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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.
Fighting between main parties reduced as they began to implement Sept 2018 peace deal, but clashes rose in south west between signatories on one side and non-signatory armed group on other, raising risk of escalation in Feb. Peace monitors reported reduction in violence between main signatories of Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan – govt forces and main rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) – including in former hotspots, Wau in north west and Bentiu in north. But monitors 22 Jan said they were still barred access to some areas including Luri training site near Yei in south west, where security forces detained and beat monitors in Dec; govt has not yet held anyone responsible. Amid delays in reaching Pre-Transitional Period security benchmarks, parties 13 Jan agreed to launch pilot project to canton and train 3,000-strong joint unit in Kajo-Keji county, Yei River state in south, but plan faces opposition from local authorities and parties did not agree on unit’s mandate or funding source. Fighting erupted 9 Jan between SPLA-IO and non-signatory armed group National Salvation Front (NAS) led by Thomas Cirillo in Kozi county, Maridi state in south west. Further clashes broke out between army and NAS near Yei 19-20 Jan, leaving three soldiers dead. NAS 21 Jan said it had lost control of positions in stronghold Mukaya, north of Yei. Ugandan forces briefly deployed to Yei 17 Jan in violation of UN Security Council arms embargo; Ugandan deployment appeared linked to govt offensives against NAS. Intercommunal violence and banditry continued: cattle raid in Padiek county, Bieh state in north east 7 Jan left one dead and 105 people reportedly killed in cattle raids in Tonj state, centre-west 14 Jan. Ambush in Jonglei state in centre 8 Jan left five people dead and another in Duachan area, Akobo state 19 Jan killed at least four people. In support of Sudan, govt 7 Jan ordered Al Watan newspaper to stop publishing articles on protests in Sudan.
Attacks on international observers mid-month violated Sept peace deal and new clashes between govt forces and rebel groups erupted in south. In violation of peace deal, Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), and Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, international observer team Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) reported attacks and detention of personnel from its Monitoring and Verification Team 18 Dec in govt forces’ Luri Training Centre. In south, clashes broke out 16 Dec in Central Equatoria between govt forces and armed opposition group National Salvation Front (NAS), which did not sign R-ARCSS; first major clashes between NAS and govt forces. Alleged former South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC) members in presumed collaboration with South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA) – non-signatory of R-ARCSS – 20 Dec carried out attacks in Yei River state, looting and abducting several civilians; NAS 26 Dec denied responsibility. More than twenty officers of main rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), which signed R-ARCSS, 17 Dec flew to Juba to take part in pre-transitional committees and prepare formation of transitional govt. However, underlining delay in implementation of R-ARCSS, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix 18 Dec echoed R-ARCSS Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee’s concerns over failure to establish Independent Boundaries Commission and National Pre-Transitional Committee’s failure to reach quorum. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton 13 Dec announced U.S. would review its aid programs to South Sudan, as leadership “morally bankrupt”.
UN undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, 16 Nov reportedly said UN might support deployment of forces from regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) countries to support implementation of peace plan, but suggested extra troops would need to join UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Troika on South Sudan – U.S., UK and Norway – 16 Nov offered cautious support for deployment, but said UN Security Council would need to approve any additional troops. IGAD 16 Nov urged govt to devote more resources to implement peace deal and directed its special envoy to reach out to warring groups who have not signed agreement. South Sudan National Dialogue, unilaterally launched by Kiir in 2017, late Oct put forward proposal to revert to colonial three-province system that would decentralise power. NGO Doctors Without Borders reported that gunmen 19-29 Nov raped 125 women in Bentiu, Northern Liech state; govt denied report. UN “extremely concerned” about dramatic increase of conflict-related sexual violence, despite peace deal signed in Sept.
Rebel leader Riek Machar and Sudanese President Bashir were among high-profile delegates who visited capital Juba 31 Oct for “peace celebration” following signing in Sept of Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS). Some rebel and opposition groups continued to reject new peace agreement. Clashes broke out in Yei River state in south between rebel groups National Salvation Front, which did not sign R-ARCSS, and Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), which did sign; both groups accused each other of launching initial attacks. Despite cessation of hostilities, ceasefire monitors also identified hotspots for conflict at frontlines south west of Wau in west and in former Unity state in north. UN Security Council 11 Oct extended mandate of UN peacekeeping mission in disputed Abyei region (UNISFA) on Sudan-South Sudan border until 15 April 2019 and conditioned extension beyond that date on neighbours making progress on border demarcation among other measures.
Warring leaders signed further peace deal, but fighting continued in several areas. President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed another peace agreement in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa 12 Sept brokered by Sudanese President Bashir; Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) reinstates Machar as VP among other changes to executive. In line with agreement, Kiir 27 Sept ordered govt to release of all prisoners of war. Rebels of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) led by Machar 14 Sept accused govt forces of attacking their base in Lasu, near Yei in south west. SPLM-IO rebels 24 Sept reportedly attacked govt forces escorting displaced people in Wau state in west. UN undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, 18 Sept said fighting between govt forces and armed opposition had continued in former Central Equatoria state in south, former Unity state in north and in Kopera area, Yei River state in south. Govt forces and SPLM-IO accused each other of launching attacks against them in Liech state, formerly part of Unity state in north 24 Sept. Govt soldier opened fire on UN convoy in Yei in south west 15 Sept, wounding one peacekeeper.
President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, having signed security and power-sharing agreements in July, signed further power-sharing agreement in Khartoum 5 Aug. Talks continued on outstanding issues including number of states and their boundaries. Machar initially rejected draft agreement including six-month roadmap for conclusion of final deal put forward 28 Aug, but signed it 30 Aug. Kiir granted general amnesty to rebels including Machar 8 Aug. U.S., UK and Norway 10 Aug expressed concern that arrangements agreed so far were “not realistic or sustainable” and called on parties to “bring in a wider range of stakeholders, and develop clear plans for the transition period”. Kiir 15 Aug told state governors that under deal opposition would take over fourteen of 32 governorships. Mediators from regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development chaired by Sudan 26 Aug proposed compromise on number and boundaries of states but parties remained divided on matter. Army accused Machar’s rebels, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition, of violating ceasefire signed in June by attacking them 21 Aug in two areas of Northern Liech state in north, saying four soldiers and nine rebels killed. Former Botswanan president, Festus Mogae, resigned from position as Chairperson of Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission 20 Aug.