Equatoria Defence Force (EDF/Khartoum) (Sudan)

Country: Sudan
Details of Formation: The Equatoria Defense Force (EDF) was a former rebel faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) which broke away from the SPLA. The EDF was officially established in 1995 (Schomerus 2008). News sources suggest that at least from April 1996, it began to cooperate with the Khartoum government. On June 23, 1996, the government and representatives of the EDF signed a political charter for peace in the Republican Palace. Additionally, in April 1997 the EDF also signed the Khartoum Peace Agreement (Human Rights Watch 2003).
Details of Termination: On March 5, 2004, the EDF officially merged with the SPLM/A in order to fight the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) together. There is no further evidence of any relationship between the EDF and the Sudanese government after 2004. Some EDF commanders became senior officials in the government of South Sudan. Some factions, numbering around 6,000 in total, did not join the SPLM/A but returned to civilian life without giving up their weapons. Some EDF factions that felt loyal to the Sudanese government moved towards Juba and renamed themselves EDF 2; however, there is no evidence of any major activities of that new group. Some former EDF groups survived on banditry but do not seem to form a cohesive organized group (Schomerus 2008). A small group of EDF remained loyal to the Sudanese Armed Forces and continued to receive salaries and supplies from the SAF. In 2006, some parts of these EDF remnants were allegedly in negotiations with the SPLA; other remnant EDF commanders were to leave for Khartoum (Young 2006). It is not clear whether these plans were eventually fulfilled. Nor is it clear whether these remnants Young (2006) describes correspond to the EDF 2 faction Schomerus (2008) mentions. The EDF was last mentioned in 2006; the date of termination is the date of independence of South Sudan in 2011, when the EDF ceased to be a domestic group.
Purpose: The main purpose of the EDF was to fight the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The Sudanese government used them as cannon fodders against the SPLA. They succeeded in dislodging the SPLA from most of the Equatoria region.
Organisation: Cooperation between the EDF and the Sudanese government was based on a political charter for peace that both parties had signed. The EDF fought alongside regular Sudanese armed forces. It was part of the South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF), an umbrella pro-government militia (cf. separate PGM entry for the SSDF). The available evidence suggests a rather low degree of cohesion of this umbrella organisation and news sources continue to report independent actions by the EDF. The connection of the EDF to the Sudanese government was considered stronger compared to other groups. Nevertheless, it was motivated by opportunism and material benefits, with no shared ideology that would sustain cooperation if material benefits ceased. The leader of the EDF was Dr. Thisphohis Ochang Loti (Schomerus 2008). After Thisphohis Ochang Loti and the majority of the EDF had defected to the SPLA, the remaining pro-government EDF were led by Peter Lorot (Young 2006).
Weapons and Training: The EDF received arms from the Sudanese government.
Size: During its best times, the EDF had around 12,000 fighters (Schomerus 2008). After the majority of EDF defected in 2004, the remaining pro-government remnants numbered between 200 to 600 fighters (Young 2006).
Reason for Membership: --
Treatment of Civilians: After LRA rebels displaced more than 5,000 civilians in southern Torit Eastern Equatoria State, the EDF organized a defense to deter the LRA from attacking the civilian population. Although the EDF had previously cooperated with the LRA, they stopped the cooperation after the LRA’s attacks on Equatorian civilians and were subsequently fighting against the LRA. In 2006, the EDF harassed and killed civilians in the region of Torit (Young 2006).
Other Information: The EDF primarily recruits among Acholi people, but also from Langi and Lotuko. In 2002, the EDF fought alongside the LRA against the SPLA; both groups were supported by the Sudanese government. Later that year, in September 2002, the LRA raided the EDF to replenish their military supply. In October that year, the LRA displaced thousands of civilians in Equatoria; as a result, the EDF turned against the LRA.
References: Human Rights Watch. 2003. “Sudan, Oil and Human Rights.” ISBN: 1564322912

Schomerus, Mareike. 2008. “Violent Legacies: Insecurity in Sudan’s Central and Eastern Equatoria.” Geneva: Small Arms Survey.

Young, John. 2006. “The South Sudan Defence Forces in the Wake of the Juba Declaration.” Small Arms Survey HSBA Working Paper 1. ISBN 2-8288-0077-6.

Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD