The war in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains region and Blue Nile state continues. Diplomats now refer to the war as the “Two Areas” in Sudan. The fight in Blue Nile state receives some coverage since refugees from the conflict show up in South Sudan. Members of the rebel SPLM-N manage to provide some information on government and rebel operations in Blue Nile state. However, over the last three months, the Sudanese government has largely succeeded in isolating the Nuba Mountains area. Foreign reporters have next to no access to the region. The government has limited cell phone access so locals are not able to provide information on a consistent basis. When anyone (local or foreigner) tries to fill the void the government accuses them of being aligned with the rebels. Meanwhile, peace talks between the SPLM-N and the government are once again on hold because the government has rejected SPLM-N requests for safe routes to supply food and other aid in both areas. In early May the SPLM-N asked the U.S. to link any reduction in sanctions on the Sudan government to the issue of essential aid and lawlessness and government atrocities in the Two Areas. The SPLM-N is also experiencing internal political difficulties. SPLM-N senior leaders recently accused a faction of attempting an “internal” coup.
May 30, 2017: The Sudanese government has tightened its ban on agricultural and animal product imports from Egypt and through Egypt. Earlier this month Sudan accused Egypt of providing support to anti-Sudan rebel groups.
May 29, 2017: A new senior officer has assumed command of the UN peacekeepers in South Sudan. Rwandan Army Lieutenant General Frank Mushyo Kamanzi is now in command of the peacekeeping operation. He has served as Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army (2012-2015) and Force Commander of the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). The UN has authorized up to 17,000 peacekeepers in South Sudan. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find nations willing to provide troops for this.
May 28, 2017: An American doctor serving in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains region has won a major international award for exceptional efforts in delivering aid. Dr. Tom Catena received the Aurora Prize in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. The prize includes a $100,000 award for Catena and a donation of one million dollars to organizations Catena designates.
May 25, 2017: Japan has withdrawn its peacekeepers from South Sudan. For almost five years Japan maintained a peacekeeping contingent of about 350 soldiers in South Sudan. In March the Japanese government said it would withdraw the contingent partly because of politics back home but also because of the corruption and chaos in South Sudan that seemed to resist every effort to fix it.
May 23, 2017: Sudan accused Egypt of supporting anti-Sudan rebels in Darfur. Sudan claimed that their security forces had recently seized Egyptian armored vehicles that were in the hands of guerrilla forces fighting in southern Darfur. Egypt denied the accusation.
May 22, 2017: South Sudan declared a unilateral ceasefire with rebels. South Sudan also promised to release political prisoners. However the government show no signs of reaching a new political agreement with the rebels (mainly SPLM-IO) much less revive the August 2016 peace agreement.
May 21, 2017: The UN and several international relief agencies now estimate that one million people in South Sudan are on the verge of starvation. Three months ago a famine was declared in several regions in South Sudan. The UN has asked for another $1.4 billion in contributions to aid refugees in South Sudan. Some of that money would go for food and water.
May 18, 2017: The UN is not having a lot of luck deploying an additional 4,000 peacekeepers (as a Regional Protection Force or RPF) in South Sudan. The Security Council authorized the increase eight months ago but the South Sudan government is making it difficult to bring in the foreign troops and increase the UN force from 13,000 peacekeepers to 17,000.
May 17, 2017: Critics of Sudan’s so-called National Dialogue are once again calling the process a charade. The National Dialogue, which began in 2014, is supposed to engage opposition parties and rebel groups and provide the basis for a peaceful political resolution to Sudan’s numerous internal conflicts. Supporters of the National Dialogue disagree. They point out that the effort has produced a comprehensive document with 994 recommendations provided from across the political spectrum.
May 16, 2017: South Sudan continues to shake up the military. The main chage is that the army will be divided into three separate organizations: a ground force (army), an air force and a naval unit.
May 14, 2017: A joint Ethiopia-Sudan military force has begun patrol operations to curb drug trafficking, slaving and animal theft along the Ethiopia-Sudan border. The joint force will also patrol parks and game reserves in the border area.
May 12, 2017: In South Sudan the president claims that former army Chief of Staff General Paul Malong is refusing orders to return to the capital, Juba. The president fired Malong on May 9 and Malong immediately left Juba, heading for his home state, Northern Bahr al-Ghazal state (northwest South Sudan). The president suggested that foreign interests were supporting Malong. The president then promoted the commander of his presidential guard unit, Marial Chanuong, to the rank of lieutenant general. The UN noted that Chanuong was accused of being involved in several massacres committed against ethnic Nuer. The presidential guard unit is known as the Tiger Battalion.
May 10, 2017: South Sudan appointed General James Ajongo as the new chief of staff of the army. The prior commander, General Paul Malong, was fired on May 9 and no reason was givenl. Malong was a long time supporter of the president and in 2005 he helped create the unit that became South Sudan’s presidential guard unit.
May 9, 2017: Sudan’s defense minister met with Turkey’s defense minister in Istanbul. Sudan wants help developing its defense industrial base.
South Sudan said that it is planning to take offensive action against rebel forces in Kajo-Keji and another parts of Imatong state (Greater Equatoria region)
May 7, 2017: A rescue raid organized by France, Chad and Sudan has freed a kidnapped French citizen and arrested the five kidnappers who were hiding out in Sudan’s Darfur region. The Frenchman, who worked for a mining company, was kidnapped in Chad in March and the kidnappers demanded a ransom. The Sudanese government said that Sudan had coordinated the rescue operation with French and Chadian intelligence services. France has a troop contingent of 1,000 soldiers deployed in Chad.
May 6, 2017: In February South Sudanese General Thomas Cirillo Swaka criticized his own government’s deliberate violence against civilians and then resigned as deputy chief of staff of the army. Cirillo accused the government of circumventing official government acquisition procedures to supply Dinka tribe militias with weapons. The government denied his accusation. Cirillo, an ethnic Bari, recently announced he has enlisted several thousand fighters to oppose the government, which is led by an ethnic Dinka. Cirillo said that if South Sudan is to have peace, the Dinka incumbent must be removed as president.
May 5, 2017: Sudanese and Egyptian relations are deteriorating. Sudan recently banned the importation of several Egyptian products, including fish, fruits and vegetables. Egypt responded to the ban by raising “residency fees” for Sudanese living in Egyptian territory. Now Sudan is threatening to “apply the principle of reciprocity” to Egypt if Egypt deports Sudanese citizens. On April 25 Egypt deported two Sudanese journalists when they arrived in Cairo, claiming the men were on a “blacklist.” One of the real problems is the presence of Egyptian security personnel in the disputed Halayeb triangle area. Egypt contends the Sudanese government is creating a crisis for political reasons.
May 4, 2017: UN peacekeeping officials in South Sudan said an unidentified group attacked a UN peacekeeping base in the town of Leer (Unity state, or, in the “new” configuration, West Upper Nile state). UN peacekeepers from Ghana did not suffer any casualties as theydefeated the assault. The attack occurred at night and observers said the attacking force appeared to come from the direction of a town controlled by forces loyal to the South Sudan government. South Sudan rebel leaders said its forces did not attack Leer, which is located in an area where the Nuer tribe is the dominant ethnic group.
In a separate statement, UN officials in South Sudan accused pro-government forces of launching an offensive near Aburoc (Upper Nile state) causing 40,000 to 50,000 people to flee the violence.
May 2, 2017: Judges in South Sudan declared a nation-wide strike to protest poor working conditions.
May 1, 2017: In Juba 35 more British troops arrived to provide UN peacekeepers with engineering and medical support. There are already 200 British soldiers serving in the South Sudan peacekeeping force.