In Sudan the rebel Sudanese SRF-MM (Sudan Revolutionary Front-Minni Minnawi) and Sudan's opposition PCP (Popular Congress Party) have agreed to cooperate to implement the AU (African Union) plan for ending Sudan's various rebellions. The PCP is now a member of Sudan's coalition National Consensus Government, which the AU encouraged (as part of its AU Road Map for Sudan). Yes, Omar al Bashir is still in charge as president and he is still under criminal indictment by the ICC (International Criminal Court) for war crimes and genocide. The SRF is still an umbrella group for armed rebel organizations. Right now a couple of SRF factions are fighting Sudanese security forces. Minnawi was serving as an SRF representative at the conference which brokered the deal with the PCP. Several times in the past Minnawi has expressed an interest in a real negotiated settlement --meaning one that Sudan doesn't break three months later. In a statement after announcing their new coalition, the PCP and the SRF-MM stressed the need for the government to continue to permit the flow of humanitarian aid into rebel areas and to stop tolerating (or encouraging) attacks on civilians, slaving and bad behavior in general. Many civilians in rebel held areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are on the edge of starvation.
December 21, 2017: In South Sudan the government and most rebel factions agreed to a ceasefire that will begin on Christmas Eve (the 24th) and last into 2018. South Sudan is a largely Christian country. The ceasefire is not expected to last long and was agreed to mainly to let relief supplies, particularly food, move freely and a bit more safely.
December 20, 2017: In northeast South Sudan (Upper Nile state) the UN closed one of its seven remaining POC (Protection of Civilian) sites and indicates it will close other POCs. Some of the civilians protected at the closed POC were moved to a POC in the nearby city of Malakal.
December 19, 2017: In southern South Sudan (Yei River state) the army claims to have driven the SPLM-IO rebels from key areas near the Uganda and Congo borders. The SPLM-IO has had a major presence in the area for years but in 2017 there has been major fighting in Yei state. If the army claims are true, the government has managed to make some significant gains just before a new round of peace negotiations are to commence. The army claimed its soldiers encountered no armed opposition when they took the towns of Mitika and Lasu. However, foreign and local witnesses report scattered fighting outside of Lasu. SPLM-IO accused the army of entering Mitika on the night of December 17 and proceeded to plunder the town.
The SPLM-IO rebels accused the Sudan JEM rebels of supporting South Sudan troops in Yei River state. The SPLM-IO claims to have ambushed a convoy of government and JEM vehicles outside the town of Lasu. The convoy was allegedly transporting weapons and ammunition from the city of Wau to government soldiers and militiamen who were fighting SPLM-IO, which withdrew from Lasu on December 18.
Sudan announced it is willing to begin another round of peace negotiations with the SPLM-N rebels. The previous effort, the "Two Areas" (South Kordofan and Blue Nile states) peace talks with SPLM-N, broke off in August 2016. The SPLM-N is now split into two factions, one led by Malik Agar (SPLM-N Agar) and one by Abdel Azziz al-Hilu (SPLM-N al-Hilu).
December 18, 2017: In southern South Sudan (Yei River state) SPLM-IO rebels claim to have killed 35 soldiers and several JEM militiamen in a firefight.
December 17, 2017: Six police officers from Samoa have flown to South Sudan to join a United Nations peacekeeping mission. The UN peacekeepers currently deploy around 12,000 soldiers and armed police in South Sudan.
December 16, 2017: Foreign aid groups believe the dreadful situation in South Sudan will persist deep into 2018, even if new peace talks (which may or may not occur in the next 60 days) manage to curb the violence. One widely accepted estimate is that 76 percent of South Sudan's families are experiencing some hunger and uncertainty about continued access to food.
December 15, 2017: Four years ago today (2013) the South Sudan civil war began with a shootout in Juba between Dinka and Nuer soldiers serving in the capital's security force. Nuer tribesmen now dominate the SPLM-IO rebels and refer to the incident as The Juba Nuer Massacre.
December 14, 2017: The UN is defending the performance of its South Sudan peacekeepers by pointing out that the 12,000 peacekeepers operates with numerous restrictions. The peacekeepers require the consent of South Sudan government to carry out many missions. The official statement put it this way: UN peacekeepers in South Sudan "are neither an intervention, nor an interposition force."
The South Sudan president fired several senior army officers. No reason was given for their removal.
Sudan confirmed that one Sudanese soldier was killed and four wounded when their vehicle hit a landmine near the town of El Mukha in Yemen. The soldier who was killed was a relative of Sudan's second vice-president, Hasabo Mohamed Abdelrahman. Since 2015, Sudanese soldiers have served with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Sudanese troops completed a week-long joint training exercise with UAE (United Arab Emirates) forces. The exercise took place in Sudan and along the Red Sea coast. The exercises stressed combat readiness and maneuver. Sudan has sided with Saudi Arabia and the UAE against Iran, which is one reason it is getting along better with the United States and the UN.
December 13, 2017: The ICC told the UN that the failure to arrest Sudan president Bashir on war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity charges had damaged the ICC as well as the investigation of Bashir that began in 2005. Arrest warrants were issued in March 2009 and in July 2010 but Bashir remains a free man.
December 12, 2017: In central South Sudan (Western Lakes state) nearly 200 have died and even more were wounded during a week of fighting between two Dinka clans (Rup and Pakam). Over 2,000 people have fled their homes. UN observers and South Sudanese security forces moved into the area after the government declared a state of emergency. UN peacekeepers reported the warring clans had established roadblocks throughout the area. By December 8 the government was describing the fighting as quite serious and that it was mainly about cattle and land rights. Western Lakes state is about 250 kilometers northwest of Juba, South Sudan's capital.
December 5, 2017: Sudan and South Sudan continue to wrangle over the 2012 oil pipeline and revenue dispute. Sudan contends that South Sudan owes the Sudan around $1.3 billion. South Sudan does not dispute the figure. Unfortunately, South Sudan cannot pay it. The finance ministry noted that oil prices are low.
December 4, 2017: Even though Sudan-U.S. relations are far from normalized, Sudan is telling would-be trading partners that the partial lifting of U.S. sanctions means Sudan is now a good place to do business. That's a bit premature for several reasons. Critics of the government point out that the ICC warrants for the arrest of president Bashir remain in effect. Bashir faces war crimes and genocide charges. The Americans had temporarily lifted some sanctions in early January 2017. Sudan continues to cooperate with U.S. counter-terrorism efforts-- which is ironic because Sudan is still on the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism. The new U.S. government that took power in late January continued to be optimistic about Sudan and lifted most of the economic sanctions in October after Sudan demonstrated that it had curbed the bad behavior that attracted the ICC in the first place. However, Sudan is clearly on probation. The U.S. stipulated that Sudan must (quote) continue to show "sustained and measureable progress" on how it treats its own citizens. If it does not the targeted sanctions may be re-imposed. (Austin Bay)
November 30, 2017: Sudan confirmed that Darfur militia leader Musa Hilal will face charges in a Sudanese court. Last week security forces arrested Hilal in North Darfur state. This came after Sudanese security forces were ambushed by militiamen the government claims were under Hilal's command. The government forces were trying to enforce a disarmament order. Hilal's militia refused to give up its weapons. Hilal was formerly a friend and ally of the government and president Bashir. In fact, he led a janjaweed militia in Darfur. Hilal currently faces individual UN sanctions for his actions as a militia leader.
November 29, 2017: In western Sudan (Darfur) SRF-MM rebels claim the Sudan government intends to attack refugee camps in Darfur. The rebels also accuse the government of using its weapons disarmament campaign as a ruse for raiding displaced persons camps in West Darfur state.