SUDAN-SOUTH SUDAN: What they are saying about the Sudans

Sudan has long generated a plethora of academic reports and think-tank analyses, especially in times of heightened insecurity and great political moment. Following the country’s division into two states, current conflict in border areas has given rise to a flurry of such documents. What follows is the latest instalment of IRIN’s irregular series of overviews.

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The International Crisis Group (ICG) warns of a growing risk of war on multiple fronts.

“After the end of the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in 2005], rather than negotiate with Sudanese opposition forces, NCP [the ruling National Congress Party] hardliners have opted for a military solution – not an unusual policy response – when confronted with opposition. “This, however, is pushing Sudan’s disparate rebel movements and opposition forces together and could trigger a wider civil war for control of the country.”

Post-CPA, there is no coherent political framework to deal with the many remaining challenges in Sudan, with international attention focused on safeguarding South Sudan’s referendum and independence largely having underestimated the impact of secession on the north, the report says.

“To the resurgence of war in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile will likely be added an escalation in Darfur, especially now that the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has returned from Libya and rejoined forces in Darfur.”

According to a report by Germany’s University of Halle, The Genesis of Recurring Wars in Sudan, “the resurgence of armed conflict in the Nuba Mountains [in South Kordofan] implies that the CPA was not a ‘comprehensive’ and ‘final’ settlement accord to northern Sudan’s recurring political conflicts. It was rather a long-term ‘truce’ or ‘ceasefire’, as far as the northern Sudan is concerned.

“…The heavy shooting that occurred in South Kordofan’s capital Kadugli on 5 June was not the beginning of something new. It was rather the climax of several concomitant violent processes; which had taken different forms and had occurred on different levels throughout the CPA transitional period and before, and include events seemingly far away.

“The last election in South Kordofan was bound to fail not because of technical flaws, but because it was treated as a zero-sum game between the two parties, NCP and SPLM/A [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army]. Accordingly, the forms of ethno-political mobilizations exercised during the war were perpetuated and further stabilized,” it says, attributing recurrent war in Sudan to all dominant political players mainly operating militarily.

“In consequence, only a radical change of the rules of the game can be a way out,” it says. “This perpetuation of war logic [has] prevented the development of plural voices and new ways, which are needed for non-violent political alternatives to historical injustices and inequalities. In conclusion, the unceasing militarization of society will continue to inhibit breaking the vicious cycle of fragile peace and recurring wars.”

Poverty and severe marginalization of the peripheries, combined with poor governance, are at the centre of continuing conflicts in Sudan, says a report by Sweden’s Uppsala University, The Crises Continue – Sudan’s Remaining Conflicts.

With regional inequity having fostered frustration and created a hotbed for rebellion, there is a need for decentralization, it states, adding that “the government’s propensity for using militias and divide-and-rule strategies has to stop for a brighter future for Sudan”.

The report further recommends that the various crises are dealt with in tandem as so far, “the international community has shown a clear lack of ability to deal with the different regions of Sudan simultaneously”.

Sanctions urged

In a 6 December letter to the UK’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, the UK Parliament noted that “the scale of death and suffering caused by the ruthless military offensives against the peoples in South Kordofan and Blue Nile; the denial of access to international investigators or to the media as well as the refusal to allow access by aid organizations to victims of military offensives; and the catalogue of reports of violations of human rights, including unwarranted arrests, torture and threatened executions would seem to warrant a stronger response than continuing dialogue…

“…We have highlighted the imposition of targeted sanctions against leading members of the NCP, because this would put pressure on those who currently enjoy unimpeded travel to London, many of whom also enjoy their ownership of residences here.”

The letter added that unless the UK government is “seen to be taking some effective action, instead of continuing to make dialogue a priority, there will be a real danger that Khartoum will believe it can escalate its aggression with impunity, not only with dire humanitarian consequences, but also with serious implications for the vulnerable new nation of South Sudan and for the geo-political stability of the region.”

On 8 December, South Sudan’s foreign minister warned that the North and South were on the “brink of war” following fighting near the Jau region, along the South Kordofan and South Sudan’s Unity State border area. Hundreds of refugees fleeing South Kordofan are in Unity.

The fighting in South Kordofan is pitting the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). Many in South Kordofan sided with the South during the civil war.

“The bombs that fall are indiscriminate; they kill and maim young and old, man and woman, Christian and Muslim. In short, innocent civilians have become a target and their suffering has become political currency,” said a statement by the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, urging the two governments to negotiate.

The conflict could worsen. The SPLM-N and JEM, as well as two factions of the SPLM/A, recently signed a declaration in Kauda, South Kordofan, establishing the Sudan Revolutionary Front, whose aim is to overthrow the NCP using all available means, above all, the convergence of civil political action and armed struggle, according to a communiqué, says a late November field dispatch from the Enough Project.

The dispatch also quotes former Blue Nile governor, Malik Agar, who was replaced by the NCP before the fall of Kurmuk on 3 November to SAF forces as saying that “losing battles is quite natural in wars.

“However, the war is not yet lost, though politically [Sudanese President Omar el Bashir is making lot of noise about [it]. Bashir pronounced SPLM [-N] dead but I can tell you, this is not the end of the movement, and SPLM[-N] is still very much alive and remarkably noisy.”

Rival support

Meanwhile, both Sudan and South Sudan accuse each other of supporting rival insurgents.

“There is strong circumstantial evidence that the forces of Peter Gadet and George Athor [among greater Upper Nile’s insurgencies’ commanders] have received logistical and material support, including small arms and ammunition, from Khartoum and other external sources,” notes a November report by Small Arms Survey.

The oil-producing greater Upper Nile comprises Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states, where ongoing armed insurgencies are claiming to seek changes to the Juba-based government or to overthrow it, according to the report.

The greater Upper Nile forms much of South Sudan’s border with Sudan and small arms stocks are widespread in the region, despite numerous civilian disarmament campaigns, says the report, adding that “at a time when the Republic of South Sudan faces multiple other threats along its border with Sudan…[it has] ultimately failed to contain the rebel threat.

“This current stalemate leaves the new country vulnerable and unstable.”

On 14 December, the UN Security Council expanded the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei to include assistance in border normalization due to the recognition that “the situation in that area constituted a threat to international peace and security”.



Theme (s): Economy, Governance, Refugees/IDPs, Security,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]