Monthly Newsletter Issue No. (2)
Covering the period May 15 to June 30, 2013
SUMMARY: During the reporting period, bilateral relations between the Republics of Sudan (RoS) and the Republic of South Sudan (RoSS) experienced a significant downturn after a short-lived uptick earlier in the year, amid mutual accusations of supporting the other's rebels. Triggered by the killing on May 4 of the paramount chief of the Dinka Ngok of Abyei, Sultan Kuol Deng Kuol, the downturn picked up momentum during the visit to Juba by Sudan's foreign minister and the chief of intelligence on May 17. The purpose of the visit, it later transpired, was to issue an ultimatum to the RoSS to put an end to all forms of support from within its institutions to the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). Sudan's unilateral and abrupt decision on May 20 to close the pipeline exporting southern oil to international markets rapidly turned into a fiasco as the risks of major spill and irreparable damage to the infrastructure forced the reopening of the tap. President Bashir's instruction at a public rally on June 8 to the oil minister to shut down the pipeline "once and for all" was therefore to be expected in light of all the recent warning signs and actions by the GoS.
The internal political and security situations have also deteriorated in the two countries as rifts in their ruling parties became more pronounced and rebels harassed their forces in the hinterlands. The poor performances of the southern Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) and northern Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in confronting rebels in Pibor County and Darfur-Kordofan regions respectively exposed the structural weaknesses of the national armies in the two states. Further evidence of internal security challenges facing both governments can be seen in the uncontrolled militia attacks on civilians in the two Sudans during the reporting period, killing thousands with deadly efficiency, and displacing tens of thousands more, proving the impotence of the two governments in protecting their own citizens. On the contrary, in both Pibor and Darfur, units of the SPLA and the SAF have taken part in attacking, looting, and forcibly displacing thousands of civilians.
Regional and international efforts were again ineffective in the face of serious deficits of political will in both governments to make the concessions necessary to give peace a chance. The economic crises gripping the two Sudans continued to drag them down even as oil from South Sudan made its way to Port Sudan after Khartoum decided to interrupt its flow. Rapid succession of potentially explosive situations and decisions such as this and Khartoum's threat of suspending not only the oil agreement but also the other border security and trade accords the two countries have signed threw mediators' efforts off track as they scrambled to contain one crisis after the other, with little time to focus on the structural causes of intractable wars and chronic instability in the two countries.
With perils rising, regional and international policy towards the two Sudans appeared to be going through a period of transition and lacked focus. At this writing, the mandate of the African Union's High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) was approaching the end of its current term on July 31, 2013, with no clarity on the composition or mandate of any successor mechanism. There appeared to be lack of clarity on the official mediator for the crisis in Darfur as both Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Cabinet Affairs Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Mahmoud and the AU-UN Joint Special Representative and presumed Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur Mohamed bin Shambas exercised functions inherent to that mandate. The League of Arab States still had no special representative for the two Sudans, thus undercutting its own influence on the situation. Meanwhile, the EU, which does have an active representative, appeared to be pressing ahead with a plan to roll the Sudan mandate into one already dealing with the complex situations in Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Meanwhile, the office of the US Special Envoy to Sudan remained vacant.
The UN Security Council remained seized with the situation in the two Sudans. On May 29, the Council extended the mandate the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) until 30 November, increasing the troop presence from 4,200 to 5,326 peacekeepers in response to requests from the two Sudans. The UNSC clarified the mandate of UNISFA with regard to civilian protection to clarify that this should cover actions to protect those under imminent threat of physical violence, regardless of the source. The provision enables UNISFA to tackle situations like the one that led to the killing of the paramount chief of Abyei’s Dinka at the hands of a militia group. On June 5, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda expressed frustration at the UN Council’s inability to put an end to impunity for atrocity crimes in Sudan.
