Tag Archives: UNMISS

International Force Will Deploy to South Sudan

Yesterday, East African heads of state announced their decision to deploy an international force to South Sudan starting April in an attempt to stem the conflict there. Troops will reportedly come from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda, all of whom are frequent particpiants in other African peacekeeping operations. Djibouti, which also participates in peacekeeping operations on the continent, may also contribute forces to this new mission. Ugandan troops, who intervened on behalf of the South Sudanese government in January, have said they will withdraw after the new force is deployed.

A map showing internally displaced persons in South Sudan and refugees in neighboring countries, from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs South Sudan Crisis Situation Report No. 26, dated 10 March 2014

A map showing internally displaced persons in South Sudan and refugees in neighboring countries, from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs South Sudan Crisis Situation Report No. 26, dated 10 March 2014

The force will operate under a mandate from the the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African economic bloc, which has been mediating talks in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to try and bring an end to South Sudan’s crisis. The crisis erupted last December following a reported coup attempt. The government subsequently implicated a number of opposition political figures, most notably Riek Machar, as having been behind the attempted overthrow. Riek Machar announced a formal “resistance movement” in February and the country is effectively in a state of civil war.

The IGAD-sponsored talks did produce a ceasefire agreement in January, but this has been repeatedly violated. A second phase of talks to find a lasting political solution to the crisis has stalled. One of the main rebel demands is the release of individuals detained in connection with the coup. South Sudan is proceeding with their treason charges against eleven individuals, and a court has demanded that four individuals previously released and deported to Kenya return to face the indictments.

South Sudan has also accused the UN mission in the country, UNMISS, of collaborating with rebel forces. Last week, South Sudanese forces seized weapons and ammunition from a UN convoy, which UNMISS said had mistakenly been loaded in with humanitarian supplies. UNMISS also denied that landmines were among the munitions and has called on the South Sudanese government to respect their personnel and existing agreements. UNMISS is providing humanitarian assistance and shelter to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. The UN also estimates that millions in the country are in need of humanitarian assistance.

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More Ceasefire Violations in South Sudan

South Sudanese forces and rebels clashed in Upper Nile state yesterday, with both sides claiming control of the state capital Malakal today.  The fighting was said to be the most significant violation of a ceasefire agreement, signed by government and rebel representatives in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, since that agreement came into force at the end of January.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 14 February 2014

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 14 February 2014

The fighting comes as the delegations in Addis Ababa attempt to iron out the second phase of a peace process.  This has been complicated by numerous factors, including legal proceedings against some members of the opposition movement, opposition leader Riek Machar’s announcement of open resistance to the government, and an intervention by Ugandan troops on behalf of the South Sudanese government.

The matter of Ugandan troops has been particularly troublesome for the peace process.  The peace talks in Addis Ababa are sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), of which Uganda is a member.  South Sudan is also Uganda’s primary export market.  Other IGAD members, as well as international actors like the United States, have called on Ugandan forces to withdraw from the conflict.  However, it is possible to suggest that the intervention may have been key in stabilizing the situation and pushing the rebel delegation to negotiate.  Given the current status of the ceasefire agreement, that may be a moot point.

Whatever the case, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kuteesa announced yesterday that there would be a phased withdrawal of Ugandan forces, starting in April, ahead of the deployment of an African-led peacekeeping force to the country. However, the exact timeline for the deployment of that force, the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC), may be delayed.  ACIRC is currently in its formative stages.  When it is fully operational, ACIRC is to provide the African Union with a force capable of rapidly responding to crises across the continent.

Perhaps more worrisome is that the fighting in Malakal, which took place near a facility operated by the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), reportedly touched off a riot inside the facility between internally displaced persons of different ethnic groups.  Since the conflict began last December, tens of thousands of those fleeing the violence have sought shelter in and around UNMISS facilities.  These facilities have subsequently been the target of violence and suspicion.

The UN estimates that over seven hundred thousands individuals are displaced internally and that over one hundred and fifty thousand have fled to neighboring countries.  A significant portion of the population is also in need of humanitarian assistance.  The UN’s Crisis Response Plan is only 18.5 percent funded, however.  The UN continues to appeal for greater international engagement.

South Sudan Makes Moves on Detainees

Today there have been reports of two important developments on the matter of individuals detained followed a reported coup in South Sudan this past December.  Seven of the eleven individuals arrested, who have come to be known as the “Garang Boys” for their connection to national hero John Garang, were released and deported to Kenya.  South Sudan, however, said it would proceed with a trial against the remaining four individuals, along with three others not currently in custody.  Notably among those individuals is former Vice President Riek Machar.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 4 January 2014

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 4 January 2014

Machar, who has become the defacto leadership figure for the rebellion that has followed the coup attempt and arrest of the Garang Boys, had said that the release of all of the detainees was required for negotiations on a peaceful resoltuion of the current crisis.  This was echoed by the delegation representing the rebels at talks held in Ethiopia, arranged by the east African economic organization, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).  Some IGAD members have also called for the release of the detainees, a demand which the South Sudanese government has staunchly refused to acquiesce to.  Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who appeared with the detainees sent to his country, said he and other regional leaders would continue to press for the release of the rest of the detainees.

