Through a series of short briefs on developments at state level since the start of the civil war in 2013, the team behind Monitoring South Sudan hopes to provide a more comprehensive overview of the nature of the conflict and the impact of violence. As always, through the commentary field we encourage our readers to provide further updates, information and analyses.
- Capital: Malakal
- Approximate population: 964,353
- Internally Displaced People (IDP) sheltering in Upper Nile: 194,200
Upper Nile State is situated in the north-east, bordering Ethiopia and Sudan. It is considered a marginalised state, heavily affected by decades of civil war and with poor infrastructure and accessibility (especially in the rainy season). Although imbuing areas around Renk and Melut with high strategic significance, the state’s oil reserves have so far provided limited benefits to the local population.
Along with Unity State and Jonglei, Upper Nile has been one of the battlefields of the internal conflict which erupted in December 2013. Violence spread to Upper Nile shortly after the first incidents in Juba and, what was later to be named the SPLA-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO) attacked the state capital Malakal 24 December 2014. Between December and April, Malakal changed hands six times and with each battle the number of refugees and IDPs increased. The White Army and the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army, a Shilluk militia, also joined the fighting. In Unity State the conflict has not only been about high politics; it has also involved local issues and armed groups mobilised on a community basis, a consequence of weak state control following decades of civil war.
The fighting has largely been focused around Malakal and on access to the oil fields in Upper Nile State. SPLA is currently in control of Malakal, but the areas on the west bank of the Nile are still contested and fighting continues despite the peace negotiations. Baliet town is a hot spot since it links Malakal to Nasir (and further to Ethiopia). To the west, Tonga is a gateway to Malakal and was targeted early in the conflict. Since April, Renk county, the base of SPLA’s first division, and Maban county have also become frontlines as the areas hold military and financially strategic value. The situation in Maban is further complicated by the four major refugee camps which are hosting more than 127,000 refugees from the civil war in the neighbouring Blue Nile state of Sudan.
Gross human rights violations have taken place in Upper Nile. Attacks on churches hosting IDPs, house-to-house searches and civilian killings in Malakal hospital have been documented. UNMISS uses its bases in Malakal, Nasser and Melut as civilian protection sites and has recently opened an additional site in Malakal as the bases are filled beyond capacity. Under the current circumstances it is impossible to provide any reliable number of the people facing severe food shortage and lack of basic services in Upper Nile. However, there is no doubt that an already fragile situation has been made worse by the fighting which has caused displacement, hindered local food production and made trade difficult.
- Small Arms Survey: The conflict in Upper Nile State
- UNMISS: Conflict in South Sudan: A Human Rights Report
- BICC: Oil Investments and Conflict in Upper Nile State, South Sudan
Monday 30 June
- UN envoy in South Sudan, Hilde Frafjord Johnson, said that the collective leadership in South Sudan must take responsibility for the conflict.
- Riek Machar defended the call for federalism.
- South Sudan government officially admitted that international help is needed to avoid collapse.
- Church leaders and women groups in Unity State announced support for federalism.
- The South Sudan government said that SPLM/A-in-Opposition has kidnapped a Kenyan pilot and demands $1.5 million for his release.
Tuesday 1 July
- The South Sudan government announced that they are willing to conclude the peace negotiations within two weeks if SPLA/M-in-Opposition agrees to participate.
- MSF reported that at least 58 people have been killed in hospitals during the South Sudan conflict.
- South Sudanese journalists were accused of erroneous reporting.
- Riek Machar travelled to South Africa to meet President Jacob Zuma.
- A mass prayer for reconciliation took place in Bor, Jonglei State.
- Increasing tensions were reported in Juba, as state governors in the Equatora states have been critical towards Salva Kiir.
Wednesday 2 July
- The hunger crisis in South Sudan was predicted to affect four million people.
- UN officials claimed UN staff was prevented from travelling by South Sudan security officials because of ethnicity.
- South Sudan implemented a ban on foreign taxi drivers.
- Yonglei youths rejected a federal system proposed by the SPLA/M-in-Oppostion.
- The South Sudan government denied banning debates about federalism.
- South Sudan’s finance minister tabled the annual budget 2014-2015 before parliament.
- New York Times reported that the South Sudan government has declined UN’s request to deploy unarmed drones to aid the peacekeeping mission.
- Juba and Khartoum signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on border control and immigration.
Thursday 3 July
- South Sudanese MP’s criticised stakeholders involved in the IGAD peace negotiations.
- The governor of Central Equatoria reiterated the federalism demand.
- The US considered more individual sanctions towards South Sudan as a response to the current crisis.
Friday 4 July
- SPLA/M-in-Opposition was accused of killing 8 people in Warrap State.
- Salva Kiir met with Ethiopia’s foreign minister.
- Jonglei State government announced that it severs ties with the UN agency OCHA.
