had ignored conditions in his area and failed to supply his forces. He also criticized SPLM-IO leaders for practicing the same tribalism the government is accused of. The current SPLM-IO leader is a member of the Nuer tribe. The South Sudan president is a Dinka, which is South Sudan’s most numerous ethnic group while the Nuer are second largest. Futur called the SPLM-IO leader a dictator. The NSF is led by a general from the Equatoria region. NSF leaders has accuse SPLM-IO leaders of destroying South Sudan. Several other SPLM-IO leaders and military officers have left the organization and joined the NSF.
March 15, 2017: Ethiopia reported that over a thousand South Sudanese gunmen have entered Ethiopia’s Glabella region March 12 and March 13 and killed 28 people while also abducting 43 children. South Sudan confirmed that and identified the raiders as Murle tribesmen. Ethiopia said some of the raiders were still inside Ethiopia and Ethiopian troops were pursuing them. A similar attack occurred last year and the Ethiopian Army entered South Sudan.
March 14, 2017: The UN is investigating new reports of misbehavior in South Sudan. Both government and rebels have been accused of making unlawful arrests, torturing victims and committing rape.
Chinese UN peacekeepers rescued seven UN civilian enokoyees who were trapped in a hotel in Yei River state. Fighting had erupted in Yei between the soldiers and rebels. The firefight was only 200 meters from the UN base in Yei where the peacekeepers were stationed. The Chinese peacekeepers left the base and brought the civilians back to the base without loss.
March 13, 2017: Some foreign aid workers in the area claim that religious organizations like the Catholic Church have become the only functional civil institutions in South Sudan. The aid workers note that the Catholic Church is helping deliver food and other aid when the government has failed. Right now about 40 percent of South Sudan’s population is facing a serious food shortage. Foreign aid workers note that churches have a broader reach than even the UN, which tends to focus on certain specific areas. Churches do suffer attacks, but they also manage to negotiate local peace agreements which permit the distribution of aid. (Austin Bay)
March 12, 2017: In the northeast oil-producing region (Bich state) South Sudanese troops and rebels fought a battle that left at least 23 dead, including two rebel officers.
March 9, 2017: The Cobra Faction in South Sudan has joined the NSF. The Cobra Faction signed a peace agreement with the government in 2014. The Cobra Faction still believes the government has been guilty of encouraging tribal fighting by supplying pro-government tribal factions with weapons and other support.
March 8, 2017: Rebels are accusing a specific South Sudan government military unit of committing atrocities in Yei River state. This areas is near South Sudan’s border with Uganda and Congo (southwest of Juba). Rebels say the Matiang Anyoor unit is manned by ethnic Dinka soldiers and is supposed to be part of South Sudan’s army. In practice Matiang Anyoor operates more like an ethnic Dinka militia. The government denied that any of its troops had committed atrocities in Yei. Leaders of South Sudan’s Azande tribe are criticizing the government for favoring the Dinka tribe and promoting “Dinka domination.” The Azande claim that Dinka soldiers attacked them in Gbudue state (southwestern South Sudan) near the Congo border. Meanwhile, there are reports of more conflicts between the Dinkas and other tribes in Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria and Eastern Equatoria states. The Western Equatoria region is one of South Sudan’s most productive agricultural areas.
March 2, 2017: A slow power struggle continues in Sudan where the government has a prime minister for the first time in 28 years. But the prime minister is an old face: First Vice-President Bakri Hassan Saleh, who is supposed to be responsible for reforming the government. That assignment was made by the president (Omar al-Bashir) who is really a dictator. Bashir and the political opposition have fundamental disagreements over the composition of the new government and what constitutes reform.
March 1, 2017: Darfur SLM-MM rebels are demanding Sudan government officials indicted for committing war crimes in the Darfur region be arrested. Those indcited (for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide) include Omar al-Bashir and several of his key aides.
February 28, 2017: Ethiopian security forces stopped an attack on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) complex. The GERD is on the Nile River near the Ethiopia-Sudan border. Security personnel intercepted 20 members of an Ethiopian rebel group. (Benishangul Gumez Peoples Liberation Movement) and killed 13 of them as they approached the dam. The other seven fled into Sudan where local police arrested them. The seven were then turned over to Ethiopia. Ethiopian authorities said the group had assembled in Eritrea and had orders to disrupt construction of the dam.