‘Having two armies in one country really big mistake’ in Sudan, South Sudan’s acting FM tells Arab News

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Updated 23 May 2023
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‘Having two armies in one country really big mistake’ in Sudan, South Sudan’s acting FM tells Arab News

‘Having two armies in one country really big mistake’ in Sudan, South Sudan’s acting FM tells Arab News
  • Deng Dau Deng Malek says the crisis, in some ways, was inevitable even though it caught the world off guard
  • Appeals to feuding Sudanese leaders for protection of oil pipeline to ensure viability of South Sudan economy

DUBAI: The fighting in Sudan, now in its second month, shows no sign of ending, and is contributing to Africa’s swelling number of people displaced by conflicts. What began as a feud between two factions in Khartoum had spread to other regions, claiming lives, shutting down public life, destroying infrastructure and sparking a humanitarian crisis characterized by shortages of medicine, fuel and food.

Now, Sudan’s neighbors, many of which have for decades dealt with their own conflicts, instability and humanitarian challenges, are calling for an end to the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, and the paramilitary group Rapid Armed Forces, or RAF, before it spills across borders and engulfs them.

Even prior to the eruption of violence in Khartoum on April 15, efforts were underway to prevent simmering tensions between the rival Sudanese factions from turning into an all-out conflict.




A view shows black smoke and fire at Omdurman market in Omdurman, Sudan, May 17, 2023. (Screengrab/Reuters) 

“One week before the crisis, our chief negotiator went to Khartoum to meet with the chairperson of the Sovereign Council, Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the then-deputy chairperson of the Sovereign Council, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo,” Deng Dau Deng Malek, the acting minister of foreign affairs of South Sudan, told Arab News in a recent Zoom interview from Juba.

He said the last-ditch diplomatic efforts by the South Sudanese government were aimed at ironing out the kinks of the planned transition to a civilian-led government in Khartoum.

Among the many roadblocks in the path of a peaceful settlement was the thorny issue of the integration of Dagalo’s RSF into the military, an issue which lit the fuse of Sudan’s current conflict.

Malek declined to assign blame exclusively to one side or the other, saying merely that, in some ways, the conflict in Sudan was inevitable.

He said that while the world was largely caught off guard by the eruption of fighting in Sudan, his own country’s experience with conflict resolution and peacemaking equipped him with the foresight to predict that a war was inevitable within the borders of its northern neighbor.




Smoke rises above buildings in southern Khartoum on May 19, 2023, as violence between two rival Sudanese generals continues. (AFP)

In South Sudan, Malek recalled, “there was a provision that provided (for) two armies in one country, which was a really big mistake at that time. So, once the two armies came to Juba, it led to a war in July 2016.”

He added: “We were very much aware that there is always a problem to agree to two armies in one country, whatever the nature, whatever the standing of that army.

“So, yes, the situation in Sudan was known to be really going toward that.”

Even though the South Sudan government expected tensions over Sudan’s power-sharing agreements, Malek acknowledged that it was unprepared for the crisis that arose on April 15.

“We were not very prepared (for) that kind of scale of war (that) would blow out like that,” he said.

“We knew it would be a limited engagement, with a very practical coming together for the SAF and RSF — (but) not to go the way they have gone so far.”

INNUMBERS

  • 705 People killed in fighting since April 15 (WHO).
  • 5,287+ Those who have suffered injuries (WHO).
  • 1.1m Displaced internally or into neighboring countries.

With neither Al-Burhan nor Dagalo willing to call a timeout, South Sudan and other neighbors of Sudan are bracing themselves to deal with the repercussions. Hundreds of thousands have already fled the strife-torn country, with the UN refugee agency, or UNHCR, predicting that the fighting would force 860,000 people to flee.

“This is one of our biggest concerns, the spillover,” Malek said.

Sudan shares a border, in order of length, with South Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Libya.

The UNHCR has envisioned three scenarios: Sudanese refugees fleeing to neighboring countries; refugees hosted by Sudan returning home; and refugees hosted by Sudan moving to other neighboring countries.

