South Sudan – Yay Yau and Murle self-determination

African Arguments

David Yau Yau and South Sudan’s Internal Wager with Self-Determination – Mayank Bubna

IDPS in jonglei state

Amidst protracted conflict with Nuer rebels and a peace-negotiation impasse in Addis Ababa, the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) is also one year in to a brave political experiment granting semi-autonomous governance to a former rebel commander in southern Jonglei – a place that is largely home to the Murle people and smaller communities like the Jei, Anyuak and Kachipo.

On 30 January 2014, the GOSS formally codified a peace agreement between itself and David Yau Yau’s Cobra faction under the broader South Sudan Defense Movement/Army (SSDM/A). On 9 May, a presidential decree led to the creation of the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), and Yau Yau was made administrator-in-chief in the region. According to the pronouncement, the GPAA would have independent government structures, be recognized at par with other states within South Sudan, and citizens of the GPAA could be appointed to national positions directly by the President. By most accounts, such a deal is unparalleled and Yau Yau appears to have drawn a good hand.

South Sudan, itself a product of a secession, is not unaccustomed to homegrown feats of dissent. Beset by political fissures and problems of elite conflict in the post-CPA era, the GOSS has attempted to bring rebel groups into the frame of ‘normal’ politics either by forcing their hand or offering incentives like blanket amnesties and military promotions.

Reaction to this process gave rise to the outbreak of a series of small wars between the SPLA and various non-state armed groups in 2010 and 2011. By mid-2013 however, almost all these groups’ leaders had accepted face-saving integration into the SPLA, been killed in action, moved north of the border or simply become inconsequential.[1] David Yau Yau’s Cobra Faction remained the last bastion of resistance, and its latest peace deal with the government – involving self-governance and partial territorial sovereignty – remains unprecedented in character and scope.

The ‘Murle secession’, although it is not always termed as such, is problematic from a state’s perspective because it implies the existence of a challenge to the dominion of South Sudan. So why and how did Yau Yau succeed in obtaining the sort of concessions that others failed to acquire?

A definitive answer is hard to come by, although several conjectures may be made: First, geographic concentration of the Murle is likely to have influenced and reinforced their separatist stance vis-à-vis the rest of South Sudan. Furthermore, the moment may have been opportune – given southern Jonglei’s strategic geographic location as a buffer between the Nuer-controlled Greater Upper Nile and the Equatorias, alienating the Murle on the advent of the newest civil war may have been perceived by the GOSS as a bad idea.

Last but not least, it is also likely that Yau Yau may have made a highly cognizant and judicious gamble in pursuing a “just about right” self-determination claim and carefully balancing external perceptions – neither appearing too soft (thus avoiding the fear of not being taken seriously) nor pursuing too radical an agenda (and by extension, being regarded a serious threat).

As Yau Yau engages with communities within the GPAA and transforms his militant group into an acceptable political entity, he has focused, sometimes by choice and often out of compulsion, on social welfare, economic development and building sustainable security arrangements. Schools have been renovated, agricultural activities restarted and health facilities re-introduced for the first time in a long time.

In September 2014, Yau Yau appointed seven commissioners, followed by additional ministerial appointments in December to kick-start local governance institution building.[2] A selection process for the GPAA council is underway and Pibor town has emerged as the de facto center. As of November 2014, local authorities have also started implementing fiscal policies to compensate for budgetary shortfall, and Yau Yau’s group have begun levying taxes on traded commodities and goods being moved in or out of the area.

Yet, the process of building a state within a state does not come without its own set of challenges. Amidst its institutional enterprises and promises of democratic representation, Yau Yau’s state system has had the whiff of hegemonic centralization. For example, in September 2014, Pochalla North youth communities protested the appointment of their county commissioner, a man known to be a close associate of Yau Yau, in favor of another nominee who was believed to have been deprived the post despite securing a higher vote count.

In October, Yau Yau’s choices for county commissioner for Fertait, Likuangole and North Pochalla were also rejected by local communities. Additionally, the Jie, an ethnic minority within the GPAA, have accused Yau Yau of taking a hard stance against them and failing to incorporate their demands for a separate county.[3] Some among the Jie community also felt the need to form their own separate armed group to protect the community’s interests. The GPAA project faces substantial discredit from within its constituency, and demarcation of the GPAA’s internal and external borders remains contested.[4] Internally displaced people returning to the area in the last few months have found their homes occupied by some of Yau Yau’s men.

Considerable confusion persists about the exact political and security arrangement between the GOSS and the GPAA. Some officials continue to see the GPAA as part of the Jonglei region, a position that Yau Yau and his deputies vehemently oppose. Some have suggested that members of parliament and ministers from Pibor serving in the central government ought to plausibly be removed from office and reinstated within the GPAA. Relations between the government and Yau Yau have further been strained over the SPLA’s presence in the area, procedural aspects of integration of the Cobra Faction into South Sudan’s armed forces, and his tumultuous relationship with Nuer rebel forces.

