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11.4.2021 : 17:21 : +0200


At an Impasse: The Conflict in Blue Nile— new HSBA Working Paper

The Small Arms Survey is pleased to announce the publication of At an Impasse: The Conflict in Blue Nile, HSBA Working Paper 31, by Claudio Gramizzi, now available for download.

At an Impasse analyses the first two years of the renewed conflict in Blue Nile—from September 2011 to June 2013. Based largely on field research conducted in southern Blue Nile and South Sudan in November and December 2012, it elaborates on trends that characterize the conflict, underlining similarities and differences with the war the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLM-N) is also fighting in South Kordofan; presents the primary armed actors; identifies the military hardware used by both camps; and describes the mechanisms established by the government to supply local militias and paramilitary forces. The paper also reviews the evolution of the crisis in Blue Nile in terms of its devastating security and humanitarian impacts on civilians, as well as on the domestic and regional political landscape.

Among the paper’s key findings:

  • Despite initial short-term gains by SPLM-N troops and some victories during the first half of 2013, the military balance of the conflict appears to be largely in favour of the government and its allied forces. The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) succeeded in confining the rebel movement to the southern part of the state and in re-establishing its authority over many of the strategically important locations that had been temporarily controlled by the SPLM-N.
  • By combining aerial supremacy with SAF large-scale ground offensives in Blue Nile, often alongside locally recruited militias and paramilitary forces, the government replicated a counter-insurgency strategy that it had previously adopted in Darfur and South Kordofan.
  • In contrast to what has been documented in South Kordofan, the SPLM-N 2nd Division captured only limited stocks of military hardware from government and affiliated forces. The limited ability to obtain weapons through capture has significantly reduced the rebels’ capacity to militarily challenge SAF and its allied forces.
  • SPLM-N troops were able to divert materiel from Sudanese government stockpiles in southern Blue Nile before the onset of the conflict.
  • Hardware captured by the SPLM-N includes mainly Warsaw Pact-calibre weapons and relatively small stockpiles of ammunition. The materiel inspected was manufactured in different countries, including Bulgaria, China, the former Czechoslovakia, Iran, former republics of the Soviet Union, Sudan, and the former Yugoslavia.
  • Most of the arms and ammunition seized by the SPLM-N were more than ten years old, with the exception of Sudanese-manufactured 82 mm mortar tubes (produced in 2007 and 2008), 82 mm mortar bombs (produced in 2006), 7.62 x 54R ammunition (produced in 2008 and 2009), and Chinese-manufactured 12.7 x 108 mm ammunition (produced in 2010).
  • The SPLM-N 2nd Division operates in complete isolation from the other components of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, including the SPLM-N 1st Division in South Kordofan.
  • Direct support from the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army to rebels in Blue Nile seems to have ceased a few weeks after the resumption of the conflict, although the rebellion still benefits from political sympathy among certain ruling elites in South Sudan.
  • The recurrence of the conflict in Blue Nile has generated extended and continued food insecurity for civilians, as well as interruptions in the provision of almost all fundamental services, including education and health care. By November 2013, some 154,000 people had settled in refugee camps in South Sudan and Ethiopia.  In addition, between 80,000 and 100,000 individuals were internally displaced inside SPLM-N-controlled areas.
  • The crisis in Blue Nile is primarily an internal Sudanese conflict rather than an aspect of wider North–South tensions, even if the conflict that resumed in September 2011 has regional dimensions.

At an Impasse is the 31st Working Paper published by the Small Arms Survey’s Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) for Sudan and South Sudan. All previous HSBA Working Papers and Issue Briefs are available for download in English and Arabic from


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