Category Archives: Conflict analysis

REMNASA, the Nyarango Boys, and the “non-existent” Western Equatoria Rebellion

The situation in Western Equatoria remains fluid and muddy, with diverse reports of what has happened over the past year regarding rebellion and the emergence of armed groups, particularly the Revolutionary Movement for National Salvation (REMNASA) – led by Major Losuba Lodoru Wango, who reportedly worked with the South Sudan Ministry of Defense before his defection – and the “Nyarango Boys” of the Mundri area – led by Wesley Welebe Samson, who is also a former government legislator. The two groups are apparently not linked; neither are they seemingly linked with SPLM/A-in-Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) rebels, although REMNASA leans in that direction while the Nyarango Boys have declared their loyalty to the government of South Sudan. The situation in Western Equatoria is still unfolding along with the broader political situation in South Sudan, but below is a summary of what has happened so far this year in Western Equatoria with regard to these two groups. Continue reading

Sudan’s Armed Opposition (Sudan Elections 2015: Who is Who, Part 3)

Sudan’s Armed Opposition 2014 – the main groups

By D.K. Thompson

This post is part three of a three-part series. Click here to visit Part 1 – Sudan’s Incumbents or Part 2 – Political Opposition Parties

This article continues our exploration of political forces in preparation for Sudan’s elections scheduled for April 2015. Sudan has a long history of armed insurrection in peripheral areas – in this article, we will outline the largest armed opposition movements and the basics of where they come from. For a visual depiction of the origins of Sudan’s armed opposition groups, their alignments, alliances, and antagonisms, please visit our Sudan Political Timelines Project.

Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF – established November 2011)

The SRF was established in November 2011 as an umbrella organization comprised of SPLM-N, JEM, and SLA-Minni Minnawi and Abdel-Wahid al-Nur factions. Led by 2010 presidential candidate Yasir Arman, the SRF has been most active as a coalition force in South Kordofan and the newly re-established state of West Kordofan (the southern half of which had been part of South Kordofan). Politicians in Khartoum frequently accuse SPLM in South Sudan of supporting SRF groups, and the SRF has also been accused of cooperating with the SPLA in driving the SPLA-In Opposition out of Bentiu in early 2014. For a background on the leadership of the SRF, refer below to the respective armed opposition groups that make up the coalition. Continue reading

Will Federalism Solve South Sudan’s Issues?

Will Federalism Solve South Sudan’s Issues?

Federalism in South Sudan has arisen as a major political issue over the past two months from Equatoria to Upper Nile as numerous politicians have proposed a federal system of government as a way forward in the current crisis in South Sudan. Of note, Riek Machar of the SPLM/A-In-Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) proposed dividing South Sudan up into 21 states (from the current 10) based on old British district boundaries. Simultaneously, governors and MPs, most prominently from Equatoria, announced their support for federalism. President Salva Kiir accused the Equatorians of being set up by Machar to support federalism; some analysts have turned this assessment upside down and accused Machar of emphasizing the issue of federalism in order to garner support in Greater Equatoria. Local media outlets have debated the issue of federalism, and undoubtedly Federalism in South Sudan is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. The debate over federalism has deep roots in South Sudanese political history, and means different things to different people in the country. Continue reading

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Axmed, leader of ARS, joins TFG and becomes president of moderate Islamist coalition, gaining support in central and northern Somalia (probably not as much support as the map suggests, but these are general areas of support, broadly speaking).

Maps of Territorial Control in Somalia, 2007-2010

I just came across this series of maps of territorial control in Somalia in my map archive. Note that these maps are based largely on James Dahl’s map series on territorial control in Somalia and on UN maps of displacement, combined with my own research on conflict events. Forgive me if I mix my Somali and English while transliterating.

Clearly, any map purporting to show areas of control in Somalia is likely oversimplified; alliances are constantly shifting, and multiple insurgencies may exist within an area shown to be under control of a certain force. However, this represents an attempt to map the story of the aftermath of Ethiopia’s invasion in 2006, and show how foreign intervention may have affected the growth of extremist insurgency, specifically in southern Somalia. “Unaligned” territories reflect those areas where it was unclear who was supported or in control. This is a work in progress, so please provide feedback if there are inaccuracies or changes that need to be made.

2007-2009: The Aftermath of the Ethiopian Invasion

December 2008: Cabdullahi Yuusuf Axmed resigns as president of TFG.

2009-2010: The TFG strikes an alliance and begins an offensive

As the TFG in exile brokered a truce with ASWJ, ARS, and ICU elements, they began to gain support and nominal control over parts of the country. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Axmed, formerly of ARS, was elected TFG President. Along with AU forces, the TFG launched an offensive against the now divided Al Shabaab and Xisbul Islaam forces in southern Somalia.

