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Sudan Third Civil War 2005-2020

Prior to independence, the unified Sudan had fought two civil wars. The second civil war ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was put in place from 2005 to 2011. The CPA set standards for sharing oil revenue (50:50 split) and a timetable toward a referendum on the South's independence. A referendum took place in January 2011 in which the people of the South voted to secede from Sudan. In July 2011, Sudan became two countries: Sudan (Khartoum) and South Sudan (Juba). However, there are still unresolved issues that have caused tension between both countries after independence.

The border separating Sudan and South Sudan was still not officially defined, and some areas remain contested. The current de facto border was established when Sudan gained independence in 1956; it was known as the 1956 border. The CPA called for the border to be demarcated, and a Technical Border Committee (TBC) was established in 2005 to demarcate the 1956 border. The committee agreed on most of the border, but five areas remain disputed.

In January 2012, South Sudan voluntarily shut in all of its oil production because of a dispute with Sudan over oil transit fees. Following South Sudan's secession, Sudan requested transit fees of $32-36/barrel (bbl) in an attempt to make up for the oil revenue loss, while South Sudan offered a transit fee of less than $1/bbl. Tensions escalated at the end of 2011 when Sudan began to confiscate a portion of South Sudan's oil as a payment for unpaid transit fees, and shortly after, South Sudan shut down production.

The 12 February 2012 announcement that Sudan and South Sudan signed a nonaggression pact occurred the same time media headlines were warning the two nations were inching their way to war, making it difficult to discern which it was going to be, “ peace or war?” The answer seemed “both.” Certainly from an economic standpoint peace would be the most advantageous route. That would allow oil-rich but landlocked South Sudan to send its oil through Sudan, which was oil poor but has the infrastructure that would allow the oil to be piped to a port for shipment elsewhere. War, too, seems to be a likely option, as the two nations argue over borders and oil transit fees. Perhaps the present situation, neither a full peace nor all out war, will be the ongoing condition until an event, or series of events, tips the nations one way or the other.

The problems inherent between the two nations stem in large part from how they divided. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 between the northern and southern parts of Sudan was intended to end the Second Sudanese War and allow the southern part of Sudan in six years to have a referendum on its independence. There were other aspects to the CPA, including demilitarization, revenue sharing and borders, though this last part planned for an additional referendum in the sensitive oil-rich area of Abyei near the historical division between the north and south. It was possible the two would not have been able to agree on independence for South Sudan had the exact demarcation of Abyei been fully decided. On 9 July 2011, following a referendum held in January the same year, the independent nation of South Sudan was born, and immediately found itself in turmoil with its northern neighbor.

With neither side trusting the other, disarmament never occurred. With Abyei being a tremendous economic prize, border disputes were inevitable. With Sudan charging what South Sudan felt was an exorbitant oil transit fee, South Sudan stopped sending its oil northward, resulting in both countries losing a tremendous amount of revenue their economies can ill afford to lose. Corruption, lack of transparency, and a long history of bilateral hatred makes negotiations even more difficult. South Sudan has the additional burden of intertribal warfare, which was costing large numbers of lives and was stretching even further an already overextended military.

Though Juba and Khartoum seemed to realize it was in their best economic interest to pursue peace, as evidenced by their recent signing of the non-aggression pact, many feel a major war between the two was a strong possibility, as evidenced by the bellicose words periodically emanating from both sides. Perhaps the best chance of peace was pressure from China, which was both heavily invested in oil facilities in the region and dependent on South Sudanese oil to help fuel its economy. Thus, it would not be surprising to find the Chinese behind any peace moves between Sudan and South Sudan.

The AU Peace and Security Council and UN Security Council were able to forge a strong, united front to pull Sudan and South Sudan back from the brink of war in April and May of 2012. But fighting in Darfur and ongoing conflict in the Two Areas spread into Northern Kordofan. According to the UN, clashes since late April 2013 between the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SRF) displaced approximately 63,000 people in the areas of Um Ruwaba town in Northern Kordofan State and Abu Kershola town in Southern Kordofan State.

