Sudan and South Sudan have agreed to establish a demilitarized zone (DMZ) along their disputed border. The DMZ proposal (diplomats also call it a proposed demilitarized buffer zone, since the borders have not been fully demarcated) has been on the table for quite some time. In fact, South Sudan had agreed to demilitarize the border area last fall. Sudan, however, wanted new negotiations on oil transport fees and that agreement collapsed. However, both countries have been suffering severe financial hardship because of the drop in oil revenues and (in Sudan’s case) loss of oil transport revenue. The two countries agreed to establish a DMZ on January 4. However the final details are not quite settled. That has been the continual story. The two countries reach an agreement on a key issue but the real devil, the details, are not nailed down.
Prices have climbed in Sudan (northern Sudan), especially in the capital, Khartoum. This has led to increasing dissatisfaction with the government and diplomats contend that this is another economy-based reason the Sudanese government has decided to seek an agreement with the south that will increase oil revenues. Sudan also continues to face stiff rebel resistance in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Meanwhile, down south, South Sudan faces several tribal rebellions. South Sudan relies on oil revenue for at least 95 percent of its government budget. So sources say the figure is actually 98 percent but the point is already made: if South Sudan can't export oil, it can’t really do anything. Right now South Sudan is relying on donor support and a growing number of donors are impatient and less generous.
The biggest issue dividing the Sudans is the Abyei region. Both sides claim the area. The UN has a peacekeeping mission in Abyei, UNISFA (UN Interim Security Force in Abyei), which consists of an Ethiopian Army brigade. Abyei is, in some ways, the former Sudan in a micro-cosm. The pro-south and predominantly Christian Dinka Ngok are Abyei’s indigenous tribe but the pro-north and overwhelmingly Muslim Misseriya tribe also claims Abyei residency. The Misseriya are semi-nomadic and claim grazing rights in Abyei. Many Dinka Ngok were driven out of the area during the long Sudanese civil war, which ostensibly ended in 2005. Abyei also has oil resources. So Abyei is the Sudan-South Sudan conflict in a tough nutshell: ethnic/tribal divisions and a legacy of historical conflict, religious differences, and a battle for control of crude oil reserves. (Austin Bay)
January 5, 2013: The African Union is putting together a timetable to establish a demilitarized buffer zone between the two Sudans. Diplomats indicated that the zone could be put in place by January 16 or January 17. Meanwhile, the presidents of South Sudan and Sudan issued statements reaffirming their commitment to establish a demilitarized buffer zone. The countries reached that agreement on January 4. The presidents also said the countries would soon resume oil exports.
January 1, 2013: Sudan officially opened the improved and enlarged Roseire dam on the Blue Nile River after four years of renovations. The rebuilt dam has an increased power-generating capacity. The reservoir has also been enlarged.
December 29, 2012: Darfur rebels in the Sudan Liberation Movement-Abdel Wahid Al-Nur (SLM-AW) faction claimed to have seized the town of Zelo in West Darfur state. This follows an SLM-AW claim that it had killed some 90 Sudanese Army soldiers in a battle near the town of Golo.
December 27, 2012: The Sudanese government claimed that armed fighters from South Sudan had fought with men from a pro-northern tribe, the Rezeigat, near the town of Samaha. The fight took place on December 25. The area is remote. It lies on the border of Sudan’s East Darfur state and South Sudan and the border is disputed. The battle apparently did not involve troops from Sudan or South Sudan.
December 22, 2012: Russia has asked South Sudan to arrest and punish the individuals responsible for shooting down a U helicopter and killing its Russian crew. The helicopter was on a recon mission in South Sudan’s Jonglei state.
December 21, 2012: A Russian-made MI-8 helicopter assigned to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was shot down in South Sudan’s Jonglei state. The helicopter’s four crewmen were all Russians and all were killed in the incident. The UN Secretary General condemned the downing of the helicopter and contended that the helicopter was clearly marked as a UN aircraft. Early reports indicated that the helicopter went down in an area where both UNMISS and South Sudan reported the rebel militia commanded by David Yau Yau is currently operating. UNMISS reported in September that a Sudanese Air Force Antonov transport plane had been spotted in the area. At that time South Sudan claimed that Sudan was providing Yau Yau’s men with weapons and supplies.
The UN’s UNAMID peacekeeping operation in Sudan’s Darfur region reported that it is investigating an incident where a UN peacekeeper shot and killed four other UN peacekeepers. Another peacekeeper was wounded in the incident.
December 20, 2012: The Sudanese government announced that South Kordofan state will be split, creating South Kordofan state and West Kordofan state. West Kordofan existed prior to 2005. The Misseriya tribe will be the dominant ethnic group in West Kordofan.
December 19, 2012: Rebels in the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) said that they would agree to quit fighting the Sudanese government if Sudan agrees to allow humanitarian aid to reach pro-SPLM-N tribes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
December 17, 2012: Sudan announced that it was reinforcing its units in South Kordofan state. The announcement follows a battle around the rebel-held town of Daldako (20 kilometers west of the state capital, Kadugli). On December 14 SPLM-N rebel forces defeated a Sudanese Army attack on Daldako and killed at least 21 Sudanese soldiers.
December 9, 2012: The UN reported that soldiers in the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (South Sudan’s army) shot and killed ten protestors in the town of Wau. The shootings are under investigation.
December 8, 2012: Two Iranian Navy warships have docked in Port Sudan. The Sudanese government called the visit a normal port visit. The government of Israel, however, alleges that Sudan helps Iran smuggle weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah.
December 5, 2012: Sudan’s inflation rate is now at 45 percent. The International monetary Fund estimated that Sudan’s GDP decreased by 11 percent in 2012. The decrease is due to loss of oil export revenue and oil transport fee revenue. The government, however, is claiming that the 2012 GDP will show an increase of slightly over one percent. Who do you believe?
November 28, 2012: The UN reported that South Sudan will need at least one billion dollars in humanitarian aid in 2013.
November 27, 2012: Sudanese forces attacked a Darfur rebel camp in the Samaha district of East Darfur state, not far from the South Sudan border. Sudanese Air Force planes bombed the camp. South Sudan, however, claimed that the bombs landed inside its territory and killed five civilians. Both Sudans claim the Samaha area.