Peace and reconciliation may continue to elude South Sudan with these announcements, however.  While both sides continue to say they are committed to the ceasefire agreed to at the IGAD sponsored talks, Taban Deng, the head of the delegation representing the rebels who signed that agreement on their behalf is among those sought for trial.  In addition to the continued pursuit of these treason charges, Ugandan forces, who intervened on behalf of the South Sudanese government, remain in the country.  Their presence has become a divisive issue, both among the parties to the conflict and among other east African leaders.  Uganda is a key member of IGAD.

All of this also comes as the United Nations reports almost half a million people to be displaced in the country, including almost eighty thousand sheltering in or around facilities operated by the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).  The UN says it needs over $200 million to meet immediate humanitarian needs through March, but had only received a little over $100 million as of January 13th.  The UN has described the current situation in the country as “fragile.”

South Sudanese Parties Sign Deal, Details Unclear

South Sudanese delegations meeting in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa have signed an agreement reportedly dealing with a ceasefire and the matter of the detention of individual said to have been behind an attempted coup in December.  Details, however, are scarce.  South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said only that “This agreement contains something of the issue of the detainees.”

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 4 January 2014

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 4 January 2014

The matter of eleven individuals detained in the aftermath of the reported coup in December had caused talks between the two delegations to drag on for weeks.  Riek Machar, fomer vice president and the nominal leader of the anti-government movement, had called for the release of the “Garang Boys,” so call because of their affiliation to national hero John Garang, as a precondition to any discussion of a ceasefire.  President Salva Kiir and the South Sudanese government had insisted that a formal investigation be handled to determine whether the men were indeed implicated in a coup and that their final status was a matter for the courts to decide.  Salva Kiir has also offered an amnesty for Machar, currently in hiding, should he renounce violence as a means of achieving his goals.

Significant concern remains as to whether anti-government representatives can effectively curtail the current violence, agreement or not.  The forces fighting the government in South Sudan are loosely aligned and hyper-localized, with little in the way of a formal chain of command.  There has been little let up in the fighting since the talks arranged by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) economic bloc began in Ethiopia. Uganda has also joined in the fighting on the side of the government, adding another factor to any current or future agreements, with some in the anti-government camp calling for their departure before talks can proceed.  However, their presence may have in fact been what stabilized the situation on the ground in South Sudan enough to compel rebel negotiators to change their tactics in Addis Ababa.  Prior to the Ugandan intervention, it looked like there was the realistic chance of rebel militias simply overrunning government forces in many areas.

In the meantime, fighting continues, where the United Nations says over a half a million people have fled their homes, including around seventy thousand sheltering in and around facilities operation by the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).  A general lack of security has limited the ability of the UN and others to monitor the conflict, meaning it has been difficult to estimate a death toll.  The UN has said it has reason to believe that atrocities have been committed on both sides.  UNMISS has generally struggled to help protect civilians from the violence, having been attacked by rebels and more recently resisted attempts by South Sudanese government forces to enter their compounds.  South Sudanese authorities accuse the UN of knowingly or unknowingly sheltering rebels and their weapons, something the UN denies.  Today, the UN said it had conducted searches of those sheltering in UNMISS facilities and turned up no weapons in doing so.

Crises Continue in CAR, South Sudan

Central African Republic’s Transitional National Council (TNC), in a very public election attended by foreign observers and members of the media, picked the woman currently serving as the mayor of the country’s capital as the next interim President.  Bangui Mayor Catherine Samba-Panza now becomes the country’s first female president and its latest hope for helping to end the crisis in the country since the violent overthrow of President Francois Bozize by rebels last March.  Samba-Panza received seventy-five votes from the TNC, significantly more than her nearest rival, Desire Kolingba, the son of former president Andre Kolingba, who received fifty-three votes.  There is a hope that Samba-Panza, who had a successful private sector career before being appointed Mayor of Bangui last year, would provide a break from the country’s previous political establishment.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the Central African Republic Crisis, as of 14 December 2013

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the Central African Republic Crisis, as of 14 December 2013

Whoever secured the TNC’s backing had their work cut out for them, with the last interim President and former rebel leader, Michel Djotodia having gone into exile and leaving the country in the midst of violence and uncertainty.  French and African Union forces continue to try and help maintain law and order, and the US and others continue to help rush peacekeepers into the country to support the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA).  The European Union has also announced that after significant lobbying by France it will be contributing its own peacekeeping force to the country, along with increased humanitarian aid.  This will be the EU’s first land operation since 2008 when it deployed a force to the Chad-CAR border.  In addition to fighting inside CAR, the upheaval has threatened neighboring countries, most notably Cameroon, where there were reports today of violence along the border.  Codebook: Africa has previously pointed out the threat of spillover from CAR to Cameroon.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 4 January 2014

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 4 January 2014

Cameroon has also been threatened by violence in neighboring South Sudan, where a crisis also continues.  Fighting in the town of Malakal in Upper Nile state resulted in thirty-four people sheltering inside a facility operated by the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) being wounded by stray bullets.  UNMISS says that it is sheltering over twenty-thousand individuals in Malakal and more than seventy-thousand in total at facilities across the country.  The UN Security Council has approved the expansion of the UNMISS mission to help protect civilians from the violence.  Fighting continues between the government and rebels, in spite of peace talks.  Rebels were previously calling just for the release of those accused by the government of attempting a coup in December before starting negotiations, but are now also calling for Ugandan forces to leave the country.

