The world’s newest country, South Sudan, has been embroiled in a civil war since December 2013. The conflict erupted following a split in the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) party between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and then Vice President Riek Machar. This has led to troops being divided along tribal lines; therefore, those who were from the Dinka ethnic group remained loyal to Kiir and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, and those from the Nuer ethnic group were pro-Machar, thereby, forming the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – in Opposition (SPLM-IO). Violence erupted when President Kiir dismissed Vice President Machar, accusing him of staging a coup.
The firing of Riek Machar and the authoritarian nature of President Kiir resulted in anti-government protests, which have been predominantly by supporters of Machar. The government responded to the protests violently, with security forces and militias allied to the government committing human rights abuses. The resulting violence quickly evolved into an ethnic conflict, mainly between the Nuer, who support Riek Machar, and the Dinka, who support President Kiir. Along with the political conflict, competition for two primary resources, land and pastures, has further fuelled inter-communal conflicts since the distribution of resources is often tied to ethnicity and political power.
Despite strong condemnation from the United Nations, African Union and other international organisations, Kiir’s regime has continued to massacre civilians, especially when they reclaim territory from the opposition. This has resulted in notable atrocities such as the Juba Nuer massacre and the 2014 Bentiu massacre. Despite evidence from the international community, reports show that, though to a significantly smaller scale, some of the opposition groups have also intentionally targeted civilians.
A peace agreement was first signed in 2015 between Kiir and Machar, which saw the return of Machar in 2016 as Vice President. However, this peace agreement was short-lived, as violence soon erupted between government and opposition forces. Similarly, in 2018, the Khartoum Declaration was signed between both Kiir and Machar, resulting in a temporary ceasefire before conflict resumed, allowing for the signing of the Entebbe Proposal and the new peace treaty. With uncertainty, the pro-Kiir parliament extended the President’s term until July 2021. Following an extension to meet the terms addressed in the Khartoum Declaration, in February 2020, an agreement was made which resulted in Machar’s reinstatement as First Vice President, thereby forming a united government. The February agreement between the two opposing sides once again deferred election to 2022. Additionally, President Kiir compromised and agreed to the proposed reduction of the number of states from 32 to 10 by Machar. The Machar camp also agreed to give President Kiir responsibility for his security. Though the agreement is a step towards the right direction, a major obstacle, the unification of the army, has not yet been dealt with.
Despite the latest developments, the longer the key actors take to agree on a political solution to solve the South Sudanese conflict, the more likely the civil war will continue. Thus far, more than 300,000 have been killed as a result of the war, drought and famine.
Classification: Civil war, humanitarian and economic crisis
Current situation: Between August and October, the South Sudanese government has been focusing on reducing violence in the county. On one track, the government has extended an olive branch to opposition groups that have not yet signed peace agreements with the government. The Kirr government signed a deal with the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA) in Rome. To address the inter-community fighting that is responsible for thousands of deaths, the government restarted the disarmament exercise throughout the country. In Warrap State, the exercise went array, resulting in the deaths of at least 140 people when the locals and government forces clashed. Though the tension was high at the beginning of the exercise in August, the government program has managed to collect 6000 firearms from civilians.
A mixture of factors, including inter-communal fighting, flooding, and poor financial practices by the government have caused more problems. The South Sudanese currency is continuing to devalue, which has caused the price of food and other basic commodities to rapidly rise. The government has attempted to address the economic crisis by banning the use of foreign currency and introducing a new national currency as a means to increase the flow of capital in the country. Top government officials have also been implicated in a corruption scandal with the UN alleging that more than 36 Million dollars have been stolen from 2016.
Where: South Sudan
Population: 11.2 million (2020)
Deaths: Estimates are between 300,000 and 700,000
Refugees/Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs): 1.3 million IDPs (2019), 2.47 Million refugees (May 2018)
Displacements in 2020: 232,000 (as a result of conflict and violence)
UN Personnel and Peacekeepers: 19,135
Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) spearheaded the movement for independence from Sudan from the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). Once South Sudan became an independent country, SPLM became the first, and current, ruling party with President Salva Kiir as its head. SPLM is referred to as SPLM-IG meaning SPLM In Government (IG).
The SPLA is loyal to President Kiir and the Dinka tribe. They used to be heavily supported by the Mathiang Anynoor, a militia group controlled by SPLA chief Paul Malong but he created his political party, the South Sudanese United Front (SSUF). Anotherther support system includes the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a social and militant group focused on local issues in Darfur and the Kordofan region in Sudan.
Once coming to power, President Kiir has been accused of seeking to preserve the Dinka hegemony in government. Additionally, he has been accused of poorly distributing resources, i.e. oil revenue and land among the 60 ethnic tribes, with Dinka, his tribe, benefiting the most. The 2013 Juba Massacre, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Nuer civilians, is usually seen as the best example of the negative impact of his ethnic-oriented rhetoric. Additionally, by re-dividing the ten states into 32 by January 2017, President Kiir increased the total land area controlled by Dinkas from 25% to 42%. In December 2016, President Kiir initiated a National Dialogue aimed at finding a resolution to the conflict but undermined his efforts by allowing the military to carry out attacks on the opposition. Though he maintains that he is pushing for peace, President Kiir has put very little effort to implement the agreements with opposition groups while continuing to extend his powers as president and time in office.
Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM/IO) is the leading opposition group, with an army/rebel component, in South Sudan. It officially became operational in 2014 following the split with SPLM-IG in early 2013, before the Civil War began. SPLM-IO, led by Reik Machar, cited the Juba Massacre as the catalyst for the division. Since Juba is an SPLM-IG stronghold, SPLM-IO moved its operations to Pagak, in the Greater Upper Nile region. As a result, Pagak remains heavily targeted by government forces. SPLM-IO’s demands include President Kiir, and those responsible for the Juba Massacre be held accountable and vacate their political/military positions, return to the original ten states and expulsion of all foreign forces supporting president Kiir, among other issues.
The Nuer ethnic group mainly supports SPLM-IO troops. Other rebel groups that support them include the Nuer White Army Militia, Arrow Boys who operate in Western Equatoria region, and the National Democratic Movement led by former Minister of Agriculture Lam Akol. Regional countries that support SPLM-IO are Sudan and Ethiopia.
Riek Machar is the leader of SPLM-IO who is currently in exile in South Africa since July 2016 when he was forced to flee to DRC then South Africa after intense clashes with the South Sudanese military. Following gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, Machar became the first Vice President. The tension between him and President Kiir reached an all-time high that by February 2013, Machar had announced his intentions of challenging the president. Five months later, President Kiir dissolved the entire Cabinet and Machar was removed as first Vice President. After his removal from office, President Kiir replaced him with SPLM-IO’s chief political negotiator, Taban Deng Gai. Many SPLM-IO elites do not accept or recognise his appointment, and Taban is often seen as a tool working for President Kiir to divide the opposition. The SPLM-IO rebel group remains loyal primarily to Machar.
Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is a Horn and East African regional organisation aimed at supporting regional processes related to peace, prosperity, and regional integration.
IGAD’s involvement in South Sudan began as soon as the civil war commenced in December 2013. The 15-month IGAD-led peace talks resulted in the signing of the Agreement for Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) in 2015. The process to reach consensus was complicated by the biased nature of IGAD. Uganda openly supports the Kiir government. In fact, the Ugandan government has sent troops across the border to help SPLM/A. Ethiopia supports Machar and SPLM-IO. Their support of the Nuer stems from the fact that the same tribe can be found in Ethiopia. Moreover, some of the Nuer in Ethiopia have gone to fight alongside Nuer in South Sudan. Furthermore, since their national security interest shapes Ethiopia’s regional foreign policy, the proximity of traditionally Nuer land near their border has made Ethiopia support the Nuer. Though Sudan is known to support SPLM-IO, some of the members of the government have close ties with members of President Kiir’s inner circle. Though Kenya leans towards supporting President Kiir, their interest in South Sudan is economical.
