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Renewed escalation of intercommunal violence in east left 150 dead, and holdout rebel group suspended participation in peace talks amid clashes in south; meanwhile, govt made some progress in implementing 2018 peace deal. In Greater Pibor Administrative Area in east, renewed intercommunal clashes between ethnic Lou Nuer and Dinka on one side and ethnic Murle on the other 10-17 May killed over 150 in Gumuruk area. UN Mission in South Sudan 16 May expressed “deep concern” over “fresh escalation of violence”. UN Security Council 11 May extended mandate of UN peacekeeping force in disputed Abyei region (north) between South Sudan and Sudan, until Nov; intercommunal violence 16 May killed at least 11 people in Abyei’s Dungoup village. Meanwhile, holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) 6 May suspended its participation in new round of peace talks with govt scheduled for 8-12 May, accusing govt of involvement in April alleged assassination of Gen Abraham Wana Yoane, military chief of rebel group allied to NAS. In Central Equatoria state in south, suspected NAS combatants reportedly killed five civilians in Payawa village 12 May and four security forces in Gabada village next day. In Western Equatoria state (also south), President Kiir-aligned South Sudan People’s Defence Forces 14-15 May repelled attack by suspected NAS on their barracks in Maridi county; five reportedly killed. Kiir 10 May signed long-delayed decree reconstituting Transitional National Legislative Assembly to include former rebel opposition groups, paving way for completion of key steps of peace process including constitutional review and preparation for elections; move came after Troika states, Canada, France, Germany and EU 5 May jointly urged Kiir and presidency’s five VPs to take steps to bolster transition. Implementation of transitional security arrangements however continued to lag behind schedule and official body monitoring peace deal implementation, including unification of armed groups into single army, 20 May warned former rebel fighters were abandoning cantonment and training sites due to lack of food and medicine, jeopardising goal to graduate first batch of unified army by month’s end. UN Security Council 28 May extended arms embargo on South Sudan for one year.
President Kiir took steps to consolidate his power and sideline potential rivals, and intercommunal violence persisted in centre. Amid calls for Kiir to step down, latter 10 and 16 April reshuffled key political and security positions, notably replacing Presidential Affairs Minister Nhial Deng Nhial, army chief Gen Johnson Juma Okot, external intelligence chief Gen Thomas Duoth and Deputy Defence Minister Gen Malek Reuben Riak with perceived hardliners and loyalists. Presidential Press Secretary Ateny Wek Ateny 14 April announced general elections initially scheduled for 2022 would be postponed to June 2023 due to delays in implementation of transitional agenda, drawing immediate criticism from VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition. Meanwhile, clashes erupted between Dinka sub-ethnic groups in Lakes state (centre), leaving at least 14 dead in Rumbek North county 7-9 April; 23 killed in Rumbek East county 17-18 April; eight dead in Cueibet county 21 April; and at least 13 more in Yirol West county next day. In Unity state (also centre), suspected armed youths from neighbouring Warrap state 4 April killed at least 18 people in cattle raid in Mayom county. UN Panel of Experts 26 April warned of risk of renewed war amid widening political, military and ethnic divisions. Following late March-early April spate of deadly attacks against commercial truck drivers on South Sudan’s main trade routes with Kenya and Uganda, truckers from two neighbouring countries 3 April went on strike over insecurity, temporarily halting imports and triggering brief trade crisis. Uganda drivers 10 April resumed work after govt deployed military forces along roads to provide additional security. Holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), which govt accused of carrying out ambushes on trucks, 1 April denied responsibility, blaming govt-affiliated forces. Unidentified assailants 20 April reportedly assaulted Gen Abraham Wana Yoane, military chief of holdout splinter rebel group South Sudan National Movement for Change/Army (SSNMC/A), allied to NAS leader Thomas Cirillo, in Ugandan capital Kampala; Yoane 22 April died from his injuries and SSNMC/A same day claimed govt was responsible.
