Sudan: The Big Split Gets a Date

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October 7, 2010: Western Equatoria state in southern Sudan has decided to arm local defense forces with firearms. The government believes the threat posed by Lord's Resistance Army raiders remains high. Many village defense forces (also called home guards) are currently armed with spears or bows and arrows. The government intends to provide firearm training to the local forces.

October 5, 2010: The national government finally provided a time line for the January 2011 referendum on southern independence. Voter registration will begin November 14 and end December 4. The referendum is still scheduled for January 9, though several national groups contend the logistics preparations to conduct the vote are woefully inadequate. Critics argue that the election's basic credibility is at stake. There are not sufficient supplies (ie, ballots, ballot boxes) to conduct the election and the nation is not prepared to collect the ballot boxes and insure their security. A separate plebiscite is also scheduled to be held in the disputed Abyei region. Abyei will decide whether it will join the north or the south, Abyei is an oil-producing region.

September 27, 2010: The national government has raised a new argument against southern independence. The government is saying that South Sudanese, should they opt for independence, will lose their Sudanese citizenship. This will put southerners who are living in northern Sudan will be at a disadvantage. Some southerners interpret this as an implicit threat, indicating they will face harassment, including loss of property rights, if South Sudan votes to become independent. Harassment could led to eviction from the north. A mass eviction could lead to a new civil war. Expect these kinds of threats to increase as the January 2011 referendum approaches.

September 25, 2010: A UN peacekeeping office director said that the government of Rwanda had agreed to keep its peacekeeping forces in Sudan. Rwanda has a substantial number of troops committed to UNAMID (UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur). Rwanda said it was insulted by a leaked UN report which suggested Rwandan forces may have committed genocide during operations in the eastern Congo.

September 24, 2010: President Omar al-Bashir continues to try to avoid being arrested for war crimes charges. Now he has the African Union (AU) suggesting that the charges be held in abeyance until after the January 2011 plebiscite on southern independence. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted Bashir for war crimes in Darfur. The UN Security Council can suspend ICC prosecutions and Bashir has been trying to pull political strings to get the Security Council to do just that.

September 23, 2010: The Government of South Sudan (GOSS), the semi-autonomous government administering southern Sudan, issued a statement that said any delay of the referendum on independence risked reigniting the civil war. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 (CPA), which ended the north-south civil war, specified that a referendum on southern independence would be held in 2011.

September 22, 2010: A Darfur rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) claimed that Sudanese air force planes attacked two villages in the Jebel Marra region (South Darfur state). The SLA identified the planes as Russian made air transports rigged as bombers. The SLA said that 18 people died in the air attacks.

September 20, 2010: The National Congress Party (NCP), which dominates the national government, declared that the January 2011 referendum on southern independence cannot take place until the north-south border is definitely demarcated. The GOSS countered that the NCP is responsible for the delay in making final border demarcation decisions.

September 9, 2010: The U.S. government called the southern Sudan independence referendum a ticking time bomb. The U.S. appears to have concluded that the south will vote to become independent. The north calls southern independence secession.

September 7, 2010: The GOSS announced that its army (Sudan People's Liberation Army, SPLA) intends to buy transport helicopters. The GOSS also indicated it plans to create its own air force if south Sudanese vote for independence in January 2011. The national government responded quickly and said that a GOSS purchase of helicopters would violate the CPA of 2005. Some regional analysts argue that a north-south arms race has already erupted. The south has been buying arms to supply the SPLA, including armored vehicles. Transport helicopters can carry soldiers, but they are also invaluable in emergency aid operations and in directing developmental aid projects. The GOSS contended it needs helicopters in the rainy season in order to conduct basic government business. During the rainy season the dirt tracks turn to mud and are all but impassable.

September 6, 2010: UNAMID has sent a peacekeeping unit to the Tabarat area in North Darfur state. The troop movement followed reports that a janjaweed militia had attacked the area and left 57 civilians dead and 86 wounded. The janjaweed arrived in four-wheel drive vehicles, and on horses and camels, then began shooting up the market place.

September 5, 2010: UNAMID peacekeepers reported a fight broke out in the Hamidiya refugee camp (West Darfur state). Six people were killed in the violence.

 

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