The warring parties within the IGAD coupled with the unwillingness to compromise to reach an agreement prolonged the timeframe for the peace talks. The need to create an efficient way to mediate the peace process led to the creation of IGAD-PLUS, which included AU, UN, EU, the Trioka (US, UK, and Norway) and China, in March 2015.
A UNSC resolution approves the creation of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) 8 July 2011, a day before South Sudan gained its independence. The original mandate, which was approved to last one year, was to “consolidate peace and security, and help establish conditions for development in the Republic of South Sudan, with a view to strengthening the capacity of the Government of South Sudan to govern effectively and democratically and establish good relations with its neighbours.” A significant element of this included supporting the government’s efforts in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005).
After the Civil War broke out in December 2013, UNMISS could not operate as freely as they had previously due to allegations that they were not a neutral force. The disdain for the UN was illustrated by the frequent demonstrations outside their compound in Juba and other places in the country. As the fighting intensified, UNMISS compounds in the country became places of refuge, with thousands of civilians attempting to force their way into the crowded space. The intensity of the conflict resulted in the expansion of the mandate and peacekeeping force as detailed in the UNSC resolution 2132 (2013). The new mandate stated that UNMISS focus is the protection of civilians, human rights, and contributing to the creation of security conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
The United States has been a very active mediator of the South Sudanese Civil War until Trump took office in January 2017. Before the civil war began, the US government was militarily supporting the South Sudanese government. The US government even sent specialists to train and advise the military. However, as the war continued and reports of potential war crimes and crimes against humanity allegations surfaced, the US began taking a strong stance against President Kiir’s government. The Obama administration pushed for sanctions against officials of the South Sudanese government, both within the US and UN. Though the involvement of the US in the conflict is as strong under the Trump administration, they have at least maintained the script. Former US Ambassador to the UN, Nicki Haley voiced her concerns about president Kiir’s leadership during a trip to the country. In 2017, the US placed new sanctions against three South Sudanese nationals. Moreover, the US issued a warning to American financial institutions that fail to comply with the economic sanctions by allowing sanctioned individuals to use their banks to launder money.
Timeline of the crisis
Refer to the UNMISS section in the key stakeholders to learn more
Following decades of fighting between the Northerners and Southerners in Sudan, the South Sudanese people overwhelmingly voted in favour of independence during a national referendum between 9 and 15 January 2011. South Sudan formally became an independent country on 9 July, a move that was celebrated throughout the world. The independence of South Sudan was seen as a new era of peace and stability for the South Sudanese people. South Sudan and Sudan still contest the boundaries of their respective countries, with the Abyei region as the most contentious.
The Pibor Massacre occurred when heavily armed fighters from the Luo Nuer ethnic group advanced towards Pibor town which is inhabited with their rival ethnic group, the Murle. The two tribes have been clashing for decades in which each tribe is destroying large pieces of land and raids cattle. Right before the massacre, peace talks between the two tribes had failed. UN peacekeepers and government soldiers could not stop the Nuer fighters as they were outnumbered. Additionally, the terrain of Pibor town, which is rugged, isolated and surrounded by thick forests and swamps, made efforts to help the villagers harder. As a result of the massacre, over 3000 people, mostly from the Murle tribe, were murdered, and 1000 children abducted. Over 370,000 cattle were also stolen. The Pibor Massacre is considered one of the worst and brutal ethnic massacres recorded.
Before the Civil War began, the tension between Kiir and Machar was increasing. As a result, President Kiir began reorganising the senior leadership, which included reshuffling of the Cabinet and security agency personnel, with individuals loyal to him. In total, 36 people lost their jobs and were replaced by Kiir supporters. Additionally, 117 generals were forced to retire.
President Kiir fires Machar from his position as First Vice President, along with his entire Cabinet. Analysts say the reasoning behind the firing of Machar was due to a power struggle between the two leaders. Machar’s decision to announce his run for the 2015 election sparked the internal struggle. The previous day, the president had issued a decree where he dismissed all deputy ministers. Following the dismissal of all major government officials, the government was technically being run by under-secretaries until further notice. The monopoly of power vested in the presidency allows the president to dissolve national and state legislatures, dismiss ministers and vice president, elect state governors and judges. Due to the unpredictability of the announcement, security forces were deployed throughout Juba, though the city remained relatively calm.
The precursor of the South Sudanese Conflict is the accusation from President Kiir that FVP Machar had attempted to stage a coup. Following the accusation, nine suspected conspirators were arrested. VP Machar denied the allegations.
The Juba Nuer massacre was a consequence of the accusations that VP Machar had attempted to plan a coup against President Kiir. Dinka members of the military killed over 500 Nuer civilians in the capital city of Juba. Over 20,000 civilians fled to the UN compound for safety. The aftermath of the Juba Nuer massacre was a mass defection from the government with many Nuer military soldiers and personnel leaving SPLM/A to join SPLM-IO. Additionally, ethnically Nuer militias such as the Nuer White Army pledged allegiance to SPLM-IO.
The fighting between the government and opposition forces in Jonglei state was devastating. Both sides and militias loyal to each side staged revenge attacks on each other, killing thousands of the civilians. The displacement of civilians fleeing from violence forced the president to declare a state of emergency. The stalemate between the two sides prolonged the conflict. UN peacekeepers were not spared in the attacks. An attack on the UN base resulted in the deaths of 2 Indian peacekeepers.
Resolution 2132 (2013) increased UNMISS military component up to 12,500 and 1323 police to form Formed Police Units
Refer to the IGAD section in the key stakeholders
Bentiu Massacre occurred when the SPLM-IO fighter killed approximately 400 civilians following capturing Bentiu from government forces. According to a UN human rights investigator, the rebel fighters went throughout the town, killing anyone whom they believed did not support them. They did not spare those civilians who had sought refuge in religious places such as mosques and churches. It is believed that some of the victims of the massacre were traders from the Sudan and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) soldiers.
Riek Machar and SPLM-IO denied responsibility for the attack, claiming that the government staged the massacre and blamed them for the attack.
UNSC imposed sanctions on six generals accused of fuelling the South Sudanese conflict. The sanctions targeted three generals from the government, including the Commander of president Kiir’s Special Guard, Major General Marial Chanuong Yol Mangok, and three from the opposition including Maj Gen Simon Gatwech Dual, the Chief of General Staff of the opposition forces.
The IGAD statement said that forces loyal to President Kiir, including the military, have conducted military offensives in five of the nine countries in the oil-rich Unity state. The aim of the offensive, according to IGAD, is to increase territorial gains into Jonglei and Upper Nile states. Credible reports say acts of violence targeting civilians, human rights violation/abuses and destruction of villages have occurred. The South Sudanese government denied the allegations.
The Agreement for Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) called for the creation of a power-sharing unity transitional government that would be in place for 30 months. During the 30 months, the unity government was expected to “ensure justice, accelerate constitutional reform, improve economic and political governance, and reconcile society.” The document also called for a permanent ceasefire, transitional security arrangements. The new agreement was meant to be the foundation for the peace process since once the unity government is created, the path towards demilitarisation of both sides, and possibly the creation of a unity military, would begin. Despite the high hopes, the ceasefire was short lived as both sides continued to fight.
