Khartoum orchestrates violence in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal.
* "South Sudan on Monday accused neighbouring Sudan of 'deliberately' launching a new ground attack on its border state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, underlying the level of suspicion with which the two countries still view each other, despite a recent thawing of relations. Local authorities and security sources said in series of interviews with Sudan Tribune on Sunday that the attack took place in Kiir Adem, an area that falls within the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) which the two sides agreed to establish under African Union mediation in September last year, but only implemented recently. One policeman was killed and seven others reportedly wounded during the attack.... "James Monday, the spokesperson of South Sudan Police, also confirmed the attack, but said the situation was brought 'under control' and that the police are ready to protect the lives and properties of the population in the area. The commissioner for Aweil North County, Kuol Athuai Hal, said the attack was jointly organised by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), armed Arab nomads and paramilitary forces. "'This attack did not come as a surprise to us and the people of the area. We knew it would happen especially after they were defeated on 26 of March when they launched a similar attack. We also do not think that this attack will be the last, Hal told Sudan Tribune by phone Sunday. He anticipates attacks could occur, given what he describes as a political scheme by the Sudan government 'designed to execute in order to claim territory control and eventual annexation into territory.'"
* Voice of America reports from Juba (March 29, 2013):
"South Sudan said Friday that Khartoum is doing nothing to stop attacks by Arab nomads on communities near the border of the two countries, adding that it has filed a complaint with the United Nations security forces about the attacks. Earlier this week, members of the Rezigat tribe, which is from Sudan, killed three people, including two police officers, in a raid in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Last month, the Sudanese Miseriya tribe raided a community in Unity State, killing three people and wounding five. The deadly attack by the Rezigat came days after South Sudan completed its withdrawal of troops from the border, in line with an agreement signed with Sudan."
* Also on March 29, Radio Tamazuj reported ("Aguer: Armed group 'linked to SAF' killed 3 at Kiir Adem"):
"Philip Aguer, South Sudan's army spokesman, said yesterday that an armed group on horseback, allegedly linked to the Sudanese military, killed three people in an attack on the disputed border area of Kiir Adem. Speaking to Radio Tamazuj, Aguer reported that the attack took place yesterday and a policeman was amongst the victims. The South Sudanese government considers Kiir Adem to be part of its Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state. Given that both Sudan and South Sudan have withdrawn their armies from the border area in order to create demilitarized zones, Aguer claimed that the attack must have been with the assistance of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). 'They carried out attack on citizens while riding horses and killed two civilians and a policeman. According to us, any armed person from the republic of Sudan is linked and have a relations with Sudanese forces where the Mujahideen or popular defence forces or even militias of Baggara and Reizegat because they got the guns from SAF,' Aguer claimed before adding that the attack constitutes a violation of the demilitarisation agreement. "'We have raised a complaint to UNISFA forces and African Union forces over what happened in Kiir Adem ... The same violation also happened in the Renk area of Adham where elements of the Sudanese forces appeared with three vehicles loaded with heavy guns machines and opened fire in the space,' added the spokesman."
* Sudan Tribune had earlier reported (March 27, 2013, "Three dead in Reizigat attack on Mile 14, says official"):
"Members of Sudan's nomadic Arab Reizigat tribe have launched a deadly attack on South Sudanese civilians in the disputed Mile 14 territory in North Bahr-el-Gazal on Tuesday. The incident, which took place at about 4pm (local time), led to the death of two policemen and one civilian.... "Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday in Juba, police spokesman Col. James Monday Enoka called on the African Union (AU) to take action, saying the deadly incident had occurred just two weeks after the SPLA's withdrawal from Mile 14. 'It is very unfortunate that the Reizigat took advantage of [the] withdrawal of the SPLA from the area and launch[ed] the attack,' he said. '[The] South Sudan National Police Services strongly condemns this attack and appeals to the African Union monitoring and verification teams to take action,' he added."