- Machar concluded his Pretoria visit.
Saturday 5 July
- SPLA announced that the tensions in Western Equatoria have been subdued.
- Peter Adwok Nyaba, a former political detainee joined SPLA/M-in-Opposition.
- At least one person was killed in a truck ambush between Juba and Bor.
- Ongoing fighting reported in Unity State.
- South Sudan Human Rights Commission called for freedom of speech.
- Disarmament of SPLA deserters reported in Bahr el Ghazal.
Sunday 6 July
- SPLA/M-in-Opposition accused SPLA of killing civilians in Western Equatoria.
- Salva Kiir called on African leaders to push for a solution to the South Sudan crisis.
Monday 23 June
- Kuol Manyan Juuk, South Sudan’s defence minister denied that he wants to resign.
- Salva Kiir attended the African Union Summit in Equatorial Guinea.
- The IGAD announced that the Addis Ababa peace talks are adjourned due to disagreements over inclusivity.
- Warrap authorities denied involvement in cattle raid in Unity State.
- 7.3 million people were at risk of food insecurity.
Tuesday 24 June
- The Director General of UNESCO arrived in South Sudan.
- South Sudan presidency warned against promoting a federalism debate.
- South Sudan’s Defence Minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk announced that Ugandan troops will remain in South Sudan.
- The former political detainees reacted to the adjournment of the peace talks and described it as “unpatriotic”.
Wednesday 25 June
- South Sudan was announced the most fragile state in the world according to the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy Magazine index of fragile states.
- South Sudan renewed its commitment to the UN Action Plan to prevent recruitment of child soldiers.
- UNMISS discussed transit of humanitarian aid with Sudan’s Vice President.
- Riek Machar wrote a letter explaining the SPLM/A-in-Opposition’s position on the IGAD peace talks to the UN General Secretary.
- IGAD discussed asking the UN for approval to implement sanctions towards South Sudan.
- UN reported that 101,333 people are seeking shelter in South Sudan UN bases.
Thursday 26 June
- SPLM/A-in-Opposition was accused of blocking humanitarian aid in Jonglei.
- The UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon met with Salva Kiir and urged him to continue the negotiations with Machar.
- The Yau Yau Peace deal was rectified by South Sudan MPs.
- SPLM/A-in-Oppostion denied accusations of blocking humanitarian aid.
Friday 27 June
- The South Sudan Vice President visited China.
- The AU inquiry commission on the South Sudan conflict requested an extension of its mandate.
- South Sudan political parties urged Kiir and Machar to continue the peace negotiations.
- The IGAD chief negotiator met with the UN Security Council.
- The United Nations special representative to the secretary-general for children and armed conflict, Leila Zesrrougui asked for immediate demobilization of child soldiers in South Sudan.
Saturday 28 June
- Ezekiel Lol Gatkouth, one of the former political detainees, announced that he wishes to join the SPLM/A-in-Opposition.
Sunday 29 June
- SPLM/A-in-Opposition criticized the IGAD mediation process and the ‘rush’ to form an interim government.
Monday 16 June
- The peace talk round planned to commence 16 June was delayed.
- South Sudan’s Army Chief visited Nasir.
- The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) condemned the violations of the ceasefire.
Tuesday 17 June
- UN Geneal-Secretary urged the political leaders in South Sudan to form an interim government.
- Lieutenant-General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam of Ethiopia was appointed as the new Force Commander for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Wednesday 18 June
- At least 12 people were killed in inter-clan clashes in Lakes State.
- The South Sudan government committed to the global campaign to end sexual violence in conflict.
- Warrap state announced its opposition to the demand for federalism.
- Suspected cholera cases reported in Torit.
- Gunfire incident at Juba Airport.
- Police fired at officials in jonglei in a salary dispute.
Thursday 19 June
- Salva Kiir rejected the SPLA/M-in-Opposition’s proposal of equal representation in the interim government.
- Youths in Bahr el Ghazal called for neutral civil society in the peace process.
- Religious leaders requested restart of the peace negotiations.
Friday 20 June
- Salva Kiir critisised Equatoria State for declaring support for federalism.
- MSF reported alarming conditions in UN camps in South Sudan.
- South Sudan’s interior minister visited Khartoum.
Saturday 21 June
- The UN Security Council call for joint administration in Abyei was rejected by local community leaders.
- Salva Kiir rejected the defence minister’s resignation.
Sunday 22 June
- SPLA/M-in-Opposition accused the South Sudan government of violating theStatus Mission Agreement (SOMA).
- UNHCR declared decline in the number of South Sudan refugees fleeing to Ethiopia.
- Activists requested reselection of peace talk delegates.
- SPLA/M-in-Opposition announced that they will boycott the peace talks over the issue of inclusivity.
- Two people were killed in an attack by an armed group in Tor, Unity State.