In another attempt to use political agreement to bring about the end of the conflict, President Kiir reappoints Machar as the FVP, as part of the new peace accord. The move by President Kiir comes after Machar returns to Juba after fleeing the country following heavy clashes between him and the president’s supporters. He maintained his position for a mere two months before he was once again sacked. Following the decision, Machar once fled the country. It is reported that the government forces pursued him by helicopter gunship to kill him.
As soon as Machar was fired for the second time, protests broke out. The clashes resulted in the deaths of an estimated 300 people, predominantly civilians within four days in Juba. A Chinese peacekeeper was among the killed. The killings come as South Sudan was supposed to celebrate its fifth anniversary since independence.
Many analysts say that President Kiir appointed Gen Taban as first Vice President in an attempt to divide SPLM-IO, i.e. divide and conquer. If this is the case, it means that President Kiir is intentionally trying to prolong the conflict since he was trying to create tension within SPLM-IO. Regardless of his actions, most of SPLM-IO supporters remained loyal to Machar rather than Taban, including the military/rebel element of the party
Kenya withdrew its troops once the Commander of the UNMISS, Lt General Johnson Magoa Kimani Ondieki was dismissed from his position by Ban Ki-moon, then the UN Secretary-General. The decision came after a damning report was published showing that the UN mission failed to protect civilians in Juba during the July violence which were sparked by the firing of Machar from his position as First Vice President. The report stated that, during the July clashes, peacekeepers abandoned their posts, and failed to respond to pleas for help from aid works under attack near the UN compound.
Following a ten-day fact-finding mission to South Sudan, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan stated that the process of ethnic cleansing is well underway in the country. The report adds that starvation, gang rape, and the burning of villages are being used to maximise the effects of ethnic cleansing. In addition to ethnic cleansing and division between various tribes, there is an increase of hate speech and a crackdown on the media and civil society. The report also stated that if the world does not act, what happened in Rwanda is going to happen in South Sudan. The commission recommends that the government set up a hybrid court which was promised to the south Sudanese nationals by the government.
In December 2016, President Kiir initiated a National Dialogue aimed at finding a resolution to the conflict. As part of the process, he offered amnesty to rebels and asked them to return to the capital city of Juba. Some analysts say that he announced the national dialogue to change the narrative from the UN report detailing ethnic cleansing. Regardless of his motives, by January 2017, a dozen SPLM-IO officials had defected to government forces. However, he undermined his own efforts by allowing the military to carry out attacks on the opposition.
The UN expresses concern over the declaration of famine in parts of the country with over 100,000 people on the brink of starvation. The acting US State Department spokesperson, Mark Toner, stated that the crisis is man-made since it is a direct result of the conflict and obstruction of humanitarian access.
After former Deputy Head of Logistics Lt Gen Thomas Cirillo Swaka left SPLM-IG, he created his group, the National Salvation Front (NAS or NSF). By the end of March 2017, NAS, which mostly operated in Equatoria state, immediately got new defectors from SPLM-IO including; 1) Commander in Wester Bahr el-Ghazal Area General Faiz Ismail Futur, 2) six SPKM-IO governors from Equatoria region, 3) Head of Cobra Faction Khalid Boutros, and 4) Commander of Central Equatoria state John Kenyi Loburon. Many of the defectors claimed the division among clan lines was the reason for leaving SPLM-IO. The creation of NAS shifts the conversation about the conflict in South Sudan since NAS has increasingly become an active opposition group, distinct from SPLM-IO. The more influence NAS got, not only did they pose a threat to the current government but also the international community needed to pay attention to their actions and involve them in the peace process.
In a presidential announcement, President Kiir not only does he declare a unilateral ceasefire on the ongoing civil war but also promises to release political prisoners. His efforts were met with scepticism since he had previously declared ceasefires and vowed to release prisoners but never followed through with it.
Following the failure of the previous ceasefire and peace agreement in 2015, IGAD did not take a backseat to the conflict. In a communique, IGAD calls upon all parties of the South Sudanese conflict to take urgent steps to draw concrete plans and timelines to compensate for the delay and to revitalise the full implementation of the ARCSS. To ensure that this new process succeeds, IGAD needs to ensure that the two main sides, SPLM-IG and SPLM-IO, agree to security arrangements in Juba, the integration of rebels into the national army and redrawing the district borders. These three issues dictate whether renewed efforts will succeed.
The Pagak Offensive was an aggressive push from the South Sudanese government to take the rebel stronghold of Pagak and wider Maiwut county which is near the Ethiopian border. The offensive led to thousands of people to flee the area. The opposition forces attempted to repel the advancement of the government forces but were unable to do so.
The government denied the existence of the operation, stating that the military push in Pagak was the work of the new Vice President Taban Deng Gai. It was not until the SPLA retook Pagak and Maiwut county did the government admit the operation
A UN report says that 1 million refugees have entered Uganda since the conflict in South Sudan began in 2013. The report details that approximately 1800 South Sudanese arrive in Uganda daily in the past year alone.
Renewed efforts to bring about the end of the conflict has brought initial success with both SPLM-IG and SPLM-IO agreeing to a ceasefire. The ceasefire aims to revive the 2015 IGAD-led peace process that had collapsed. The international community welcomed the progress.
The smaller opposition groups combine forces to create the South Sudan Opposition Alliance in an attempt to get a seat at the negotiation table. The alliance involves National Salvation Front (NAS/NSF), National Democratic Movement (NDM), Federal Democratic Party/ South Sudan Armed Forces (FDP/SSAF), People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SSLM/A), South Sudan National Movement of Change (SSNMC), South Sudan Patriotic Movement/Army (SSPM/A), South Sudan United Movement/Army (SSUM/A), and United Democratic Republican Alliance (UDRA).
Note: Though the alliance is still operational, the coalition has faced many internal struggles for power, causing some of the original founding members to leave and create other opposition groups. a
In the new report, the UN claims that between the specified period, 232 civilians were killed, 120 women and girls raped
Note: the report also mentioned the violations that the opposition has committed but at a far less extent
The Khartoum Declaration, which is the Declaration of Agreement on a Permanent Ceasefire, was able to reduce fighting between the two warring sides for the time being. “The parties will continue talks in Khartoum to discuss the arrangements for implementing the ceasefire, and after it comes into place the issue of power-sharing will be discussed,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dirdiri Mohamed Ahmed told Reuters. The Sudanese Minister added that the agreement would alow humanitrian aid groups to access the affect communities, ad prisoners from opposing sides to be released. Morevoer, the agreement stated that the unity government to be fomed in the next four months. “This agreement signed today and the ceasefire will end the war in South Sudan and opens a (new) page,” Machar told reporters.
After the failed attempt in 2016, the United States has successfully gathered votes to pass a UNSC arms embargo on South Sudan. The terms of the arms embargo dictate that all Member states must prevent arms and related equipment of all types, including weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and any spare parts, from entering South Sudan. The arms embargo also imposed a travel ban and asset freeze against two new individuals.
Note. Both Russia and China abstained from the vote.
SPLM-IO and SSOA condemned the move by President Kiir to extend his rule til 2021. Ultimately, on 12 July, the parliament accepted the proposal and President Kiir’s presidency was extended until 2021. The extension to President Kiir’s presidential term is problematic since it shows that he is uninterested in leaving office. This becomes an issue because it will be unpredictable, and possibly prolong the conflict if he either does not become president in the unity government or loses future elections.