SDFG's OPINION: Late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi famously warned that a free fall in Sudan would "open the gates of hell" in the East and Central Africa sub-regions. Regional and international powers and institutions involved in mediation efforts should heed late Zenawi's stark warning by developing a stronger and more coherent response to the alarming situations prevailing in the two Sudans. To help in shaping such a response, SDFG has joined efforts with twenty leading Sudanese, African and Arab advocacy groups and international partners in pressing for a comprehensive new mandate for the AUHIP. Taking note of the AUHIP’s statement in its January 2013 report to the AU PSC that ending the war in the Two Areas cannot be achieved without removing the grievances that fuel Sudan’s crises, SDFG and partners recommend that:
· A comprehensive national approach is taken to address the common causes of conflict across Sudan, linking the regions to the center and avoiding separate peace deals that pit one group against another;
· The AUHIP is renewed with sufficient capacity to fully utilize the democratization and governance element of its mandate. At present, the challenge to address Sudan’s issues as well as the Sudan-South Sudan file has led to the AUHIP sequencing its work, running counter to the comprehensive approach;
· Three complementary tracks are initiated: a unified public forum for Sudanese dialogue involving all actors; robust public debate; and the provision of technical support for negotiation, capacity building, advocacy and legal advice;
· The current constitutional process within Sudan is broadened to enable a wide range of governance issues to be addressed, and to secure agreement on the basic functions of the state;
· All interested Sudanese parties are included in the process to define what change is required in Sudan and that the AUHIP devotes more time and capacity to take civil society consultation forward;
· Goodwill confidence building gestures are put in place to provide an enabling environment for national dialogue, such as:
o Cessation of hostilities (although this should not be a pre-condition);
o Unimpeded access for impartial humanitarian actors;
o Release of political prisoners;
o Guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of association;
o Implementation of the “four freedoms” for Sudanese and South Sudanese;
o Lifting of the state of emergency.
Political Dynamics and Governance
A. The Scene from Khartoum
1. Recapture of Abu Karshola: the Fallout
Propaganda warfare: Since the fall in April of Umrwaba, the second largest town in North Kordofan State, to the rebels of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), and subsequent rebel capture and control of Abu Karshola town in South Kordofan, the NCP and government have unleashed an intense propaganda campaign with strident nationalistic and jihadist overtones. The script to which all officials speak daily has been that the SRF rebels were traitors and agents for foreign interests, namely imperialism and Zionism, interested in dividing Sudan and crippling its army. Sympathizing with or supporting the SRF rebels is equated with high treason, and fighting against them is considered a religious duty justifying nationwide mobilization and renewed calls for jihad. In the immediate aftermath of these developments, the speaker of parliament suspended the legislative session and dispatched members of parliament to their home constituencies to spearhead the recruitment of volunteers for the defense of the homeland and the support of the SAF.
A fierce propaganda war has been waged ever since, with rebel statements emphatically referencing their readiness to bring the fighting to the regime's doorstep at times and places of their choosing, and the latter accusing them of committing war crimes against civilians in areas they attacked. In a statement that speaks volumes of the mindset of the regime, Presidential Advisor Nafei Ali Nafie, the regime's strongman, stated on June 13 that the SRF's war was against the "authentic" inhabitants of Sudan, reinforcing a consistent messaging voiced by other officials who depicted the incursion in North Kordofan as an assault on the "identity" of Sudan by minority groups intent on changing the country's Arab and Islamic character. The argument reportedly earned the government sizable logistical support from some of its allies in the Arab world. Rumors of the killing of the SRF deputy chairman and later the chairman, received wide coverage, only to be disproven later.
The propaganda offensive reveals important dimensions of the survival strategies of the ruling party in Khartoum. At a moment of apparent weakness and vulnerability, the regime rapidly moved to turn the situation into one that would help it tighten its ranks and rejuvenate its waning popularity, but at what costs?
SDFG’s OPINION: The propaganda campaign succeeded in silencing the growing chorus among members of the NCP's own caucus in the parliament who were pressing for the Minister of Defense Abdel Rahim Ahmed Hussein to appear before parliament to explain and take responsibility for the evident lack of preparedness of the SAF in advance of the rebel incursion.
Likewise, regime top leaders and propagandists turned the incursion into a tool of containment and intimidation to silence other critical voices in the opposition and the media. The speaker of parliament said the country didn't need "unpatriotic" media outlets that were indifferent to the mobilization underway.
Ruling circles in Khartoum also sought to play on the prejudices of a public seized with untold fears of minorities, presenting those in arms as of a different "identity" advancing into the backyard of "ordinary" and "authentic" Sudanese. The extremist Al-Intibaha newspaper carried to new lows the use of hate speech in which it had already developed an infamous expertise. "Mainstream media" played to the script of the official version of the rebel campaign, unwittingly or not reinforcing messages of hatred and supremacism.
To SDFG, such officially driven propaganda campaigns can only deepen the ethnic polarization, racial divisions and hatreds in the already deeply fractured Sudanese society. Mitigating the gains of the hate campaign was the noticeably poor response of the public to the actual recruitment drive for the Popular Defense Forces. Further, several media outlets stood their ground and rejected the use of these events to intimidate the press. Leading Sudanese civil society organizations, SDFG among them, have developed programming aimed at countering the negative impact of the regime’s policies and propaganda. The international community should increase its support and backing of such efforts.
