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In major breakthrough, President Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar reached agreement on local power-sharing, while intercommunal violence persisted in east and centre, and tensions emerged within Kiir’s political base. Kiir and Machar 17 June reached consensus on appointment of state governors, ending three-month deadlock; Machar obtained appointment of governor of contested Upper Nile state instead of South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA); SSOA to appoint governor of Jonglei state instead. Kiir 29 June appointed eight of ten governors; Upper Nile state governor not appointed despite Machar reportedly submitting nomination; SSOA continued to debate appointment for Jonglei state. Deputy Interior Minister Mabior Garang de Mabior 3 June resigned to protest stalled implementation of transitional security arrangements; official body monitoring unification of armed groups into single army 10 June warned training and cantonment sites “near collapse” over lack of resources and logistical support. Intercommunal violence continued in Jonglei state in east. Notably, suspected ethnic Murle gunmen reportedly killed ten people in cattle raid in Jalle area 17 June; unidentified gunmen reportedly killed 12 people in Makuach area 19 June. Kiir 23 June formed committee to ease tensions between ethnic Dinka, ethnic Lou Nuer, and ethnic Murle. Intercommunal clashes also persisted in centre, allegedly killing 69 in Warrap and Lakes states 25-29 June. Rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), which refused to be part of Sept 2018 peace agreement, 3 June claimed Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition had killed 15 civilians in Central Equatoria state in south 31 May. UN Mission in South Sudan 9 June and EU 11 June called on govt and NAS to abide by truce brokered in Jan. Tensions mounted within Kiir’s political base. relative of Kiir 3 June killed four civilians in clash over land dispute in capital Juba, sparking intra-Dinka tensions and prompting some 1,000 residents to take to streets same day; govt next day established investigative committee. Former political prisoner Kerbino Wol Agok, member of Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group, 5 June announced creation of new rebel group “7th of Oct Movement”; govt forces 14 June killed Agok during military operation in Lakes state, sparking public outcry.
Intercommunal violence between ethnic Murle and ethnic Lou Nuer surged in east leaving hundreds dead; negotiations over local power-sharing between President Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar remained stalled, while clashes between govt and holdout rebel group escalated in south. Intercommunal violence flared up in east and centre. In Jonglei state in east, ethnic Murle 16-17 May reportedly attacked several ethnic Lou Nuer villages in Uror county leaving up to 300 dead. In Warrap state in centre, attack by unidentified assailants 14 May left twelve dead in Apuk North county. In Lakes state, also in centre, inter-clan violence reportedly left fifteen dead 18 May. Kiir 7 May said meeting of six-member unity presidency same day had yielded consensus over appointment of state governors, with six states going to Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Government, three to Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), and contested Upper Nile state to South Sudan Opposition Alliance. Machar immediately rejected purported deal and called on chairman of official peace monitoring body to intervene, who 9 May referred dispute to regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority for Development. Clashes between govt forces – in places together with SPLA-IO – and rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), which refused to be part of Sept 2018 peace agreement, flared up in Central and Western Equatoria states in south. Fighting, which erupted after Jan truce between govt and non-signatory armed groups broke down in April, displaced thousands of civilians in Central Equatoria; NAS claimed it had repelled attack by govt forces trying to take back territory from insurgents in Katigiri village 5 May, killing four soldiers; govt forces 4-14 May reportedly raided NAS positions in several villages in Lainya county. President Kiir 15 May removed Machar from COVID-19 taskforce and appointed VP Hussein Abdelbagi as new chairman. UN Security Council 29 May extended South Sudan arms embargo and targeted sanctions against individuals until May 2021.