Like all previous peace agreements, the Entebbe proposal, the new power-sharing deal, proposed the appointment of four vice presidents with Machar as First Vice President (FVP). The signing of the agreement is both positive and negative. On the positive sign, it shows that both sides are willing to come to the negotiation table and discuss a way to end the conflict, which has slowed the fighting. However, on the negative side, since the new agreement did not address the key issues such as third-party security forces in Juba, unity military and redrawing of the districts, there is a high likelihood that at a later stage, issues will arise, causing the fighting to continue.
Note: other opposition groups rejected the deal since the new system did not restrict President Kiir’s legislative and executive, one of the reasons why the civil war began in the first place,
Rebel leader Riek Machar returns to South Sudan for the first time since he fled the country more than two years ago. He travels to Juba to demonstrate the strength of the Khartoum agreement.
The new peace treaty, spearheaded by former Sudan president, Omar al-Bashir, was signed in Addis Ababa. This would be the 12th peace agreement that these two leaders have signed between them. The peace deal details the creation of a new unity government, meant to be formed in May 2019. Before the unity government was created, the peace deal stated that interim benchmarks had to be met first. These benchmarks included 1) the unification of the national army and 2) the redrawing of internal boundaries, i.e. reducing the 32 states created by President Kiir to the original ten states. Another aspect of the deal that is being discussed is the use of a third-party protection force in Juba to allow the return of opposition leaders and supporters to the city.
Note: The peace deal is extremely fragile since both sides are unwilling to make drastic compromises to ensure that the three main points were addressed before the intended creation of the unity government in May 2019
Note: Out of the nine groups that are part of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), six signed on to the new peace agreement. Lt Gen Thomas Cirillo Swaka (SAN or SNF), Hakim Dario (PDM) and Gatweth Thich (UDRA) did not sign the peace agreement.
Reports claim that thousands of civilians have fled the region due to the brutality by government forces. These allegations come as the government forces begun their campaign against opposition group, National Salvation Front (NAS). In response to the attack by the government, the leader of NAS, General Cirillo, said, “I want to tell the people of South Sudan that we have never attacked government troops. It is the government that has been launching attacks on our positions so that they force us to sign the agreement. We will never surrender and our people will resist this regime. We will defend ourselves and the rights of our people of South Sudan until we find a solution to our problems so that we rebuild our country and reconcile our people.”
IGAD Special Envoy Ismail Wais met with Lt Gen Thomas Cirillo (NAS/NSF) and Hakim Dario (People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) in an attempt to bring all the warring parties to the table. Without the signature of all the essential rebel groups to the peace treaty, the fighting will likely continue.
Note: Government troops and fighters loyal to General Cirillo have been fightin in Yei for the past two months.
Head of UNMISS, David Shearer, briefed the UNSC where he expressed concern with the delayed implantation of the three areas agreed upon in the peace agreement, 1) delineation of internal state boundaries, 2) creation of a unified army and 3) ensuring the security of returning opposition leaders. These concerns are valid since these three issues are the reasons why each peace treaty has failed.
aul Malong, South Sudan United Front (SSUF/A) leader, and Lt General Cirillo (SAN or SNF) did not sign the 12 September peace agreement. IGAD Special Envoy, Ismail Wais, met with them in an attempt to convince him to lay down arms and join the peace agreement. Malong, in a joint statement with IGAD, expressed willingness to negotiate with the government. The meeting with Lt Gen Cirillo was not fruitful. Both opposition leaders and their groups are still fighting against government forces and pro-government militia groups.
The highly anticipated meeting between the two main factions in South Sudan politics, President Kiir and Reich Machar, finally took place in Rome with Pope Francis mediating the peace talks. During the meeting at the Vatican, Pope Francis encouraged the two leaders to pursue a path of peace.
Powerful South Sudanese opposition commander, Peter Gatdet Yak, died in Sudan following a heart attack. Yak switched his alliance several times, supporting various opposition groups in the country. Before he died, he created his own militia, South Sudan United Movement (SSUM), operating in his home region of Unity.
Italian government pledged to support the implementation of the South Sudanese peace deal, according to S. Sudan Ambassador to Italy. The pledge was made following a meeting between President Kiir and the Italian Prime Minister during his trip to Rome.
Authorities in Boma state stated that its security forces had rescued seven children abducted from neighbouring communities. The state deputy governor said, “two boys were handed over to the Jonglei and Kapoeta authorities so that they are united with their parents. And we speak now; we recovered five of eleven children abducted from Bieh state. They are with the commissioner of Likuangole.”
Opposition leader, Machar, expressed his reservation about the creation of the Republican Guard, a 700-strong VIP protection force and its command. The deputy military spokesperson of SPLM-IO said that the command of the proposed presidential guard would be left to the Joint Defense Board (JDB), not the army commander in chief, who is currently allied to president Kiir.
Families of Dong Samuel and Aggrey Idri Ezbon were briefed by UN officials who confirmed that both were killed in Luri on 30 January 2017. Dong, a renowned human rights lawyer, and Aggrey, an human rights activist, were allied to opposition leader Machar. Both activists disappeared from Nairobi on 23 and 24 January 2017 following arrests from S. Sudan National Security officers who were assisted by their embassy in Nairobi, according to the UN inquiry. The family members say that they were not told where they were buried or dumped. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued statements in 2018 that they have interviewed witnesses who place both men in the National Security Services detention centre in Juba on January 25 and 26 2017.
The South Sudanese government denied any responsibility in the disappearance and killing of Dong and Aggrey, adding that the allegations of their involvement are baseless. The spokesperson said that “if someone is arrested in Kenya for a reason known to the authorities, then the responsibility lies with Kenya.”
SPLM-IO commented on the revelation of the killings of Dong and Aggrey. They are calling on the government to prosecute all those involved in the kidnapping and murder of the activists.
The confirmation of the killings of Dong and Aggrey was met with sadness by both local and international rights organisations. Sudd Institute, a local organisation, issued a statement expressing their condolences and sympathies to the family.
With the 12 May deadline fast approaching, President Kiir and Reik Machar agree to a six-month extension to form a new government as critical issues have not been iron-out. The new deadline is 12 November. Matters that are yet to be agreed upon are the unification of the army and internal boundaries after the creation of new states. David Sheare, Head of UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said the new extension gives both parties time to achieve the agreed-upon benchmarks and make peace a reality. Though President Kiir accepted the six-month extension, he voiced his concern that six months will not be enough time to deal with all the issues.
Human Rights Watch report claims that government soldiers have carried out extensive abuse against civilians between December 2018 and March 2019. The report claims soldiers shot at civilians, looted extensively, burned homes and crops, and chased thousands of residents from their villages. HRW also has document accounts of rape and sexual violence by soldiers. Yei River state has been home to battles between government forces and opposition group National Salvation Front (NAS) forces.
South Sudan High Court found prominent activist Peter Biar Ajak and prominent businessman Kerbino Wol guilty of inciting uprising and public disorder, banditry, sabotage and possession of firearms respectively. Wol wa sentenced to 13 years in prison while Ajak was sentenced to two years
A committee tasked with constitutional amendment said they have agreed on a provision that would strengthen checks on abuse of power by the National Security Service (NSS). Currently, the national security laws give excessive powers to security forces, including arrest without a warrant, and seizure of property connected with crimes or offences against the state.
Machar’s SPLM-IO said they had released 15 prisoners of war detained in New Fangak. They were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who will transport them to Juba.
A surge in violence in the Central Equatoria region results in the death of 100 civilians since the peace deal was signed in September 2018, according to the UN. In the same period, 35 people were wounded, and 197 others abducted. Fifty-six thousand residents have been forced to flee their homes, and another 20,000 have fled to Uganda.