2. The SAF Reshuffle:
In his urge to resuscitate the jihadist spirit of the regime's heyday, Presidential Advisor Nafei Ali Nafie made the startling remark on June 13 that the army didn't have sufficient forces to deter another SRF incursion and needed volunteers to reverse the situation. This indiscretion drew a muted response from the spokesman of the SAF two days later who noted that had it not been for the courage and willingness to sacrifice of the SAF, the rebels would have already toppled the regime. Days later, the regime reshuffled the entire chief of staff of the army. The reshuffle was reportedly triggered by angry moves from the officer corps protesting political interference in operational matters and the obvious incompetence and corruption of the minister of defense. The much-criticized minister did survive the reshuffle, reportedly saved by the president's unwavering trust in him. As part of the reshuffle, the SAF retired dozens of brigadiers and brigadier-generals, describing this as a “routine measure.”
Coming only months after the alleged coup attempt of the reformists, the purge appeared aimed at consolidating President Al Bashir’s control of the army and the elimination of commanders who might be sympathetic to the reformists even remotely. Concurrently with the reshuffle, parliament was on track to adopt several amendments to the 2007 law of the armed forces, including one that mandates the referral to a military trial of “any person who commits a crime that infringes on the security and the sovereignty of the State.” The trial of civilians accused of political offenses before military courts that the amendment would permit would have a chilling effect on what remains of political and civic space in the country.
3. Increasing Visibility of Islamist Dissidents
In the second half of May, a dozen or so former military commanders who were sentenced to varying prison terms by a military court for their involvement in a coup attempt -- only to be subsequently "pardoned" by President Al-Bashir and released -- appeared to have engaged in a well-orchestrated open political campaign. In public rallies rotating among their respective home towns in central and northern Sudan, they presented their leader Ret. Brigadier-General Wad Ibrahim as a man of heroic courage and moral integrity, who is keen on preserving the integrity of army and ridding the country of the rampant official corruption. Several speakers in these rallies revoked their oath of allegiance to President Al-Bashir, who they claimed had failed to enforce sharia and to be a just ruler. At one rally, Ghazi Salah Al-Din Al-Attabani joined Wad Ibrahim, giving credence to speculations that they are operating as one to unseat the current leadership. Reformists of the Islamist movement (who also go by the names of Sa’ihoon, Mujahidoon, and Reform Current of the NCP) declared that while they will deny the regime their loyalty, they will continue to sacrifice for the homeland. Several volunteered for the campaign to liberate Abu Karshola, and it was credibly reported that several of their leaders were killed battling the rebels. The reformists of the ruling party engaged in public dialogue with other political actors, but openly denounced as their sworn "enemies" the coalition of armed movements from the neglected peripheries of Sudan fighting for regime change.
They received their first international public recognition when the European Parliament invited a representative of the Sa'ihoon together with nine other representatives from the youth branches of established mainstream political parties, to a dialogue with the EU Parliament. The group engaged in discussions with parliamentarians and youth associations from across Europe on a wide range of topics, including political accommodation and tolerance of religious and ethnic diversity in Europe.
SDFG’s OPINION: In our opinion, the Islamist dissidents' public critique of the regime is acting as a potent accelerator of the ongoing erosion of the regime's religious and jihadist credibility. At the same time, the dissidents have held back, for example by not publishing evidence of large scale corrupt practices, among others in the army's weapon purchases, which they have repeatedly claimed to possess. The regime's tolerance of their public campaign is puzzling. Newspapers have been closed down for far less than what the Sa'ihoon is propagating. Political parties and independent civil society organizations continue to be banned from holding public rallies even within their own premises, yet Sa’ihoon is able to operate with few constraints. The cautious conduct of both parties to date indicates that they are watching each other, with avoidance on one side and containment on the other determining the limits of their interaction. In this careful maneuvering, a false step by one or the other could well precipitate a crackdown by the regime or increase the degree of hostility in the dissidents' actions and statements. An example of how unpredictably events can turn occurred when two prominent leaders of the Sa’ihoon reported to the police on June 24 that unmarked vehicles had dangerously pushed their personal cars off the road hours apart in different parts of the capital. The two accused the state security agency of having staged the incidents as a warning to them. Followers threatened that they could retaliate in kind if any of their leaders were harmed.
4. Opposition Visit to Juba:
A delegation of the opposition National Consensus Forces (NCF) visited Juba on May 17 to deliver the NCF's condolences on the loss of Paramount Chief Kuol Deng to the government and people of the Republic of South Sudan. The visit received wide media coverage in Khartoum and Juba, particularly the visitors' blaming of Khartoum for the incident and their commitment to friendly relations with people and government of the RoSS despite the current tensions.
