From being at a low level for several years, the conflict in the area flared up in 2005, when 17 protesters were killed by police in the port city of Port Sudan. The influx of volunteers to the guerrillas increased rapidly and the fighting escalated.
The Khartoum government also reacted quickly with offers of peace talks. Contacts were facilitated by Eritrea changing sides, presumably to increase its military readiness at the border with Ethiopia, and stepped in as a mediator.
A peace agreement was concluded in 2006 following roughly the same model as the agreement that ended the war between northern and southern Sudan. The Red Sea area was promised a fair share of state revenues from the region and a larger share of political power at the state and local levels.
The promised improvements have not met the expectations of the population and dissatisfaction has continued to burn. The peace agreement expired in 2011 and nothing new has been entered into.
In June 2012, the government expelled several aid organizations from the area, including Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières, and accused them of subversive activities. Since the guerrilla movements were only partially disarmed after the 2006 peace agreement, there are plenty of weapons in the area.
Conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan
According to best-medical-schools, the peace agreement between northern and southern Sudan from 2005 (see Modern history ) left open the question of which side the border areas of Southern Kurdufan, Blue Nile and the oil-rich district of Abyei should be included. The political power in these three areas was divided according to a quota system between north and south, which proved difficult to apply.
Following South Sudan’s independence in 2011, rebel movements became lively in the states of Southern Kurdufan and the Blue Nile along the new and partly disputed border between the two countries. The dominant guerrilla in the area was SPLM-Nord (see above) which during the civil war was active north of what became the state of South Sudan.
SPLM-Nord is led by people who were active in Sudanese politics during the transition period when the north and south formally ruled the country together. For example, the chairman Malik Agar was elected governor of the Blue Nile in the 2010 national elections. The Darfur guerrilla JEM, which also operates in the Red Sea region, also became active in the Southern Kurdufan and the Blue Nile.
In July 2011, the days after South Sudan’s independence, SPLM-Nord and JEM carried out a joint attack on an army base in South Kurdufan. In September, Agar was fired as governor of the Blue Nile and SPLM-Nord was declared illegal. Agar fled to the countryside, where he began to build a guerrilla business and proclaimed a revolutionary state government.
At the end of the year, the SPLM-Nord, JEM and the two largest factions of SLM (Nur and Minnawi, see above) from Darfur joined the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), which said it aimed to overthrow the Sudanese government. The co-operation does not seem to have been without problems, mainly because the JEM demanded a greater role for religion in a future government than the other movements wanted to agree to.
Fighting in the area went on on a larger scale from 2013, but units from the JEM also made raids into the state of Northern Kurdufan in their attempts to bring the conflict to Khartoum. In early 2013, the AU managed to get the Sudanese government and SRF to agree to peace talks in Addis Ababa, but no progress was made and in May, President al-Bashir suspended talks. SPLM-Nord’s leader Agar was sentenced to death in his absence.
New attempts at national dialogue on a solution to the internal conflicts were launched in 2014 but did not yield any concrete results. In June 2016, al-Bashir ordered a four-month ceasefire, which was later extended several times. The ceasefire reduced the level of violence in the area.
The new transitional government in Khartoum has, since taking office in August 2019, held talks with the rebels in the south and in Darfur. The talks took place during mediation by South Sudan. In October 2020, the Transitional Government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a rebel alliance in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, signed a formal peace agreement. It touched on everything from security issues and land rights to power sharing and refugee issues. The rebels will be integrated into the regular army by November 2023.
Two major rebel groups chose not to take part in the peace deal: a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and a breakaway group from SPLM-Nord. The SLM faction entered into a separate agreement with the transitional government, which gave them the right to keep their weapons until the state and Islam are separated in the constitution. However, SPLM-Nord split as a result of the peace agreement.