South Sudan declares independence —as war spreads to North

Salva Kiir was officially been sworn in July 9 as the first president of South Sudan, moments after he signed the country’s transitional constitution before tens of thousands in the new republic’s capital, Juba. Wearing his trademark cowboy hat, Kiir repeated his offer of an amnesty to the six rebel groups that have risen in South Sudan: “I want to offer public amnesty to all those who took arms against the people of South Sudan. Let them lay down these arms and help us in building this new nation,” Kiir said. He also pledged to work for a resolution to the conflicts in the border enclave of Abyei, and the North Sudan regions of Darfur and Kordofan. “I want to assure the people of Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan that we have not forgotten you. When you cry, we cry. When you bleed, we bleed. I pledge to you today that we will find a just peace for all,” he said. (Sudan Tribune, July 9)

Ethiopia sends troops to Abyei
A 4,200-strong Ethiopian brigade is due to be deployed on a proposed “peacekeeping” in Abyei, after both North and South Sudanese troops withdraw from the contested enclave. On June 23, the US submitted a draft UN resolution authorizing a peacekeeping mission, on the basis of an agreement reached three days earlier by North and South Sudan. Under to the agreement, signed in Addis Ababa by Kiir and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Northern and Southern forces will be replaced by an Interim Security Force for Abyei (ISFA), composed of Ethiopian troops.

Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended decades of war between Northern and Southern Sudan, the Abyei area was administered under the two parties’ joint presidency. Its status after the CPA expired on July 9 was supposed to have been determined by a referendum.

However, disagreements over the voting rights of northern Misseriya pastralists—who, unlike the mostly pro-South Ngok Dinka, are not full-time residents of the area, but who have grazing rights there—has prevented this referendum from taking place. At least 102,000 people have been displaced from Abyei since heavy fighting broke out in May, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). (IRIN, June 27)

War comes to Southern Kordofan
In the run-up to the South’s formal independence, war has also come to the North’s oil-producing Southern Kordofan state. More than 73,000 people have fled the state since fighting broke out on June 5 between the Northern army (Sudan Armed Forces—SAF) and former members of the ex-rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

The fighting started in the state capital Kadugli. Since then, the SAF have launched multiple aerial bombardments in the state’s Nuba Mountains. Leaders of the indigenous Nuba ethnic group accuse government forces of “ethnic cleansing” in the region. Humanitarian agencies are still unable to freely access the civilian population, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) protests. Information from the Nuba Mountains is limited, with mobile telephone coverage reportedly cut in many areas.

Southern Kordofan was a key battleground during Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war. Many in the Nuba Mountains sided with the rebel SPLA, which has now become the official army of South Sudan. Now they find themselves on the wrong side of the border from their former comrades in the South, and have resisted surrendering weapons to forces they see as hostile. Khartoum says fighting began after the SAF tried to disarm ex-SPLA forces in Kadugli. However, eyewitnesses say that it was a pre-planned operation by the SAF and aligned militia. (IRIN, June 23)

See our last post on the struggle for Sudan.

  1. Civil war in South Sudan —already?
    Around 80 people, including 60 rebels, were killed Oct. 29 when South Sudanese forces in the oil-rich Unity state repelled an attack by rebel militia, officials said. The South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) attacked Mayom town, authorities said, adding that the majority of the civilian casualties were residents gunned down while “running for shelter.” The SSLA claims they killed more than 700 soldiers in the attack. The rebel group is made up of forces formerly loyal to Peter Gadet, who accepted South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s offer of amnesty in August. (AFP, BBC News, Oct. 29)