UN officials are loudly denying any responsibility for the failure of of some UN peacekeepers to protect civilians during the February 2016 incident at Malakal (Upper Nile state). A UN investigation concluded that some peacekeepers wfailed to do what was expected of them. The report used more diplomatic language but it was clear that UN leaders are claiming that they have no responsibility for the performance of peacekeepers hired and paid for by the UN. The money comes from donations by member states, who are also responsible for selecting the officials who supervise these peacekeeping missions. Contingents from three nations were deployed in Malakal: Rwanda, Ethiopia and India. Soldiers from all three countries are generally regarded as good peacekeepers. The Ethiopians and Indians are often rated as excellent. But they weren’t excellent in Malakal. The UN decided to punish some of the soldiers by “repatriating” the soldiers and their commanders -- in other words, sending them home in shame. So far the units and commanders have not been named, at least in public. However, when they go back home, everyone will know. Is that sufficient punishment? We will see. The UN needs India, Ethiopia and Rwanda to continue to provide troops for peacekeeping operations. However, they must be reliable, trained soldiers who will act. The investigators initial report was released on June 22. The assault consisted of a series of attacks from February 17 to February 18. Some violent attacks occurred inside the UN compound, which was designated a UN Protection of Civilians (POC) compound. Some thirty civilians were killed (perhaps more, some sources say 40) and 123 injured (many of casualties were hit by gunfire). Investigators found that some of the dead were slain when the attackers entered the UN compound --in other words, they were killed in full view of peacekeepers. The refugee camp suffered heavy damage, but selective damage. Investigators determined that many houses in the camp were “selectively torched” based on the tribe of the people living in the house. In other words, the attackers had time to find out who lived where. The finding is in line with an NGO report that some of the killing and burning was “systematic.” The destruction at the camp was so severe that over 20,000 refugees were left without shelter. Investigators concluded that some peacekeepers in Malakal failed to respond to the attacks on the civilians -- and protecting civilians was one of there primary missions. One peacekeeping troop contingent abandoned its post on the refugee camp’s eastern perimeter. The peacekeepers also demonstrated they did not understand the rules of engagement. The report did note that the UN force in Malakal did not have the personnel to provide complete protection to the 48,000 refugees in the town.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is once again considering sanctioning leaders of both factions in South Sudan.It is awkward to refer to them as warring factions since they now co-exist in a transitional government. However, the UN is responding to reports of renewed violence in Wau state involving the South Sudan army, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA). (Austin Bay)
June 26, 2016: The South Sudan government has cancelled the nation’s Independence Day celebration scheduled for July 9. Why? No funds for it. The country is in the midst of a financial crisis.
June 24, 2016: Fighting that began on June 15 when a group of gunmen overran the town of Raja has spread to the nearby city of Wau (now in the new state of Wau, which is part of what was Western Bahr el Ghazal state). South Sudanese troops engaged what the government now calls an unnamed armed group. Initial reports suggested the enemy belonged to the JEM rebels from Darfur in western Sudan. The government has now declared a state of emergency in Wau state. Aid agencies reported that several thousand people have fled the city. The UN is sending more peacekeepers in and called on the government and the rebels to end the fighting.
June 23, 2016: China continues to deploy more troops to the UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan and South Sudan. There are about 230 Chinese troops in South Sudan and about a thousand in Sudan. A Chinese infantry battalion (700 men) is stationed near South Sudan’s capital, Juba. A reinforced engineer company of 300 is operating near the city of Wau. However, China is once again receiving criticism for what rebels and aid groups call preferential support for the South Sudan and Sudan governments. Both of these nations supply China with oil. The Chinese government has majority ownership in three of the five major oil consortiums operating in Sudan and South Sudan. At least one Darfur rebel group has threatened to attack Chinese troops over perceived favoritism, though as yet no specific attacks have occurred.
June 22, 2016: The UN thanked Sudan for agreeing to halt attacks for four months in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. In April the rebels (the SRF) announced a unilateral six-month long ceasefire in both states.
In South Sudan deep tribal antagonism continues to create political friction. The First Vice President (the former rebel leader) rejected allegations by a supporter of president (who the rebels were fighting against) that the rebel leader only appointed members of his Dok Nuer clan to key political posts.
June 21, 2016: Six gunmen in military uniforms ambushed a car in the disputed (between Sudan and South Sudan) Abyei region. The attack killed three people and wounded two. The car was traveling toward a market town in the northern half of Abyei (towards Sudan). The attackers left the wounded and stole the vehicle.
Authorities in Sudan’s Central Darfur state reported gunmen killed five people and wounded 13 in a series of attacks carried near Central Darfur state’s capital. The attackers are believed to be members of a pro-government Janjaweed militia. The attackers were mounted on camels, horses and motorcycles. They also had a four-wheel drive vehicle to carry loot. The gunmen looted numerous houses in the area
June 20, 2016: Sudan has agreed to let Saudi Arabia lease and cultivate about 440,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) of land. The lease runs for 99 years. The lease deal includes rights to irrigation water. The precise details, however, are secret. Several members of Sudan’s parliament have objected to the confidentiality. They want the agreement to be renegotiated in 20 to 25 years.
