December 14, 2018 (KHARTOUM) - The East African Standby Force (ESAF) experts on Thursday have started a three-day meeting in Khartoum.
Speaking at the opening session, Sudanese army's Deputy Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Isam al-Mubarak, said east Africa region is facing a number of geopolitical challenges, expressing hope it could positively respond to these challenges.
He pointed out that African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) was established in order to resolve Africa's problems and crises within the continent.
Al-Mubarak added the ESAF is among the first implementation mechanisms of the African Union (AU), calling on the experts to exert further efforts to maintain this position through developing flexible policies and fixed programs.
EASF is one of the five continent's regional multidimensional force capabilities including military, police and civilian components consisting of 10 east African countries.
The regional organization is mandated to enhance peace and security in the volatile east African region.
The regional force was established following decisions made by the AU summit held in Ethiopia in 2004.
December 14, 2018 (KHARTOUM) - The government of North Darfur State said 244 refugees have returned to Tina locality from Chad.
The semi-official Sudan Media Center quoted the commissioner of Tina locality Al-Sadig Ibrahim Shargo as saying the tripartite agreement on the return of refugees is being implemented smoothly.
He pointed out that the implementation of the agreement doesn't face any obstacles, saying 89 households including 244 refugees have recently returned to his locality from Chad.
Shargo added the returnees have been distributed to their places of residence in the state, saying they were provided with shelter, food and health services.
He pointed to increased numbers of refugees returning to Darfur's five states from Chad, saying his locality would see the return of a large number of families during the next week.
Earlier this month, Darfur refugee commissioner Mujeeb al-Rahman Mohamed said 353 refugees have returned to West Darfur State from Chad.
Last October, Sudan's Refugee Commission said Chad is currently hosting over 300,000 Sudanese refugees pointing out that 50% of them have expressed their desire to return to the country voluntarily.
It is noteworthy that the Sudanese refugees are residing in the eastern region of the neighbouring country not far from the border with Chad.
On 31 May 2017, Sudan, Chad and the UNHCR signed two separate tripartite agreements on the voluntary return of Sudanese refugees from Chad and Chadian refugees from Sudan.
Also, the three parties in January 2018 signed an operational plan for the repatriation of 20,000 Sudanese refugees from Chad to Darfur region during this year.
UN reports say the security situation in Darfur has largely improved but stress that the lack of infrastructures and services prevent the return of refugees and displaced persons to their areas of origin.
The Sudanese army has been fighting a group of armed movements in Darfur since 2003. UN agencies estimate that over 300,000 people were killed in the conflict, and over 2.5 million were displaced.
December 14, 2018 (WASHINGTON) - The United States on Friday imposed sanctions against three individuals two South Sudanese and an Israeli, accusing them of trading in weapons with Juba in violation of international sanctions and undermining peace.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement that Israel Ziv and Obac William Olawo were designated by the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) "for being leaders of firms that supplied the Government of South Sudan with weapons and ammunition.
Ziv is also accused of supplying weapons to the rebels.
While Gregory Vasili, the former governor of Gogrial State, was designated by OFAC for brokering deals for the sale of military equipment to the South Sudanese government. Also, he provided arms to and commanded a militia engaged in conflict with a competing clan.
"As a result of today's action, all property and interests in property of those designated by OFAC, that is in the United States or the possession or control of a U.S. person, must be blocked and reported to OFAC," said the State Department.
In two separate reports released in September 2016 and March 2018, The Sentry, an investigation report Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, revealed the role of Vasili and Olawo in actions undermining peace and stability in South Sudan.
Gregory Vasili was involved in procurement and embezzlement scandals in its report “War Crimes Shouldn't Pay: Stopping the Looting and Destruction in South Sudan”. While Obac William Olawo's role in the conflict is described in “Fueling Atrocities: Oil and War in South Sudan”.
Reacting to the sanctions, Prendergast welcomed the measures taken by the U.S. administration against the three individuals who are part of the system of grand corruption that fuels extreme violence in South Sudan and actually makes war profitable.
"This is exactly the way leverage should be built to support peace and fight corruption in Africa. Individual sanctions alone are inadequate," he further said.