Opposition leader Machar set conditions for his return to Juba for peace deal talks. According to the spokesperson of SPLM-IO, Machar would like the terms of his house arrest lifted by IGAD, and for Sudan’s military leader to accompany him to the talks.
Kiir’s government has responded to Machar’s conditions for return, saying that they are unrealistic. The president’s spokesperson said that the government does not see the need for the conditions. He said that the government could not ask regional leaders to lift the house arrest.
UNSC strongly condemned the attack on 16 July on UN peacekeepers in Abyei by unknown assailants. The incident, which took place at the Amiet market, resulted in the death of one peacekeeper and five civilians and a peacekeeper were severely injured.
In a statement, the US embassy urged the Kiir government to release political prisoners if there are no charges placed against them. The statement went on to say that their request is based on South Sudanese law that obligates the government to charge defendants promptly rather than jail them indefinitely.
Hope for Humanity Africa, and Pan African Lawyers Union have sued Kenyan and South Sudanese governments for their role in the abduction and subsequent murder of Dong Samuel and Aggrey Idri. The case was submitted to the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) housed in Tanzania. Both countries have received a summons to appear before the court. The court gave both countries 45 days to appear before the tribunal.
In a statement, the National Salvation Front (NAS) accuses the South Sudanese military, and their allied militias, of carrying out attacks on its position. The statement said that NAS responded in self-defence after the military attack on their passion in Loka West. The confrontation between the two sides resulted in the death of two national soldiers. The statement provided a secondary incident where they claim the national army attacked their passion in the same area. The spokesperson of the national army said they needed time to gather information about both incidents before they could comment.
Senior Commander of the opposition South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A), Brig. Gen. Michael Piol, along with 54 SSUA soldiers, have been captured in Lol state. The arrest of the Commander came after a fierce battle between both sides in the Deleiba area. SSUF spokesperson said that he was unaware of the clashes and the arrest of the Commander and soldiers.
The National Salvation Front (NAS), led by General Thomas Cirilo, accuse government forces of attacking their positions in different parts of Equatoria region. The spokesperson of NAS said that the government forces attacked their ‘defensive’ positions in Lainya and Mukaya areas. He alleges that the confrontation led to two of their own soldiers being injured and 20 government soldiers dying. The government confirmed the clashes but said NAS forces attacked government forces.
Exiled opposition leader, Riek Machar, arrived in Juba to attend a face-to-face meeting with President Kiir to discuss all the outstanding issues so that a new peace deal can be signed on the agreed date of 12 November. Machar was accompanied by Lt. General Hamdan Daglo, a member of Sudanese Sovereign council. Three main issues are slowing down the peace process; 1) security allocation, 2) the number of states, and 3) boundaries of the states. The six-point agreement stated; 1) all 40 cantonments for the SPLM-IO forces should start operating immediately, 2) all VIP protection must be put under cantonment where they will undergo registration, screening, selectin and unification before training, 3) President Kiir’s elite security, Tiger Division, will be treated like any other armed force unit and will be subjected to screening and registration, 4) a new unit, Republican Guards, will be created and its purpose will be protecting opposition leaders and half of the force with being SPLM-IO forces, and 5) DDR commission to be created.
Newly appointed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok arrived in Juba for his first official visit since becoming premier. He is set to meet President Kiir, where they hope to discuss several matters. Former President of Sudan Bashir attempted to broker a peace deal between the rivals before being ousted, and PM Hamdok hoped to pick up where he left. This is critical since Machar is exiled and lives in Khartoum. As a result of the meeting, the two countries agreed to reopen border crossing to boost trade and allow movement of communities on both sides.
Major General James Ochan Puot, a top commander of Machar’s SPLM-IO defected to government forces, along with other military officials. The defections came after weeks of fighting between the two sides in Adar state, sometimes known as Maiwut state. The Commander said that he defected because SPLM-IO was intentionally targeting women and children.
The European Union has pledged $10.4 Million to the World Food Programme (WFP) in South Sudan to help with humanitarian aid. Following years of conflict and repeated crop failure and floods, South Sudanese have suffered from a hunger crisis which has left at least 700,000 vulnerable people at risk. 520,000 people are expected to receive cash assistance to buy food and essential commodities
The US announced that two South Sudanese businessmen would face sanctions over claims of corruption and procurement fraud. The two businessmen, Ashraf Seed Ahmed al-Cardinal and Kur Ajing Ater Ajing, are accused of “involvement in bribery, kickbacks and procurement fraud with senior government officials in South Sudan.” Five companies belonging to al-Cardinal and one belonging to Ajing are also part of the sanctions list.
UNSC extended the mandate modification for the UN interim security force for Abyei (UNISFA) until 15 November 2019. Resolution 2024 (2011) established the UNSIFA which is a UN peacekeeping force in Abyei, a contested area between South Sudan and Sudan
Exiled opposition leader, Reik Machar, arrived in Juba for peace talks with President Salva Kiir. Some members of the UN security council, as well as members of the Machar’s SPLM-IO, will also be present in the meetings. The talks are expected to address challenges faced while revitalising peace deals, including implementation of security arrangements, and the number of states and the internal boundaries of those states. The clock is ticking as the two leaders are expected to reach an agreement by the 12 November deadline.
President Kiir declared a state of emergency in parts of the country to deal with flooding that has affected more than a million people. Floods have affected Bahr el-Ghazal and Upper Nile regions. Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Preparedness, Hussein Maar Nyuot, “the impact of the floods on livelihoods of our people is that farms are completely washed out. So there is serious crop failure, and their houses and homesteads are completely submerged underwater.”
At least ten youths have been arrested by South Sudan security forces who have attended an event organised by Gorgial authorities in Juba. The secretary-general of Gogrial Intellectual’ Union claimed that some of their members were beaten badly by the police while being arrested. The area’s minister of information confirmed the arrest, adding that the youth were wrongly criticising the state government on social media.
Leaders of the South Sudan Opposition Movement (SSOM) this week met with leaders of the Sant’Egidio Community, a Catholic association dedicated to social services. The two sides discussed the current crisis in South Sudan and how to reach a common understanding on the way forward. SPLM-IO, who sent two members to the discussion, held sideline meetings with SSOM leadership
Daniel Zingifuaboro, the spokesperson of the opposition South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC), resigned from his position. He said that the group developed a “naïve political strategy and abandoned its good intentions.” He went further to say the group is “engaging in cheap politics of hatred and division.” Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro, the chairman of SSNMC, called the statements from the resigned officials as false, adding that Zingifuaboro is in Europe and doesn’t understand the realities on the ground.
Officials in Bieh state confirmed that four people were killed, including two women, while two others were injured. Armed assailants abducted another five children in separate attacks in the state. In the abduction incident, the armed men, in fact, abducted ten but five children managed to escape and find their way home. Though the Boma state information minister acknowledges the situation, the information minister of the state denied knowledge of the incident.
In a UN Panel of Experts report, the Kiir government recruited at least 10,000 fighters from the former Warrap State, contrary to provisions of the peace agreement. The troops have been training since August, receiving infantry and urban warfare training, according to the report. The UN Experts concluded that President Kiir had exhibited no intention of relinquishing key security powers retained by the National Security services, which operate unchecked.
In a communique issued at the end of the 13th ordinary IGAD meeting in Addis Ababa, IGAD called on the international community to “lift the crippling economic sanctions imposed on Sudan and South Sudan to enable them to rebuild their economies.” The communique came after a rigorous discussion about the S. Sudan peace agreement, where they encouraged parties to accomplish the pre-transitional talks.
