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President Kiir and main rebel leader Riek Machar failed to close gap between their positions on outstanding issues raising risk that they fail to reach agreement by 22 Feb deadline to form unity govt potentially triggering new violence; govt struck ceasefire agreement with armed groups that did not sign Sept 2018 deal; fighting continued in west. Deadlock persisted over number and borders of states: Kiir insisted on maintaining or increasing existing 32 states, while opposition groups pushed for 23 states plus Abyei. South African deputy president David Mabuza, invited to mediate by Kiir and Machar, 16 Jan proposed that 90-day arbitration committee of foreign, regional, and international representatives settle issue; South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSAA) and Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) rejected proposal, demanding issue be resolved before formation of unity govt. Unification of govt and rebel forces into national army made some progress with SPLA-IO troops early Jan starting to move to cantonment sites in Jonglei, Torit and Wau states. Govt and opposition coalition South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), who refused to be part of Sept 2018 peace deal, 13 Jan signed Rome Declaration in Italy, agreeing to cease hostilities, discuss mechanisms to resolve differences, and guarantee humanitarian access. Ceasefire took effect 15 Jan, no major violations by end month. Kiir 29 Jan granted amnesty to all SSOMA factions. Second round of talks expected in Feb. Fighting continued between govt forces and armed groups in Maiwut county, Gambella region near border with Ethiopia. Suspected nomadic Misseriya herders from Sudan 22 Jan reportedly killed 32 people and burnt houses in Dinka village of Kolom, in disputed Abyei area. U.S. 8 Jan imposed sanctions on VP Gai for allegedly ordering murder of opposition figure Aggrey Idri Ezibon and human rights lawyer Dong Samuel Luak in 2017.
Negotiations between President Kiir and main rebel leader Riek Machar, notably to resolve dispute over number and borders of states, failed to achieve consensus, but both reiterated pledge to form transitional unity govt in Feb, and intercommunal violence continued. Kiir and Machar 4 Dec adjourned negotiations facilitated by regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and South Africa’s Deputy President David Mabuza: govt insisted on increasing number of states to no less than 32, while Machar’s rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) stated preference for ten. Govt proposed referendum to resolve impasse. After further talks between Kiir and Machar in capital Juba 10-17 Dec, both reiterated commitment to form unity govt by mid-Feb even if political disputes remain unresolved. Unification of country’s 83,000 security personnel remained stalled, undermined by lack of funds and shortages of food, water and medical supplies, which force fighters to abandon cantonment sites. After U.S. temporarily recalled its ambassador to South Sudan in Nov, it placed sanctions 11 Dec on five security officials it says are responsible for abduction and murder of two activists in 2017; 12 Dec implemented visa restrictions on individuals impeding peace process. Intercommunal violence continued early Dec. In Western Lakes state, following clashes between Manuer and Gak communities that left some 80 people dead 27-29 Nov, UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) 3 Dec said it had deployed 75 Nepalese peacekeepers to area. Unidentified gunmen 1 Dec stormed compound of international NGO Relief International in Maban county, Upper Nile state, severely assaulting staff; no casualties.
Parties to Sept 2018 peace deal agreed to extend pre-transitional period by 100 days pushing back deadline for formation of unity govt to Feb 2020; and intercommunal violence left over 50 dead. Days before 12 Nov deadline to form unity govt, guarantors of peace agreement Ugandan President Museveni and Sudanese Sovereign Council head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 7 Nov convened President Kiir and main rebel leader Riek Machar in Entebbe, Uganda where they agreed to 100-day extension in order to resolve outstanding issues, and to review progress after 50 days. U.S. mid-Nov said it would re-evaluate its relationship with South Sudan and questioned suitability of Kiir and Machar to lead country; 25 Nov recalled its ambassador to South Sudan. Sudanese delegation led by deputy head of Sudanese Sovereign Council General “Hemedti” 25 Nov arrived in capital Juba to hasten implementation of peace agreement. Attacks by unidentified gunmen in Bieh, Jonglei, Tonj and Tambura states 5-24 Nov left at least nine dead and ten missing. In Abyei region, disputed between South Sudan and Sudan, gunmen suspected to belong to Misseriya ethnic group 7 Nov launched attacks on two Dinka villages that left at least nine dead. In centre, killing of Manuer trader triggered clashes 27 and 29 Nov between Manuer and Gak communities leaving at least 53 dead in Western Lakes state. Fighting between security forces and civilians 29 Nov left twelve security force members and two civilians dead in Tonj state. UN Security Council 14 Nov extended mandate of peacekeeping force in Abyei (UNISFA) until 15 May 2020. Sudanese authorities mid-Nov released over a dozen South Sudanese officials and civilians they had arrested along border in Upper Nile state late Oct-early Nov. Third round of talks in capital Juba between Sudanese govt and Sudanese armed opposition groups postponed from 21 Nov to 10 Dec.