* The Sudan Tribune had reported the previous day (March 26, 2013: "Sudan: South Accuses Sudan of Killing Three People in Northern Bahr El Ghazal"):
"South Sudan has accused the government of neigbouring Sudan of launching a heavy and coordinated attack on its Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, killing at least three innocent civilians and wounding several others in Rual Horic, east of the disputed Kiir Adem area, local people and county authorities said on Tuesday Aweil North county commissioner, Kuol Athuai Hal said Sudan was using armed border tribes and auxiliary forces to launch provocative attacks in an attempt to derail efforts to peacefully implement a cooperation agreement signed in September 2012. "After months of stalling the two sides agreed to implement the deal, which will create a demilitarised buffer zone 10 km either side of the tense and contested oil rich border, as well as allow South Sudan to resume exporting its oil through Sudan for the first time in over a year. 'The Sudanese armed forces have been increasingly active in the area this week. The activity zone of the Sudanese armed forces has expanded considerably from last week, immediately realising that SPLA forces have completely pulled out of the area. Their activities in the area are becoming serious security concern not only to the civil population but also us in the government,' Hal told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday from Gokmachar, the area's administrative headquarters. "The official said three people were killed when armed Arab tribes backed by the Sudan Armed Forces collaborating with their aligned militia carried out a raid on the area. 'They killed three civilians who have gone to fish. They [the civilians] were found at the fishing site when they were killed. None of them had survived. This incident occurred today at around 11:30am. It was in Rual Horic, east of Kiir Adem. Another attack was carried out by the Sudanese armed forces themselves in Kiir Adem against civilians. They just opened fire on civilians. The civilians were unaware. They did not know. It was a surprised and well-organised attack. The intention is to chase civilians away from the area,' Hal said...." "There is a United Nations mission in South Sudan with a strong chapter seven mandate to protect civilians but policing the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone (SDBZ) is due to be monitored by the UN peacekeeping force in Abyei--the main disputed border region--as part of a Joint Border Verification Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM) with military officials from both nations. 'There was another attack today. Three people have been killed in Rual Horic, East of Kiir Adem The Sudanese armed forces are taking advantage of the withdrawal of SPLA forces from the area. They have moved into the area in full capacity. Instead of withdrawing they are deploying and carrying out attacks and killing of innocent civilians. What is happening is a political strategy by the government of Sudan so that civilians can flee the area. This is clear a clear tactic,' explained Achien. "'Why [do] the Sudanese Armed Forces continue to remain in the area which is supposed to be arms free? Why is the international community keeping quiet? Why is the African Union? We will hold [them] responsible for the loss of lives,' Achein said."
Questions that cannot be ignored These last questions remain unanswered, even as the reports I have received from the ground confirm what Sudan Tribune and others have reported. Is there a discernible strategy in these actions on the part of the regime's regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and its Rizeigat militia allies? Certainly in assessing the consequences of its actions on the basis of international silence, the regime has concluded that it can be credited with a cease-fire and separation of forces agreement even while blatantly violating that agreement. Moreover, it is unlikely that the SAF will cease its various actions along a border that is much too long to be effectively monitored with present resources and mandates. UNISFA's initial failure in Kiir Adem is a sign of what is to come, with grim parallels to UNAMID in Darfur. There seem to be two most likely explanations for the attacks on Kiir Adem, neither of them encouraging for a broader peace:  These are the actions of a regime determined to keep international attention focused on North/South issues, at the expense of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Darfur, and other marginalized regions of eastern Sudan and Nubia in the far north. Khartoum is calculating that if the North/South border remains sufficiently "hot"--but not so hot as to convince Juba once again to suspend oil production and transit--then all real international efforts, diplomatic and political, will stay focused narrowly on avoiding war between Khartoum and Juba. A strategy very much like this was deployed by the regime during the final months of the CPA: all negotiating issues of substance were settled by May 2004, and only narrowly technical issues remained. But the genocidal counter-insurgency in Darfur was then at its height, and Khartoum was determined that international attention remain focused on the talks in Naivasha (Kenya); and there was in fact a disgraceful muting of criticism for many months before the CPA was finally signed in January 2005. In 2010 the regime again saw that the U.S. was so focused on securing the January 2011 self-determination referendum for the South that it essentially abandoned Abyei--demanding that Juba "compromise" further over the final status of the region despite the explicit terms of the Abyei Protocol in the CPA and the July 2009 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Current Secretary of State John Kerry--then Senator Kerry but serving as an ad hoc Obama administration envoy--went