Armed men stormed Relief International’s compound in south Sudan and assaulted several staffers. It is unclear who carried out the attack. South Sudan army spokesperson said the government is unaware of the attack. Rights groups that deal with South Sudan have called on the government to conduct a thorough investigation and arrest the culprits.
Government and opposition negotiators belonging to the Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC) concluded a three-day meeting without any resolution, South Africa envoy to South Sudan told the press. The two sides agreed to meet again after ten days to resume talks. Each side had the opportunity to share their thoughts on the number of states and their boundaries, a contentious issue that has resulted in peace agreement from moving forward. The IBC is composed of 15 members belonging to the two main opposition groups, who are supported by five experts nominated by member states of the AU high-level Ad-Hoc committee on South Sudan (South Africa, Algeria, Chad, Nigeria and Rwanda)
Intercommunal clashes in Western Lakes states had led to 67 deaths and 100 injuries according to the International Community of the Red Cross (ICRC). Many of the injured were airlifted to Juba to receive further medical attention.
Opposition leader Machar is expected to arrive in Juba for talks with the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir today. Both leaders are meeting to iron out agreements that will allow for the peace deal to be finalised. The exiled leader was in the country six-day prior for a three-day meeting about boundaries and state formation, but no resolution was agreed upon.
Following talks in Juba, President Salva Kiir states that he and Riek Machar have agreed to uphold the cease-fire and form a transitional unity government by February, even if the two parties have not resolved their disputes by that time.
As a demonstration of goodwill and a commitment to the stalled peace process President Kiir pardoned thirty-one prisoners.
The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Taban Teng Gai, South Sudan first vice president. The US accuses Gai of arranging and directing the alleged killings of opposition politician Aggrew Indri Ezibon and human rights lawyer Dong Samuel Luak in a move to solidify his position in the government and intimidate members of the opposition. Three children are still missing after the attack. 19 houses were also set ablaze.
South Sudan presidential spokesperson, Atney Wek Ateny, stated the sanctions could worsen the situation in the country. He added that the VP is “very helpful in the implementation of the peace, and he should be encouraged.”
At least 19 people were killed and dozens wounded in an attack in the disputed Abyei region on the Sudan-South Sudan border, according to UN peacekeepers. Suspected nomadic Misseriya herders from Sudan attacked a Dinka Village, nine KM northwest of Abyei.
Tibor Nagy the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African Affairs places pressure on South Sudan leaders to form a unity government in preparation for the 22nd of February deadline. Stating that the Trump administration is willing to work with the Sudanese and that it is “absolutely possible for South Sudan to have a peaceful transition this year”.
The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan published a report detailing the role of politicians in corruption and financing and enabling brutal attacks on civilians. The report also implicates government forces in the continual practice of forceful recruitment of boys and men into their ranks. The government forces are not the only forces that are committing human rights abuses. The main opposition group, Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLM-IO), is also accused of engaging in brutal attacks and cattle raiding. Both sides have been accused of using sexual and gender-based violence as a tactic in war. The continual of the conflict between the various rebel groups and the government forces, as well as inter-community fighting, has led to a nearly 200 percent in the number of civilian casualties compared to 2018.
The pro-Machar Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition releases 78 women and 50 children who had been held for many months in military bases. These women and children were amongst the 500 abducted between April and August 2018.
President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar agree to establish a coalition government two days before the official deadline during peace talks in Juba.
After missing two deadlines (May and November 2019) to create the new unity government between President Kiir and rebel leader Machar, the two sides have finally agreed to a new deal. The deal stated that Machar would once again be the first Vice President of South Sudan. The youngest nation in the world has four vice presidents, representing the major factions in the country. The deal comes just four days after Reich Machar announced that he had rejected the peace deal by President Kiir. He said though he Is happy with the decision to “revert to ten states,” he expressed his dissatisfaction with the creation of the three administrative areas. The next step now that President Kiir and Machar is to dissolve the current parliament and create a new one.
David Shearer, the UN envoy for South Sudan, welcomed the new deal between President Kiir and opposition leader Machar. He noted that the coalition government faces a daunting array of challenges that will test the unity of the country. One of the major challenges the new government faces, according to the UN envoy, is a humanitarian crisis brought upon the floods which has caused the rising food prices. Shearer believes another major challenge that needs to be addressed is the heavy intercommunal fighting in Jonglei state over the past month.
Intercommunity fighting in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative in South Sudan has led to the deaths of hundreds and displaced thousands. One of the worst attacks took place in May, where 287 people were killed, including aid workers. This attack was orchestrated by Murle armed men who attacked a Luo Nuer village. The local authorities believe the attack was a revenge attack to a similar attack that took place in February when Nuer armed men conducted a cattle raid while abducting an unspecified number of Murle children. Between February and May, 800 people are believed to have been killed. In another attack in Bor County in August, 17 people were killed. In this attack, an eight-year-old boy, who is receiving treatment for several knife wounds in the back and chest, noted that the armed men wore military uniforms when they attacked Makol-cuei village. Another survivor stated the attackers abducted her 14-month old child.
Intercommunity fighting has been a significant obstacle to the peace process in South Sudan. President Kiir issued a presidential decree forming a committee to resolve ongoing intercommunal violence in May. The panel was expected to restore stability in the region within the next 21 days from when the decree was issued, but nothing has come out of it. The president acknowledged that the intercommunal fighting threatens to rip the country apart. A similar panel was created in 2018 headed by Vice President Taban Deng Gai to mediate the conflict which also did not bear any fruits.
Doctors without Borders and Red Cross says thousands of displaced people are living in the open without adequate food, shelter, water or sanitation over the past three months as a result of the conflict. The flooding is making it difficult for the aid agencies to supply the necessary goods and supplies to the affected communities.
Calls for the UN security council to extend an arms embargo in South Sudan after observer’s reported that both government and opposition forces had illegally bought new weapons in direct contravention of restrictions.
Intercommunal violence breaks out in the eastern state of Jonglei between the Murle and Lour Nuer tribes. The violence has left nearly 300 people dead including 3 aid workers.
Hundreds of South Sudanese protest after a soldier who has been identified as the cousin of President Salva Kiir, was involved in the killing of five civilians in the capital city. The incident was sparked by a land dispute.
Mabior Garang de Mabior resigns from his position as the Deputy Minister of the Interior to protest the government’s failure to implement the peace agreement. He declined to take part in the transitional government of President Salva Kiir stating that “there is no peace, and therefore there is no benefit in serving in a government that does not implement peace. I cannot do anything in a government that was formed illegally”.
South Sudan has delayed the graduation of the unified forces due to logistical and financial constraints. These forces are a crucial part of the security arrangement under the 2018 peace deal. At least 83,000 unified forces are expected to form the national army.
Former governors from South Sudan’s now abolished states have threatened to stage a rebellion due to the delays in receiving their retirement packages.
Following the implementation of the second peace agreement, the nation reverted back to the original 10 states abolishing 32 states in the process. In doing so, President Kiir passed a Presidential Decree directing the finance minister to handle the lump sum retirement packages for the affected officials in three months.
The affected group have since sent four representatives to the deputy minister of finance to discuss the arrangement of the funds.
The unity government of South Sudan under President Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar have reached a deal regarding the selection of governors for the nations 10 states. This issue has been seen as the biggest threat to peace since the formation of the new government.
President Kiir’s side will nominate governors for six states including the oil-rich Unity State and Central Equatoria, which includes the capital Juba. Machar’s side will nominate governor’s for three states which includes the largest oil-producing area, the Upper Nile State and a third party to the peace deal, the South Sudan Opposition Alliance will nominate the governor for Jonglei State.
