Dear Sudanese Friends and Friends of the Sudanese people,
The situation in the Abyei area is highly volatile with reports of ongoing fighting in and around Abyei town and SAF operations further south towards the Bahr el Arab/Kiir River. Insecurity and movement restrictions continue to impede humanitarian assessments in and around Abyei town. A UN team was unable to complete its mission on May 23 because of insecurity issues. The UN Security Council, African Union, United States and others have condemned military operations in Abyei and demanded the immediate withdrawal of all military forces (both SAF and SPLA) from Abyei.
Add to the Abyei crisis, the failure of the various observers to account for the serious and widespread voting irregularities in Southern Kordofan which invalidated the outcome, the ongoing genocide in Darfur, and tribal unrest in Southern Sudan! Clearly serious problems exist which could lead to widespread warfare.
Consider the situation of the Israelites as they sought to escape from Egypt. Mountains around them, the Red Sea ahead, and Pharaoh's army behind them. How did they get into this situation? They followed God's direction. God deliberately placed them there! Why? Perhaps only He knows. But our God who led them into this mess, led them out.
As we recognize the difficulties that the people of Abyei, Southern Kordofan, Darfur and Southern Sudan face, we can better understand the crisis faced by the Israelites. Realize that the Lord either placed us there or allowed us to be there - just as He did the Israelites. Pray for God to lead us out of this situation. Obviously, I do not know what He will reveal, but I believe that He wants us to avoid further war.
In His Service,
Sudan Advocacy Action Forum
News Summary provided by Dr. Eleanor Wright, Sudan Advocacy Action Forum
In this issue:
- UN demands Khartoum troops quit Abyei
- North Sudan army takes control of Abyei
- UN calls for end to fighting in Sudan's Abyei region
- UN says armed looters burn Abyei
- Khartoum asks UNMIS to depart from North
- Trade embargo hits Rumbek
- Disputed results in Southern Kordofan elections
UN demands Khartoum troops quit Abyei. The United Nations demanded that Khartoum withdraw its troops from Sudan's Abyei district after what the south branded an "invasion" by northern troops of the flashpoint border region. A visiting delegation of the UN Security Council said on May 22 they were "very, very concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Abyei" and formally called on Khartoum to withdraw its troops. "We are in control of Abyei and all the area north of the bank of the (Bahr al-Arab) river," Khartoum's minister, Amin Hassan Omer, told a news conference in Khartoum. "This is because there are still elements from SPLA (the south's Sudan People's Liberation Army) trying to enforce its presence in Abyei, and this is not acceptable according to the Abyei protocol and the CPA." South Sudan's government dismissed the allegation as an "absolute lie". "This is an illegal invasion and breaks all the peace agreements, endangering the lives of thousands of civilians," said south Sudan's information minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin. US Senator John Kerry, who chairs the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, echoed the warning of the risks of a return to conflict and warned Khartoum it risked torpedoing a promised rapprochement with Washington. "At this very moment, Sudan stands ominously close to the precipice of war," said Kerry. "Both sides must put an end to the recent provocations and quickly get back on course before the situation deteriorates any further," he said. (Daily Nation, 05/23/2011)
North Sudan army takes control of Abyei. North Sudan's army appears to have gained control of the main town in Sudan's disputed Abyei region after fierce fighting with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), UN and rebel sources said. UN officials saw 15 tanks of the Sudanese Armed Forces, the northern army, on May 21 in parts of Abyei where earlier mortars slammed against a UN base, Hua Jiang, the UN spokesperson said. One of those mortar rounds exploded, but there were no casualties among UN personnel, Jiang said. "Our police have been fighting but the SAF have sent many soldiers in," he added, speaking by phone from Juba, the capital of southern Sudan. He said northern forces bombed at least four villages on May 21 in continuation of last week's attacks. Aguer added that two of the bombed villages were Todach and Tagalei which had been already hit on May 20 - a reference to the southern army's allegations that the northern army had begun bombing Abyei that day after previous clashes on May 19. Barnaba Benjamin, the information minister of South Sudan, told Al Jazeera that the Sudanese government needed to withdraw its troops. "Elements of the SPLA have pulled back to the south and are no longer in the town, where about 10 T-55 SAF tanks are patrolling," one official at the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), also told AFP. On May 20, the White House "condemned" the fresh violence in Abyei and called on the SAF to "immediately cease all offensive operations" and "withdraw its forces" from Abyei. (Al Jazeera, 05/22/2011)
UN calls for end to fighting in Sudan's Abyei region. The United Nations called on may 21 for an "immediate cessation of hostilities". "We strongly encourage all parties to resume dialogue towards reaching a lasting political settlement," the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said. "The United Nations Mission in Sudan is deeply concerned over the troop build-up and reported fighting, including the use of heavy artillery and bombing in the Abyei area," the statement read. Shooting broke out late May 18 as UN peacekeepers escorted 200 northern SAF troops out of the contested area, with both armies accusing each other of starting the fight. The UN urged all parties to "protect civilians" and called for "withdrawal of all unauthorized forces" from the area, in line with earlier agreements.