Last week, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni admitted that forces from the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) were fighting alongside South Sudanese government forces against rebels and that some UPDF troops had died in operations there.  Previously, President Museveni’s administration had said that UPDF troops were working to help evacuate civilians.

S. Sudan Peace Talks Remain Stalled

The rebel delegation meeting with representatives of the South Sudanese government in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa rejected the proposition that talks start without preconditions yesterday.  The rebel delegation is sticking to the demand that those arrested last month following a reported coup attempt be released before any negotiations can proceed.  The eleven detained individuals are referred to as the “Garang Boys,” as they are said to be former associates of John Garang, a hero of the Second Sudan Civil War, the outcome of which eventually led to the creation of independent South Sudan.  They are said to not be outright associates of former Vice President Riek Machar, who President Salva Kiir has accused of orchestrating the coup attempt.  The demand, which is rapidly becoming the most pressing issue, has brought the talks in Ethiopia, organized by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African economic bloc, to a standstill.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 4 January 2014

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Snapshot of the South Sudan Crisis, as of 4 January 2014.

Fighting in South Sudan between predominantly ethnic Nuer rebels and government forces, primarily ethnic Dinka, continues in spite of the talks.  Fighting was reported outside of Bor, which has been a flashpoint for weeks now, and civilians were reportedly fleeing their homes in Bentiu, an oil town near the South Sudan-Sudan border in Unity state.  A portion of these individuals have sought shelter in the facility there operated by the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).  The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that some sixty thousand individuals are currently sheltering in or near UNMISS facilities.  The death toll from the conflict so far remains unclear.

In a more positive development, the South Sudanese Army has reported that David Yauyau, another rebel leader who has been fighting the government in Jonglei state since April 2012, has agreed to a ceasefire.  The agreement reportedly came after President Salva Kiir offered Yauyau an amnesty, but was not independently verified.  South Sudanese authorities had already been negotiating with Yauyau before reported coup attempt with retired Catholic Archbishop Paride Taban acting as a mediator.

In other related news, Uganda’s parliament summoned the Defense Minister to appear before them tomorrow to explain the deployment of Ugandan troops to South Sudan.  Some parliamentarians in Uganda accuse President Museveni of violating the country’s constitution in deploying the troops without first seeking their approval.   Others believe that the crisis warranted immediate action and could not wait for parliament, which was in recess at the time, to convene and make a ruling. Uganda deployed forces into the country last week, ostensibly to assist in the evacuations of Ugandan nationals.  However, President Yoweri Museveni has also demanded that Riek Machar and Nuer rebels immediately agree to a ceasefire or face the threat of regional action.

South Sudan and Sudan Discuss the Matter of Oil

Yesterday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir held talks in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.  Though Sudanese authorities did not initially provide any detailed information about what topics might be discussed, it quickly became apparent that at least one of the major focuses was the matter of oil.  Most notably, the two reportedly broached the subject of establishing a joint force to secure oil fields threatened by the current crisis.  Nuer rebels have claimed control of many towns in oil producing states in South Sudan since an reported coup attempt in December resulting in a surge of violence.  Sudan also called for a ceasefire and for talks to solve the current impasse, adding that it had no intention of support rebel forces against the government.

Figure 1, South Sudan Crisis Map, as of December 26, 2013, from Congressional Research Service Report R43344, dated December 27th, 2013

Figure 1, South Sudan Crisis Map, as of December 26, 2013, from Congressional Research Service Report R43344, dated December 27th, 2013

Sudan and South Sudan have had a rocky relationship since the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the country’s declaration of independence in 2011, so this meeting between the two leaders and the discussion of Sudanese troops deploying to the country are significant on their own.  One of the major points of contention between the two countries has been the matter of oil, and especially the disputed oil-rich Abyei region.  Efforts continue to develop a means of shipping the oil south, but currently, the only method by which South Sudan can rapidly transport oil out of the country is through pipelines into Sudan.  Fighting that disrupted the flow of oil in 2011 and 2012 eventually led to an agreement between the two nations.  The agreement focused on getting the oil fields back up and running while leaving the border issue unresolved.  The dispute over control of Abyei remains unresolved, but it is clear that Sudan is not interested in another disruption.  Neither are the Chinese.

The meeting between Presidents Kiir and al-Bashir comes as talks organized by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) over a potential ceasefire continue in the Ethopian capital Addis Ababa and fighting across much of South Sudan rages on.  The United Nations has been rushing to bolster the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), which is currently sheltering tens of thousands from the violence and attempting to assist civilians in need.  To cope with the situation UN is seeking to double the size of UNMISS to fourteen thousand personnel and has been shifting resources from the mission in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo to help.  The potential for a humanitarian disaster in the country is great and the actual number of causalities already resulting from the conflict is uncertain.