SDGF’s OPINION: The NCF's visit showed that the opposition has not totally lost the initiative after cowering down in the face of the government's harsh reaction to their signing of the New Dawn Charter with the SRF. However, both the SRF and the NCF have to revamp their political programs, and explain them to the public more consistently than has been the case to date if they want to mobilize a larger public response than they have managed to muster to date.
B. Developments in the RoSS:
1. Trading Rebel Support?
Juba has persistently denied extending any support to the SPLM-North and the SRF. In the face of the aggressive and sustained diplomatic and military pressure from Khartoum, Juba has countered that Khartoum's campaign was meant to blame the RoSS for Sudan's own domestic troubles and to hide Khartoum's role in stoking southern rebellions. Juba pointed to Khartoum's support to rebel commander David Yau Yau as evidence.
2. Fighting and Amnesties:
Fighting between the SPLA and Yau Yau rebels has led to a serious deterioration of the security situation in Jonglei state during the reporting period. The SPLA had acknowledged losing the town of Boma to the rebels, but claimed its recapture on May 19.
President Kiir's offer in April of blanket amnesty to southern armed groups fighting his government received varied responses. Commander Yau Yau rejected it, warning civilians and humanitarian workers to leave the main towns of Kapoeta and Pibor ahead of his impending attacks. In Pibor, UNMISS reported on May 16 that "allegedly defected and undisciplined members of security forces" were causing much havoc by attacking and looting civilians and humanitarian agencies. Juba press reported that the unruly soldiers hadn't been paid their salaries or given rations for months. Their actions triggered the flight of the locals and prompted UNMISS to reinforce its patrols in the town to reassure remaining residents and guard humanitarian supplies. Calls by the peacekeeping force and western diplomats to hold perpetrators accountable and to seek a political solution for the confrontation in Jonglei have yet to lead to a change in the conduct of the RoSS.
In April, the leader of the South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SSPLM/A), General Bapiny Monytuel, and his deputies Karlo Kuol and Tut Gatluak, accepted the president’s amnesty and joined the SPLA. Another significant acceptance of the amnesty offer was that of Major General Johnson Uliny on June 7. Uliny, a former rebel commander from Upper Nile state, reportedly brought with him a force of over 3,000 of fighters to the SPLA for induction, claiming that they were trained and issued with an assortment of military gear by Khartoum to fight the RoSS.
3. A Chance for Diplomacy:
Juba's muted response to Commander Unliny's significant defection appears to underscore its desire to find a diplomatic and negotiated solution to the current tensions with its northern neighbor. Reports on June 11 of telephone discussions between the two first Vice-Presidents Ali Osman Taha and Riek Machar and subsequent plans for the latter to visit Khartoum for talks to deescalate the tensions reinforced this impression. The two sides reportedly engaged in talks following the killing of the Abyei paramount chief, which enabled them to effectively diffuse the crisis.
Starting June 10, Khartoum launched a major diplomatic campaign to explain to the UN, the AU and to other relevant actors the reasons behind decision to freeze the implementation of the internationally negotiated accords with its southern neighbor. All concerned actors expressed concern about this turn of events and appealed to the two parties to resolve their differences through the mechanisms embedded in the accords themselves.
4. Humanitarian Situation in Jonglei and Refugee Areas
At the approach of the rainy season, insecurity persisted in parts of the Republic of South Sudan, especially Jonglei state, where many internally displaced Southern Sudanese remained isolated in malaria-infested swampy areas and inaccessible to humanitarian workers. Humanitarian organizations were able to resume their work in Jonglei in early June after almost three weeks’ suspension due to insecurity caused by Yau Yau militia activities and cattle raiding incidents. Despite the worrying violence launched by the Yau Yau group, relative stability seemed to emerge from the acceptance of President Kiir’s amnesty offer of 25 April 2013 (see detailed discussion of the amnesty above).
In addition to the IDP population in Jonglei state, South Sudan is currently hosting more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees, mostly from the two areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. Upper Nile State is host to about 116,000 refugees from Blue Nile State in mainly four refugee camps (Doro, Yusif Batil, Gendrassa and Kaya). Unity State, on other hand, hosts over 70,000 refugees from South Kordofan state (mainly located in three camps: Yida, Ajoung Thok and Nyeel).
