North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The two Sudans

I think we're on top of the recurring news and trouble spots: Syria, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Israel and the Palestinians, Hamas and Hezbollah, along with the diminished hopes for an Arab "Spring" in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. Then there's the rather unexpected grasping for others assets by Argentina in the Southern Hemisphere; the endless (it seems) fiscal woes in Europe - Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and Iceland. Let's top it off with China's continuing announcements about its ownership of all the South China Sea...

The two Sudans - sliding back into conflict ...

But it is in Africa where we need to return. For the tensions between South Sudan and The Republic of Sudan have ramped up closer and closer to a full scale war. South Sudan, having become independent after a split with the Republic of Sudan just nine months ago, has not been able to successfully negotiate numerous issues with its northern counterpart - borders and oil transportation revenues are the primary issues of disagreement. Complicating these major issues, a number of splinter groups in the area seeking autonomy and/or revenge from either of the two recognized nations, have added their own violence to the mix.

The BBC provides the following timeline (simplified further by Teatree)

1899-1955 - Sudan is under joint British-Egyptian rule.

1956 - Sudan becomes independent.

1958 - General Abboud leads military coup against the civilian government elected earlier in the year

1962 - Civil war begins in the south, led by the Anya Nya movement.

1964 - The "October Revolution" overthrows Abboud and an Islamist-led government is established

1972 - Under the Addis Ababa peace agreement between the government and the Anya Nya, the south becomes a self-governing region.

1978 - Oil discovered in Bentiu in southern Sudan.

1983 - Civil war breaks out again in the south involving government forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), led by John Garang (an Iowa State graduate). President Numeiri declares the introduction of Sharia Islamic law.

1985 - After widespread popular unrest, Numayri is deposed by a group of officers and a Transitional Military Council is set up to rule the country.

1993 - Revolution Command Council dissolved after Omar Bashir is appointed president.

1999 - President Bashir dissolves the National Assembly and declares a state of emergency. Sudan begins to export oil.

2002 - Government and SPLA sign landmark ceasefire agreement providing for six-month renewable ceasefire in central Nuba Mountains - a key rebel stronghold.

2003 February - Rebels in western region of Darfur rise up against government, claiming the region is being neglected by Khartoum.

The darfur region of Sudan soon to become characterized with the term genocide

2004 January - Army moves to quell rebel uprising in western region of Darfur; hundreds of thousands of refugees flee to neighbouring Chad. March - UN official says pro-government Arab Janjaweed militias are carrying out systematic killings of non-Arab villagers in Darfur.

2004 September - UN says Sudan has not met targets for disarming pro-government Darfur militias and must accept outside help to protect civilians. US Secretary of State Colin Powell describes Darfur killings as genocide.

The toll in the Darfur region depicted here by a single woman walking past a burnt out village

2005 January - Government and southern rebels sign a peace deal. The agreement includes a permanent ceasefire and accords on wealth and power sharing.

2005 9 July - Former southern rebel leader John Garang is sworn in as first vice president. A constitution which gives a large degree of autonomy to the south is signed. 1 August - Vice president Garang is killed in a plane crash. He is succeeded by Salva Kiir.

2007 October - SPLM temporarily suspends participation in national unity government, accusing Khartoum of failing to honour the 2005 peace deal.

2008 July - The International Criminal Court's top prosecutor calls for the arrest of President Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur; the appeal is the first ever request to the ICC for the arrest of a sitting head of state. Sudan rejects the indictment.

2009 March - The International Criminal Court in The Hague issues an arrest warrant for President Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

2009 July - North and south Sudan say they accept ruling by arbitration court in The Hague shrinking disputed Abyei region and placing the major Heglig oil field in the north.

2009 December - Leaders of North and South reach deal on terms of referendum on independence due in South by 2011.

2010 July - International Criminal Court issues second arrest warrant for President al-Bashir - this time on charges of genocide.

Republic of Sudan's President Bashir

2011 July - South Sudan gains independence after referendum earlier in January overwhelmingly backs separate nation.

2011 October - South Sudan and Sudan agree to set up committees tasked with resolving their outstanding disputes.

2011 November - Sudan accused of bombing refugee camp in Yida, Unity State, South Sudan.

2012 January - South Sudan halts oil production after talks on fees for the export of oil via Sudan break down.

2012 February - Sudan and South Sudan sign non-aggression pact at talks on outstanding secession issues, although tensions remain high over oil export fees. South Sudan-Kenya-Ethiopia announce plans to build alternate pipeline route east to Lamu, Kenya.

2012 April - After weeks of border fighting, South Sudan troops temporarily occupy the oil field and border town of Heglig. Sudanese warplanes raid the Bentiu area in South Sudan.

