Sudan: Troops Mass For An Oil War


December 8,2008: The government has moved several thousand additional troops to South Kordofan, which is where the oil is. Moreover, the area border Darfur and the non-Arab (and autonomous) south. This reinforcement is believed to be a reaction to rumors that JEM rebels have been moving fighters into South Kordofan, and are planning attacks on the oil facilities, and the Chinese technicians that work there.

December 6, 2008: Darfur's rebel groups are a very fragmented lot. There have been attempts to unify the rebels. The National Redemption Front (NRF) was one effort. Currently, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army ((SLM/A, or just SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) are the two main rebel organizations.

The SLA claims to have originated as a Fur tribe militia dating from the late 1980s. It had factions in Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic areas as well. These militias collaborated in forming the Darfur Liberation Front (DLF) which rebelled against the government in early 2003.  The SLA has several different factions, some allegedly at peace with the government, others engaged in the peace process (such as it is), some at war with Sudan's national government. Occasionally they fight with one another.

Sometimes press releases will identify the SLM/A as the SLA, Sudan Liberation Army. This is similar to the name game played by the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army during the north-south civil war. When it wanted to appear more political it became the SPLA/M and the current Government of South Sudan (GOSS) is run by the SPLM (Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement).

Justice and Equality Movement (JEM): JEM has emerged as the rebel organization posing the biggest challenge to Sudan's national government. The JEM organized this year's "great raid" on the national capital, Khartoum. JEM has national connections. Some of the Darfuris involved with JEM were allies of former Sudanese president Hassan al-Turabi.

December 4, 2008: Gunmen attacked an aid convoy operate by Sudanese humanitarian workers. The attack took place near a refugee camp located in the vicinity of Nyala, South Darfur state. The convoy was also carrying pay for humanitarian workers, which the gunmen stole. Was this a political attack or a crime? In Darfur, and for that matter, throughout the Sahel, it is tough to tell.

December 1, 2008: The UN believes that Darfur remains dangerous and unstable, despite the government's self-proclaimed ceasefire (declared on November 12.) Some 300,000 people have died in Darfur's violence since February 2003. So far this year, eleven humanitarian aid workers have been killed in Darfur, in addition to . 170 aid workers "temporarily abducted" ( a term which usually refers to raiders either taking hostages or seeking ransom).

November 30, 2008: China gave the government a three million dollar grant to promote unity between north and south Sudan. China has economic interests in both the north and south, with the oil fields primary consideration. China has had trade delegations in both Khartoum (north Sudan) and Juba (the capital of south Sudan).

November 28, 2008: South Sudan estimates that the fighting around Abyei which occurred in May 2008, created 50,000 new refugees. Now about 10,000 residents of Abyei are filtering back into the area. However, few of their homes have been rebuilt. Some are living in tents. Huts can be rebuilt comparatively quickly, but the returnees reported that they remain concerned about security in the area. The UN plans to bring peacekeeping troops into the area, but so far that has not happened. It is situations like the one in Abyei that frustrate census takers. Sudan has to have an accurate census in order to conduct regional and local plebiscites mandated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

November 27, 2008: Government police tore down a "shanty town" near the capital, Khartoum. About 50,000 people lived in what was called "Mandela Town." May of the slum' residents were refugees from elsewhere in Sudan.

November 23, 2008: The US said that it supported Qatar's Darfur peace initiative. Qatar is trying to act as a "neutral third party" to foster negotiations Darfuri rebels and the government. Khartoum often says it is at war with the UN, and the UN is not an impartial mediator.



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