Sudan’s Slide Toward War: A Timeline for Catastrophe – By Eric Reeves
Historical memory is often short when Sudan is the subject, and the events of even the past year often become blurred or inadequately related to one another. This is especially dangerous because of the likely form that renewed war in Sudan will take. As Baptiste Gallopin argued at the end of August– and thus prior to Khartoum’s military offensive in Blue Nile (“Sudan: Slippery Slope“) — war will not come in the form of “an abrupt descent into full-fledged violence, but rather through a graduated series of unilateral measures that set the stage for a de facto international conflict.” The timeline offered here represents an attempt to provide a sequential account of the events, developments, and statements that have brought greater Sudan relentlessly closer to renewed war over the past year. It necessarily focuses on the “unilateralism” that has emanated from Khartoum, and taken the form of brutal aggression against the people of Abyei, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and increasingly South Sudan itself.
December 30, 2011
Such a timeline as I offer here cannot be complete, and yet also risks omissions that are important to understanding the course of events since September 2010, the point at which this timeline becomes significantly more detailed. A critical omission is Darfur, where genocide by attrition continues with only the barest of reporting by the UN/African Union force (UNAMID) or UN humanitarian agencies. Human rights and news organizations, of course, have no access to Darfur. The result is that a region formerly of considerable concern in the international community has become a “black box” (see the Appendix).
But of course even to note Darfur’s fate is to catch a glimpse of what the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party (NIF/NCP) is attempting in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and virtually all of Abyei: in these three areas as well, Khartoum is doing all it can to keep prying international eyes away, and as a consequence has denied virtually all humanitarian access, even for assessment purposes. We have broad estimates for the number of displaced, the number at extreme risk, the number who face food shortages, the number of refugees from Blue Nile and South Kordofan; but they are estimates that are strikingly without adequate data sets and may well be low.
If I have erred, it is on the side of detail, especially for the past twelve months, and even more so for events following Khartoum’s May 21 military seizure of Abyei. At the same time, I have not attempted to chronicle all incidents of aerial attacks on civilians and humanitarian targets: for a comprehensive analysis and data spreadsheet for such attacks, surveying all reports since 1999, see “They Bombed Everything That Moved,” May 6, 2011, updated July 15 and October 15, 2011 (www.sudanbombing.org). Moreover, I have not given even a synoptic account of all the academic and organizational reports on Sudan from the past year and more, but rather try to note those that seem to offer key information for the chronology I am attempting to establish, particularly with respect to Khartoum’s repeated reneging on agreements it has committed to.
Some redundant reporting of events has proved inevitable: in organizing and grouping developments that overlap in time—such as the military seizure of Abyei, offensives in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and assaults on the territory of South Sudan—I have felt it necessary to include some more broadly relevant events in two places on the timeline (all dates and time references, including those within synopses, are in bold). Moreover, I’ve taken as many words as has seemed necessary to make sense of particular developments in the larger sequence of events. Finally, many significant developments have no clear or definite terminus a quo: for these I have, partially arbitrarily, picked a particular month for dating purposes, or have included particular dates within accounts accompanying other, related dates. I believe the timeline has been kept as chronologically sequential as possible given my ambitions.
Sources are typically indicated briefly, often with an embedded link. For a complete version of this timeline—with all formatting and links preserved—please see (in two parts because of its length):
(The text that appears here, again because of length, runs only through March 22, 2011.)
A Word document (.docx) version of the full text is available upon request from the author. I should say that I am particularly indebted to the work of Julie Flint, Douglas Johnson, the Small Arms Survey, Amnesty International, John Ashworth, and the Satellite Sentinel Project.