July 28, 2016:
The South Sudan civil war peace deal has collapsed. The agreement that went into force during April came apart in early July as fighting between government and rebel soldiers in the capital broke out. It apparently began with a minor incident on July 6th then escalated until by the 12th rebel forces had left the capital and both government and rebels agreed the civil war had resumed. The fighting in the capital left over 400 dead, most of them rebels and many rebels claim this was all deliberate.
Refugees in the capital fled to a UN compound for safety. The UN and donor nations (nations who pay to keep South Sudan afloat) demanded that both sides stop fighting but that was ignored. It was all over in about week once rebel forces had evacuated the capital. But the rebel leader has openly accused the government of destroying the peace deal by removing him from his position as First Vice President.
Then there is the tribal friction. Outsiders tend to ignore or downplay the tribal rivalry angle, which still counts a lot in this part of the world. The government forces are mainly Dinka while rebels are largely from smaller Zande, Jur and Moru tribes. The rebellion began in late 2013 as disputes between armed tribesmen (some of them on the government payroll) spiraled out of control. This came after South Sudan achieved independence from Sudan in 2005 after decades of ethnic and religious fighting between the largely Arab government and the black, and often Christian tribesmen in the south. That united many South Sudan tribes that normally fight each other. It was hoped that the experience of working together to drive out the Sudan government forces would last. It didn’t and now we have another example of that.
The UN peacekeepers are again being accused of not doing enough to prevent rape of refugees. The latest incidents took place at a UN refugee camp in the capital (Juba). Women from pro-rebel tribes can leave the camp (usually to buy food or other items) and return. The refugees must pass through a UN checkpoint then another manned by government soldiers (most of them from tribes hostile to the pro-rebel tribes). The UN peacekeepers (in this case from Nepal and China) are accused of witnessing (or at least hearing) soldiers raping female refugees returning to the camp. The UN troops were over a hundred meters away and apparently under orders to guard the camp (which holds some 30,000 refugees seeking safety) to the exclusion of everything else. Peacekeeper commanders try to explain that it is too easy to get involved with fighting misbehaving troops (government or rebel) and very difficult to stop that kind of violence once it begins. That means the peacekeepers lose access to roads essential to supply the camps. Technically the UN can demand the government order its troops to stop but the government says it does and not all its troops obey, which is why there is a civil war (and need for peacekeepers) in the first place. This crucial difference between peacekeepers and peacemakers (who are strong enough to crush all opposition) is a matter of life and death for peacekeepers and the people they try to protect in guarded camps.
July 25, 2016: The South Sudan president officially fired his vice-president Riek Machar, the leader of the rebel forces. This looks to be the death knell of the peace agreement. General Taban Deng is now First Vice-President (Machar’s official title).
July 23, 2016: In Sudan a coalition (“Sudan Call”) of opposition parties and rebel groups has tentatively agreed to conduct negotiations with the Sudanese government. There is not a lot of optimism about this because first the two sides have to agree on what can be negotiated. Sudan Call includes the opposition National Umma Party and three rebel groups (SPLM-N, JEM and SLM-MM).
The South Sudan Army executed two soldiers on charges of murder. The men were arrested July 17.
July 22, 2016: South Sudan rebels said that the government has fired the the rebel leader Riek Machar from his post as first vice-president. Machar remains in hiding amid rumors of severe disagreements between senior rebel leaders. Machar wants an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force to protect his return to the capital.
July 19, 2016: The African Union has agreed to deploy peacekeepers to South Sudan in order to protect refugees and facilitate an end to the revived civil war.
July 18, 2016: An AU spokesman said that the AU and the UN must act to stop another “catastrophe” in South Sudan. The UN is considering reinforcing its 12,000 peacekeepers already in South Sudan.
The South Sudan government threatens to attack Lou Nuer rebels in Jonglei state. This is supposed to disrupt the mobilization of a 3,000 man rebel militia in the state whose leaders say they intend to join the rebels. The army said that it will not conduct the operation if the militia disbands and the men go home.
July 17, 2016: In South Sudan there are lots of rumors and few facts about what triggered the fighting that ended the peace agreement. One popular story is that an aide to the rebel leader posted on Facebook that the rebel leader, after meeting with the president, was “detained in the (presidential) palace.” That caused some rebel gunmen to attack the palace.
July 14, 2016: A heavily armed Ugandan military convoy has moved into South Sudan. The Ugandan Army said that these troops will evacuate 3,000 Ugandan citizens stranded in Juba (the capital) and then withdraw.