The State Department vowed to use all available mechanisms to promote a permanent end to the brutal conflict in east African country in order to bring peace, freedom, and prosperity to the South Sudanese people.
South Sudan has been under an arms embargo imposed by the U.S. in February 2018 and the United Nations in July of the same year.
The government and the main armed opposition group and several other opposition factions signed a peace deal brokered by the IGAD on 12 September 2018.
December 13, 2018 (WASHINGTON) - John Bolton, U.S. National Security Advisor, Thursday, said his administration is now reviewing its assistance to South Sudan to prevent " bankrupt leaders" from continuing to commit violence.
Bolton made his remarks on South Sudan's officials during a speech at the Heritage Foundation unveiling the Trump Administration's New Africa Strategy, which the U.S President approved on Wednesday.
The United States is now reviewing its assistance to South Sudan to ensure that our aid does not prolong the conflict or facilitate predatory behaviour," Bolton said.
"We will not provide loans or more American resource to a South Sudanese government led by the same morally bankrupt leaders to perpetrate horrific violence and make human suffering in South Sudan," he stressed.
The United States, under the ear of President Obama, stopped its unconditional support to South Sudan which was presented in the past as a success of the American diplomacy to achieve peace in the world.
But Trump Administration is openly more critical of the South Sudanese leadership. It, also, pushed to impose targeted sanctions and imposing weapons embargo by the UN Security Council.
During his speech, Bolton cited South Sudan first when he spoke about terrorism and violent conflicts across African which are among these threats that his administration defines as a top priority in its new strategy for Africa.
"The continuing threats of terrorism and conflicts puts Americans life at risks and drains vital America resources," he stressed.
After what, he pointed out to South Sudan as a country where American resource did not help to stop violence or led to establish a stable and transparent governance or development in the region.
"Between 2014-2018, the US provided approximately 3.76 billion dollars in humanitarian aid to South Sudan and refugees in neighbouring countries," he said.
Washington in February 2018 established a weapons embargo on South Sudan and imposed targeted sanctions on several South Sudanese officials from the government and the rebel groups.
On 8 May 2018, Washington announced a comprehensive review of its assistance to the troubled country after denouncing the "inability and unwillingness" of South Sudanese leaders to end the armed conflict.
Juba, at the time, said such "negative" announcement embolden the opposition to obstruct regional efforts to end the civil war.
Bolton in his speech disclosed that his administration plans to counter the Chinese and Russian economic and political expanding influence in Africa, saying they have "predatory practices” that threaten Washington's strategic, military and economic interests.
December 13, 2018 (JUBA) - The non-signatories groups of the South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA) told the IGAD special envoy they are ready for talks to address the root causes of the South Sudan crisis, in a first meeting three months after the signing of the revitalized peace agreement.
The former factions of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Thursday that the meeting with Ismail Wais took place in Addis Ababa on Tuesday 11 December.
"The meeting was intended to better understand the reason(s) SSNDA declined to sign the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan R-ARCSS," said Kwaje Lasu the alliance spokesperson.
After emphasising that the signed deal failed to address the root causes of the conflict, Kwaje said they expressed their readiness to participate in a "political dialogue that is genuinely meant to address (it).... on a self-sustaining basis".
The SSNDA delegation, which was not identified in the statement, also pledged to hand over "a formal position letter on its position of not signing the peace agreement" and reiterated its commitment to the cessation of hostilities agreement of 21 December 2017.
The IGAD Council of Ministers, on 16 November 2018, directed the Special Envoy for South Sudan to reach out the non-signatories to join the peace agreement.
The executive body of the regional bloc further warned that the non-signatories would "be labelled spoilers of the peace process" if they reject this ultimatum.
But the opposition alliance reiterated that they "will not submit to the R-ARCSS in its current state because it's rather an accommodative agreement than a solution to the current crisis bedevilling our beloved country and people".
The SSNDA is chaired by Thomas Cirilo Swaka is composed of four groups NAS; NDM; SSNMC; UDRA.
All the groups of the holdout opposition umbrella rejected revitalized peace pact pointing it does not break the concentration of powers in the hands of the president and his government.
Instead, they call for a genuine federal system to be established in the country during the transitional period. Some of the holdout groups say they specifically want a three-region federal system.
