Reviving Sudan after three decades of corrupt dictatorship is challenging the leaders who led the mass public revolt to topple “leader for life” Omar al Bashir. The revolution drew many of its most influential leaders from the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an association of doctors, engineers (and other technocrats), educators and administrators. The SPA aligned with anti-Bashir opposition groups, many of them with members Bashir had jailed. The coalition ultimately became the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change (FDFC). Media often refer to the FDFC as the FFC (Forces for Freedom and Change.) In August the FFC and Transitional Military Council (TMC, military leaders who toppled Bashir) agreed to an interim constitution and formed the Sovereign Council. The Sovereign Council has 11 members, five military, five civilian and the eleventh member (sixth civilian member) elected by the Council. In this case, the eleventh member elected was Raja Nicola Abdel-Messih, a female Coptic Christian judge. Per the interim agreement, the military leads the Council for the first 21 months of the transitional period, civilians for the last 18 months of the 39 month period. In late August, economist Abdalla Hamdok was sworn in as prime minister and he formed a government. By September 10 Hamdok had a cabinet of 18 people with expertise, which was unusual for a Sudan government. The cabinet included Sudan’s first female foreign minister, Asma Abdullah.
Smooth sailing? No. It appears the military and civilian members of the Sovereign Council have sharp disagreements over some fundamental issues, which isn’t a surprise. For example, how does the Sovereign Council go about creating the Transitional Legislative Council? This parliament is not supposed to have more than 300 members and none of the members can be members (or former members) of Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP). The no NCP members grates on military officers with NCP connections. Also, the FFC is supposed to have 67 percent of the legislative seats with other opposition parties having the rest. The Sovereign Council has yet to decide how to divvy up the other legislative seats. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. The transfer of power from the Sovereign Council to the democratic government is supposed to occur by the end of 2022. (Austin Bay)
Some dismal statistics help describe the terrible suffering in South Sudan, much of it attributable to the civil war that began in December 2013. Best estimates are that since mid-December 2013 slightly over 400,000 people died as a result of the war. Four million have been displaced. The generally accepted death estimate by September 2018 was 383,000 to 385,000. A study by an independent medical group concluded warfare had killed 382,900 people. Violent action (combat, atrocity, etc.) accounted for half the deaths. Population displacement, which can lead to death by exposure, lack of medicine and health care, and malnutrition killed the other half. The current 400,000-plus figure indicates that warfare has killed some 20,000 people since the September 2018 peace agreement. Aid groups collected data on displacement in South Sudan and reported continued fighting displaced 135,000 from January to June 2019. Aid workers believed “inter-communal violence”, often a euphemism for ethnic-based or tribal conflict, caused most of the displacement. For example, the fighting in the south (Central Equatoria state) from January through October 2019, was largely ethnic-based. Tribal affiliation is still a big deal in South Sudan.
South Sudan’s 2019 population is estimated at between 11.2 and 12 million. That suggests the civil war has killed around 3.5 percent of the population. That calculation is a rough measure of the slaughter. The population in 2014 was around ten million. Use that figure and the death toll is four percent. In late October foreign aid officials estimated 4.54 million people in South Sudan were “Acutely Food Insecure”. That is they are confronting immediate food shortages and will remain so through the end of 2019. The index the UN uses to measures physical availability of food in a region includes measuring people’s access to food, the ability to utilize supplies available, including water quality and stability of supplies. This severity of need is calculated to fit one of five phases. Most of South Sudan’s Acutely Food Insecure are Phase 3 (food crisis, inadequate supplies). However, about 30 of South Sudan’s 183 counties are Phase 4 (food emergency, acute malnutrition and excess mortality). Do the math. On a daily basis, 41 percent of the country faces starvation. (Austin Bay)
November 9, 2019: In South Sudan, the government and rebels agreed to extend the deadline for establishing a government (currently November 12) by a hundred days. The two sides are deadlocked about how to organize the country. The government wants 30 states while the rebels want ten. There are many other details that are not resolved.
November 5, 2019: Basic requirements for South Sudan’s national unity government, as established by the September 2018 peace agreement, have not been met. The so-called Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU, also TGNU) would be formed on the 12th of November 2019. A non-governmental organization promoting mediation in South Sudan recently reported 60 percent of “pre-transitional requirements” have been implemented, but noted key security and political requirements had not been fulfilled. The military “integration of the forces” requirement has lagged. The government in Juba and the rebel coalition led by the SPLM-IO have not resolved their differences on the number of South Sudan’s constituent states and their boundaries. According to the September 2018 agreement, by Fall 2019 at least 41,500 soldiers from the government army and rebel forces were to be housed in barracks and engaged in training with the goal of creating a unified national army. The 41,500 figure included a 3,000-member VIP (Very Important Person) protection force. The failure to meet the security and political structure conditions is one reason the opposition coalition does not want to form the TGNU on November 12. However, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has said he intends to form the TGNU on November 12, and he repeated that vow today.
Egypt confirmed it will build or modernize 609 kilometers of railroad track to improve railway connections between Egypt and Sudan. The railway will run from Abu Simbel/Aswan (southern Egypt) to Abu Hamad (eastern Sudan). The project has been discussed for several years but was formally proposed in 2018. Egypt wants to upgrade Sudan’s narrow-gauge rail (100 centimeters/39 inches) to the Egyptian standard 143 centimeters (56 inches).
November 4, 2019: Peace negotiations between Sudan’s Sovereign Council transitional government and key armed movements will reconvene November 21 in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. Two major armed movements called the Juba mediation a “last chance” to form a united Sudan. Several armed groups argue the FFC is not recognizing their legitimate interests. They are delighted former president Bashir is in prison but do not trust the Sovereign Council’s military members.
