Date: Wednesday, 02 January 2019
It’s a sad New Year prediction, but diplomats in East Africa fear new fighting will erupt in South Sudan during 2019 and drive even more refugees into Uganda, Sudan and Kenya. This would repeat what happened in 2018. The UN doesn’t think there will be a complete breakdown of the IGAD (East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development) sponsored South Sudan peace agreement. That came close to happening in 2018. However, the power-sharing agreement signed on September 12, 2018, is very shaky. There is also a new figure for total human deaths since the South Sudan civil war began on December 15, 2013: 383,000 – right at 400,000. That is based on extrapolation from evidence gathered in the last two years. Tribal wars can exact a horrible death toll. Think Rwanda 1994. (Austin Bay)
December 28, 2018: In Sudan opponents of president Bashir held more large protest demonstrations in the capital and other major cities. Many of these demonstrations included thousands of people. The demonstrations are reminiscent of the “bread protests” of 2017 and early 2018. During those episodes, opposition parties accused government security forces of attacking and beating demonstrators in the capital. Security forces are once again clashing with demonstrators in late 2018 and it is believed 37 people have died so far in the protests that began on December 19. A volunteer medical group alleged government snipers wounded two doctors and a medical student who were participating in a demonstration and are still hospitalized. Government opponents reported police used tear gas to break up a demonstration in Omdurman (outside the capital). Opposition political leaders have been arrested in the capital and elsewhere. The leader of the opposition Al Oumma Party accused the government of deliberately using violence against demonstrators. The government is now worried that the protests will continue and expand. President Bashir is calling demonstrators “traitors and foreign agents.” Language like that indicates Bashir may think he faces a possible civil war. There are reports that during the last week protesters in the east, Atbara and Port Sudan (Red Sea state), started calling for the overthrow of the Bashir government. The protestors intentionally employed chants similar to those used in 2011 during the Arab Spring revolts – especially in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Sudan borders on Libya and Egypt. (Austin Bay)
December 27, 2018: In Sudan, a group of medical doctors announced they will participate in an “indefinite strike” to show their support for demonstrators. The doctors’ professional union has already called for the president to resign. A group of Sudanese journalists announced they would also have a work stoppage for three days. The journalists are protesting the government harassment of opposition press sources and arrests of reporters on fabricated evidence.
In central South Sudan (Lakes state), six people were killed and 17 wounded in a series of tribal clashes. This began with a cattle raid that led to sustained fighting between Palchang raiders from neighboring Tonj state who were out to steal cattle owned by Pakam tribesmen.
December 26, 2018: In South Sudan, opposition forces remain fragmented. The current leader of the NDM faction said he and his organization continue to support Peter Gadet being chairman of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA, an opposition umbrella group). Gadet was elected in November by other members of the SSOA board despite major objections by other South Sudanese opposition factions.
December 25, 2018: In Sudan (the capital), it is not a Merry Christmas. The official government news agency reported the president Bashir accused anti-government protesters of being (quote) "traitors and foreign agents" who are committing “sabotage” on behalf of Sudan’s enemies.
December 22, 2018: In Sudan (the capital), demonstrations continue and now have a definite anti-government tinge. Protestors have added another grievance to their complaints about rising food and fuel prices: president Bashir’s long grip on power in Sudan. In 1989 he seized power in a military coup. Bashir is also under indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity and committing genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region. (Austin Bay)
December 20, 2018: In northeastern Sudan (Atbara State), protestors in set fire to the building housing the offices of president Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party.
December 19, 2018: In Sudan (the capital) several hundred demonstrators protested price rises, shortages of food, fuel and medicine, and the devaluation of Sudan’s currency. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) recently estimated Sudan’s annual inflation rate is around 70 percent. The government recently raised the price of bread and that had an impact on a lot of people.
In Yemen, Iran backed Shia rebels condemned Sudan for agreeing to send more troops to Yemen to support the Saudi Arabian-led pro-government coalition.