Negotiations between President Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar over local power-sharing stalled, raising concerns over stability of unity govt, while ceasefire with holdout rebel groups in south broke down; intercommunal violence persisted. In meeting in capital Juba 13 April, Kiir and Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) failed to reach compromise over appointment of state governors; Machar maintained peace deal entitles SPLA-IO to nominate three governors, while Kiir said only two; Machar 15 April turned down Kiir’s proposal to appoint caretaker governors. Several SPLA-IO members 16 April defected to Kiir, blaming Machar for turning movement into “family dynasty”. Implementation of transitional security arrangements remained stalled after committee overseeing unification of armed groups into single army late-March suspended process to prevent spread of COVID-19. Negotiations between unity govt and opposition coalition, South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), which refused to be part of Sept 2018 deal, remained suspended as govt failed to appoint new delegates. Truce brokered in Jan between govt and non-signatory armed groups broke down in Central Equatoria region in south after SSOMA rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) 9 April attacked Machar’s SPLA-IO forces in Kirinya, Yei River County; number of casualties unknown. SPLA-IO and Kiir-aligned South Sudan People’s Defense Forces reportedly clashed with NAS in Yei, Morobo and Kajo Keji counties 26 April, number of casualties unknown. Intercommunal violence continued in several areas, killing at least 65 throughout month. In Abyei region, disputed between South Sudan and Sudan, ethnic Dinka and nomadic Misseriya herders clashed 9-11 April, leaving at least six killed; Sudan and South Sudan 30 April agreed to cooperate to end violence there. Amid COVID-19 pandemic, govt 21 April ordered release of 1,400 inmates to reduce prison overcrowding and extended partial lockdown until further notice.
Intercommunal violence erupted in centre and east, President Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar made some progress in setting transitional govt in motion, while tensions persisted between govt and holdout rebel group in south despite truce. Intercommunal violence flared up late Feb-early March in centre and east, killing hundreds and displacing thousands by end of month. Notably, clashes between several communities reportedly left 41 dead in Lakes state mid-March and cattle raiders 20 March attacked camp in Tonj South county, Warrap state, leaving 51 dead. Following Feb agreement between Kiir, Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) and South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) to form unity govt, Kiir 12 March unveiled cabinet of 35 ministers, of which he appointed twenty, Machar nine, and SSOA three. Three SPLA-IO senior generals 17 March defected to Kiir-aligned South Sudan People’s Defense Forces, citing discontent with Machar’s leadership, reportedly over appointment of his wife Angelina Teny and personal aide Puit Kang to key ministries; another SPLA-IO commander reportedly defected to Kiir 26 March. Amid growing power-vacuum at state level and rise in intercommunal violence, UN 9 March urged Kiir and Machar to resolve deadlock over appointment of governors and implement transitional security arrangements to shore up peace process. Rebel group National Salvation Front, which refused to be part of Sept 2018 peace agreement, 20 March accused govt of violating, in Central Equatoria region in south, truce brokered in Jan between govt and non-signatory armed groups. UN human rights body in South Sudan 9 March released report accusing govt officials and opposition leaders of widespread corruption and of having used child soldiers and starvation as tactic of war. In response to COVID-19, govt 13 March suspended flights from virus-affected countries; 24 March suspended all commercial flights, closed borders, and imposed night curfew; 27 March suspended training of unified army.
In major breakthrough, President Kiir and main rebel leader Riek Machar struck deal entailing significant concessions on both sides and formed unity govt, alleviating fears that failure to reach deal by 22 Feb deadline would spark violence. In meeting brokered by regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Sudanese PM Hamdok and Ugandan President Museveni in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa 9 Feb, Kiir and Machar discussed number and borders of states, main stumbling block in negotiations to form govt. To break deadlock, Kiir 15 Feb acceded to opposition’s request to reduce number of states from 32 to ten, but proposed three new administrative areas, which Machar rejected. Machar and Kiir 17 Feb held new round of talks in capital Juba, including on security arrangements. Under rising international pressure to reach compromise, Kiir 20 Feb struck agreement with Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In-Opposition and South Sudan Opposition Alliance to form unity govt; 22 Feb swore in Machar as first VP, to be protected by presidential guard brigade until unified army is formed. Unification of govt troops and rebel forces into national army, scheduled under Sept 2018 peace agreement to be completed prior to forming unity govt, remained behind schedule. Negotiations between govt and opposition coalition, South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), which refused to be part of Sept 2018 deal, resumed in Rome, Italy, 12-13 Feb; SSOMA 14 Feb signed resolution outlining implementation and monitoring of truce brokered in Jan; next round of talks set for March. SSOMA 24 Feb called for peace talks with newly created unity govt.
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.