Again, please let me know if there are corrections to be made. This is an ongoing initiative to map territorial control in Somalia, part of a more comprehensive effort at creating conflict maps of Somalia.

Cattle Raiding in Warrap and Unity, South Sudan

Cattle Raiding in South Sudan, particularly cattle raiding in Warrap and Unity, has long been associated with rebel movements; in fact, P.A. Nyaba asserts in his 1997 book The Politics of Liberation in South Sudan that historically, many soldiers who joined the military or rebel groups did so with the motivation of acquiring weapons which could be used for cattle raiding or to settle local disputes. Media sources recently reported the deaths of 42 people on Friday in what appeared to be a cattle raid in Warrap as well as an attack on civilians, and local sources attribute the raids to heavily armed militias, likely associated with Unity State rebels.

Conflict Dynamics along Warrap-Unity Border, January 2014

Map copyright 2014 Daniel Thompson, Map East Africa,

Map copyright 2014 Daniel Thompson, Map East Africa,

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South Sudan Rebellion Maps: The December 2013 Rebellion in 6 Pictures

South Sudan Rebellion Maps as of January 2014: A six-map time series showing areas affected by the South Sudan rebellion, December 15, 2013-January 30, 2014

Please note that areas displayed on the South Sudan rebellion maps as areas under rebel control are based on media reports and (often propagandist) claims by both sides of the conflict, and therefore may not portray exact areas over which rebels had complete control. All events, descriptions, and locations reported below are based on media reports and other publicly available sources. This is not a comprehensive list and does not necessarily reflect every event that has occurred on the ground during the time frame. Events, descriptions, locations, and mapped boundaries do not reflect the views of or imply endorsement by, those who manage the site, or any of its affiliates.

1. December 15-21: SPLA defections, former rebel leaders involved

What exactly prompted the fighting in Juba on the night of December 15 remains unclear to most observers. What is clear is that there was either a misunderstanding or an order for disarmament of certain Tiger Force (presidential guard) soldiers, and the issue took an ethnic dimension. By December 21, Riek Machar (former Vice President and also leader of the 1991 “Nasir Coup” attempt to oust John Garang from SPLA leadership) claimed to be in control of the predominantly Nuer areas of Unity, central and northern Jonglei, and southern Upper Nile. Gen. Peter Gadet Yak, former commander of the SSLM/A rebels of Unity who returned to the SPLM/A fold in mid-2011, led rebel forces in attacking Bor. Somewhat ironically, Matthew Pul Jiang (who formerly served in the SSLA under Gadet and took over command of the SSLA rebellion in mid-2011 when Gadet accepted Kiir’s amnesty) and the former SSLA rebels largely aligned themselves with SPLA forces in Unity to fight against the rebels who followed Machar and James Koang Chuol. Gadet’s forces captured Bor and established forward posts along the road to Juba within the first week of the rebellion.



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South Sudan Crisis Map and Analysis – Ethnicity IS Political

(Scroll down or click here for interactive South Sudan Crisis Maps of events so far in January)

The watch-phrase for international groups in South Sudan is “ethnic conflict,” something that is viewed as worse than a political conflict and something that both sides of the current conflict accuse each other of instigating. Unfortunately, the crisis that has unfolded in South Sudan since December 15 continues to provide reason for strong reminiscences about similar events 22 years ago, in which a “political conflict” degenerated into years of “ethnic conflict”. Can it be prevented? I think South Sudan needs the will to initiate something like the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation proceedings in South Africa or similar post-conflict measures in Rwanda. For now what we can do is to raise awareness of the issue, the dynamics, and what is at stake. Thus our continued effort map the 2013-2014 South Sudan crisis.

Continue reading

January 13 map update and article: Three historical notes on South Sudan’s crisis.

Maps of reported conflict are available for December (click here) and January (click here).

Click the map for a description of the conflict at that location. (Analysis below.)

The crisis in South Sudan continues as Riek Machar’s negotiators continue to insist that the political detainees in Juba are released prior to any type of agreement. Salva Kiir and his delegation refuse to release the detainees until they are tried. Some commentators have expressed discouragement with Machar’s approach, which has implicated the detainees in the “coup” attempt of December 15, which U.S. diplomats (along with plenty of other people) have said was not a coup attempt at all. Continue reading

Mapping South Sudan’s Conflict: Leading up to Addis Ababa peace talks

(Visit our conflict mapping page for maps of the crisis in South Sudan that began in December and continued into January)

A video from a BBC report shows SPLA troops ambushed on the road to Bor. Three weeks after the initial fighting in Juba, defections have continued across the country: SPLA contingents in Morobo and Yei have allegedly left to join Machar’s forces, and a large SPLA force on their way from Maridi towards Central Equatoria appears to have split over an incident in Mundri that led to several deaths. Defectors reportedly looted towns between Mundri and Rokon on their way eastward to join Machar’s forces. Continue reading

South Sudan Conflict: December 20, 2013 – January 1, 2014

For the full list of conflict maps and political events surrounding the recent crisis in South Sudan, please visit the conflict mapping page dedicated to the issue.