Monday 9 June
- UNMISS opened a new civilian protection site in Malakal.
- African leaders urged South Sudanese politicians to find peaceful solution.
- The three-day multi-stakeholders symposium in Addis was concluded.
Tuesday 10 June
- The International Organisation for Migration warned that 2 million people will be displaced in South Sudan by the end of 2014.
- South Sudan leaders committed to the IGAD peace process and promised to implement a transitional government within 60 days.
- 3.800 uniformed men were dismissed by the Lake State governor.
- Youth leaders in Eastern Equatoria announced their support for federalism.
Wednesday 11 June
- SPLM/A-In-Opposition said they are positive to the negotiations with the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni.
- East African nations threatened to implement sanctions towards South Sudan unless the current conflict is solved peacefully.
- A reconciliation process between conflicting villages took place in Eastern Equatoria.
Thursday 12 June
- The Torit mayor was suspended.
- SPLM/A-in-Opposition complained to IGAD about the stakeholders-symposium held last week.
- ‘Citizens of Peace and Justice’, led by David Deng, requested to join the Addis Peace talks.
- Kiir agreed to allow the former political detainees return to South Sudan.
- SPLA soldiers deserted from Jonglei.
Friday 13 June
- The US warned against all travel to South Sudan.
- 300 SPLA soldiers returned home after salary disagreement.
- SPLA-in-Opposition fighters claimed victory in Bahr el Ghazal.
- Former army general called for popular uprising.
- Kiir accepted a reconciliation process within the SPLM.
- SPLM/A-in-Opposition denied reports of agreement on transitional government.
Saturday 14 June
- UN appealed for $1 billion to provide the necessary aid to South Sudan.
- South Sudan’s Vice President stated that the opposition should not be given any seats in the interim government.
Sunday 15 June
- Eastern Equatoria governor announced his support for the call for federalism.
- Four were killed in cattle raids in Abyei.
Monday 2 June
- New report stated that there have been more than 1106 cholera incidents in South Sudan since 15 May.
- South Sudan security was accused of arresting relatives of politicians supporting Riek Machar.
- Salva Kiir said in a media address that the citizens of South Sudan should decide whether the country should have a federal system.
Tuesday 3 June
- Kiir’s legal advisor, Telar Riing Deng denied his support for Vice-President James Wani Igga as the government’s lead negotiator in the peace talks.
- UNICEF reported that fighters occupy at least 30 schools in South Sudan.
- South Sudan Police dismissed accusations of killings in Mia Saba (Juba).
Wednesday 4 June
- Machar expressed faith in political settlement through the negotiations.
- Francis Nazario, a senior diplomat, left the South Sudan government.
- Global Witness demands an immediate halt to all South Sudan oil contracts.
Thursday 5 June
- Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary general urged Salva Kiir and Riek Machar to meet next week.
- Next round of peace negotiations, ‘the multi stakeholder symposium’ scheduled to start 5 June did not resume.
- Army recruitment by force reported in Lake State.
Friday 6 June
- South Sudan’s Vice President, James Wani Igga acknowledges corruption in non-oil revenues.
Monday 26 May
- South Sudan army denied involvement in assaults on UN staff.
- The Russian President, Putin, was invited to visit South Sudan.
Tuesday 27 May
- UNHCR announced that more than 70,000 people have fled their homes since the peace agreement was signed 9 May.
- UNMISS’ mandate was extended and the focus shifted from nation building to protection of civilians.
- Clashes in Rumbek East County left three dead.
- South Sudanese diaspora requested US intervention in South Sudan.
Wednesday 28 May
- Riek Machar met with the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, in Nairobi.
- The breakaway faction of South Sudan Democratic Forum (SSDF-mainstream) agreed to merge with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC).
- Sudanese participant in the IGAD mediation said that IGAD forces will be deployed in June.
Thursday 29 May
Friday 30 May
- USAID demanded access to conflict areas in South Sudan.
- It was announced that China will send 850 troops to UN’s peace keeping mission in South Sudan.
- Head of UNMISS, Hilde Frafjord Johnson resigned.
Saturday 31 May
- The leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), Lam Akol, requested that the South Sudanese army should be separated from the ruling party, SPLM.
- UNHCR reported that the number of South Sudanese refugees has increased despite progress in the peace negotiations.
Sunday 1 June
May 2014 appears to be a momentous month for South Sudanese politics. The government signed two peace agreements on 9th May in Addis Ababa, and the South Sudan Humanitarian Conference took place on 19-20th May in Oslo.
Mobilising over USD610, the Oslo conference was a response to the crisis induced by the continuing conflict in South Sudan. Although presented in the hue of a broad international conference, only half of the 41 countries present at the conference pledged new money, and a closer look at the funds pledged reveals that the Troika (USA, UK and Norway) collectively accounted for over three quarters of the money.
