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South Sudan - Tribal Warfare 2014

By 01 January 2014, delegates for South Sudan's warring sides were gathering in in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for peace talks, in a bid to end weeks of violence. The United States welcomed the talks and reiterated calls for an immediate end to the fighting. The government arrested several alleged coup plotters soon after the violence began. Hussein Mar Nyuot, a member of the rebel delegation to the peace talks, urged the government to free political detainees.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir declared a state of emergency late on 01 January 2014 in Unity state and Jonglei, whose respective provincial capitals of Bentiu and Bor are in the hands of militia loyal to former vice president Riek Machar. and South Sudan army (SPLA) force of as many as 10,000 troops was said to be advancing on the rebel-controlled town of Bor. A rebel spokesman dismissed the SPLA's claimes on its advance as lies and said South Sudan's army and the national government in the capital Juba had resorted to a “war of allegations” before peace negotiations could get underway.

Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) officers in different towns in Greater Equatoria defected to join rebels, an official said on 05 January 2014. SPLA Spokesman Col. Philip Aguer told press in Juba that, in Yei a platoon [some 30 SPLA officers and a Commander] had defected. He also said some officers have defected in Mundri town of Western Equatoria State. The South Sudan National Police Service dismissed reports of sporadic gunshots in Juba as having been launched by rebels.

Rebel militia held Bor, the capital of the key oil-producing state of Jonglei. In an interview with Asharq Al-Aswat (London, 2 January 2014), Riek Machar answered a question about revenues from Southern oil production: "We confirmed that oil production and export would continue and that we would pay Khartoum its dues according to the cooperation agreement between the two countries. We have also arranged for South Sudan’s revenues to be deposited in a special account until the war ends."

The Economist (January 3, 2014) speculated: "Machar may be able to hold the fledgling country’s oil infrastructure to ransom. If he can chalk up some early victories — for instance, by taking and holding Bor — he may be better placed to sue for peace." Some in South Sudan feared that Khartoum might seek to re-draw the North/South boundary, and seize the oil fields of Unity and Upper Nile states under color of “protecting” a mutual and shared natural resource.

South Sudan holds sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest reserves. China has huge interests in South Sudan; it is the largest investor in the country's oil industry. But state-owned oil companies China National Petroleum Corp and Sinopec had to evacuate some of their workers because of the violence. In 2012, China for the first time deployed infantry to a UN PKO. This “guard unit,” as Chinese media described it, was tasked with security for the PLA engineering and medical formed military units in its contingent deployed to the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). These forces were equipped with armored vehicles, enabling them to provide fixed-site security and convoy escorts.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for an immediate end to all hostilities and violence in South Sudan. On 06 January 2014, Wang began a six-day tour of Africa in Ethiopia, where delegations of the fighting South Sudanese factions are due to begin peace talks. Zhong Jianhua, a Chinese special envoy to Africa, already visited South Sudan in December to push for peace talks. He also was in Ethiopia for the peace negotiations.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir pledged his government would not support rebels in neighboring South Sudan. The Sudanese leader spoke January 06, 2014 during a brief visit to the southern capital, Juba, where he met with South Sudan President Salva Kiir. Bashir thanked Kiir for a "warm welcome" and went on to say Sudan will never support rebels against any neighboring government. He said that "would only cause instability, exhaustion of resources and destruction of ties between countries."

South Sudanese government troops have recaptured the town of Bentiu in oil-producing Unity state, army spokesman Philip Aguer told VOA January 10, 2014. Government troops retook the town at 2:30 p.m. after a two-hour battle with rebel forces loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, Aguer said. There was no immediate independent confirmation of the claim. Aguer said the army's next target will be to recapture the capital of Jonglei state, Bor.

One of the problems that observers saw with the talks in Addis Ababais that the disparate group of warlords and officials of the ruling SPLM who supported Riek Machar have not formulated any clear-cut objectives. Although they have brought large swathes of the country under their control, the rebels do not seem to have any discernible hierarchies. Even Machar's position of leadership among the rebels is not firmly established.