Fighting resumed between govt and holdout rebel group in south, President Kiir achieved formation of state govts amid mounting calls to resign, and intercommunal violence persisted. Deadly clashes resumed in south between govt and National Salvation Front (NAS), which refused to be part of 2018 peace deal. Notably, NAS 14-15 and 18 March reportedly clashed with govt’s South Sudan People’s Defence Forces in Central Equatoria state and Western Equatoria state’s Movolo area; death toll unknown. Following four-day negotiations in Kenya’s Naivasha town, govt and factions of South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (coalition of non-signatory rebel groups) led by Paul Malong and Pagan Amum 11 March signed Declaration of Principles, which forms basis for subsequent political dialogue. Kiir 2 March appointed Upper Nile and Eastern Equatoria’s govts, concluding formation of all ten state govts; national legislative assembly, council of states and some local govts yet to be formed. Meanwhile, Kiir faced rising pressure to step down from senior figures within his political base. Notably, former presidential adviser and prominent ruling party figure Daniel Awet Akot 14 March called on Kiir to hand over power to Presidential Affairs Minister Nhial Deng Nhial. Intercommunal violence persisted in several states. Notably, in Lakes state, clashes between ethnic Pakam and Gok 9 March left ten dead in Mabor cattle camp, Rumbek North county, and fighting between Gok community’s Ayiel and Pagok sections next day killed 17 people in Ngap village, Cueibet county. Unidentified gunmen 28 March killed at least 14 people in Budi county, Eastern Equatoria state; state governor 28 March reportedly survived assassination attempt on Budi-Buya axis that left two people dead. EU 22 March announced sanctions on Kiir-aligned Maj Gen Gabriel Moses Lokujo over his alleged role in abduction and execution of three officers of VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition in May 2020. UN Human Rights Council 24 March renewed mandate of UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan for one year.
After months-long deadlock, President Kiir appointed Upper Nile state governor; intercommunal violence persisted. Govt and former rebel opposition groups 18 Jan agreed to power-sharing arrangement for Abyei, Greater Pibor and Ruweng Administrative Areas. After appointing six out of ten deputy state governors in Dec, President Salva Kiir appointed another three 22 Jan; Kiir 29 Jan appointed Upper Nile state governor and deputy governor, ending months-long deadlock with rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar over latter’s initial choice for state governor. Cabinet same day approved establishment of hybrid war crimes court. In Upper Nile state in east, clashes involving several militias continued to spark tensions between Kiir-aligned Dinka Padang and Machar-aligned Nuer communities in Maban county; Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) and Kiir’s forces reportedly clashed throughout month and accused each other of attacking civilians in Maban. In Upper Nile state’s Melut county, cattle raiders 13 Jan killed four,and unidentified assailants 16 Jan killed at least seven civilians.In el-Mogeines border area between Upper Nile state and Sudan’s White Nile state, clashes between South Sudanese gunmen and Sudanese communities early Jan reportedly left at least 17 dead. In Warrap state in centre, unidentified gunmen mid-Jan ambushed vehicle, killing five in Tonj North county; intercommunal clashes 24-30 Jan left at least 14 dead in Tonj North and Tonj South counties. In Lakes state in centre, intercommunal violence early to mid-Jan left at least six dead in Cueibet county; cattle raiders 11-12 Jan killed at least five police officers in Yirol West county. UN Sec-Gen Guterres 15 Jan appointed Nicholas Haysom as new head of UN Mission in South Sudan. Kiir mid-Jan offered to mediate in border dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia (see Sudan and Ethiopia).
Govt and former rebel opposition groups agreed to end stalemate over formation of state and county govts in all but one state; meanwhile intercommunal violence continued. Govt and former rebel opposition groups 9 Dec agreed to move forward with formation of state and county govts, except in contested Upper Nile state, as well as with reconstitution of national legislature; parties agreed to organise peace and reconciliation conference to bring together Upper Nile communities prior to appointment of state governor, over which President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar have been at odds since June; Machar mid-Dec, however, indefinitely postponed conference. Kiir 30 Dec appointed six out of ten deputy state governors. In bid to reassert control over Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), Machar 1-5 Dec organised national party conference; dissent has been mounting in SPLA-IO’s ranks over slow implementation of Sept 2018 peace agreement. Regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development 20 Dec formally confirmed there are no travel restrictions on Machar. Govt and holdout rebel group National Salvation Front early Dec held talks in Italy’s capital Rome but failed to reach breakthrough on draft ten-point Declaration of Principles aimed at guiding future political negotiations. In Central Equatoria state in south, Kiir’s forces and SPLA-IO clashed several times throughout month in Kajo-Keji county. In Western Equatoria state in south, unidentified gunmen 16 Dec reportedly attacked SPLA-IO in Mvolo county. In Upper Nile state in east, unidentified gunmen mid-Dec reportedly attacked SPLA-IO in Maban county. Meanwhile, intercommunal violence persisted across country. In Central Equatoria state, cattle-related violence killed at least 43 throughout month in Terekeka and Lainya counties. In Lakes state in centre, cattle raids and intercommunal violence throughout month killed at least 29 in Yirol east, Cueibet and Awerial counties. In Warrap state, also in centre, intercommunal clashes mid-Dec left seven dead in Tonj North county.