These funds are intended to alleviate humanitarian needs inside South Sudan and those of refugees in neighbouring countries. Of particular concern was a looming famine in many parts of the South. Protection of civilians was one issue deliberated during the conference, but it is unclear to what extent any of the new funds are intended to finance the planned up-scaled UNMISS operations or the IGAD-led monitoring mechanisms – both operations will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. International humanitarian assistance is however a corollary to the efforts of ending the war in South Sudan, which in this case has to be accomplished through negotiations.
On 9 May Salva Kiir and Riek Machar signed, on behalf of the Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLMiO), an Agreement to Resolve the Crisis in South Sudan. Although the two-page agreement was described as a significant step forward in the peace process, it is by and large a reconfirmation of commitments made in earlier rounds of the IGAD-led negotiations. Furthermore, immediately afterwards, each of them claimed that he had experienced undue pressure from the Ethiopian host to sign the agreement. It appears that the for the hyped and hasty signing ceremony may have been the Oslo donor conference.
Despite some low-level fighting in the days following the signing ceremony, the two parties have generally met their commitment to a month of tranquillity. With a few days to go, it remains to be seen if the other substantial commitment – of meeting again within a month – will be honoured. The parties also agreed that an inclusive interim government is a necessary part of the solution to the crisis, but they did not decide on the composition of such a government or on when it is to be formed.
The SPLMiO has called for a new national leadership, but Salva Kiir has signalled that he is not intending to step down. The SPLMiO also demands governance reforms including the adoption of a federal constitution, a demand echoed by non-aligned Equatorian politicians. The government is apprehensive and sees federalism as a threat to national cohesion and prefers non-federal decentralisation.
The GoSS resistance to federalism is undermined, however, by the second, less-publicised, peace agreement between Salva Kiir and David Yau Yau, the leader of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (Cobra Faction). It, the “Jonglei Peace Deal”, is commendable for ending four years of on-and-off insurgency in Pibor County, but it poses a threat to national integrity. It establishes the eastern part of Jonglei as an autonomous region for the Murle ethnic group and promises development funding from the central government, special rights to manage water and pasture resources, and concessions over internal borders. The new arrangements bypass the current governance structure in Jonglei and might encourage other disgruntled groups to intensify their activities. It is still too early to say whether this is the start of South Sudan’s fragmentation, but the stage is set for an upsurge of ethnic and regional demands.
The weakness of the May 9 agreements is to a large extent the consequence of the haste with which they were made. This is symptomatic of the dilemmas facing external actors involved in peace processes in the two Sudans. There are good reasons for accelerated processes: protracted warfare not only takes an unacceptable toll in terms of human lives and destroyed livelihoods, but it also undermines South Sudan as a political project. However, as the catastrophic outcome of the 2006 Darfur peace agreement illustrates, forcing through premature solutions in South Sudan may be devastating in the long run.
Øystein H. Rolandsen, senior researcher PRIO, and Sebabatso Manoeli, DPhil student, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.
Since we published this analysis, the month of tranquility ceased sharply on 31 May as fighting reignited between SPLMiO and the GoSS troops. The recent events corroborate the argument that the external pressure exerted on the two signatories could not circumvent the essential ingredient for peace: political will, on both sides. The continuing conflict indicates that the two parties did not have a sense of ownership over the agreement, and that signing on 9 May may have been premature. The UN’s insistence on holding those who transgress the agreement accountable leads to questions about the kind of justice that can and will be meted out.
Monday 19 May
- UNICEF called for financial aid to stop outbreak of cholera in South Sudan.
- South Sudan government defended involvement of foreign troops in South Sudan.
- SPLM/A-in-Opposition accused the South Sudan government of raping women in Upper Nile.
- An international Donor Conference for South Sudan opened in Oslo.
Tuesday 20 May
- Khartoum stated that Sudanese groups have been involved in the South Sudanese violence.
- More than $600 million in aid was promised to South Sudan after the International Donor Conference for South Sudan.
- UN predicted that 4 million people face starvation in South Sudan by 2015.
Wednesday 21 May
- UNMISS staff detained in Juba.
- The Ugandan government claimed its military intervention in South Sudan prevented genocide.
Thursday 22 May
Friday 23 May
- 28 people killed in clashes in Rumbek and Cueibit.
- SPLM-in-Opposition denied allegations of having links with LRA.
- Donald Booth, US special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan called for deployment of regional troops in South Sudan.
- The constitution review panel will join the talks in Addis.
- Estimated that South Sudan’s oil production has been reduced by 50% since the outbreak of the conflict.
- Announced that UN peacekeepers continue to be disrupted by fighting groups.
Saturday 24 May
- Salva Kiir called for deployment of regional forces to prevent further violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement.
- It was announced that Riek Machar will visit Khartoum next week.