December 18, 2018: In Sudan, the government accused the SPLM-N rebels of delaying the delivery of food and other aid. This is a turnabout because it the past it was usually the government forces that were delaying food and medical aid deliveries to rebel-controlled areas in central Sudan (South Kordofan state) and the southeast (Blue Nile state). These two states are often referred to as the “Two Areas” because rebels have been active there for so long. The government also accused the SPLM-N al Hilu faction of taking civilian hostages and denying children vaccinations against disease. The SPLM-N responded by saying the rebels want food and other aid delivered through the appropriate aid corridors – which amounted to accusing the government of re-routing or diverting aid convoys.
December 15, 2018: South Sudan today marks five years of civil war. An estimated 400,000 people have died in the conflict, most from disease, hunger or exposure. The UN calls South Sudan is Africa’s largest refugee crisis. The war began after the South Sudan president fired his senior vice-president. The president accused the senior vice president of plotting a coup. Fighting erupted in the capital, Juba, as Dinka tribe members of the presidential guard attacked Nuer tribe soldiers who supported the senior vice president. President Kiir belongs to the dominant Dinka tribe (15 percent of the population) while Machar is a Nuer (10 percent), the largest of over fifty smaller tribes that accused the Dinka of taking more than their fair share of the goodies. South Sudan is a poor country but it does have some oil (five billion barrels, worth nearly $300 billion at current prices). Getting access to oil money often encourages political rivals to cooperate so that the oil can be pumped, shipped and sold. Yet South Sudan, even with oil income, is still an economic disaster.
December 11, 2018: In Sudan, the black market value of the local currency (the Sudanese pound) is now about 60 to the dollar. Sudan’s official exchange rate is 47.5 pounds to the dollar.
December 10, 2018: In western Sudan (Darfur), two rebel groups (JEM and SLM-MM), announced they will sign a ceasefire agreement sometime in January 2019. Sudan and the two groups met in Germany and signed what diplomats called “a pre-negotiation agreement.” The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) will serve as the basis for further negotiations. The Sudanese government has agreed to construct at least 70 villages to house Darfur returnees, which is a major incentive for the rebels to agree to a peace deal.
December 9, 2018: In Sudan, AU (African Union) officials have begun a series of negotiations to determine who has to agree to what to achieve peace in Sudan. A peace “Roadmap Agreement” was signed in March 2016 that contained some of the goals the government and rebel groups said were important to them. The AU is focusing on producing a political agreement that will end the wars in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
December 6, 2018: In South Sudan, the government is facing a lawsuit accusing members of the South Sudan army and the presidential guard of raping 30 women and girls. The suit was filed in Geneva, Switzerland by foreign lawyers on behalf of the 30 victims. Success in this lawsuit could lead to further charges against senior members of the South Sudan government and armed forces.
December 5, 2018: In Sudan, doctors and clinic officials are telling news media that local pharmacies are rapidly exhausting supplies of medicine. The doctors blame the government’s financial mismanagement. The government does not have sufficient hard currency to buy imported drugs. The Sudan government currently owes somewhere between $55 billion and $60 billion, roughly 120 percent of annual GDP.
December 3, 2018: In western Sudan (Darfur), the UN-AU peacekeeper force reported that 16,000 people have been displaced due to fighting in the Jebel Marra and in central Darfur. The clashes between government forces and rebels began in September. The peacekeeper statement did not mention a rebel group by name. The government’s RSF paramilitary forces operate in the area. The primary rebel group in Jebel Marra is SLM-AW.
December 2, 2018: in South Sudan, a four-year field study by a British group alleges that several of South Sudan’s neighbors have helped evade arms embargoes and allowed deliveries of weapons to both the South Sudan government and the rebels. Uganda seems to have been the biggest sanctions evader. The British group said that Uganda provided false “end-user assurances” (certificates) to weapons manufacturers in Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania. Since the Cold War ended in 1991 cheap Cold War surplus weapons from former communist countries have flooded Africa, delivered by East European gunrunners and local groups who would distribute the weapons to whichever local government or group could afford them.