In Northern Kordofan, as in Darfur and the Two Areas, the Government of Sudan prevented international NGOs from deploying international staff to project sites in affected areas. International agencies are required to operate through national NGOs or government ministries. While some local groups, including the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, are able to conduct assessments, Government of Sudan-imposed restrictions in SRF-controlled areas have prevented international relief organizations from conducting assessments, suggesting that trends and needs could be even worse than known.

After nearly 15 months of intermittent negotiations, South Sudan restarted oil production in April 2013. Despite the progress that has been made to reconcile differences, several unresolved issues remain and production may be curtailed again in the future.

Following the formation of the new Government of the Sudan, in June 2015, the ruling National Congress Party maintained its position that the national dialogue process remained national in character and rejected the holding of a pre -dialogue meeting under the auspices of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel. The major opposition political parties and armed movements in the Sudan continued to call for such a meeting to determine the format of the dialogue process and establish the necessary preconditions for their participation, particularly with respect to the security of their members.

On 10 October 2015, the President of the Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, opened the National Dialogue Conference in Khartoum, nearly two years after having first announced his initiative to resolve the conflicts and political crises in Sudan. Even though major opposition parties, armed movements and civil society boycotted the process, the dialogue was attended by 112 political parties and 30 armed movements, mainly splinter factions of the major movements. Specialized committees on peace and unity, the economy, freedoms and basic rights, issues of identity, foreign relations and issues of governance and overall implementation were formed as part of the dialogue.

By late February 2016, it was reported that consensus within the committees had been reached on several issues, including Sudanese identity and guidelines for the constitutional review process. On the issue of transitional arrangements, most of the non-National Congress Party participants reportedly recommended a four-year national reconciliation government to be established within three months of the endorsement of the recommendations of the National Dialogue Conference. The process, which was originally scheduled to conclude on 10 January 2016, has been extended twice so as to allow the committees to finalize their discussions and convince key opposition groups and armed movements to join the process. Having concluded their work, on 09 May 2016, the committees announced their readiness to present their reports to the President and to discuss arrangements for the General Conference of the National Dialogue to approve their recommendations.

However, major political parties and armed movements refused to participate in the conference, including the Revolutionary Front Alliance, which brings together the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)/northern sector and major Darfur armed movements. Darfur armed groups and the SPLM/northern sector insisted that a preparatory conference should be held according to decisions of the African Union Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council.

In June 2016 President Omar al-Bashir declared a four-month unilateral cessation of hostilities (COH) in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states (the “Two Areas”) and an end to offensive military actions in Darfur. The UN Secretary-General welcomes the signing of the Roadmap Agreement for Ending the Conflicts in Sudan by the Sudanese opposition groups on 8 August 2016. The agreement was proposed by the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and was signed by the Government of Sudan on 21 March 2016.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on 10 October 2016 extended the ceasefire unilaterally declared in three regions of the country where tens of thousands had been killed in fighting between government forces and rebels have killed. He told the concluding session of Sudan’s national dialogue conference in Khartoum that “I declare the extension of ceasefire until the end of the current year in all conflict areas.” Al-Bashir, who was handed the national document of the dialogue, which was approved by the conference, vowed to implement all the recommendations upon which the participants have agreed. He said he would consult with all political forces in the country to form a mechanism to implement the national document and build a strategy to reform state institutions. The presidents of Egypt, Mauritania, Uganda and Chad attended the dialogue’s closing session.

The government repeatedly extended the cessation of hostilities (COH), and as of the end of 2017, no offensive military actions had resumed, except for infrequent skirmishes between armed groups and government forces.

The Bashir government repeatedly extended its 2016 unilateral cessation of hostilities (COH) agreement in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states (the “Two Areas”) and ended offensive military action in Darfur. Clashes between the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) and government forces resumed in 2018, and there were credible reports that villages in Darfur’s Jebel Marra mountain range were targeted for attack during these clashes, resulting in thousands of newly displaced civilians. Nevertheless, the COH did allow for periods of increased stability and an overall improvement in the human rights situation in Darfur and the Two Areas.