“At this particular stage, there are (relatively) very few people who have moved to South Sudan,” Malek said, alluding to the fact that while the majority of those displaced by the fighting in Sudan have fled to Egypt and Chad, South Sudan has received 58,000 people.

Of these, according to Malek, only 8,000 are Sudanese. Incidentally, prior to the fighting that began last month, Sudan itself was home to more than a million refugees — mostly from South Sudan — as well as more than 3 million IDPs, or internally displaced persons.

With the security situation in Sudan no longer suitable for those who once sought shelter there, many former refugees are now twice displaced, returning to their countries of origin or seeking safety elsewhere.

Aside from dealing with waves of refugees and IDPs, Sudan’s neighbors will also have to face up to the wide-ranging consequences of the conflict.

“(South Sudan’s) economic viability is also dependent on the pipeline, the oil that passes through the territory of the Republic of Sudan,” Malek said.

South Sudan’s crude oil exports reached around 144,000 barrels per day early this year, with the majority of this being piped to Sudan’s Red Sea coast. Now, the price of oil has fallen from $100 per barrel to $70.

Though oil continues to flow through the vital pipeline, the conflict has threatened oil revenues as well as the world’s energy supply.

“Our message to both of the (Sudanese factional) leaders and those who are fighting — (something) we will say to both — is this: We need protection of this pipeline because it is the viability of the economy of (our) country,” Malek said.




United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) personnel use an excavator to repair the dykes in Bentiu on February 8, 2023. Four straight years of flooding, an unprecedented phenomenon linked to climate change, has swamped two-thirds of South Sudan. (AFP)

The combined blow of economic setbacks and influx of displaced people threatens to overwhelm Sudan’s neighbors in northern and central Africa, most of whom are impoverished and unstable themselves.

South Sudan is still reeling from a six-year civil war which ended just three years ago. That human-made catastrophe was followed by severe floods, which continue to this day and have pushed the country’s roughly 12 million residents, more than 2 million of whom are internally displaced, to the brink of starvation by making agricultural lands inaccessible.

“The UN too is overwhelmed by our own situation,” Malek said, adding that “UN agencies have been under very serious stress.”

As a result of the many overlapping crises, three-quarters of South Sudan’s population is dependent on humanitarian aid, according to UNHCR data.




Nearly a million people were affected by South Sudan flooding. (AN photo by Robert Bociaga)

Malek pointed out that South Sudan had been hosting 340,000 Sudanese in several camps in the Upper Nile state. “We are coordinating with the UN agencies to be able to address the situation of those who are returning and the (people who) are crossing (into South Sudan) from Sudan,” he said.

“Particularly now, when we are talking about the northern part of South Sudan, to which the refugees and IDPs are returning. The infrastructure there is a challenge. Also, Sudan was the only way that we received commodities from Port Sudan, and now (there is) a very big challenge as to whether that will continue to work.”

Looking to the future, Malek said international support is vital to limiting the damage being caused by the crisis in Sudan and preventing its neighbors from being destabilized by a humanitarian catastrophe.

In this context, Malek said UN agencies would have to “provide the necessary support to localities inside Sudan” so that they can stop the free movement of fighters.




Provision of water, sanitation and hygiene to a growing number of IDPs in South Sudan has become an alarming issue. AN photo by Robert Bociaga)

He cautioned once more that if “the insecurity and war spread out of Khartoum to the region, the situation will be difficult for all the neighboring countries.”

Turning to the problems that beset South Sudan, Malek noted that while the US has long been an ally, supporting the world’s youngest nation through times of conflict — from the 2011 independence referendum through to the 2018 peace talks in Kenya — work still needs to be done for the sanctions and arms embargoes imposed on the country to be lifted.

“We have said that now we have to open up a new page with the United States of America and for us to work together,” he said. “Of course, they have issues with (our) human rights issues, issues of democracy, issues of corruption, or issues of governance.”

“South Sudan is under sanctions and the US is the penholder on these particular sanctions (at the UN). There are about five benchmarks that (the US wants) to see. If these five benchmarks are met by the government of South Sudan, then we will be able to get out of sanctions and the arms embargo.”