War and Peace Developments
1. When Brinksmanship Risks Spilling Over
After weeks of apparent warming, bilateral relations took an alarming downturn when President Al-Bashir gave a "final warning" to RoSS on May 26 of his readiness to order a shutdown of oil exports if the South continued to support northern rebels. Al-Bashir followed through on his threat with a dramatic public instruction to the oil minister on June 8 to direct the international oil companies to turn off the pipeline. Officials explained on the 9th that Sudan would suspend all border security and trade agreements it had reached with the GoSS in September 2012 and started implementing only in April 2013 after a sixty day period. This left the door open to a reversal of the suspension if GoSS demonstrated it had stopped aiding the SRF rebels. The GoSS maintained earlier denials of providing such support and accused Khartoum of supporting southern rebels. However, Juba appeared at pains to respond in a measured tone to the barrage of threatening language and decisions from the North, and called for using mechanisms put in place by the agreements to resolve the dispute.
SDFG’s OPINION: The succession of crises appeared intended to divert attention from Sudan's internal economic and political problems. Khartoum's threats to the RoSS had the effect of dampening the voices calling for urgent governance reforms from within the ruling party and its broader Islamist constituency. However, following through with the freeze of the bilateral accords could seriously threaten the viability of both states given the troubled state of their economies and their mutual reliance on the oil revenue. These incidents illustrate a pattern of manipulating real or engineered crises to gain tactical political advantage, without longer term strategic focus on working for peaceful and mutually beneficial relations with the South. In the absence of such commitment from its northern neighbor, RoSS is likely to press ahead with the tightening of its relations with its East and Horn of Africa neighbors. Steps it took in this regard include its reception of the Kenyan President shortly after his inauguration, its stated willingness to sign the Entebbe Nile Waters Agreement, and its pressing ahead with plans for an alternate regional pipeline for the export of southern oil through the Kenyan port of Lamu.
2. Escalation of Violence in Darfur
New and massive waves of de facto ethnic cleansing were underway in the Darfur states during the reporting period, led for the most part by units of government-allied militias that came to be known as the "janjaweed" during the peak of violence in Darfur in 2003-2004. These elements had since been formally integrated in the Sudanese Armed Forces without breaking up their ethnic composition. Of particular note are the roles in recent fighting of the Border Guards, a unit of the Military Intelligence Department of SAF, and that of the Central Reserve Police, a paramilitary force, who are now shouldering the bulk of government counterinsurgency warfare against rebel groups in Darfur. The two units and several allied militias have been involved in major offensives against particular ethnic groups that have led to the displacement of an estimated 300,000 people since the beginning of the year, according to UN sources.
SDFG’s Opinion: The government claims that these incidents are forms of inter-tribal fighting, but they are driven in reality by the government's policy of ethnic manipulation in Darfur which is meant to achieve multiple objectives for the regime: a) rewarding loyal tribes and militias by reallocating rich lands to them, and allowing militias to keep war booty b) evicting populations from ands rich in newly discovered resources, such as gold, or traditional resources, such as fertile agricultural lands, to pave the way for government control and allocation to investors; c) weakening of the ethnic base of the rebellion and of tribes reluctant to join government's war efforts in Darfur.
3. Continuing violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile
Hostilities continued in parts of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states during May and June 2013, with intensive ground fighting continuing in Rashad and Um Dorain Counties in Southern Kordofan state, and in Kurmuk County in Blue Nile State.
In SPLM-N-controlled areas of Southern Kordofan, aerial bombardment and ground fighting resulted in civilian casualties and displacement in Buram, Delami, Heiban, Rashad, and Um Dorain counties during May and June. In addition, civilians were displaced from SAF-held into SPLM-N-held territory. Ground fighting in the Abu Karshola area of Rashad County during late May resulted in SPLM-N withdrawal from Abu Karshola town, which returned to SAF control. An estimated 6,000 conflict-affected IDPs have been displaced to southern areas of Rashad County and Um Dorain County, and a considerably larger number of IDPs displaced to northern SAF-held areas. OCHA reported that an estimated 53,000 moved to al-Rahad as a result of the fighting in Abu Karshola.
Internal displacement continued within the SPLM-N controlled areas of Blue Nile state with an estimated 20,000 civilians displaced inside Wadeka payam (administrative area). Over 1,000 are reported to have crossed the border to South Sudan’s Unity State looking for assistance in the refugee camps during late May and early June 2013.
The United Nations (led by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO)) has put a proposal to the two belligerent parties (GoS and SPLM-N) for a polio vaccination and Vitamin ‘A’ campaign in the war affected areas not under the control of the GoS in the two states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. A bilateral technical meeting between the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA, the humanitarian branch of the SPLM/SPLA) and UNICEF/WHO technical team is planned in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia June 28-29, 2013. A meeting with the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC, the humanitarian arm of the GoS is scheduled to take place on June 30, 2013.
In addition, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) warned that food security in the SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile are likely to reach “emergency” proportions (IPC Phase 4) during the June-September lean season.