If President Kiir follows through on pledge to form transitional govt at end of pre-transitional period 12 Nov despite objections by main rebel leader Riek Machar peace agreement could collapse and violence resume. Kiir and Machar met in capital Juba 20 Oct but failed to resolve outstanding issue of security arrangements. High-level UN Security Council delegation 20 Oct urged Kiir and Machar to speed up implementation of agreement and meet 12 Nov deadline to form govt. Kiir said govt would be formed by deadline, but Machar said he would not join govt in current conditions and demanded second extension of pre-transitional period citing failure to implement peace agreement, in particular reunification of security forces. Machar said that if parties form govt mid-Nov, “the ceasefire that we have been enjoying will be in jeopardy”. UN Security Council delegation later that day said there should be no further extension of pre-transitional period. Machar 21 Oct returned to Sudanese capital Khartoum; 30 Oct called for six-month extension of pre-transitional period. Unidentified assailants 13 Oct killed police officer in Jonglei state. Machar’s rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) 14 Oct reportedly killed trader in Southern Liech state. Unidentified gunmen 22 Oct ambushed police convoy in Southern Liech state, at least two assailants killed. In south west, clashes between govt forces and non-signatory rebel group National Salvation Front in Isebi, Yei River state left at least three aid workers and unknown number of soldiers and rebels dead. Panaguong clan attacked Panawur clan in Abieicok, Gok state 28 Oct leaving at least two dead. Kiir 14-21 Oct facilitated peace talks in Juba between Sudanese govt and Sudanese armed opposition groups; parties agreed to resume talks in Juba 21 Nov. UN Security Council 15 Oct extended mandate of UN peacekeeping mission in disputed Abyei region (UNISFA) on Sudan-South Sudan border until 15 Nov.
Ahead of Nov deadline to form transitional govt, President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar met for first time since April to hasten implementation of Sept 2018 peace agreement; govt forces continued to clash with non-signatory rebels in south. Machar visited Juba 9-12 Sept accompanied by deputy head of Sudanese Sovereign Council General “Hemedti” before returning to Sudan’s capital Khartoum. Kiir and Machar held face-to-face meetings 9 and 11 Sept and agreed to form 3,000-strong protection unit tasked with providing security for govt officials in Juba during transitional period, and to form committee to resolve question of number of states and location of state boundaries. Machar’s rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) 11 Sept announced it would move its HQ from Khartoum to Juba. SPLA-IO commander 20 Sept announced he and other officers had defected to govt; 25 Sept twelve more SPLA-IO officials defected. Clashes between govt forces and opposition National Salvation Front continued in Jubek, Yei River and Terekeka states in south. Attacks by unidentified gunmen in Tonj, Terekeka and Yei River states in south and centre 7-21 Sept left at least nine dead. Clashes between ethnic Dinka and Nuer 22 Sept left at least eleven dead in Eastern Lakes state in centre. Sudanese PM Hamdok visited Juba 12-13 Sept and met Kiir; leaders 12 Sept agreed to reopen access to several border areas in Sudan and South Sudan and reopen border crossings to improve bilateral trade and freedom of movement. Kiir facilitated talks between Sudanese govt and Sudanese armed opposition groups 11 Sept; parties signed roadmap for peace, pledging to begin talks 14 Oct in Juba and conclude agreement by 14 Dec.
Implementation of Sept 2018 peace agreement continued to stall ahead of Nov deadline to form unity govt. President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar failed to agree on conditions for face-to-face negotiations on implementation of peace agreement. Regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) 21 Aug convened parties to peace deal – including Machar but not Kiir – in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for talks aimed at accelerating implementation, but did not reach breakthrough on points of contention. Main rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition 31 July-5 Aug clashed with Cie-Wau clan in Maiwut town, Upper Nile state in north resulting in unknown number of civilian casualties and some 10,000 displaced. Fighters suspected to belong to National Salvation Front rebel group 1 Aug clashed with security forces in Kicak village, Imatong state in south leaving at least two civilians dead. Security forces 20-28 Aug clashed with rebel group South Sudan United Front in Wanh-Achien and Raja, Lol state in north west reportedly leaving several soldiers and eleven rebels dead. Kiir in Juba 14 Aug consulted head of Sudanese armed group Justice and Equality Movement on South Sudan’s potential role in mediating peace between Sudanese parties. Kiir 17 Aug attended signing of Sudanese transitional govt agreement in Khartoum and announced intention to continue efforts to broker peace between Sudanese govt and armed groups. Kiir 19 Aug reshuffled govt, including FM. Former Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Sec Gen Pagan Amum 30 Aug unveiled new opposition group Real Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (R-SPLM). Holdout opposition groups South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA), R-SPLM and South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A) formed alliance in The Hague, Netherlands.