 


Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097

Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097
Updated 4 sec ago
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Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097

Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097
  • The tally includes at least 48 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said
GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Sunday that at least 34,097 people have been killed in the territory during more than six months of war between Israel and Palestinian militants.
The tally includes at least 48 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 76,980 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7.

Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM

Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM
Updated 8 min 2 sec ago
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Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM

Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM

DUBAI: Sultan Haitham of Oman will visit the UAE on Monday for talks with President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, state news agency WAM reported. 

During the visit, both leaders will discuss “the deep-rooted, historical relations between the UAE and Oman and cooperation in various fields,” the agency said. 

The two leaders will also discuss a number of regional and international issues of common interest. 


Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA

Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA
Updated 11 min 19 sec ago
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Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA

Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA

DUBAI: Kuwait’s prime minister-designate Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah will serve as the emir’s deputy when the latter is not in the country, state news agency KUNA said on Sunday, citing a royal decree.

Emir Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who was sworn in December, has yet to choose a crown prince, who would usually be his deputy.

The Emir selected Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad after the cabinet’s resignation earlier this month. 

The expected move comes after a new parliament was elected and is a procedural one as the current government has to submit its resignation before the legislature’s inauguration.


West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more

West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more
Updated 21 April 2024
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West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more

West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more
  • Attack began after Israeli went missing, later found dead
  • Residents say Israeli army did nothing to stop raid

AL-MUGHAYYER: The Israeli settlers who rampaged through the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyer on April 12 came in greater numbers and carried more weapons than during any of the previous raids on the Palestinian community, residents said.
Days later, torched homes and cars still bear testament to the attack, which residents said lasted several hours and that they said Israeli soldiers did nothing to stop.
With few means to defend themselves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, they fear more such assaults on the village.
“We have stones and they have weapons, and the army supports the settlers,” said Abdullatif Abu Alia, whose house came under attack. His roof was spattered with the blood of Palestinians wounded as they tried to repel the attackers with rocks. One of them, his relative Jihad Abu Alia, was shot and killed, he said.
“Of course, the aim is to force displacement,” he added.
Al-Mughayyer was one of several Palestinian villages raided by settlers over several days beginning April 12, an escalation that began after a 14-year-old Israeli went missing. His body was discovered not far from Al-Mughayyer the following day.
Israel said he was killed in a terrorist attack.
Violence in the West Bank, seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, was already surging before the Gaza war began in October — fueling further bloodshed in the territory.
Settler violence is a source of growing concern among Israel’s Western allies. A number of countries, including the United States, have imposed sanctions on violent settlers and urged Israel to do more to stop the violence.
Washington imposed sanctions on Friday on an ally of Israel’s far-right national security minister and two entities that raised money for Israeli men accused of settler violence.
The Israeli military said confrontations had spread in the area as a result of the teenager’s killing, and included “exchanges of gunfire, mutual stone throwing and property arson in which Israeli and Palestinian civilians were injured.”
Asked about residents’ accusations that soldiers had done nothing to stop the Al-Mughayyer attack, the military said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and security forces operated with the aim of protecting “the property and lives of all citizens and dispersing the confrontations.”
Gunshot wounds
Ameen Abu Alia, the head of Al-Mughayyer’s municipal council, said 45 Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds in the attack, which began after hundreds of settlers had congregated on a road near the village.
Israeli troops arrived shortly before it started, setting up road blocks and a cordon which left houses on the village outskirts cut off from its center, meaning villagers could not to go to aid those who were under attack, he said.
The soldiers also prevented ambulances from reaching the area to treat wounded people, he said.
The Israeli military said ambulances “were delayed for a security check and then they were given the authorization to continue.”
Abu Alia, the municipal council head, accused the Israeli army of providing security for the settler raid, which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said had been “accompanied by Israeli forces.”
Complaints about soldiers’ behavior that was not in accordance with orders will be examined, the Israeli military said.
Israel has settled the West Bank extensively since 1967, viewing it as the biblical Judea and Samaria and critical to Israel’s security. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promotion of settlement growth has drawn US criticism.
The settlements have eaten up West Bank land where Palestinians have long aimed to establish an independent state that would also include the Gaza Strip and have East Jerusalem as its capital.
Fire truck torched, sheep stolen
His home torched in the attack, Shehadah Abu Rasheed has pitched a tent to provide temporary shelter. Inside, the walls of the house were charred black. Abu Rasheed said his wife was hit by a settler and one of his four children lightly wounded by gunfire.
The settlers also torched a fire truck sent to Al-Mughayyer by the Palestinian civil defense service during the attack, the civil defense said. Its charred remains were being loaded onto a truck when Reuters journalists visited on Wednesday.
OCHA reported that the settlers fully burnt 21 houses in Al-Mughayyer, displacing 86 Palestinians, and that 32 vehicles were damaged, and some 220 sheep were killed or stolen.
It was unconfirmed if the Palestinian man who died during the raid was killed by Israeli forces or settlers, it said.
Four of seven Palestinians killed in the West Bank between April 12 and 15 died in incidents involving Israeli settlers in a series of attacks on Palestinian communities during and after the search for the 14-year-old Israeli, OCHA reported. Another Palestinian man was killed in a settler raid on April 20, the Palestinian health ministry said.
The United States, Britain and the European Union have all imposed sanctions on violent settlers in recent months.
US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at an April 15 briefing that Washington condemned last weekend’s violence against Palestinians just as strongly as it condemned the murder of the 14-year-old Israeli. The United States has said it is “incredibly concerned” that Israeli security forces were not doing enough to stop settler violence, he said.
Al-Mughayyer is located in a part of the West Bank where Israel has full security control under interim peace accords which Palestinian leaders signed three decades ago in the belief they would eventually lead to an independent state.
The arrangements mean most of the West Bank is off limits to the security forces of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. Abdullatif Abu Alia, the Al-Mughayyer resident, said the most he hoped for from the Palestinian government was help to erect a protective fence around his house and reinforce the windows.
“What else can they do? They can’t even protect themselves,” he said, referring to Israeli raids into Palestinian cities.


