Kenya and South Sudan are proceeding with plans to turn Kenya’s port of Lamu into an oil export terminal. Sudan knows a pipeline to Lamu would give South Sudan an alternative route to world markets. That would do two things; South Sudan would escape the economic stranglehold Sudan has on its oil sales and Sudan would lose the revenue it receives in transport fees. Sudan is already experiencing severe domestic unrest because of cuts in government subsidies for fuel and other essentials. The Sudanese government had to cut the subsidies because it no longer has the oil revenue to support the largesse. South Sudan now controls around 70 percent of “combined” Sudan’s oil production. Though the Sudans are once again talking peace, the domestic economic and political pressure on Khartoum is increasing. In the view of many radicals in President Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP), the only real solution is to seize several South Sudanese oil fields.
November 7, 2013: South Sudan has sent 500 troops to an area near the CAR (Central African Republic) border to seek out and kill members of the Ugandan LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) who have been raiding in the area. Founded in the 1980s in northern Uganda, the LRA became a major problem until it was driven out of Uganda in 2006. LRA had long maintained bases in South Sudan and at times support from the Sudanese government. For the last seven years LRA has operated in Congo and CAR and, occasionally, the new state of South Sudan, which is very hostile to the LRA.
November 6, 2013: A Darfur rebel group, SLA-AK (Sudan Liberation Army-Ali Karbino), released five captured Sudanese Army soldiers. The Red Cross helped facilitate the prisoner hand-over.
November 4, 2013: Sudan announced that it will have to decrease the fuel subsidy in 2014. Ending fuel subsidies was part of an austerity budget the government adopted in 2012. However, the abrupt end of fuel subsidies in September 2013 ignited anti-government demonstrations throughout the country.
November 3, 2013: Rebels ambushed Sudanese troops in Darfur and killed over twenty of them. There were some rebel losses, but not nearly as many as the army suffered.
November 1, 2013: Dinka Ngok residents of the disputed Abyei region have voted to join South Sudan. After trying to get international recognition and failing, the Dinka Ngok went ahead and held their own referendum. According to the vote tabulators, over 99 percent of the Dinka Ngok favor the south. Around 63,500 Dinka Ngok voted in the referendum, out of 65,000 registered voters. The near-unanimous support for joining the south is not a surprise. The Dinka Ngok are culturally and ethnically southerners. Meanwhile, the African Union has declared the vote to be illegal. The Misseriya tribe, the pro-northern semi-nomads who also claim rights to Abyei, called the plebiscite an act of war. Diplomats have told the Dinka elders who organized the referendum that it has only served to incite Sudan and has raised the risk of renewed fighting.
October 29, 2013: Near the end of September the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) announced that it was developing military plans to support the large-scale political protests occurring in Sudan’s major cities. The SRF saw the mass demonstrations against the government’s decision to end fuel subsidies as another indicator that the majority of the people of Sudan would support toppling President Omar al-Bashir and his “Islamic” government. Specifically, the SRF said it wanted to use military means to “enhance” the popular discontent. The Sudanese government responded to the demonstrations vigorously, with police and security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition at the crowds. The total death toll is still disputed, but it is believed to be around 200. Still, the SRF is indicating that next year’s military operations will leverage the September 2013 demonstrations, which the SRF refers to as the September Uprising. The SRF is an umbrella rebel group which includes JEM, The Sudanese rebel alliance, including three groups from Darfur region and the Sudan Peoples Liberation movement-North (SPLM-N, which operates in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states).
October 28, 2013: Sudan said that it intends to try 58 people for their roles in the violent unrest that shook the country the last week of September. The government alleged that the 58 committed acts of subversion and murder.
October 27, 2013: The Dinka Ngok tribe in the Abyei region have begun to vote. The tribe is holding a highly contentious unilateral referendum. The polls will be open for three days. There is little doubt that the Dinka favor joining the south. The Dinka know that the referendum will have no immediate effect, but some of the organizers are convinced that holding it will focus attention on Sudan’s failure to live up to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Abyei was to have a separate referendum to decide if it would remain with Sudan or join South Sudan. Sudan has resisted holding the referendum.
In Darfur another clash between different clans of Misseriya tribemen left at least twenty dead. This tribal feud has been violent for the last few months, leaving nearly 200 dead. The Misseriya are a pro-government Arab tribe that has turned to fighting each other because subsidies (for fighting black African tribes) from the government have been cut in the last few years because the government lost control of the oil in the newly independent South Sudan.
October 20, 2013: A rebel group attacked a village in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, killing 44 people and wounding over 60.
October 15, 2013: Sudan and South Sudan have agreed to simplify trade procedures. The two countries will also eliminate several tariffs. The Sudans have signed several similar bilateral trade and economic agreements
October 14, 2013: Criticism continues in Sudan over the government’s harsh response to the late September economic demonstrations. Everyone agrees that overnight price hikes in fuel (uncontrolled price increases) sparked the demonstrations. Though the price increases have been suspended, government officials are saying the suspension is temporary. The government simply does not have the money to subsidize staple goods. Rebel groups are touting the demonstrations as a signal that the current regime is doomed. The government dismisses the rebel claims. However, a reformist faction has emerged in the ruling National Congress Party. The reformers point out that not only is the government facing a domestic economic crisis, it is fighting two internal wars (Darfur conflict and the war with the SPLM-N in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states). The reformists argue that the current regime has exacerbated the economic crisis and failed to end the rebellions. That’s true. Sudan also faces international economic sanctions, sparked by accusations that the current regime has committed war crimes in Darfur and has supported international terror groups. Those accusations are also valid. Reformists are well and good, but in Sudan the Sudanese military remains the key constituency. Up to now the military has supported Bashir, despite this International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment for war crimes and genocide.