Sudan: Sudan Slides Towards Civil War


April 5, 2019: Sudanese security forces in the capital (Khartoum) fired tear gas at demonstrators chanting what has become the protestor mantra, “Freedom! Peace! Justice!” Protests took place in the next largest city (Omdurman) and riot police there also used tear gas. The protests began December 19, 2018. Initially, public anger at government reductions in food and fuel subsidies sparked the unrest but Sudan’s weak economy and president-for-life Bashir’s misrule (especially corruption) are the real sources of disgust. The economy has suffered considerably because of the loss of revenue from South Sudan’s oil fields (courtesy of South Sudan’s independence). Some protestors have focused on the Bashir’s huge spending on the military and security services while neglecting basic government services. President Bashir also faces indictments by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide in Darfur. Little wonder removing Bashir has become the demonstrators’ principal demand. Protests continue throughout the country. Their intensity increases then ebbs, then increases again. The protests appear to have support from nearly all ethnic groups and economic sectors of Sudanese society. Since January 1, the government has arrested several hundred protestors (one source estimates 1,000). Many of these individuals have been released but there are reports that several dozen protestors have not been released and the government offers no information about their detention. These are accusations but this has happened in the past.

April 4, 2019: Sudan rejected allegations by Eritrea that Sudan had conspired with Qatar and Turkey to overthrow Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki. Eritrea claimed that these nations are backing a radical group called the Eritrean Scholars League.

April 4, 2019: South Sudan’s SPLM-IO rebels have asked IGAD (East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development) to release rebel leader Riek Machar from protective confinement in Sudan. IGAD sent Machar to the Sudan capital to protect him until South Sudan’s transitional unity government was in place. South Sudan’s transitional unity government is supposed to coalesce by May 2019. However, one of the major benchmarks has yet to happen: unification of the national army. President Kiir and long-time rival Machar are still arguing over shared security control of the capital (Juba), which is one reason IGAD sent Machar to Sudan. Diplomats from several nations are arguing for a “third-party protection force” to protect opposition leaders like Machar.

April 3, 20189: In South Sudan, members of the committee preparing for implementing the transitional government indicate that progress is being made by Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC). If so, it’s incremental. The IBC is tasked with determining tribal boundaries (always dicey) and then settling on the number of states in South Sudan. In 2014 the president Kiir unilaterally carved up South Sudan’s ten states and created new states. This was one of the factors that caused former vice president Machar to lead a rebellion.

April 1, 2019: In South Sudan, NGOs operating in the country issued new estimates on civil war casualties. At least 400,000 died and four million people are currently displaced.

March 31, 2019: In Sudan, President Bashir admitted protestors had “legitimate” economic demands though he deplored protestors who use “unlawful ways and have destroyed national properties.” Bashir acknowledged “The economic crisis has impacted a wide section of our people.” That’s a huge comedown for the dictator who seized power in a military coup in 1989. He also promised “to boost the National Dialogue initiative,” which is his supposed national reconciliation program.

March 26, 2019: East of the South Sudan capital (Juba), disputes over land rights left at least 27 dead and a dozen injured. Apparently, a similar battle occurred in the area on or around March 18 in a dispute over grazing rights and water rights that left 18 dead.

March 24, 2019: In southern South Sudan (Yei River state), rebels led by a rogue general (Thomas Cirillo) fought with soldiers. Cirillo claims to lead an insurgency and he is not part of the peace process.

March 21, 2019: Sudan protested Egypt's call for oil and gas exploration bids in the Red Sea offshore from the disputed Halayeb triangle. Both countries claim Halayeb which is currently under Egyptian control.

March 18, 2019: Russia announced it will continue to support Sudanese president Bashir.

March 17, 2019: In South Sudan, if it looks corrupt it probably is. Accusations that the state-owned oil company (Nile Petroleum) has paid government officials a salary continue. It isn't a salary, it is graft. Those accusations first appeared in early 2018. Now the UN says there’s evidence the state-owned oil company is funding the National Security Service (which runs the federal police, special police and special security forces.)

March 14, 2019: In Sudan, opposition politicians and foreign NGOs openly support the nationwide protests against the government. They argue that the longer the government delays political and economic reform the more likely Sudan will experience greater instability – and slide closer to civil war. A low-grade civil war already exists in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

March 13, 2019: In Sudan, several foreign NGOs protested the government’s harsh crackdown on street protestors, journalists and opposition political leaders. The rights groups characterized the government treatment of its critics as “violent.” American officials are using similar language. The United States accused Sudan of using “official violence” to break up peaceful protests and intimidate peaceful protestors. In February Sudan declared a state of emergency. Critics of Sudan claim that violent repression has increased since the state of emergency went into effect.


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