Category Archives: African Union

Sudan withdrawing forces from Abyei

Sudan has agreed to withdraw the Sudan Armed Forces troops from Abyei. This is a good step toward settling the issues of the border territories.

Sudan, SPLA-N, and JEM

Sudan is accusing South Sudan of supporting the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army-North in South Kordofan and the Justice and Equality Movement in southern Darfur. This was obviously going to be the strategy of the government of Sudan when the UNSC made the absence of support part of the proposal. I wrote about this issue for Help Nuba on May 1st. I wrote at that time that:

As for ceasing to harbor or support rebel groups, it will be impossible to confirm compliance. If these groups continue to act on their own, the appropriate governments will be accused of supporting them regardless of whether or not they actually offer material or any other type of support. In addition, remember that the rebel groups in the south of Sudan are fighting for freedom against a genocidal government. The UN as an organization is supposed to support democracy. Yes, I know that this is farcical at this point, but to have an official policy that mandates that people combating genocide are not to be supported is at best wrong and at worst cruel and inhumane.

Nothing has changed in three weeks. Sudan is still trying to slaughter the people of South Kordofan and they are still fighting against the Khartoum regime. Neither side seems like it is going to stop anytime soon.

Negotiations and Urgency

Thabo Mbeki of the African Union met with South Sudan President Salva Kiir to discuss arranging negotiations with Sudan. South Sudan’s response, “Sure, let’s meet.” Sudan’s response, “No, give us what we want to achieve in the negotiations as preconditions for negotiations and then we’ll negotiate.” You can read more about the meeting between Mbeki and Kiir here.

In other news, the United States has donated $30 million to the UN World Food Program to address food insecurity in South Sudan. The donation will be delivered through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). While we have discussed the need to get food aid into the Nuba Mountains before the rainy season hits, there is also a major need to get aid to many regions within South Sudan. According to USAID’s press release:

Due to South Sudan’s poor road network, about 60 percent of the country will become inaccessible during the rainy season. This contribution helps WFP complete prepositioning of much-needed commodities across South Sudan, where roads will soon become impassable.

Meanwhile, Sudan and the UN have grossly differing estimates for the number of refugees from Sudan who are currently in neighboring countries. Sudan’s estimates are less than half of those of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Regardless, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese now reside in neighboring countries because of the inhuman conduct of the Khartoum regime in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, while hundreds of thousands more are internally displaced. Remember that the several hundred thousands Christian former citizens of Sudan have become “South Sudanese” in the eyes of the Khartoum government and are being pressured to leave. In addition, many thousands more in the border region of South Sudan have also been displaced because of Khartoum’s cross border bombing campaign and cross border raids.

South Sudan has Left Abyei. Will Sudan Follow?

South Sudan has complied with the UN Security Council resolution and withdrawn its troops from the disputed territory of Abyei. Will Sudan follow suit? AU chief, Jean Ping, called on the government of the Sudan to:

Reciprocate and withdraw its forces from Abyei, in line with its acceptance of the Roadmap and the timetable contained therein. With the effective deployment of UNISFA, there is no longer need for any other force to remain in Abyei.

Why Help Nuba? – A Short Video

Sudan Rejects UNSC Demand to Negotiate with SPLM-N

Sudan has is rejecting the UN Security Council’s demand to negotiate with the SPLM-North based upon a June, 2011 agreement. SPLM-N Secretary General Yasser Arman indicates that the SPLM-N has agreed to negotiate. A statement signed by him states that:

The entry point for the comprehensive peaceful settlement in Sudan is for the parties to address urgently and seriously the humanitarian crisis in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile immediately and to put into effect the tripartite agreement of the United Nations, African Union and the Arab League, which was signed by the SPLM-N long ago and avoided by Khartoum using different tricks to buy time. And in this regard, the SPLM-N is ready for a humanitarian cessation of hostilities that will enable the UN, African Union and Arab League to implement their proposal.

Sudan’s leader Omar Bashir, no doubt feels that since Sudan seems to currently have the upper hand in international opinion to force South Sudan to abandon support of the SPLM-N, it is time to increase Sudan’s military operation against the SPLM-N rather than to negotiate. In response to this decision by Sudan, the United States may push for sanctions against Sudan. However, there is little to no chance that sanctions will pass the UNSC as both Russia and China are likely to veto any such resolution.