As part of its UN Security Council-mandated reconfigurations, the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) monitored the humanitarian and security situation in Jebel Marra, anchored by its new Golo Temporary Operating Base. In June the TMC and two main armed movements agreed to extend the COH agreement. The CLTG and various Sudanese armed groups launched multitrack negotiations on October 14 in Juba to achieve comprehensive peace within six months of the transition. The Government and rebel groups extended negotiations to discuss outstanding issues on 14 December 2019. In Darfur weak rule of law persisted, and banditry, criminality, and intercommunal violence were the main causes of insecurity.

In Darfur and the Two Areas, paramilitary forces and rebel groups continued to commit killings, rape, and torture of civilians throughout the year. Local militias maintained substantial influence due to widespread impunity. There were reports of both progovernment and antigovernment militias looting, raping, and killing civilians. Intercommunal violence spawned from land tenure disputes and resource scarcity continued to result in civilian deaths, particularly in East, South, and North Darfur. The Bashir government continued its national arms collection campaign, which began in October 2017, mostly in Darfur.

Sudan began the year 2019 as a republic with power concentrated in the hands of authoritarian President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the National Congress Party (NCP). The NCP, which ruled for three decades with nearly absolute political authority, remained in power until early April. Protests that began in mid-December 2018 over economic concerns continued during the first few months of the year, growing in size and transforming into demands for regime change under the slogan Freedom, Peace, Justice. On April 11, Omar al-Bashir was removed from his position as the president. A self-appointed Transitional Military Council (TMC) took over, with Lieutenant General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf as de facto head of state.

Forging peace with rebels has been a cornerstone of Sudan's transitional government, which came to power in the months after the overthrow of Bashir in April 2019. Sudan's power-sharing government and rebel commanders agreed 31 August 2020 on a historic peace deal, a crucial step towards ending 17 years of conflict in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Leaders of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), an umbrella organisation of rebel groups from the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, raised their fists in celebration after inking the agreement. The deal, reached in the South Sudanese capital Juba, offers rebel groups political representation and devolved powers, integration into the security forces, economic and land rights and the chance of return for displaced people.

The groups that signed include the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Minni Minawi's Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), both of the western region of Darfur, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) led by Malik Agar, present in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Forging peace with rebels has been a cornerstone of Sudan's transitional government, which came to power in the months after the overthrow of Bashir in April 2019. Rebel members of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) had provisionally initialled the agreement with the government on 29 August 2020. However, an SLM faction led by Abdelwahid Nour and a wing of the SPLM-N headed by Abdelaziz al-Hilu refused to take part.

Sudanese paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo -- best known by his nickname "Hemedti", and who commanded fighters in the war -- signed the deal on behalf of Khartoum. Daglo and the leaders of the rebel movements grouped together and shook hands -- and briefly danced together. "We have started the real transformation of Sudan from dictatorship to democracy," Faisal Mohammed Salih, Sudan's information minister, told AFP, at the ceremony in Juba, the capital of neighboring South Sudan.

At the ceremony in the South Sudanese capital Juba, Sudan's government and rebel groups on 03 October 2020 inked a landmark peace deal aimed at ending decades of war in which hundreds of thousands died. "Today we have reached a peace agreement. We are happy. We have finished the mission," Tut Gatluak, head of the South Sudanese mediating team said shortly before the signing took place. Guarantors of the deal from Chad, Qatar, Egypt, the African Union, European Union and United Nations also put their names to the agreement. Sudanese paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo -- best known by his nickname "Hemeti" -- signed the deal on behalf of Khartoum.

A representative of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and others from the groups making up the coalition, also signed. The SRF comprises rebel groups from the war-ravaged western Darfur region, as well as the southern states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Two other well-established rebel groups did not sign, reflecting the challenges still facing the peace process.

The peace agreement covers a number of tricky issues, from land ownership, reparations and compensation, to wealth and power sharing and the return of refugees and internally displaced people. Under the deal, SRF fighters are to be slowly incorporated into joint units with government security forces.

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Page last modified: 22-04-2023 18:02:52 ZULU