Rebel leader Riek Machar indicated his willingness to resume direct talks with President Kiir, as implementation of 2018 Sept peace deal continued to lag ahead of Nov deadline to form interim govt. Machar 8 July told govt he was willing to hold face-to-face talks with Kiir on condition that regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) lift travel restrictions imposed on him and that an IGAD head of state broker meetings with Kiir. Body tasked with command and control of all forces during pre-transitional period Joint Defence Board (JDB) 21 July ordered all govt and rebel forces to report to cantonment sites by 31 July, which reportedly they did. Army clashed with non-signatory armed group National Salvation Front (NAS) in Lobonok, Jubek 22-23 July, resulting in unconfirmed number of casualties. UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) 3 July released report indicating that security forces and rebel groups had killed 104 civilians between signing of peace deal in Sept 2018 and April 2019 in Central Equatoria region in south. Unidentified gunmen 16 July killed one UN peacekeeper and six civilians in Abyei region, disputed between South Sudan and Sudan. Govt 1 July agreed to establish joint border commission with Kenya to help resolve conflict between ethnic communities in disputed border territory Ilemi Triangle. Kiir 27 July facilitated talks in Juba between, on one side, Sudanese rebel groups active in border areas Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) Hilu and SPLM-N Agar and, on other, joint delegation of Sudanese ruling Transitional Military Council and opposition coalition Forces for Freedom and Change led by TMC deputy head “Hemedti”; parties renewed ceasefire agreement.
Implementation of Sept 2018 peace agreement continued to stall ahead of deadline to form unity govt, extended in May for six months to Nov. In anticipation of unification of all signatory forces into national army, main rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) late May and early June claimed it had started sending troops to cantonment without official funding or commencement of cantonment. Independent Boundaries Commission, body tasked with proposing number of states into which country should be divided, 20 June handed its report to regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), but could not recommend specific number of states as it had failed to reach required supermajority on any proposal. President Kiir 12 June replaced petroleum minister. Govt 19 June sent envoy to Sudan to mediate between ruling military council and civilian opposition.
Parties to Sept 2018 peace agreement agreed to six-month extension of pre-transitional period to Nov, allowing more time to carry out preliminary reforms before forming transitional govt. Parties convened in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa 2-3 May under auspices of regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and agreed on six-month extension, as requested by main rebel leader Riek Machar in April. President Kiir 8 May publicly expressed doubt that parties would be able to form unity govt within six months, suggesting necessary security reforms would take one year. Security forces 10 May deployed in large numbers in capital Juba to prevent anti-govt protests that youth called for 16 May. Kiir 15 May warned that any attempt to seize power would be met with “violent resistance”; protests did not materialise. In south west, fighting reportedly resumed between govt forces and rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) led by Thomas Cirillo in Yei River state 26-27 May. UN Security Council 30 May renewed for one year sanctions on govt officials and militia groups including arms embargo; govt described renewal as “anti-peace”.
Sept 2018 peace agreement held, but could collapse triggering resumption of fighting if President Kiir forms transitional govt at scheduled end of pre-transitional period 12 May against wishes of main rebel leader Riek Machar. Machar 12 April called for six-month extension of pre-transitional period. Kiir and Machar alongside other political and church leaders from South Sudan attended “spiritual retreat” at Vatican in Rome 11-12 April; Pope Francis entreated leaders to keep disagreements behind closed doors. Following 11 April ouster of Sudanese President Bashir, guarantor of South Sudanese peace process, South Sudanese delegation 17 April travelled to Khartoum and stressed importance of continued free flow of oil from South Sudan into Sudan for export. Kiir 23 April travelled to United Arab Emirates to discuss improving bilateral relations.
As security situation remained tense, severe delays in implementation of Sept 2018 peace deal threatened to provoke its collapse and regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) made efforts to bring on board non-signatory opposition groups. Head of UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) David Shearer 8 March briefed UN Security Council expressing concern with delayed implementation in three areas: delineation of internal state boundaries, creation of unified army and ensuring security of returning opposition leaders. IGAD Special Envoy Ismail Wais 12 March met leader of opposition group South Sudan United Front (SSUF/A) Paul Malong to discuss how he could join peace deal; in joint statement Malong expressed willingness to negotiate with govt. IGAD representatives met leader of rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) Thomas Cirillo in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa 14 March, with no major breakthrough. Cattle raids and disputes over grazing lands in Epoto, east of capital Juba, left at least twenty dead 26-27 March. UN Security Council 15 March renewed mandate of UNMISS, including new language to enable peacekeepers to protect vulnerable returnees. President Kiir met Ethiopian PM Abiy and Eritrean President Afwerki 4 March in capital Juba to discuss peace deal.
Amid overall continued de-escalation, govt forces pursued offensive against rebels in south, raising risk of more intense fighting in March. Govt forces continued offensive launched mid-Jan in Yei River and Amadi states, Equatoria region against rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) led by Thomas Cirillo, which did not sign Sept 2018 peace deal. Fighting reported to have displaced thousands and govt forces accused of brutality against civilians. EU 18 Feb condemned violation of Dec 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) and of Sept 2018 peace deal, and called on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and step up efforts to come to political solution. IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan Ismail Wais 25 Feb met NAS leader Thomas Cirillo and 26 Feb met leader of non-signatory opposition group People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) Hakim Dario in bid to halt violence. Acts of intercommunal violence and banditry continued across rural areas: armed group in Lon Mawei area of Tonj state in centre-west 7 Feb reportedly killed four herders, cattle raids in Eastern Lakes state in centre 8 Feb left eight people dead and raids 10-11 Feb in Padiek county, Bieh state in north east killed two. Pilot project to canton govt forces and rebels and train 3,000-strong joint unit in Yei River state in south agreed in Jan stalled for lack of funding.