A force of 40 U.S. Marines has been sent to Juba to beef-up security at the American Embassy.
The UN has accused the South Sudan government of letting soldiers steal all the food in a World Food Program warehouse in Juba. South Sudan replied that the soldiers were told the warehouse contained military supplies for the rebels.
July 12, 2016: South Sudan rebels say their forces have been driven out of Juba and that government armed helicopters attacked the home of the rebel leader in Juba.
July 11, 2016: Two UN peacekeepers were killed in South Sudan as gunfire erupted again in the capital, Juba. Several foreign governments announced that they have begun evacuating their citizens from Juba and South Sudan. Late in the day the government called for a ceasefire. It appears the rebel leader is in hiding somewhere outside of Juba.
Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia said they have reached agreement on conducting water quota impact studies regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Egypt and Sudan now accept that the dam will be built but want to insure they receive their “fair share” of river flow.
July 10, 2016: Another major firefight erupted around rebel positions in South Sudan’s capital. The rebels accused the government of launching attacks. At least one rebel officer said the civil war had reignited. It is believed that rebel leader (serving as First Vice-President as part of the peace agreement) has fled the capital. Rebels report that “hundreds” of rebel soldiers were killed in the battle. The rebel forces near Juba have been ordered to march to the capital. The government claimed that a rebel force had attacked a checkpoint and government forces had defeated it. Local sources now estimate 150 people were killed in the firefight in Juba that raged from July 8 to July 9. Earlier claims put the death toll at over 250. Some 25,000 refugees have sought protection in a UN compound.
July 9, 2016: Today is the fifth anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. It appears the peace agreement that ended the civil war is in tatters. A firefight broke out in Juba on July 8 and continued into the morning hours of July 9. Small battles continued in several neighborhoods. The government claimed that the firefight caught the president and the rebel leader by surprise. An American embassy official said that both the president and the rebel leader were attempting to restore order. There are now roadblocks manned by soldiers throughout Juba. The government and the rebel leader are both telling citizens to stay home.
July 8, 2016: Forces loyal to the South Sudan government claim that on July 7 rebel forces confronted them at a checkpoint in Juba and killed five soldiers. The government called it an isolated incident but heavy fighting has begun in parts of the city.
Two children in a village in Sudan’s North Darfur state died when they detonated an unexploded munition (artillery or mortar shell, grenade, RPG rocket, landmine, aerial bomb). A local official said the children were playing and set the munition on fire. One child was wounded. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) is another term to describe unexploded munitions. They are always a problem in war zones.
July 6, 2016: The Sudan umbrella opposition group Sudan Call may sign an agreement to conduct negotiations with the government.
Over the last five days gunmen in Sudan’s El Gedaref state (eastern Sudan) have attacked and killed several farmers and herdsmen in a disputed strip of land along the Ethiopian border. At least seven farmers and herdsmen have been killed. The Sudan government has accused an Ethiopian Shifta militia of conducting attacks in the area.
July 5, 2016: South Sudan rebels have asked their people to remain calm following the murder of a rebel military intelligence officer. The officer, a lieutenant-colonel, was killed in the capital on July 2 and is under investigation. Some rebels believe that soldiers are responsible. The army says the murderers will be arrested and tried.
July 4, 2016: The Sudan SLM-MM rebels proposed that UN peacekeepers oversee a new ceasefire in Darfur’s Jebel Marra region. This area has been the scene of heavy fighting between the government and rebel forces.
July 3, 2016: Sudan objected to the American decision to place it on a blacklist of countries that engage in various forms of slavery (“human trafficking”). The U.S. said that Sudan does not comply “with minimum international standards in combating human trafficking.” Sudan said the conclusion was biased and distorting. However, reports of slave trading within Sudan continue. There are also reports of forced labor in Sudan.
Meanwhile, the Sudan SPLM-N rebels denied that it has reached an agreement with the government to resume the “Two Areas” peace talks. The two areas are Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The SPLM-N has been fighting a guerrilla war in both states since 2011.
July 1, 2016: In South Sudan the UN estimates 158,727 refugees are seeking protection in six specially designated protection camps located on UN bases (Bentiu with 95,126 refugees, Malakal 32,719 and Juba 27,959. 700 in Melut, 219 in Wau and 2,004 in Bor.)
June 30, 2016: The Ethiopian government denied obstructing the return of 42 Sudanese soldiers captured by the SPLM-N rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Ethiopia claimed it is trying to facilitate the prisoners return. The prisoners are currently in Ethiopia.