Israel to summon ambassadors of countries that voted for Palestinian UN membership

Israel to summon ambassadors of countries that voted for Palestinian UN membership
Updated 21 April 2024
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Israel to summon ambassadors of countries that voted for Palestinian UN membership

Israel to summon ambassadors of countries that voted for Palestinian UN membership
  • Thursday’s vote saw 12 countries on the UN Security Council back a resolution recommending full Palestinian membership and two — Britain and Switzerland — abstain
  • Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory

JERUSALEM: Israel will summon ambassadors of countries that voted for full Palestinian UN membership “for a protest talk” on Sunday, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
It came after the Palestinian Authority said it would “reconsider” its relationship with the United States after Washington vetoed the Palestinian membership bid earlier this week.
Thursday’s vote saw 12 countries on the UN Security Council back a resolution recommending full Palestinian membership and two — Britain and Switzerland — abstain.

A Palestinian doctor tends to a baby born prematurely after his mother was injured during Israeli bombardment, at the Kuwait Hospital in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on April 20, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)

Only the United States, Israel’s staunchest ally, voted against, using its veto to block the resolution.
On Saturday, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Oren Marmorstein said the ministry “will summon for a protest talk the ambassadors of the countries that voted in the Security Council in favor of upgrading the status of the Palestinians in the UN.”
“The ambassadors of France, Japan, South Korea, Malta, the Slovak Republic and Ecuador will be summoned tomorrow for a demarche, and a strong protest will be presented to them,” he said in a post on X.

Blood stains are seen on a wall inside a house following an Israeli raid on the Nur Shams refugee camp in the occupied West bank on April 20, 2024. (AFP)

“An identical protest will be presented to additional countries,” he said.
“The unambiguous message that will be delivered to the ambassadors: A political gesture to the Palestinians and a call to recognize a Palestinian state — six months after the October 7 massacre — is a prize for terrorism.”
The draft resolution called for recommending to the General Assembly “that the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations” in place of its current “non-member observer state” status, which it has held since 2012.
The majority of the UN’s 193 member states — 137, according to a Palestinian count — have recognized a Palestinian state.