Beyond the timeline, three points might be noted:

This is about oil, not totally, but revenues from oil is key to both nations, and means the tensions will not easily be reduced. Because it is about oil, other powerful nations are going to be interested if not involved: China, the US, and the EU. Indeed, South Sudan's Salva Kiir had to cut short a state visit to China during the past week. China, with its long involvement in Sudan primarily to develop oil production and purchase it, has a delicate line to walk now with both Sudans.

South Sudan President Kiir and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao inspect Chinese honor guard (a strange custom/ritual that every leader seems to do, walk past a shiny military contingent of the host country).

A toast between the two leaders

This is also about sub-Saharan Africa and Arab northern Africa with Islamist extremism tossed in. Uganda has already declared that it will support South Sudan if the Republic of Sudan army moves south. Kenya is unlikely to stand by. The Republic of Sudan's targeted attacks on populations of non-Arab people groups during the civil war and in Darfur, as noted in the timeline, did not sit well with these two neighbors.

As so many conflicts play out in Africa, they are often low-tech, vicious, and poorly reported on. Here, South Sudanese soldiers patrolling a road

South Sudan has a friend in Israel. Israel has offered strong and steady support for Southern Sudan, both before and after independence, rooted in offsetting the power and cohesion of many Arab states arrayed against it. When the Republic of South Sudan officially declared its independence from Sudan and established itself as the world's newest country, the following day, the State of Israel officially recognized South Sudan and three days later Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with South Sudan President Salva Kiir and said that Israel would happy to help the fledgling country in “any way.”

Salva Kiir accepting a menorah from Israeli President Shimon Peres in December 2011 - a token of friendship between the two countries.

Less than two weeks after their declaration of independence, South Sudan and Israel established and formalized their diplomatic relations. A number of revelers in Juba celebrating independence in July 2011 waved Israeli flags, a gesture interpreted by some as a sign of gratitude to Israel for support during years of struggle against the north.

In August 2011, President Kiir announced that he would maintain South Sudan's relations with Israel despite pressure from Arab countries and that he wishes for South Sudan's embassy to be built in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, and not in Tel Aviv as has become custom for many Western nations due to the perceived disputes over Jerusalem's sovereignty. In the past few weeks, the Republic of Sudan accuses Israel of flying into Juba nightly, full of tangible support of various kinds.

Click on image for full picture
The detail of the two Sudan's conflict - rooted in oil wealth and ethnicity

Question for the day ... Why does the UN (as do many nations I must admit)tend to equalize conflicts by asking "both sides" to refrain from attacks, as if both sides are equally at fault or aggressors when one side or the other is clearly the initiator?


Sarah said...

Great timeline.

"Why does the UN and other nations tend to equalize conflicts by asking "both sides" to refrain from attacks, as if both sides are equally at fault or aggressors when one side or the other is clearly the initiator?"

Seems like that question stems from our slide into politically correct speech that is so "sensitive" that it has become wishy-washy even about events that have clearly stepped across a moral/ethical line.

Teatree said...

It stretches the credentials of the UN (sympathetic though I am of the organization trying to tamp down conflict), especially in light of the International Criminal Court's outstanding warrant for Sudan's Bashir on genocide charges.

I'm not sure why a realistic assessment that points to one party as the primary culprit would necessarily worsen this particular situation.

Ben said...

Since we unavoidably refer to the UN as a single entity, it's hard to keep in mind that it is an alliance of nations who in many cases have completely opposite agendas and interests. It's amazing how much the UN actually does accomplish, particularly when it comes to military action. I believe it was Stephen Lewis, the former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, who pointed out that despite common criticism of its military ineffectiveness, in much of the world the UN is very much admired for its humanitarian work.

Teatree said...

I agree completely that the most effective work of the UN is in the development front: water, education, health, etc., as well as its efforts for refugee care.

Stephen Lewis remains one of my most admired individuals for the work he championed and articulated so passionately. Thanks for the reminder that “the UN” is multi-faceted.

My frustration mounts as we move away from the above, into the more sensitive and politicized issues, human rights for example. Perhaps for these issues, the UN can best be looked at as a forum where any nation can listen to other nations either show wisdom and leadership, or watch a series of debacles as nations put their feet into their mouths. Clearly, my misgivings should be directed towards the diplomats representing their countries, though again the UN staff steps in it repeatedly.

It is on security matters that the UN seems least effective, but no doubt it is, as you say, because the organization is a collection of nations after all - each with their own agenda and geopolitical considerations.

Still, some of the sophistry exhibited when UN officials discuss conflicts and hotspots is beyond the pale of even dismal diplomatic-speak, in my opinion. Some statements are simply ludicrous and hurt the credibility of the organization more than if silence had been observed.

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