Kerbino Wol former philanthropist, entrepreneur and soldier was killed by government forces in Rumbek East County. The Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai said Wol and two fighters were killed in the Ayen Mayar Village after a four-day offensive launched by his rebel group the October 7th Movement.
South Sudan has been suspended from the African Union as it has failed to honour its financial obligations over the past three years leading to a debt of over $9 million.
According to Hakim Edward, deputy Foreign Affairs spokesperson, South Sudan’s membership remains intact, however the country cannot partake in meetings.
South Sudan’s civil war has severely affected and drained government and economic resources resulting in the numerous unpaid debts to many of the regional and international bodies it subscribes to.
The disputes commenced following the decision of the High Court, ordering one of the warring communities to pay compensation to a rival community after one of its members was killed. The total number of people killed in Warrap and Lake state is reported to be over 51 people with several others wounded. The Minister of Interior, Paul Mayom Akech, said the government failed to stem ongoing fighting due to a lack of coordination. He said repeated cattle raiding, attacks, revenge attacks, revenge killings, abductions and killings have made life difficult for communities.
A clearly marked ambulance, transporting an injured person to a hospital following intercommunal violence was shot at. The driver, a national staff member of an international NGO providing health services in South Sudan was killed. The incident is the fifth aid worker death in South Sudan in 2020 and brings the number of humanitarians killed since 2013 to 120.
A decree by the President was issued on Monday appointing governors and chief administrators for the areas of Pibo, Ruweng and Abyei. The role for the new governors is to now restore security at both the state and sub-national levels. This is considered essential considering the ongoing intercommunal violence that has continued over the past few months.
Part of the new governors is Sarah Celto Hassan of Ghar el Ghazal state, the only woman to be included as one of the newly appointed governors.
Under the provisions of the peace agreement, 35% of posts in the new unity government are to be allocated to women.
As the implementation of the peace agreement continues, many still remain vulnerable and displaced. UNHCR Representative Adan Ilmi stated that “generous donations such as this one from the Japanese people enable us to continue our work supporting refugees and internally displaced persons in South Sudan”. Since 2016, Japan has donated nearly $17 million USD to support displaced people in South Sudan.
The 2018 peace agreement states that 35% of all government positions should be filled by women. This has led women’s groups to urge President Salva Kiir to revoke his recent appointment of 8 governors, of which only one is a woman.
Amer Manyok Deng, chairperson of the South Sudan Women’s Bloc, a stakeholder at the peace talks, stated that Kiir should find a solution that meets the required 35% quota for female representation at all levels of government. Deng further expanded, that women who try to meet with government officials to discuss the issue cannot get an appointment.
During the 2020 Independence Day commemoration speech, President Kiir announced that the government shall launch full-scale disarmament of civilian population. He noted that the exercise is ongoing in some parts of the country. Local reports indicate that the Bureau for Community Security and Small Arms Control, a government commission with the mandate of developing policies and strategies for control of small arms and light weapons, is not part of the disarmament process.
South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms (SANSA) voiced their concerns about the disarmament process in South Sudan. In a press statement, SANSA said, “rushed disarmament without meaningful consultations with communities and strategic preparations, including post-disarmament community security arrangements risks worsening the security situation for civilians.” The organisation cited past attempts to remove arms from civilians in Jonglei in 2006, 2010 and 2012 that resulted in many deaths. Without a proper plan, SANSA says the arms recovered can easily return to civilian hands through corruption and/or civilian raiding weapon stockpiles.
Six people, two of which were aid workers were shot dead in South Sudan after members of an unknown armed group attacked them.
The aid workers were providing health and nutrition services to residents, mostly women and children who attempted to flee the scene. The state of Jonglei has seen numerous rounds of communal violence leading to the deaths of hundreds this year and continues to displace thousands. The ongoing violence has pushed aid groups such as the Medecins Sans Frontieres and the International Committee for the Red Cross to limit their work in the state.
UN Coordinator, Mohamed Ag Ayoya stated that “these terrible acts cannot continue” in a statement calling on South Sudan’s government to do more to protect aid workers who take “significant risks” to help others.
Nuba refugees in the Yida camp, located in the Unity state, about 12 km from the border with Sudan have experienced increasing sexual assaults within the camp. One of the refugees told Radio Dabanga that girls in particular are raped when they leave the camp to work on farms or to collect firewood. The number of such assaults have continued to rise as schools are closed, leaving numerous girls to stay at home.
It was stated that the camps “lack food since humanitarian aid stopped on September 14 last year, many girls leave the camp to search for work in the markets and on farms, where they are subjected to rape”. Women refugees have staged a protest in front of the UNHCR office in the camp, calling for the resumption of humanitarian aid.
The World Food Programme (WFP) and Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that 60,000 in South Sudan were at risk of hunger due to the recent intercommunal violence that has rocked Jonglei and Pibor regions.
The UN agencies released a joint statement expressing concern that the violence has halted farming, which will impact the harvests for the rest of the year and deprive communities of their key sources of nutrition.
Meshack Malo a representative from the FAO in South Sudan stated: “At the height of the main planting season, insecurity is preventing farmers from going to their fields to cultivate food crops and livestock keepers are not able to follow their traditional migratory patterns to graze their animals,”. He further stated that the violence risks causing long-term food insecurity crises in South Sudan.
The prominent South Sudanese activist, Peter Biar Ajak, fled to the US with the help of the US government. The critic of the Kiir government was issued an emergency visa for him and his family. Rumours swirled that the government had issued an order for his abduction or killing. He first fled to Kenya before he was relocated to the US. The critic was arrested in 2018 while attending a youth conference and was released at the beginning of 2020, along with other political prisoners, as part of a peace deal.
The new government missed its deadline to form a new parliament by 26 July, as agreed upon by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-brokered peace deal. Information Minister, Michael Makuei, stated that the key stakeholders are in the process of reconstituting parliament. They are negotiating how to allocate ministerial portfolios at the state level.
Unidentified gunmen killed at least 23 people and injured another 20 when they stormed a church in Jonglei state. 14 of the deceased were women and children who sought refuge at the church. The attackers took six children as hostages, according to one of the church elders. Additionally, the gunmen burnt down a whole village in the area.
Jonglei state is composed of many tribal ethnic groups, but the Nuer, Dinka and Murle tribes have been engaged in clashes since 2014 when the Pibor administration was created. Church leader believes that the attack on the church was not an ethnic attack but rather a politically motivated attack.
The Government of South Sudan conducted a disarmament exercise in Warrap State that went array. Clashes between armed civilians and the armed forces lasted two days. The death toll has risen to 148 (85 civilians and 63 armed forces) according to a local government official. The lack of adequate medical facilities contributed to the high death toll as some of the injured could not receive medical attention. Many of the villagers have fled to the bush to protect themselves during the clashes. It is still unclear what set off the clashes in the first place.
Spokesperson of the South Sudanese Army, Major General Lul Ruai Koang, confirmed the reports of the clashes in the Warrap region. The UN has deployed forces to maintain calm in the region and have set up a temporary operating base according to local sources. Without providing details, the spokesperson claimed the clashes begun when the civilians resisted “disciplinary measures
Refer to 13 July 2020 for more information about the criticism of the disarmament
National Salvation Front (NAS) rebels claim to have killed six bodyguards belonging to Vice President James Wani Igga during an attack on Lo’bonok village, 90KM from Juba, the capital city. NAS General Thomas Cirilo Swaka justified killing as self-defence, as the VP bodyguards were spying on NAS forces. Responding to the attack, Kalisto Lunda, the press secretary of the VP, verified that rebels ambushed eight bodyguards of the VP. Six of the eight were killed, and the two are nursing injuries.