The UN Security Council on My 21 began its five-day tour in Ethiopia and is due to visit Sudan's capital Khartoum, the southern capital Juba, and then head on to Kenya. Fighting in several southern areas has alarmed the UN. Rebels led by former southern army general Peter Gadet have been fighting the southern army in intermittent clashes since April, leaving over 100 dead and forcing thousands to flee. Land mines and heavy weapons are being used against civilians, the UN said. Renewed fighting broke out on May 20 in Unity's Mayom area, leaving "several casualties," according to both rebels and southern officials. Mayom is near key oil-pumping areas critical to Sudan's economy and close to the disputed north-south border and Abyei. Fighting also spread to parts of neighbouring Warrap state, where the UN reports "serious violations of basic human rights." There are least seven different militia groups across the south fighting the South Sudan government, which is also struggling to contain heavily armed cattle raiders, who fight regularly. Over 1,000 people have died in violence and more than 100,000 forced from their homes across the south this year, according to UN and official figures. (AFP, 05/22/2011)
UN says armed looters burn Abyei. Armed looters set fire to parts of Sudan's disputed Abyei border town on May 23, the United Nations said, days after north Sudanese troops seized it, pushing the north and south closer to conflict. North Sudan's army vowed to hold all the territory it took, defying demands from the UN Security Council and other world powers for it to withdraw. Thousands of people fled, leaving Abyei town empty, while food supplies have also been disrupted, the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said. Personnel from a UN peacekeeping base in Abyei said the violence had forced them to stop patrols. North Sudanese officials said they had no plans to leave the territory. "We are going to stay in Abyei until there is a different decision," northern defense minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein told parliament in Khartoum. Around 100 southerners protested in Juba against the northern military action in Abyei, holding up banners that described it as an invasion, witnesses said. (Reuters, 05/23/2011)
Khartoum asks UNMIS to depart from North. The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) is closing down its offices and relocating from North to South Sudan following a request by Khartoum that the peacekeeping mission end its mandate. In late April, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted unanimously to extend UNMIS mandate until July 9. Furthermore, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was asked to present a report indicating the post-independence options for the UN presence. Khartoum warned that it will lift UNMIS immunity after July 9 if it feels any foot dragging on the part of the mission in implementing the directive. The NCP’s political secretary Qutbi Al-Mahdi had stressed in press statements today that UNMIS’s mandate is over. (Sudan Tribune, 05/17/2011)
Trade embargo hits Rumbek. Rumbek, capital of Lakes State in South Sudan, has been hit by high fuel prices and food shortages following a blockade by Khartoum on goods moving from north to South Sudan. Fuel stations in Rumbek began to run out of diesel on May 15; most fuel station managers blamed the blockade. There are also reports that trucks being prevented of travelling to the south from the north. On May 16, only one station in Rumbek had diesel and was selling it a the record price of SDG 5 (US$1.90) per litre, which is an increase of 70 percent, overnight. John Marol Magune, the manager of Dove Fuel Station, the single fuel station with limited stocks of diesel, said that the stock will only last one or two days, adding that their hope lays in the reopening of the road. According to Lakes state governor, Chol Tong Mayay, “this issue is being addressed at the national level and already the president has formed a committee for this purpose”. He added that “food shortages are another obstacle that will be experience within this week if a solution is not reached quickly”. In Yirol West county of Lakes state, 75 miles east of Rumbek, the price of diesel currently stands at SDG 3.5 per litre. (ST, 05/19/2011)
Disputed results in Southern Kordofan elections. Alleged war criminal Ahmed Haroun, backed by the NCP, the ruling northern party, was announced the winner of the Southern Kordofan governor’s race May 14, in elections that the leading opponent party, the SPLM, has called fraudulent. According to Khartoum, Haroun won with 201,000 votes, over the SPLM candidate’s 194,000. The NCP also won more seats than the SPLM in the legislative assembly. The SPLM withdrew from the tabulation process on the grounds that a fake polling center’s votes had been included in the count. When the committees tasked with aggregating the results continued their work despite the SPLM’s absence, the party announced it would not recognize the election results. An Africa Confidential piece on the Southern Kordofan race reports that initial results showed SPLM’s al-Hilu with a lead of 11,000 votes. His lead was later reduced to 4,000. Africa Confidential cited an SPLM official who charged that this was a result of electoral manipulation by the NCP. “It was clear that Ahmed Mohamaed Haroun had lost his bid to be elected Governor of Southern Kordofan” the article argued, citing opposition sources that said the NCP sent presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie to Kadugli to personally tell the NEC to declare Haroun the winner. (CSMonitor.com, 05/17/2011)