Responding to Khartoum with Unity

In my most recent posting for Help Nuba, I noted that the grave prediction by the World Bank concerning the state of the South Sudanese economic situation without oil revenues likely has had an effect on efforts to prioritize ending fighting between Sudan and South Sudan over addressing the dire circumstances in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
The SPLA-North and South Sudan
In fact, the effort to end the fighting between the two nations has significantly worsened the military situation for the SPLA-North in South Kordofan because the absence of a threat from South Sudan would allow Sudan to focus its military attention on the SPLA-North. Thus, the UNSC and African Union resolution aimed at ending the fighting between Sudan and South Sudan is almost certain to worsen the situation of the people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
In the meantime, however, Sudan must avoid making life so difficult for the South Sudanese that they choose to resume a full scale war. South Sudan, finding itself in a desperate financial situation, may decide to join fully with the SPLA-N against the Khartoum regime, restarting the war. It is even possible that if things get bad enough for the people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile that their friends in South Sudan may choose to enter the conflict in support of them.
An additional issue, one for which I have seen no commentary yet, is that South Sudan must be concerned at some level about losing the SPLA-North as a buffer on its northern front. While there have been cross border attacks, Sudan cannot fully commit to efforts against South Sudan because it must defend against opposing forces within its territory. It must focus inwardly as well as outwardly. South Sudan then has a significant incentive not to let the SPLA-North be defeated.
Fighting for Survival vs. Fighting for Money
So while having the upper hand, Sudan should be somewhat concerned. Yes, it has substantially more financial resources to commit to war, but it will also have to spend those resources at a much higher rate to prosecute a war, even a defensive one. The difference in the motivation of the soldiers is paramount. The Sudanese soldiers would be fighting for money to support their families. Sudan is going to have to pay its soldiers substantially to motivate them. When winning a conflict and obtaining spoils, soldiers have historically performed well. When finding themselves defending and regularly losing ground, gaining no spoils, soldiers tend toward lack-luster performance or even desertion. The South Sudanese, SPLA, JEM and others would be fighting for their survival. People fighting for money, such as most of the Sudanese forces, will run if things get bad.
The Oil Pipeline
Meanwhile, because ultimately such a conflict could not end without taking control of the oil pipeline, once this level of war starts, the South Sudanese and allies would have no option but to fight all the way to Khartoum. Unless the United States were to intervene to prevent Sudan from using its air advantage, this war would see an enormous casualty figure among people in the south with widespread famine being a real possibility.
Air Superiority
Some have suggested bombing Sudanese air strips in order to prevent the bombing of civilians in the Nuba Mountains. Without its air superiority, Sudan can’t win against the rebels or South Sudan, so taking out Sudan’s air bases not only would prevent bombing in Nuba, it would result in the collapse of the regime. Sudan should fear the possibility of angering the United States to the point that it acts against Sudan’s air superiority, even if it does nothing else.
Conclusions
While noting that South Sudan has few good options right now but to try to achieve and agreement with Sudan and to get the oil flowing again so as to avert economic collapse next year, Sudan cannot act as if it has no worries.
Those opposed to genocide in the Nuba Mountains and who care about the ultimate fate of the people in South Sudan, are faced with the need to do three things:
1. Get food into Nuba.
  • The deadline for this is before anything else could really be done, so it is by far the top priority.
  • People will begin starving in large numbers soon.
2. Work on promoting unity among the South Sudanese, Nuba, Blue Nile and Darfurian communities in the diaspora as well as in the region.
  • If this doesn’t happen, the SPLA-N has little chance in the long run to win against Sudan and
  • South Sudan will become increasingly hostage to the whim of the rulers in Sudan with a decreasing ability to combat it.
3. Promote the reasonable idea that the US cannot allow indiscriminate bombing of civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
  • Any military action by the US would only become an option if Sudan uses its air forces to kill large numbers of civilians and
  • If South Sudan decides to officially join the fight because the consequences of US intervention in Nuba are dire for both Sudan and South Sudan.
  • The US cannot act against Sudan without consideration of retaliation by Sudan against South Sudan and
  • The World Bank report shows precisely that simply shutting off the oil indefinitely could do tremendous damage to South Sudan.