Date: Wednesday, 24 January 2018
The Sudan-Turkey Suakin Island Deal is one of the oddest deals around, and doubly odd because no one is quite sure what it entails. Sudan recently announced that it will give Turkey a lease on land on Suakin Island in the Red Sea. Suakin is about 60 kilometers south of Port Sudan. The deal will pay Sudan about $650 million. Turkey says it wants to build a dock on the island capable of handling civilian and military ships. It also wants to rebuild part of the old Ottoman city on the island as part of an economic development project. Suakin does have some Ottoman-era archeological sites, which Turkish officials say they want to restore. The implication is the restored "old town" would be a tourist attraction. It would also be a transfer point for Muslim pilgrims going to Mecca. Egypt opposes the lease and so does Saudi Arabia. Egypt and Saudi Arabia contend Turkey is acquiring a naval base. Turkey and Sudan say that isn't so. But the Turkey-Sudan arrangement does come at a time of very tense Egyptian-Sudanese relations. One dispute involves territory along the Egypt-Sudan border, the Halayeb Triangle (also called the Halayeb and Shalateen area). The Halayeb Triangle covers about 20,000 square kilometers along the Red Sea. Another dispute between Sudan and Egypt involves farm products. Another involves Sudanese allegations that Egypt has backed anti-Sudan rebels. The agricultural dispute has a serious dimension and so does the allegation of support for rebels. Egypt vigorously denies the rebel support allegation. The biggest dispute, however, is water rights to Nile River water. That dispute brings in Ethiopia and Sudan is on Ethiopia's side. Egypt is engaged in a dispute with Ethiopia over Nile water rights. Egypt is worried that Ethiopia's Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will deny Egypt its fair share of Nile River water. Sudan supports Ethiopia's dam project. Sudan has claimed Eritrea is conspiring with Egypt. Eritrea and Ethiopia are bitter enemies. It appears Sudan is shifting its policy toward South Sudan in order to accommodate Ethiopia. Ethiopia wants to build a railroad that runs through South Sudan and then links to rail lines in Uganda and Kenya. This will give landlocked Ethiopia easier access to Kenyan seaports. But it will also give landlocked South Sudan access to Kenyan seaports. Ethiopia has also said it wants to link its railroads to Sudan's system. The Sudan government recently announced that it will support these railroad projects. (Austin Bay)
January 21, 2018: South Sudan has threatened unspecified retaliation for foreign aid groups that continue to report cease fire violations and what these groups consider issues worthy of attention by the South Sudan government and foreign nations involved in South Sudan. Foreign aid groups often have attitudes that are at odds with those of the local government and this is becoming a major issue worldwide. At best it brings needed attention to a bad situation but at worst it results in the aid organizations leaving (expelled or fleeing danger) the country and people they were serving are worse off for it.
January 20, 2018: South Sudan rebels (SPLM-IO) accused the government of conducting multiple military offensives on rebel positions throughout the country. The rebels claimed that on January 19 government forces and Sudanese JEM rebels attacked Pogee (an acknowledged SPLM-IO base camp). The ceasefire agreement stipulates that warring forces will remain in their bases and camps. The SPLM-IO also claimed government forces assaulted the rebel camp in Minyori (Yei River state). The rebel statement claimed the government forces are based in Yei city, which is about eight kilometers from the rebel position.
January 19, 2018: In South Sudan rebels (SPLM-IO) are accusing East African IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) peace negotiation mediators of letting the government violate the ceasefire agreement. The rebels contend the negotiators and representatives from the troika countries (Norway, the U.S. and Great Britain) are biased against them. The rebels said IGAD's Cease-fire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM, the outfit monitoring the ceasefire) is not neutral. IGAD rejected the accusations. IGAD brokered the August 2015 peace deal that has been completely shattered.
January 18, 2018: The Sudanese SRF-MM (Revolutionary Front-Minni Minnawi) rebels said it would not meet with Sudan negotiators in Germany but might participate in discussions if the government freed political protestors arrested during the protests against increasing food prices. Germany and the African Union are trying to mediate discussions to end Sudan's internal armed conflicts.
Sudan acknowledged it had arrested the NUP (National Umma Party's) secretary-general, Sara Nugadallah. She was arrested on charges of encouraging protests in the city of Omdurman against the government's decision to lower the subsidy for bread. The government also acknowledged it had arrested an Agence France-Presse reporter on January 17 as well as a reporter working for Reuters. A third journalist was also arrested. The reporters were covering demonstrations in the capital (Khartoum) against rising food prices and the cut in the bread subsidy. The AFP reporter is apparently a Sudanese national who has worked for the French agency for several years. The arrests were immediately condemned by several major news agencies. One NGO reported that the arrests were made by agents of Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (which has both intelligence agency ad secret police functions). NISS agents raided and closed three Sudanese newspapers on January 16. A BBC reporting team was briefly detained on January 16.
