Sudan: Border Wars


November 24,2008: Drawing a firm North-South border is one of the biggest challenges facing Sudan. The Government of South Sudan knows that this is a divisive issue (literally and figuratively) in the south as well as the north. Several tribes have let it be known they are suspicious of the process, believing that "the line has already been drawn" (by someone in a back room). The border issue, however, has not been settled. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) called for a fair and open border demarcation process that would take into account "verbal information" from tribal leaders as well as "physical features of the landscape" (like, don't arbitrarily divide a range of hills). One of the biggest factors in drawing a North-South border is traditional tribal settlement patterns, which the war wrecked when so many people became refugees. The boundary is also supposed to take into account "historical materials" like old Sudanese maps and colonial era maps. But there are a lot of problems with the old maps. Border demarcation is way behind schedule. It was supposed to be done before the 2009 elections. In 2011 South Sudan is supposed to hold a referendum on independence. Abyei is also supposed to vote that year on whether or not that region will be part of North Sudan or become part of South Sudan if South Sudan opts for independence. What happens if the border issue isn't resolved? Diplomats will advocate arbitration, but if that doesn't work the conditions are set for a very ugly, protracted and expensive border war.

November 20, 2008: A faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) reported that a government military force had attacked his fighters in "the Helf area." Five SLA fighters were killed and ten wounded in the attack.

November 17, 2008: Government security forces arrested at least 60 reporters and journalists as the group protested the censorship of media in Sudan. The protest took place in the capital. A spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) said the arrests violated Sudan's constitution. Moreover, the SPLM spokesman said the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement guaranteed a free and open media. South Sudan, where the SPLM holds sway, is no beacon of press freedom, but the central government is much worse. It is quite possible that mass arrests of reporters and writers could become another North-South political issue, with the Government of South Sudan maintaining the arrests and censorship are another example of why "the northerners" cannot be trusted to live up to the 2005 CPA.

November 16, 2008: The government said its military forces had fought with "bandits" in North Darfur state. Using the term bandits lets the Sudan government claim that it has not violated its own ceasefire. A spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) claimed that a firefight had occurred between government troops and JEM fighters.

November 14, 2008: The government said that it had purchased 12 MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia. The Russian government said that the sale does not violate the UN ban on selling weapons that will be used in Darfur.

Two rebel groups in Darfur (SLA Unity faction and United Resistance Front) claimed that Sudan Air Force Antonov transport-bombers bombed the town of Kurbia and Um Mahareik (North Darfur). The rebels accused the government of violating its own self-declared ceasefire. The government denied the claims.

November 13, 2008: The government declared "an immediate ceasefire in Darfur." The declaration followed an announcement by the government that it would implement its Sudan Peoples Initiative peace plan. The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said that it had not agreed to a ceasefire.

November 8, 2008: A senior UN official acknowledged that enforcing the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of Sudan president Omar al-Bashir could prove to be a problem for the Darfur peace process. The ICC warrants issued for Uganda's Lords Resistance Army (LRA) leaders have been a thorny diplomatic problem for negotiators trying to end the LRA's guerrilla war against Uganda. The UN statement needs to be seen in another context, though. Bashir has been lobbying the UN Security Council to drop the potential indictment.


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