Following the outbreak of fighting in Juba on December 15, violence spread throughout Greater Upper Nile and parts of eastern Bahr el-Ghazal area (Warrap, Lakes). On December 26, the presidents of Kenya and Ethiopia arrived to meet with Kiir and begin the process of setting up peace negotiations in Addis Ababa. Kiir subsequently began releasing political prisoners held in connection with the “coup attempt” on December 15, but several remained incarcerated. Even as Kiir and Machar flew to Ethiopia to attend IGAD-brokered talks, fighting continued in Unity and in Bor, with both sides refusing to adhere to a ceasefire.

Unity: After deadly ethnic clashes between oilfield employees at the Unity and Thar-jath oilfields, fighting broke out within the SPLA 4th Division on December 20 in Bentiu and Rubkona. By December 21, James Koang Chol of the 4th Division declared himself governor of Unity, and it later was confirmed that he and his forces are loyal to Riek Machar. Evacuation of foreign nationals continued throughout the country, with China’s CNPC reportedly evacuating workers from Unity. The oilfields were subsequently shut down, while South Sudan continued to produce oil in Upper Nile state. SPLA forces loyal to President Kiir were reported to have left Bentiu/Rubkona and joined with Mathew Pul Jang’s SSLA force that was awaiting reintegration in Mayom after accepting amnesty from Kiir in April 2013. Maj. Gen. Pul Jang claimed to have a force of 5,000, but ostensibly that number had dwindled over the months that the soldiers were awaiting reintegration. SSLA leaders advised civilians and UN staff to leave Bentiu before they launched an offensive to dislodge rebel forces from the state capital. Contrary to SSLA declarations, it was they who were attacked by pro-Machar forces from Bentiu as the fighting spread to Abiemnhom and Mayom counties. SPLA contingents in the Jau Garrison and the area of Pariang also reportedly defected and clashed with pro-government forces in the Pariang area on several occasions between December 21 and January 1.

Jonglei: Bor was taken by rebel forces under Gadet on December 18. On December 20, rebels allegedly shot down a UN helicopter in northern Jonglei, and on December 21, they shot at US aircraft attempting to evacuate US citizens from Bor, forcing the aircraft to abandon their mission. Riek Machar accused Ugandan planes of bombing Bor, but Uganda strongly denied this accusation and there were no outside reports of the presence of Ugandan aircraft over Jonglei. Fighting in Bor, Gumuruk, and Likuangole was reported to have continued. Government forces recaptured Bor on December 25, amid heavy fighting both within the town and on its northern edge. One of the most startling developments was the report on December 28 that Nuer youth had organized into the “White Army”, an armed force composed of youth, ex-soldiers, and cattle keepers that has emerged during ethnic conflicts and was involved in heavy fighting during the Nasir Coup of 1991. According to some reports, many of the mobilized youth peeled off from their advance on Bor between December 28 and December 31, but many may have joined rebel forces that recaptured Bor on December 31. On January 1, SPLA forces reported that they had withdrawn to the Malual-Chaat area, just south of Bor town.

Central Equatoria: The border checkpoints on the way to Uganda and Kenya reportedly reopened on the 20th, leading to frantic evacuation from Juba and several road accidents. Fighting between SPLA soldiers loyal to the president and forces that had defected were reported at Mogiri, Mongalla, and Terekeka between December 20 and December 25, with unknown numbers of casualties.

Lakes: On December 22, a contingent of SPLA defectors left Rumbek East and traveled toward Unity, killing at least four people during their defection and allegedly attempting to loot cattle on their way out of Lakes state.

Upper Nile: Rebel forces attacked Malakal on December 24 and claimed to have captured the town. Rebels also allegedly fought SPLA contingents in Paloich oilfields on December 24 and in the Khor Adar oilfield area on December 26. Reports suggest that Shilluk militia commander Johnson Uliny (Olony/Olonyi) was fighting alongside SPLA forces loyal to President Kiir. SPLA forces claimed that they had recaptured Malakal on December 27 amid fierce fighting, particularly in Hai Mataar (near the airport).