June 19, 2016: The Sudan government is claiming that it is observing its own cessation of hostilities agreement in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Meanwhile, the main rebel movement in the states, the SPLM-N, is calling for negotiations. Ethiopia is prepared to host negotiations. The SPLM-N declared a unilateral cessation of hostilities in April 2016.
June 18, 2016: In Sudan government forces unexpectedly advanced yesterday in South Kordofan state seized a major rebel (SPLM-N) position yesterday. That was a day before the new cessation of hostilities agreement in South Kordofan takes effect. The rebel position was near the town of Kauda, which is a major rebel stronghold.
Members of South Sudan’s opposition (SPLM-IO, led by the current First Vice President) rejected accusations that its forces were involved in the June 15 attack on the town of Raja (Lol state). The state governor, a supporter of the president, accused the SPLM-IO of being involved in the attack. So far no group has taken responsibility for the assault.
June 17, 2016: It’s something of a flip. The UN has released figures that indicate Sudan has 232,000 refugees from South Sudan. The refugees fled fighting in the civil war that began in December 2013. Usually the focus is on Sudanese refugees who have fled to South Sudan. The UN report said that 71,000 South Sudanese arrived in Sudan between January 1, 2016 and the end of May 2016. Most of the new arrivals are in camps in Sudan’s East Darfur state. This means Sudan has as many South Sudanese refugees as Ethiopia, perhaps slightly more. Ethiopia officially has 230,000. Kenya has 57,000. Uganda has 202,000.
June 16, 2016: Aid workers operating in Sudan’s Blue Nile state has estimated that the Sudanese Air Force has dropped over 4,000 bombs on SPLM-N controlled areas in the state and that 69 bombs were dropped from May 6 to May 12, 2016.
June 15, 2016: An unidentified group of gunmen attacked the town of Raja (capital of the new state of Lol). The governor of Lol has fled the town. The attackers may belong to the JEM Sudan Darfur rebels, which allegedly has a base camp not far from Raja.
June 14, 2016: UN peacekeepings officials believe that Sudan’s Darfur region remainsl unstable and recommend that the African Union-UN peacekeeping oprtsyion continue for another year not be reduced. Earlier this year senior UN officials suggested reducing the size of that forces.. Some 2.6 million Darfuris are still displaced.
Apparently some South Sudan troops attacked and plundered a civilian market in Kajokeji County (Central Equatoria state) leaving twenty dead. The unit was known to be loyal to the president.
June 13, 2016: The pre-peaced deal by the South Sudan government form 28 states from South Sudan’s original ten continues to cause major problems in the transitional government. One issue is how to pay for the new civil servants. Oil royalty income has plummeted. Tribal favoritism remains the biggest issue. A member of the former rebel SPLM-IO accused the president of giving jobs in the new states to members of his Dinka tribe.
June 12, 2016: The Sudan government has promised to provide South Sudan with important geological information regarding oil and valuable minerals. The two Sudans recently signed several mutual cooperation agreements. One dealt with exploiting and developing minerals.
June 6, 2016: Sudan and South Sudan have signed a series of new security agreements. One authorizes the immediate deployment of a joint military force long the border -- the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ). The two countries have also agreed to stop rebel groups from using their territory. If that sounds awkward, what it means is South Sudan will try to do a better job of denying its territory to Sudanese rebel groups and Sudan will try to do a better job of denying its territory to South Sudanese rebels.
June 5, 2016: A new contingent of 300 British combat engineers arrived in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. The British engineers will operate as two separate engineer squadrons (reinforced companies) to work on some infrastructure projects but also provide training assistance.
June 4, 2016: The Sudan government and two Darfuri rebel groups have agreed to hold negotiations in Chad. The rebel groups are the SLMJ and the SLM-SR.
June 3, 2016: A senior Catholic bishop who formerly had a diocese in Sudan’s Nuba Mountain region has demanded that the Sudan government cease aerial bombing attacks in the region. The retired bishop claimed that Sudanese Air Force aircraft attacked a town in Heiban County (South Kordofan state) on May 18 and destroyed a Catholic school. The Sudanese Air Force dropped 15 bombs in that attack and three struck the school. On May 26 a Sudanese fighter jet fired a missile that hit the school compound and hit the school library. In other words, the attacks were deliberate, not incidental.
June 1, 2016: The Sudan government has decided that it will not participate in the African Union-sponsored effort to find and destroy the Lords Resistance Army (RA). The Sudan government claimed that the Ugandan rebel LRA does not operate in its territory. The claim flies in the face of numerous reports that LRA senior commander Joseph Kony has a hiding place in southwestern Sudan (possibly the Kafia Kingi area). Uganda has accused Sudan of supplying and financing the LRA. In fact, 15 years ago Uganda claimed that Sudanese intelligence services kept the LRA alive. Sudan now claims that it has nothing to do with the LRA
May 31, 2016: The Sudan government claimed that its forces had driven a contingent of SPLM-N rebels from the Jebel Kilgu area in Blue Nile state. An SPLM-N spokesman denied the claim.