South Sudan's military battled rebels in the northern Upper Nile state region on 15 January 2014, amid continued international concerns that unrest in the world's newest country could spiral into a full-fledged civil war. Army spokesman Philip Aguer claimed fighting continued in the oil town of Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile state. Previously, the rebels said they had captured Malakal -- a claim the government denied.

Uganda acknowledged on 16 January 2014 that its forces were helping South Sudan's army battle rebels, reversing a previous denial. A Ugandan military spokesman said his country's forces were helping to drive rebels out of Bor, the capital of South Sudan's Jonglei state. Earlier, President Yoweri Museveni said Ugandan forces took part in a "big battle" with rebels on 13 January 2014 about 90 kilometers from the capital, Juba. Uganda had previously said its forces were present in South Sudan to protect and evacuate Ugandan civilians. Rebels had accused Uganda of fighting with soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir.

South Sudan's government said 18 January 2014 its forces had recaptured Bor, the strategic town that has changed hands several times since fighting between government and anti-government forces erupted in mid-December 2013. Army spokesman Philip Aguer said SPLA forces entered Bor and "defeated" more than 15,000 opposition fighters. He said the military had "frustrated" what he said were plans by former vice president Riek Machar to attack the capital, Juba. Anti-government negotiator Mabior de Garang said the opposition had agreed on a plan and would be willing to sign a cease-fire in coming days.

South Sudan's warring factions signed a cease-fire agreement January 23, 2014, a move that was expected to end weeks of deadly fighting between the government and rebel forces. Representatives for President Salva Kiir and his opponents signed the plan in Ethiopia's capital, where they had been meeting with mediators from East African regional bloc known as IGAD. Mediators urged South Sudan warring factions to respect the ceasefire agreement following accusations that both sides were violating the accord.

Riek Machar said 03 February 2014 had formed a "resistance" group to fight for free elections in the war-torn country. He that his new group was against what he called the regime of President Salva Kiir, and said he wants to see democracy and pluralism in South Sudan. It remained unclear whether Machar was in charge of the rebels who battled government troops in several states. Thousands were believed to have been killed, and more than a half-million people were driven from their homes. A shaky cease-fire was in place, with each side accusing the other of violations. A second round of peace talks for South Sudan was under way in the Ethiopian capital in February 2014.

The South Sudanese government said 14 February 2014 that it was fighting thousands of troops loyal to a renegade military commander who rejected the cessation of hostilities agreement signed three weeks earlier. Forces loyal to General Gat-hoth Gatkuoth, the former commissioner for Nasir county in Upper Nile state, have attacked positions held by the South Sudanese army, the SPLA, since the cessation of hostilities agreement was signed on 23 January 2014. Gatkuoth issued a statement two weeks after the cessation of hostilities agreement was signed in Addis Ababa, rejecting the deal and vowing to continue fighting until Kiir has left office. He accused Kiir of ordering the killing of civilians in the conflict that has rocked South Sudan since mid-December and said he did not believe Kiir would honor the deals signed in late January.

East African countries said March 05, 2014 they were ready to send a protection and stabilization force to South Sudan, where fighting has continued despite a ceasefire. Peace negotiations taking place in Addis Ababa have made little headway. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African bloc mediating the peace talks, said East African countries are prepared to send protection forces into South Sudan to halt the ongoing conflict. A January deal to cease hostilities continued to be violated by both parties in the conflict.

South Sudan's army said 19 April 2014 they had "lost communication" with commanders battling rebels in a key oil state where rebels have seized a major town, amid a worsening conflict engulfing the young nation. Rebels said the army had fled Bentiu in disarray and that they had seized large amounts of military equipment including artillery, but the army dismissed the reports and said it was staging a counterattack.

However, army spokesman Malaak Ayuen said the situation was "all calm" in the flashpoint town of Bor, where at least 58 people were killed and more than 100 others wounded when gunmen stormed a UN base on 17 April 2014. The UN Security Council called the attack on the camp where thousands of civilians were sheltering an "outrage" that may "constitute a war crime". Among the dead were children, and the UN warned that the death toll could increase.

