Though Sudan recently declared that it will open negotiations with the Sudan Liberation Front (SRF, the rebel umbrella political organization), the government intends to continue exploiting political, ethnic, tribal and personal divisions among the rebels. The SRF’s three Darfur rebel groups, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Sudan Liberation Army-Abdel Wahid (SLA-AW) and Sudan Liberation Army Mini Minawe (SLA-MM) have managed to cooperate in militarily and politically despite ethnic difference and personal suspicions. SLA-AW commander, Abdel Wahid Nur and SLA-MM commander Mini Minawe have both tried to make their SLA faction the “main line.” The JEM is the largest Darfur rebel group and both SLA factions have thought JEM commanders have neglected their political concerns. The SRF includes other rebel groups in Sudan, with the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement –North (SPLM-N) being the most prominent. When the SPLM-N began fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, the group reached out to the Darfur rebels. Over time, the SPLM-N has served as a unifying force. However, many of the tribes in the SPLM-N have more in common with South Sudanese ethnic groups than they do with the Muslim (and occasionally semi-nomadic) Darfuris. Sudan’s intelligence officers and negotiators know that. They know the personalities, they know their individual objectives, and they know the local issues.
September 29, 2014: China ordered the state owned Chinese firm NORINCO to halt sales of weapons to South Sudan. The first shipment, worth $39 million, arrived in June. China is the largest customer for South Sudan oil but production has been cut by two thirds because of the continuing civil war.
September 27, 2014: The South Sudan government has agreed to the rebel demand for a federal form of government. But now the details of that must be worked out.
September 26, 2014: South Sudan has deployed a battalion of soldiers along the border of Upper Nile state and Sudan. The government claimed that the deployment was a response to the September 20 attack on the town of Renk when Nuer rebels crossed into South Sudan and launched a major attack on the town. South Sudan’s army, Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) units in Renk drove off the attackers and the defeated force fled north into Sudan. The SPLA claimed that Sudan had provided support for the rebel forces but that Sudanese security forces had subsequently disarmed the defeated rebels after they re-entered Sudan territory. A government spokesman described the Renk attack as part of a rebel plan to seize an Upper Nile state oil field.
September 25, 2014: China said that it will send another 700 soldiers to South Sudan to serve in the UN’s UNMISS (UN Mission in South Sudan) peacekeeping mission. The troops will conduct both humanitarian and security operations. The new unit will be an infantry battalion which will arrive with its light infantry weapons and some light armored vehicles. This marks the first time China has contributed a non-engineer combat unit to a peacekeeping mission. China has deployed army engineers (combat engineers) to support peacekeeping operations, but they have been assigned non-combat missions. China currently has 350 soldiers serving with UNMISS.
In another shift in stated policy, Sudan announced that it will hold ceasefire negotiations with the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). The negotiations will begin October 12. The African Union (AU) will sponsor the negotiations. On several previous occasions Sudan has hinted that it would discuss a separate, permanent ceasefire in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states with a key member of the SRF, the SPLM-N. Sudan has been reluctant to negotiate with the SRF coalition, preferring to treat the various rebel groups in the SRF as discrete problems rather than elements of a national problem. (Austin Bay)
September 24, 2014: East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) sponsored ceasefire implementation and transitional government discussions between the South Sudan government and the rebels (led by former vice-president Riek Machar) have stalled. IGAD is trying to hammer out a new interim power sharing agreement. The rebels rejected an earlier IGAD proposal that would have made Kiir head of the government during the two and a half-year long transitional period.
South Sudan acknowledged that many residents of the town of Bor (Jonglei state) who fled fighting there in December and January have not been able to return. Bor suffered a great deal of destruction during the fighting. The army said that security in the area remains “fragile.”
September 23, 2014: The SRF announced that it will hold a conference open to all opposition forces in Sudan. The purpose of the “all-parties conference” is to frame a unified opposition political program. The SRF is advocating a “national constitutional process” within Sudan and a “comprehensive peace process” to end the civil war in Darfur, Blue Nile state and South Kordofan state.
September 22, 2014: Sudan police and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents arrested several dozen opposition political activists (most of them in the Khartoum area). The government warned the activists and their supporters that they will not be allowed to hold vigils and ceremonies commemorating the September 2013 protests. Reaction to an increase in fuel prices (actually, an end of fuel subsidies by the government) triggered the demonstrations. Government security personnel fired on the demonstrators. The government claimed that 85 protestors were killed. Opposition and human rights organizations said over 200 people were killed.
September 20, 2014: A major battle broke out between South Sudan rebels and the government near the town of Renk (Upper Nile state). Some believed this was an intentional ceasefire violation designed to frustrate or end negotiations. Negotiators said the battle is a definite violation of the January 23 South Sudan cessation of hostilities agreement.
September 19, 2014: The American government has placed additional sanctions on South Sudan government and rebel officials. The latest political and financial sanctions target a government military commander and a senior rebel commander. Major General Santino Deng Wol (SPLA) and Major General James Koang Chuol (rebel officer in the SPLM-in-Opposition) are accused of conducting operations prolonging South Sudan’s civil war. According to the U.S., Wol has “expanded the conflict and obstructed peace” by ordering his soldiers to attack rebels in the towns of Tor Abyad, Wang Kai and Mayom. Koang is accused of ordering his soldiers to attack civilians in Unity state, to attack schools and hospitals and to use “sexual violence” against civilians.
September 14, 2014: The government of Libya once again accused Sudan of providing extremist Islamist militias and terror groups in Libya with weapons. Libya’s prime minister rejected Sudan’s claim that it is not supplying these groups. Libya claimed that the Sudanese transport plane which entered Libyan air space on September 7 and landed at Tripoli, was loaded with weapons at an airfield in Sudan.
September 12, 2014: Sudan denied that it will hold discussions to end all hostilities within the country. Sudan is willing to negotiate separate ceasefire agreements in Blue Nile, South Kordofan and the Darfur region. The government argued that individual ceasefire agreements are a confidence building measure. The SRF has proposed negotiations to end all fighting in Sudan.
September 11, 2014: South Sudan said that Sudan’s decision to include the disputed Abyei region in its 2015 national elections violates the joint administration agreement currently controlling the area. Sudan is still angry that the pro-south Dinka Ngok tribe conducted a “community referendum” in May 2013 to determine Dinka preferences for Abyei. Dinka voters overwhelmingly (99 percent) favored becoming part of South Sudan. What Sudan appears to be proposing, however, is to treat pro-north Misseriya tribal people in Abyei as northern voters.
September 9, 2014: Aid groups began another round of emergency airdrops (parachute delivery) of food. The rainy season has made many roads impassable and sporadic fighting between government and rebel forces continues. Airdrops have occurred in South Sudan’s Jonglei and Upper Nile states. However, aid groups are reporting that the food crisis may be receding. New food supplies are arriving in South Sudan. The rains may impede ground transport, but they also break the drought conditions. Farmers will soon be able to raise crops.
September 8, 2014: Libya accused Sudan of providing Islamist terror groups in Libya with weapons. The Libyan government claimed that Sudan had supplied a rebel force in eastern Libya (near Tobruk) with weapons. On September 7 a Sudanese transport plane entered Libyan airspace and landed at an airport near Tripoli that is under the control of an extremist Islamist militia. Libya then expelled a Sudanese diplomat (military attaché).