so far as to declare that the CPA should not be held hostage to "a few hundred square miles" of disputed territory (Reuters [Khartoum], October 25, 2010). Not only was Kerry egregiously in error about the size of Abyei--it is only slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut, which neighbors Kerry's own Massachusetts--but as subsequent events would dramatically prove, Abyei was at the very center of the viability of the CPA from the perspective of the South. The Obama administration's willingness to trade it out on the basis of ignorance and expediency was not lost on Juba--or Khartoum. Certainly Khartoum hopes that in any final delineation and demarcation of the North/South border, Kiir Adem and a number of other areas in Northern and Western Bahr el-Ghazal (e.g., the Kafia Kingi enclave) will be placed in the north. And as Abyei reveals, Khartoum is perfectly willing to seize militarily what it cannot win by diplomacy. But at the present time, a strong case can be made that the attacks on Kiir Adem and other areas along the border (Unity and Upper Nile states in particular) are meant to be provocative, meant to convince the international community that the agreements on oil and a demilitarized zone along the border are not guaranteed, and that further diplomatic resources and commitment are required. These will inevitably come at the expense of the Nuba, Blue Nile, Darfur, and other marginalized regions of Sudan.  It is also distinctly possible that the attacks on Kiir Adem are further evidence of the depth of the split within the regime--between the security "hard-liners" and army generals on the one hand, and the political officials who have been ascendant for most of the NIF/NCP tyranny on the other. Here it is important to recall again the extraordinarily revealing dispatch by Julie Flint in summer 2011 after the assault on the Nuba had begun, making clear there would be very little room for civilians in the new configuration of power: "[A] well-informed source close to the National Congress Party reports that Sudan's two most powerful generals went to [Sudanese President Omar al-] Bashir on May 5 , five days after 11 soldiers were killed in an SPLA ambush in Abyei, on South Kordofan's southwestern border, and demanded powers to act as they sought fit, without reference to the political leadership." [These generals are named below--ER] "'They got it,' the source says. 'It is the hour of the soldiers--a vengeful, bitter attitude of defending one's interests no matter what; a punitive and emotional approach that goes beyond calculation of self-interest. The army was the first to accept that Sudan would be partitioned. But they also felt it as a humiliation, primarily because they were withdrawing from territory in which they had not been defeated. They were ready to go along with the politicians as long as the politicians were delivering--but they had come to the conclusion they weren't. Ambushes in Abyei...interminable talks in Doha keeping Darfur as an open wound.... Lack of agreement on oil revenue....' 'It has gone beyond politics,' says one of Bashir's closest aides. 'It is about dignity.'" (Daily Star [Lebanon], August 2, 2011) The power of the army soon became clear when a "Framework Agreement" between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) and Khartoum--represented by the powerful presidential aide Nafi'e Ali Nafi'e--was abruptly abrogated. Committing the regime to negotiate a cease-fire and address political grievances in South Kordofan (Blue Nile was not yet caught up in the conflict), the June 28, 2011 agreement might have been the basis for ending what is now a conflict affecting more than 2 million people--perhaps 1 million of them refugees or internally displaced, and more than 1 million people facing increasingly stark food shortages. But despite Nafi'e's putative authority, three days later--clearly under pressure from the same powerful army generals--President al-Bashir renounced the agreement (July 1, 2011), declaring that the "cleansing" operation in the Nuba would continue: "[al-Bashir] directed the armed forces to continue their military operations in South Kordofan until a 'cleansing of the region is over,' SUNA quoted Bashir as telling worshippers during Friday prayers." The commitment to civilian destruction as a means of conducting counter-insurgency had once again been embraced by the NIF/NCP regime (see also my contemporaneous analysis at Dissent, "A Creeping Coup in Khartoum," August 10, 2011). There has been considerable subsequent evidence of the ascendancy of the military, specifically a cabal of generals who have a record of extreme brutality and callousness, and who will surely end up in The Hague if the regime falls:
Lt. General Ismat Abdel Rahman al-Zain: he is implicated in Darfur atrocity crimes because of his role as SAF director of operations (Khartoum); he is also identified in the "Confidential Annex" to the report by UN panel of Experts on Darfur (the Annex was leaked in February 2006); Ismat was one of the two generals who in May 2011 confronted al-Bashir, demanding that the military take over decisions about war and peace in Abyei and other border regions. Major-General Mahjoub Abdallah Sharfi: he is head of the brutally efficient Military Intelligence, and was the second of the two generals who in May 2011 confronted al-Bashir. Major General Bakri Salih: he is the former Defense Minister and now a very powerful senior minister for presidential affairs. The current political environment in Khartoum is one that suits him particularly well. General Awad Ibn Auf: he is the former head of Military Intelligence and gave the order for the SAF and Janjaweed "to destroy everything" in Darfur (2003). Major General Ahmad Khamis: he was commander of the 14th Sudan Armed Forces infantry division in Kadugli during the large-scale atrocity crimes committed in June--July 2011).