November 3, 2019: In eastern Sudan (al Jazirah province), protestors in the city of Wad Madani demanded that the government disband the National Congress Party, former dictator Bashir’s party. The local chapter of the Sudanese Professionals Association sponsored the demonstration.
China launched Sudan’s first space satellite. The Sudan Remote Sensing Satellite (SRSS-1) will be used for military and economic purposes. It will “research space technology” and identify natural resources (presumably in Sudan) that can be used for defense purposes.
October 31, 2019: The UN extended the presence of the Darfur peacekeeping force through October 31, 2020. Current troop and police strength levels will remain unchanged through March 31, 2020. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has vowed to settle the Darfur conflict, which has been going on since early 2003.
Sudan’s Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi announced his country has agreed to structural reforms required by the World Bank, the IMF and the African Development Bank. Elbadawi called the process and means of “rehabilitating” Sudan.
Sudan’s Sovereign Council announced that the government has withdrawn “up to 10,000” Sudanese soldiers from Yemen. Withdrawn – not will withdraw. The government does not favor sending replacement forces. There were reports of incremental withdrawals in October. The forces sent were RSF (Rapid Support Force) militia and Saudi Arabia paid well for the Sudanese to be in Yemen. The RSF has been responsible for a lot of the bad behavior (war crimes and other atrocities) in Darfur.
October 30, 2019: South Sudanese opposition parties called for a six month delay in forming the TGNU.
In southern South Sudan, foreign aid groups suspended Ebola virus screening operations in five locations in Central Equatoria state near South Sudan’s border with Congo and Uganda. The aid groups said the recent murder of three medical workers showed the area is too dangerous. Personnel have been withdrawn from Isebi, Bazi, Kirikwa, Lasu and Okaba. The October 27 attack resulted in a woman volunteer and the son of one of the murder victims being kidnapped. One male volunteer was wounded by gunfire. Two others suffered minor injuries. Since 2013 115 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan.
October 29, 2019: In southern South Sudan (Yei River state) rebel and pro-government have been fighting each other for the last three days. This area has been a battleground, involving these same factions, for years. The pro-government South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF) accused the rebel National Salvation Front (NAS) of attacking SSDF positions in Isebi on October 27 and 28. NAS accused government forces of attacking its positions on October 27 and 28. The NAS claimed it killed 17 pro-government fighters in the battles then pursued an SSDF unit.
In neighboring Central Equatoria state, there was also fighting between the NAS and the SSDF that left at least 13 people dead. Three of the people killed were volunteers for a UN agency who were caught in a cross-fire of a battle near the Yei River.
October 22, 2019: Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi said that Sudan must have access to IMF and World Bank funds. Recent discussions with U.S. officials about removing Sudan from the U.S. terrorist list have been encouraging. Sudan needs a lot of help. In 2018 its per capita GDP (US dollars) was $977.30.
October 17, 2019: In Sudan, the government declared a cease-fire in all war zones throughout the country. The announcement is an attempt to restart negotiations with the SPLM-N rebels, who have been active in the south since 2011 in a region known as the Two Areas (Blue Nile and South Kordofan states). This rebel group broke off negotiations after government aircraft attacked a rebel area followed by a a ground attack that killed a tribal chief.
October 16, 2019: In Sudan, the SPLM-N suspended peace negotiations. Rebel negotiators said the government cannot be trusted to uphold the cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed in September.
October 15, 2019: In Sudan, the Sovereign Council announced it has begun peace talks with the SPLM-N.
October 14, 2019: In western Sudan, there were several firefights between SLA rebels and soldiers.
October 11, 2019: The U.S. said it may impose individual sanctions on members of South Sudan’s ruling elite if the leaders fail to form a unity government by mid-November. The sanctions would involve travel bans and freezing financial assets.
October 10, 2019: Sudan’s Sovereign Council named Neemat Abdullah Mohamed Khair as the country’s first-ever chief justice. Her appointment puts another woman in a senior government position,
October 9, 2019: In Sudan, the prime minister (PM) continues to practice fast-paced diplomacy. Since late September the PM has met with the UN and African Union to discuss peace initiatives in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. At least one member of the Sovereign Council government is meeting today with senior officials from the UN peacekeepers in Darfur.
October 7, 2019: South Sudan says it must renegotiate its oil transport deal with Sudan because it cannot meet the deadline to pay off the compensation agreement agreed upon in 2012. When South Sudan became independent it got most of Sudan’s oil fields. South Sudan had agreed to pay Sudan $3 billion as compensation. So far it has paid back around $2.4 billion. The remaining $600 million is due at the end of December 2019. South Sudan is making it clear it will eventually pay off the debt, but the civil war made consistent oil production impossible.
October 6, 2019: The total number of South Sudanese refugees in Sudan is 859,286. Some contend the figure is higher, arguing 1.2 million is more accurate.
October 4, 2019: South Sudan continues its efforts to bring oil fields back into production – it desperately needs the oil revenue. However, there are many problems. The war damaged numerous fields and the equipment servicing those fields. In late October a pipeline in Unity state ruptured and created a substantial pollution problem. South Sudan has hired foreign repair teams, including several from Russia, to repair pipelines. The Greater Pioneer Operating Company (GPOC) consortium helped contain an oil spill in Unity state. GPOC is owned by owned by China's National Petroleum Corporation, Malaysia's Petronas, India's ONGC Videsh and South Sudan's government-owned Nile Petroleum Corporation.