NAS is one of the major rebel groups operating in South Sudan but has not signed onto the peace deal. The international community and IGAD have participated in a meeting with NAS leader, General Cirilo, to get him to sign the peace agreemen
UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, Agnes Callamard, said the lack of proper investigation of the killing of a journalist three years ago sends a “very dangerous signal.” The absence of an investigation says journalists and media workers can be targeted with impunity, the UN Special Rapporteur says. The journalist in question, Christopher Allen, a dual British-American citizen, was allegedly killed by South Sudanese armed forces while working on an assignment on 26 August 2017. The images of his dead body were circulated on social media. The UN Special Rapporteur asks President Kiir’s government to implement the recommendations found on her official letter to the government dated 30 January 2020.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls on the South Sudan Government to investigate the disappearance of thousands from years of civil war in the country. “Since the conflict broke out in December 2013, the United Nations and other organisations including Human Rights Watch have documented major human rights violations including attacks on civilians and targeted killings, abductions, and detentions by the parties to the conflict,” the rights group said in a report that came ahead of the 30 August International Day of the Disappeared. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), between 2013 and 2014, over 4000 people were reported missing. Thousands more have disappeared since the Red Cross report was released
Citing fear, internally displaced persons (IDPs) are leaving the UN-protected site in Bor, after the peacekeepers withdrew from the camp which houses at least 3500 families. The UN peacekeepers, according to the leader of the IDPs, withdrew from the camp on 1 September. Special Representative of UN Secretary-General, David Sharer, explained that the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is going to withdraw its troops from the area because they believe it is now safe for IDPs to return home. He added that “we have assessed any threats that might have existed in the past are no longer in existence today.” According to a regional police commissioner, UNMISS has yet handed over the protection of the IDP camp to the government.
Since the UN made the announcement, IDPs have held peaceful demonstrations against the decision to withdraw its forces from some sites. The Head of the peace and reconciliation efforts within the camp, Yuanis Gatnyang, presented a letter addressed to the UN secretary-general and Head of UNMISS highlighting their concerns. The letter noted that since the unified army is not yet formed and the state government has not been fully formed, it will be ill-advised for the peacekeepers to leave the area.
The Union of Journalists in South Sudan is calling on the government and security agencies to release journalist Jackson Ochaya. He was detained a week ago after he contacted the spokesperson of a rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) for a story. It is unclear where the journalist is being held but local suspect he is being held by National Security Services (NSS) headquarters in Jebel. Before he was arrested, Ochaya and the head of the newspaper were summoned by the NSS to answer how they were able to contact the spokesperson but were later released on 1 September. Ochaya disappeared on the same day.
UNHCR announced that at least 300,000 South Sudanese refugees had returned home voluntarily over the past three years. Most of the refugees returned after the signing of the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement. Recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, over 30,000 refugees have returned. The UNHCR representative to South Sudan, Johnson Opoka, posits the reduction of aid to refugee camps in Uganda and the need for livelihood opportunities to support family needs is among the main reasons why refugees are returning. The UN Agency noted that the spontaneous returnees to South Sudan still use the informal border crossings points
In addition to facing one of the worst humanitarian crises as a result of flooding, the citizens of South Sudan are also battling skyrocketing food prices. A local vendor noted that the prices of food have doubled in the market over the past weeks, which is unaffordable. Unfortunately, South Sudan heavily depends on neighbouring countries of Kenya, Sudan and Uganda for essential commodities. Since the South Sudanese Pound is devaluing, it’s becoming harder for traders to import goods from abroad.
South Sudan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Salvatore Garang Mabiordit, explained that a mixture of factors such as inter-communal skirmishes, natural disasters, locust invasion and global oil market, has resulted in the slowdown of the country’s economy.
To help with the inflation, the South Sudan Central Bank announced its plans to ban the use of foreign currency nationwide to prevent further depreciation of the South Sudanese Pound against the dollar. This comes after news that the country has run out of foreign exchange reserves and cannot stop the pound’s depreciation. The government also introduced a new currency amid serious cash shortages. The Minister of Information and communication stated that the shortage of cash is due to the fear amongst the civilians who then hoard cash in their homes instead of putting it in the bank. The Minister added that the current will be withdrawn soon from circulation and exchanged for new ones. Analysts oppose the move from the government. One analyst added that changing the currency is not going to be the solution since the problem is the economy, not the currency.
On 11 September, a dispute between local Ugandans and the refugee near a shared water point escalated quickly into a violent attack that resulted in the deaths of 10 refugees and 19 others injured. Additionally, 15 refugee houses were burnt to the ground, and another 26 are confirmed to have been looted and vandalised.
Ugandan police reported that 26 people have been arrested in the ongoing investigation. The local police say that the clashes are a result of rumours that a young boy who was allegedly assaulted by some refugee boys succumbed to his injuries. The relatives of the Ugandan boy organised themselves and went to attack the refugee camp.
More than 600 firearms collected in the Warrap State disarmament exercise since August. The delegation dispatched to Tonji North and South counties included security officers and former commissioners. The disarmament exercise aims to stabilise the region and mobilise locals to peacefully surrender their guns, especially as inter-community fighting continues in the region.
The UN Human Rights Commission revealed that high ranking government officials had stolen at least $36 million in public funds since 2016. The illegal financial movements are traced to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and the National Revenue Authority. “Some of this money has been laundered through the purchase of properties abroad. Indeed, those properties may well be in your countries,” she added.
A World Food Programme boat convoy, with at least 13 staff members on board, carrying food assistance within the Lake State was attacked. One person was missing and presumed killed while three others suffered gunshot injuries. The local authorities nor WFP have provided information about the attackers. WFP Country Director, Mathew Hollingworth, called on the South Sudanese authorities to hold those responsible for this attack accountable for their actions
A new report by the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), accused both government and opposition forces in Western Bahr el Ghazal, Jonglei and Central Equatorial states, of using starvation as a weapon of war between 20017 and 2018. As a result, the chairperson of the UNHRC, Yasmin Sooka, noted that the “humanitarian needs in these three states were directly linked to conflict and therefore entirely human induced. Between January 2017 and November 2018, the report alleges that the government forces deprived Fertit and Luo communities in rebel-controlled areas in Western Bahr el Ghazal State of critical resources as collective punishment and starvation as a method of warfare. The report further states that the government commanders authorised soldiers to reward themselves by looting livelihoods of rural populations.
Families of the victims of rape, looting, displacement ad murder allegedly orchestrated by government soldiers in Yei River County are demanding the unity government pay for war reparations. The demand comes a month after a military government convicted 26 South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) soldiers of committing human rights abuses.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) helped facilitate the release of three people – two Sudanese and one local – in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria State. The three hostages were held by the rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS). Allegedly the two Sudanese nationals, from Darfur, were arrested while burning charcoal in the forest. The ICRC was not involved in the negotiation process, and instead, they received a request from NAS to facilitate the release.
The South Sudan government, represented by Benjamin Barnaba, and the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA), represented by General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the leader of the alliance, announced the signing of a ceasefire in Rome. The two sides agreed to pursue dialogue in the quest for peace. The two sides are scheduled to meet back in Rome from 9 – 12 November, where military officials are expected to participate, and on 30 November, where a declaration of principles of political nature is supposed to be signed.
Note: SSOMA was not an original signatory of the 2018 Addis Ababa peace accords that is the basis of the new unity government.