If these are the men making the decision about whether or not to pursue peace, about whether the agreement about border demilitarization will be honored, then the attack on Kiir Adem has even grimmer implications. Their commitment to a military solution to outstanding issues between Juba and Khartoum may well include the ambition to seize Southern oil fields, both in Unity State and Upper Nile. Any such military move would guarantee a return to full-scale, unfathomably destructive war. What is notable is that the international community hasn't a clue as to which of these two explanations for the Kiir Adem attacks--coming at such a crucial moment--is the right one. The solution seems to be simply to ignore the issues altogether, and continue to focus on negotiations which may be undermined by the very narrowness of focus that governs talks in Addis Ababa. We have seen this pattern too many times before. APPENDIX: Economic circumstances govern in complex ways The backdrop for any understanding of Khartoum's military decision-making must remain an economy that continues in sharp decline. Even with the excessively optimistic predictions about the resumption of oil exports from Port Sudan, and the desperately needed foreign exchange currency which that oil will bring, there is no chance that growing economic hardships will fade away. These hardships will govern decision-making in any number of ways, but it is essential to understand their scale in making sense of regime decisions, especially in light of the circumstances of previous civil unrest and regime changes in Sudanese history. * Inflation increased to 46 percent in February 2013--and this is according to the figures released by the regime; real inflation, especially for food, is well in excess of 50 percent and continuing to rise. Indeed, even the official figures acknowledge an 86 percent year-over-year increase in the price of meat. * Agence France-Presse reported at length last month (March 7) on the immensely costly "brain drain" from Sudan, which is accelerating, especially in important professional fields: "The mounting exodus among medical workers is 'a real brain drain from Sudan.' said Al Shaikh Badr, a doctor with the health ministry. The outflow coincides with a worsening economy since South Sudan separated nearly two years ago, taking with it about 75 per cent of united Sudan's oil production.... Estimates of unemployment range up to 40 per cent." * In an effort to stem worker unrest, the regime announced a doubling of the minimum wage at the end of 2012 (Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], December 30, 2012); however, this was not reflected in the budget that had been submitted, and can be paid only with the printing of more Sudanese currency, thus further increasing inflation. And with inflation already over 50 percent, that "doubling" of the minimum wage won't last long before it is entirely overtaken by loss of purchasing power. Various budget machinations can fool the public over the short term, but cannot change basic economic and financial realities pushing toward much higher inflation. * The loss of foreign exchange currency reserves means that many domestic industries and enterprises are cutting back on production. Again last month, Sudan Tribune reported: "Sudan's largest flour company has been forced to cut its production by 50% because of foreign currency shortage, Sudan Tribune has learned. Sayga Flour Mills, which is part of DAL Group, relies on Byblos Bank, Abu Dhabi National Bank and Saudi Sudanese Bank to provide Guarantee Letters for the purposes of importing wheat and other production items." (March 10, 2013) There are other consequences of the economic shambles and lack of forex: "Royal Dutch Airline KLM has announced that effective March 31 of this year they will halt flights between Amsterdam and Khartoum, citing unsatisfactory performance of the route. There has been speculation if Khartoum's harsh economic environment, which saw allocation of foreign exchange to repatriate ticket sales suspended--in spite of existing international agreements which ordinarily exempt airlines from such measures--or if simply the increasing isolation of the regime has led to the decline now seen." (March 25, 2013) * The Gezira agricultural project--long a promising part of Sudan's economy--has been run into the ground by successive regimes, including the present one for almost a quarter of a century. In the remarkably outspoken words of the Gezira state governor: "The governor of Sudan's Gezira state al-Zubair Bashir Taha