Meanwhile, over 100 people were killed in a cattle raid in South Sudan's Warrap state. "We lost about 28 civilians" in an isolated cattle herders' camp in the remote northern state, Warrap state Information Minister Bol Dhel told the UN-backed Miraya FM radio 19 April 2014, adding that police and soldiers then chased the attackers, killing 85. Raids between rival communities are common, and it was not immediately clear if the cattle raid was connected to the ongoing conflict, but the civil war has exacerbated existing bitter divisions between ethnic groups.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir signed a cease-fire agreement 09 May 2014 with his rival, opposition leader Riek Machar, in Ethiopia. The agreement calls for the cease-fire to be active within 24 hours that, ending five months of conflict in the country. The deal states that both sides have to refrain from any combat action, and they must open up humanitarian corridors. It also calls for a transitional government of national unity to take the country forward.

South Sudan's army and rebel forces blamed each other for violating the new cease-fire hours after it came into effect, fighting that frustrated international mediators who had pressured both sides to stop the ethnic-fuelled conflict. The May deal was very similar to the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in January, but fighting continued throughout South Sudan.

Separately, the government of South Sudan signed a peace deal in Addis Ababa on 09 May 2014 to end one of the longest running rebellions in the country, the insurgency in Jonglei state led by David Yau Yau. "This agreement should end the rebellion of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army-Cobra faction (SSDM/A-Cobra faction) headed by Yau Yau. The key feature of the agreement between Yau Yau and Juba is the establishment of a Greater Pibor administrative area that will give some form of self-rule to the area.

President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar agreed on 10 June 2014 in Addis Ababa to a 60-day time frame for setting up a transitional government, and to allow relier workers unimpeded access to people in need. Sudd Institute researcher Augustino Ting Mayai said the June 10 pledge "is rhetoric, another understanding that could basically fall through.... "I don't think that there is that commitment that would deliver for the 60-day period that was given." South Sudan won independence on July, 9 2011. The conflict in South Sudan, the world's youngest country, left thousands dead and forced around a million people to flee their homes. The fighting was marked by reports and allegations of atrocities by both sides, with ethnic massacres, child soldier recruitment and patients raped and murdered in hospitals by attacking forces. By the third anniversary of indepedence, more than 10,000 people had been killed since the dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar erupted into violence on 15 December 2013. About 1.5 million had been displaced from their homes by the conflict. And three separate ceasefire deals between the two sides were violated almost immediately after being signed.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said 10 September 2014 China had deployed 1,800 peacekeepers to South Sudan, while a spokesman for the UN mission in the country, Joe Contreras, said Beijing planned to send 700 soldiers, none of whom have arrived. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy. China was sending hundreds of troops to join the UN peacekeeping force in war-torn South Sudan, where Chinese companies have major oil interests. China was deploying troops to protect South Sudanese oil fields and the Chinese workers and installations around them. Hua made no mention of oil or Chinese companies, saying China's "goal is to strictly follow the mandate of the UN Security Council and promote construction of the region." This is believed to be China's largest contribution to a U.N. peacekeeping force. In March 2013, China sent some 300 peacekeepers to Mali.

Ethnic violence and fighting between pro- and anti-government troops killed an estimated 10,000 people and driven more than a million South Sudanese from their homes since December 2013.

Development in the country has been, more or less, put on hold. In his introduction to the new budget in August 2014, Finance Minister Aggrey Tisa Sabuni said the crisis has “forced us to refocus our immediate priorities away from development, towards security and emergency relief.” Funding for security and law enforcement increased by $290 million this year compared with last, and represents about 50 percent of the total $3.75 billion budget. Another $88 million has been set aside for an emergency contingency fund. In comparison, 5 percent goes to education and 4 percent to health.

National Assembly Finance Committee Chairman Goc Makuac said the budget makes clear that achieving peace is the first priority. “The government will work very hard to see that peace is achieved. If peace is achieved, then there will be stability, and if stability is there, then the economy will prosper,” Makuac said. Much of the fighting has centered around oil-producing areas of South Sudan, threatening the industry that provides the vast majority of the country's revenue. So securing oil fields is crucial to protecting the economic interests of the country.

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Page last modified: 24-10-2014 17:55:33 ZULU