Efforts to form govts at state and local levels continued, and holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) agreed to join peace agreement’s ceasefire monitoring body. Former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) mid-Nov said it would not submit its nominees for state minister and county commissioner positions until President Salva Kiir appoints Machar’s pick for governor of contested Upper Nile state; late Nov reportedly agreed to formation of state and local governments except in Upper Nile state. Machar continued to face mounting dissent within SPLA-IO, whose Sec Gen Peter Tingo 10 Nov resigned, citing Machar’s poor leadership. South Sudan National Dialogue, launched by Kiir in 2017, mid-Nov recommended to return country to 32 states; measure, if implemented, could derail transition as Kiir’s decision in Feb 2020 to revert country to its original ten states had paved way for formation of unity govt. In Italy’s capital Rome, govt and NAS 9-13 Nov held talks aimed at incorporating NAS into peace agreement’s ceasefire monitoring body (CTSAMVM); after briefly walking out of talks, accusing govt of violating ceasefire in Central Equatoria state in south 10 Nov, NAS agreed to join CTSAMVM in Jan 2021. In Warrap state in centre, intercommunal clashes 8-9 Nov left at least 16 dead and several dozen injured in Tonj East county; UN 17 Nov said more than 1,000 people had died in past six months in intercommunal violence in Warrap state. In Jonglei state in east, intercommunal clashes early to mid-Nov left at least 13 dead in Fangak county. In Upper Nile state in east, unidentified gunmen 4 Nov killed two prominent ethnic Shilluk in state capital Malakal. In Central Equatoria state in south, former SPLA-IO senior commander who in Sept defected to Kiir’s forces late Nov reportedly attacked SPLA-IO base in Kajo-Keji county. UN Security Council 12 Nov extended mandate of peacekeeping force in contested Abyei region until May 2021.
Govt and holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) agreed to three-month ceasefire while govt and former rebel groups made slow progress in local power-sharing negotiations. Negotiations between govt and coalition of non-signatory rebel groups, South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), 9-12 Oct resumed in Italy’s capital, Rome; amid internal frictions, SSOMA split into two camps prompting govt to hold separate talks with NAS, during which they agreed on seven of ten principles of draft Declaration of Principles aimed at guiding future political negotiations; NAS 18 Oct said it had agreed to three-month ceasefire and that it would only commit to open-ended cessation of hostilities once parties agreed on all ten principles. Meanwhile, govt and signatory opposition groups 20 Oct broke deadlock over allocation of county commissioner positions and President Kiir next day asked former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar and other parties to submit nominees for ministerial and county commissioner positions; disagreement persisted over appointment of Upper Nile state governor. In Unity state in north, Paul Malong’s SSOMA faction South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A) early Oct defected to Kiir’s forces and 20 Oct launched attack on Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), killing at least one near state capital Bentiu. In Central Equatoria state in south, former SPLA-IO senior commander who in Sept defected to Kiir’s forces 4 Oct launched attack on SPLA-IO base in Kajo-Keji county, reportedly leaving at least two dead. Unidentified gunmen early Oct killed son of former Central Equatoria governor between Juba and Terekeka counties, reportedly prompting reprisal that 9 Oct killed at least six. In Eastern Equatoria state, cattle raids 3-12 Oct left four dead in Torit and Budi counties. Clashes between South Sudanese and Ugandan soldiers along border 27 Oct reportedly left two dead on each side. In centre, intercommunal clashes 7 Oct killed at least ten in Tonj county, Warrap state. Raiders 17-18 Oct killed five cattle traders in Cueibet county, Lakes state. Unidentified gunmen 5 Oct attacked World Food Programme boat-convoy carrying food assistance from Jonglei state to Upper Nile state (east), one crew member missing.