slammed a government law adopted in 2005, saying it has done nothing to improve productivity of the country's largest agricultural scheme that contains one of the world's biggest irrigation projects." (Sudan Tribune, March 12, 2013) * External debt now exceeds US$45 billion--a staggering amount vastly in excess of what Khartoum can service, let alone repay. The regime counts on debt relief, and yet violence, insecurity, humanitarian blockades, and diplomatic obduracy make this impossible for even the most soft-minded countries. * In a desperate effort to garner foreign exchange currency, the regime has lurched in various directions, including a rashly precipitous effort to boost gold production, with exclusive regime control of sales and exports. One consequence of this rashness is violence in Darfur: Sudan Vision, a regime propaganda organ, announced at the end of 2012 (December 30): "Minister of Minerals has revealed the existence of 4,000 gold mines in Jebel Amir Area in North Darfur State which produce 15 tons per year at the rate of 70 kg a day. Kamal Abdul Latif told reporters after the meeting of the consultative council of the ministry of minerals that the meeting reviewed the plan for 2013, saying his ministry will continue to develop minerals to boost national economy." There has been no independent confirmation of this spectacular claim, or clarification of what exactly constitutes a "mine." But the Jebel Amir area is in the Beni Hussein Locality of North Darfur, and what has transpired in the past three months has been shocking new violence, this time between two Arab tribal groups, the Beni Hussein and the Northern Rizeigat (which provided a disproportionate number of militia recruits to Khartoum in the early years of the war). More than 100,000 people of various ethnicities have been displaced in the Jebel Amir region, and many hundreds have been killed. Without the ability or inclination to respond seriously to escalating violence throughout Darfur, Khartoum doesn't really care how the gold of Jebel Amir is mined--so long as it is sold to the regime for export. Additional victims include migrant artisanal workers drawn to Jebel Amir by regime declarations. The regime has become desperate, and that desperation certainly makes it more difficult to assess the motives behind any course of action. We catch a glimpse of the extremity of response in a recent dispatch from Sudan Tribune. The issue is not unimportant, but the paranoia--along with entomological and meteorological ignorance--tells us too much about the men in Khartoum in the death throes of their tyranny: "The Sudanese government launched a fierce attack on the Food and Agricultural organization of the United Nations (FAO) accusing it of conspiring against the country. The Secretary General of the General Administration for Protection of Plantation Khidir Gibreel said at a meeting in Sudan's North State that FAO is plagued with politics. He singled out FAO's Executive Secretary of the Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Central Region Mamoon Alalawi whom he said is leading the conspiracy. Gibreel said that Sudan will seek to have Alalawi removed from his post over his hostile stance against Sudan. He said that his position is backed by the federal agricultural minister and the president. "He claimed that Alalawi blocked a $25 million grant from Saudi Arabia in the form of vehicles and other equipments. Furthermore, the FAO official sent a spying device to Sudan that is disguised as one used for locust control. "The head of the pro-government Sudanese Journalists Union Moyideen Titawi suggested in an op-ed last month that Israel is behind the locusts which attacked the country. 'I don't rule out much that the first and last enemy of our country and our people and our products Israel and its agents [a hand] in the launch of this scourge on our country in order to impoverish us and strike our production of food, especially wheat, beans, pulses and dates' Titawi wrote in the right-wing al-Intibaha newspaper." Anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel run deep in this Sudanese regime, and we may expect that as the economy inflicts greater hardship on the citizenry, we will see much more in this vein. But beyond the preposterous claims and accusations, we should feel the desperation to which this dying regime has been driven, and worry about the consequences.
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|Publication:||Sudan Tribune (Sudan)|
|Date:||Apr 4, 2013|
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