January 16, 2018: In Sudan protests over increases in the price of bread and other foods continue throughout the country. Opposition parties accused government security forces of beating dozens of demonstrators in Khartoum. In one demonstration several hundred protestors approached the Presidential Palace and managed to breach the outer security barrier.
January 15, 2018: Egypt insisted that it is not "conspiring" against Sudan. The Egyptian statement said that Egypt regards Sudan as a "brother."
January 14, 2018: The Sudan government said an additional contingent of Rapid Support Forces militiamen had arrived in Kassala state for service along the Eritrea border.
January 13, 2018: In northern South Sudan (Unity state) two senior rebel (SPLM-IO) military officers (generals Gabriel Guet and Micheal Tuak) defected (according to the government) and joined the government loyalists.
January 11, 2018: The Sudan government suggested that Egypt and Eritrea are discussing an alliance and possibly planning to attack Sudan. This changes the explanation for reinforcing its Eritrea border that Sudan gave on January 6. Eritrea is an enemy of Ethiopia and Sudan is seeking Ethiopia's support in its dispute with Egypt.
January 10, 2018: In central South Sudan (Western Lakes state) the government claimed that two youth militias have agreed to disarm. One of the militias is a Rup youth group which has been fighting with Pakam ethnic militias.
January 9, 2018: In South Sudan four soldiers were killed, along with two rebels, in a firefight near the capital, Juba. Rebels claimed the soldiers attacked a rebel position ten kilometers from Juba.
In western South Sudan (Wau state) a South Sudan division commander placed his unit on alert because he thought forces loyal to former army chief of staff, General Paul Malong Awan, were preparing to launch attacks in the state. Malong, who is currently exiled to Kenya, denied the allegation. Earlier this week South Sudan declared Malong to be a rebel.
January 8, 2017: Sudan has once again complained to the UN that Egypt illegally occupies the “Halayeb Triangle” border territory. The area has been contested since 1958. The issue is also tied to a dispute over the use of Nile River water.
January 7, 2018: In Sudan protests erupted in several cities and towns as the government cut bread subsidies and the price of bread doubled. In southeast Sudan 400 protestors in the city of al-Damazin began burning tires and the police fired tear gas. There were large protests in Khartoum, Nyala and Geneina (where a protestor was killed and five other people wounded). Inflation in Sudan is currently around 33 percent a year and the government cannot get more foreign aid and loans unless it reduces spending.
January 6, 2018: Sudan is being criticized by UN peacekeepers for needless delays in providing land for a new UN base in the west (Darfur). There were never good relations between Sudan and the UN peacekeepers. This force is being reduced to 16,000 soldiers and police, a process that will be complete this month.
Sudan reported that an army division deployed in North Darfur state had seized over 8,000 weapons in "forcible arms searches" since it began that operation in October 2017.
January 5, 2018: In southern South Sudan (Yei River state) new fighting broke out between government and rebel forces in at least four locations. Intermittent fighting --that violates the ceasefire--has occurred in Yei state since mid-December 2017.
In eastern Sudan (Kassala state) border crossings with Eritrea were closed and several thousand more Rapid Support Forces soldiers were sent to the area. The government claimed that the border closing and troop increase were part of an operation to collect illegal weapons, stop arms and people smuggling operations and seize unlicensed vehicles. This comes after a December 30 government declared state of emergency in North Kordofan state and in Kassala state.
January 4, 2018: In the South Sudan capital (Juba) fifteen Chinese peacekeepers confronted 30 armed men who had come too close to a UN compound. The Chinese lieutenant managed to persuade the hostile gunmen to back off and leave the area. The Chinese peacekeepers have demonstrated discipline and thorough preparation for their duties in South Sudan.
Sudan announced it will extend the unilateral ceasefire with rebels in “The Two Areas” (South Kordofan and Blue Nile states) until March 31. In exchange for reduced economic and political sanctions, the U.S. demanded Sudan respect a ceasefire in The Two Areas and permit food and other aid in these southern regions.
Sudan has recalled its ambassador to Egypt, which has its foreign ministry "conducting a comprehensive assessment" of its relations with Sudan. This is mainly about the unresolved Halayeb Triangle dispute.
January 3, 2018: South Sudan accused the rebels of numerous ceasefire violations and claimed that rebel attacks have killed 34 people since the New Year began.
January 2, 2018: South Sudan denied rebel accusations that its forces had violated the ceasefire.
December 28, 2017: In South Sudan the December 24 ceasefire is already in shreds. Heavy fighting is reported in the north (Northern Liech state) where at least 32 people were killed in one clash. The ceasefire deal required the warring parties to stop military operations and confine their forces to their bases and camps. It also called for emergency aid free access and the release of political detainees.
Turkey and Sudan denied that Turkey intends to build a naval base on Sudan’s Red Sea island of Suakin. The denial by both governments came after Egyptian and Saudi media claimed that such a deal is in the works.