Tuesday, October 04, 2011

South Sudan: What the analysts are saying post-secession

south sudanPhoto: Tim McKulka/UN Photo
Source: IRIN

It is two months since the euphoria surrounding South Sudan’s peaceful secession from the north after decades of civil war, but violence in the border regions has flared since May. In a split still lacking clarity over border demarcations and the division of resources, several reports have outlined escalating tensions that have killed scores of people and pushed tens of thousands to leave their homes.

A report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), Sudan - Avoiding a new crisis, released on 1 October, says the lack of political inclusivity and the heavy-handed approach of President Omar al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to crush rebels and dissent could lead to a civil war in Sudan and destabilize the whole region.

The think-tank says that “conflict is spiralling out of control” in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states following Sudan’s attempts to forcefully disarm and dissolve the northern branch of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) that fought against Khartoum for autonomy with the South for years.

Sudan’s refusals to pull troops put of the contested Abyei region and listen to marginalized people in eastern states and western Darfur could lead to mass unrest. The group also fears South Sudan being dragged into its first war, as accusations from both countries amplify over the funding of rebel groups to destabilize each other’s fragile political and economic situations.

In late August, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International documented civilians in South Kordofan talking about the daily, indiscriminate bomb attacks by the Sudanese Armed Forces that have killed many civilians and displaced more than 150,000 people since June.

Despite calls from these agencies to allow humanitarian aid to reach conflict areas, Bashir has steadfastly refused anyone but the Sudanese Red Crescent access since late August. On 29 September, foreign minister Ali Karti said Sudan could only allow aid groups to work in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan once a ceasefire was in place.

On African Arguments, author and expert on the Nuba people Nanne op’Tende says that after a 2001 ceasefire between Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and SPLM Nuba in South Kordofan, she wrote about why this ethnic group needed to return home. She hoped that the Nuba could turn their SPLM rebel movement into a political force, capable of negotiating themselves a better deal under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Op’Tende now thinks that neither side was ready to end the war, while the Nuba are once again trapped in a cycle of conflict.

Magdi El Gizouli, a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute, accuses too many people “addicted to the pornography of bloodshed” who know too little about Sudan of meddling in its affairs. He criticizes NGOs for spurring on rebellions in Blue Nile from ousted SPLM governor Malik Agar and Abdal-Aziz al-Hilu’s operations in South Kordofan in the belief they will bring down Bashir’s regime. He explains why calling for US military intervention, the imposition of a no-fly zone over Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile and the destruction of the government’s offensive aerial assets are as bad at fomenting further unrest as hardline pledges of fighting until dissent is stamped out.

At end-September, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said more than 25,000 people had fled over the border to Ethiopia in the previous three weeks to escape air raids in Blue Nile state. With fighting continuing between the Sudanese army and rebels in Blue Nile, UNHCR said many refugees were taking beds, animals and televisions in expectation of a long exile. With another 10,000 expected arrivals, UN agencies and the International Organization for Migration have launched an US$18.3m appeal for Blue Nile refugees.

When Sudanese Armed Forces stormed into Abyei in May, the George Clooney-sponsored Satellite Sentinel Project claimed footage showed that one-third of civilian buildings were destroyed by tanks and looting. More than 110,000 people fled south of the border and have been stuck in South Sudan ever since in areas hit by flooding and food insecurity, as the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA) requested humanitarian access to Abyei.

The former southern minister Luka Biong Deng also called for access to the disputed territory from both sides of the border on legal and political grounds that mean the area of “special status” belongs to no one until both countries reach an agreement.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) warned that escalating inter-communal violence in Jonglei from cattle raids threatened to destabilize the new country. UNMISS Special Representative Hilde Johnson said containing the increasing brutality and sophistication of these armed attacks to a state the size of Bangladesh was the peacekeeping mission’s highest priority. "If it gets out of hand, we will be in a situation where the cycle of violence will escalate to unknown proportions in South Sudan," she said on 27 September.


In Darfur, the impact of rebel Khalil Ibrahim's return from Libya following Col Muammar Gaddaffi’s fall could spell further trouble in the war-ravaged area as the region’s strongest rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), regains a leader who is hell-bent on toppling Sudan’s government.

Meanwhile, Dissent Magazine mourns the loss of the UN Panel of Experts for Darfur set up in 2005 to monitor an embargo on the movement of arms and military supplies and a UN Security Council ban on military flights into the Darfur region. It claims the region has been bombed more than 100 times this year, and Sudan’s government has succeeded in closing down the most authoritative body investigating reports of indiscriminate aerial attacks, and those targeting civilians.

A Human Rights Watch report in July also lamented the world’s apparent disinterest in Darfur since South Sudan’s independence. It said that during this period, Sudan stepped up bombing attacks on civilians, displacing more than 70,000 people, largely from ethnic Zaghawah and Fur communities linked to rebel groups.