December 13, 2018 (ADDIS ABABA) - The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) Thursday wrapped up consultations with the Sudanese parties on the revision of the Roadmap Agreement without meeting the Sudan Call forces.
- AUHIP chief Thabo Mbeki speaks to reporters following a meeting with Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir on 5 November 2014 (SUNA)
The African Union mediators convened a consultations meeting gathering the government and the different opposition forces in Addis Ababa between 9 and 12 December 2018 hoping that the signatories of the framework agreement give their positions on the proposals they had made on 25 September 2018 about the changes to make.
However, the mediation only held successful meetings with the government delegation led by Presidential Assistant Faisal Hassan Ibrahim. The SPLM-N led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu which distanced itself from the roadmap recently, told the AUHIP they want to "continue to have separate discussions with the Panel in preparation for negotiations with the Government".
For the Sudan Call, the panel said it wants to meet only with the National Umma Party, Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement - Minni Minnawi. It excluded the SPLM-N Agar and the other political opposition groups including the Sudanese Congress Party.
While the Sudan Call refused that the mediation picks the forces that can take part in the consultations, the AUHIP said the participation of the non-signatories in the consultations, contradicts "the objectives of the meeting".
"As a result, the consultations could not be completed," said the AUHIP in a statement on Thursday.
The opposition alliance said Wednesday they would submit a written position paper to the mediation.
"The Panel had hoped that the meeting would result in consensus on inclusive participation in the processes of adopting a new constitution, and the national elections scheduled for 2020," said the mediators.
Following his return to Khartoum, the head of the government delegation said that the chief mediator Thabo Mbeki will call for a new round of negotiations on the agenda after completing consultations with the parties to the roadmap.
Commenting on the suspension of consultations by the AUHIP, Faisal said the decision was taken due to the presence of non-signatory parties to the roadmap in Addis Ababa.
However, the members of the Sudan Call delegation say they were invited to the meeting by the mediation which sent them the tickets and accommodate them in the hotels. They accused the government on exerting pressures on the mediation team to not include them in the process.
The government is favourable to the proposed cancellation of the preparatory meeting on the national dialogue and the confidence-building measures before their return to Khartoum.
While the opposition alliance calls to maintain this phase of the roadmap.
December 13, 2018 (NEW YORK) - United Nations Secretary-General said there is a need for political efforts by the IGAD country to ensure the implementation of the security arrangements in South Sudan more than the deployment of additional troops.
The recommendation was expressed in a progress report released Thursday by the UN chief to the Security Council on the activities of UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and progress made in the implementation of its mandate during the period between 2 September and 30 November 2018.
Speaking about the implementation of the security arrangements, the report underscored the delay in the cantonment and integration of troops and on the security arrangements necessary to support its implementation.
"This weakness cannot be compensated for by the deployment of additional forces to the UNMISS regional protection force and needs to be addressed politically," said the UN chief in his report to the Security Council seen by Sudan Tribune.
"I, therefore, encourage the leaders of the region and the parties to redouble their efforts towards finding a comprehensive security agreement for the cantonment and integration of forces and the return of all leaders to Juba," he said.
In a press conference in Juba on 22 November, UNMISS head David Shearer already showed little enthusiasm for the deployment of troops from the IGAD countries in South Sudan within the framework of the UNMISS Regional Protection Force.
Shearer said there is a sizeable number of peacekeepers deployed in the country to protect civilians.
"We've got a large number of troops here already and what we would like to do is to make sure that they are used efficiently in the work of building a durable peace," he stressed.
The IGAD's initial decision was to deploy troops from Sudan and Uganda to reassure the opposition forces and to push them to accept the reunification of the two armies during the transitional period, as they first had insisted to have two armies.
The Secretary-General "strongly" urged IGAD, the African Union and the Security Council to remain seized of the implementation of the revitalized peace pact and to ensure that the momentum generated by the signing of the Agreement is maintained and that all its provisions are fully implemented.
On 22 November, the IGAD chiefs of Staff decided to deploy 1695 troops from Djibouti, Somalia, the Sudan and Uganda into the UNMISS regional protection force. They commissioned Ethiopia to discuss the matter with the UN Security Council.