GOSS rejected an earlier proposal to integrate Yau Yau’s men as two divisions in the SPLA (at one point they claimed to be more than 27,000 strong), and although some of Yau Yau’s forces collocate with the SPLA in Pibor, a date for formal integration has yet to be set. Delays in the security sector reform process have left members of the Cobra faction in a state of limbo, some of whom are rumored to be facing food shortages.

Internal and external security for the GPAA remains weak. Earlier in 2014, a split within the Cobra faction occurred between elements aligned with the SPLA, those who chose to remain independent, and others who teamed up with estranged deputies. Tensions with the SPLA also escalated after Brigadier General Joshua Konyi, disfavored by Yau Yau, was temporarily appointed as the SPLA commander in the GPAA in December 2014 (his appointment was allegedly canceled after Yau Yau lodged a protest) and James Kuburin, a former member and later enemy of Yau Yau’s top military brass, was relocated in the GPAA with the SPLA. Furthermore, in October and November 2014, in Pibor town and Fertait County, fighting between the Lango and Kurenen and Nyakurumo – various age sets of the Murle – led to several casualties.

Continued clashes in December between the Lango age set – who have historically supported Yau Yau, but may have felt disenfranchised of late – and members of the Cobra faction threatened to undermine Yau Yau’s position as chief administrator in the GPAA. Yau Yau reportedly traveled around the GPAA in the last several months mobilizing youth from minority communities like the Anyuak to join the SPLA. Simultaneously however, he has created rivals among the Dinka Bor by resisting the idea of teaming up with the SPLA to clash directly with Nuer rebel groups from further north.

Yau Yau’s efforts to carve out his personal dominion may be well-intentioned and his control over the GPAA thus-far complete, however, in many ways he has been thrust into a situation that mirrors the problems that South Sudan has always faced. In trying to design a functioning framework for the realization of Murle minority rights in the midst of protracted warfare, the GPAA has become a microcosm of all that could possibly go right and wrong with governance at large in South Sudan.

Mayank Bubna is a researcher who has worked in various capacities in South Sudan since 2010. His travels in the region have taken him to Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, Central Equatoria, Abyei and Khartoum. Some of his past work can be sourced online.

Tam David-West says Nigeria a failed state under Jonathan


Prof. Tam David-West

A former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof. Tam David-West, on Tuesday described Nigeria as a failed state.

David-West, at a news conference in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said that any government that could not protect its citizens was a failed government.

He said, “We have a failed state in Nigeria today. I have been reading what is happening in Rivers State. Any government that cannot protect   its citizens   is not worth being called a government.”

The professor of virology expressed his support for Governor Rotimi Amaechi and   any party that would bring light over the country’s current darkness.

“I stand for a government that knows that 19 is bigger than 16. I stand for a party that I know will bring light to the darkness in Nigeria. I stand for a party of people of substance both in words and in character,” he said.

Also at the news conference, the   All Progressives Congress in the state   called on the United Nations, the Amnesty International and other relevant international organisations to intervene in the continued attacks on its members.

It said through its Chairman, Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, that while some of its members had been killed by suspected Peoples Democratic Party thugs, others had been seriously injured.

The party urged   humanitarian and democratic organisations to send   high-powered election monitoring teams to the state.

According to the APC, doing so   would help to avert bloodbath and make the   election outcomes in the state acceptable.

It said, “We call on Amnesty International, the International Red Cross, the relevant organs of the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the United Nations to immediately begin investigation into the gruesome killings in Rivers State.

“An acceptable electoral outcome is possible in Rivers State only if the elections are truly free and fair. There cannot be free and fair elections if the spate of violent high handedness, intimidation and terror is not halted.

“As the 2015 general election approaches, the scale, magnitude and intensity of the orchestrated violence against members of the APC are assuming a frightful dimension.”

The APC which however called on   its members to remain calm and law-abiding, criticised the police in the state for their inability to arrest any of those that participated in 13 different attacks on them.

It said, “This press conference is our distress call to all men, women, organisations, nations and people, who cherish democracy to intervene before it is too late.

“It is unimaginable that a President (Goodluck Jonathan), who himself claims his roots from Niger Delta would permit unprovoked and   premeditated violent attacks on the same people he hopes to ride on their sentiments to retain his Presidency.”

Also, the lawmaker representing Rivers South-East, Senator Magnus Abe, attributed the   harassment and intimidation of APC members   to   Jonathan’s fear that he might lose the state during the forthcoming elections.

“Another reason is because the   PDP is bent on   taking over power in Rivers State as a result of its (Rivers) economic significance in the country,” Abe said.

He, however, expressed dissatisfaction over the attitude of the police, saying, “We have reported many times to the police, but nothing has happened. There is no pretence about the partiality of security operatives. There is nothing we are saying that the authorities are not aware of.”

Also, the governorship candidate of the APC in the state,   Dakuku Peterside, claimed   that as of the time of the news conference, members of the party were being attacked in Khana and Etche Local Government Areas of the state.

“We have been receiving text messages from our members who are currently going through distress in the hands of political thugs,” Peterside added.

Copyright PUNCH.

Mozambique – over 100 killed in floods


(Reuters) – More than 100 people have been killed and 150,000 displaced by floods in Mozambique, a senior government official said on Wednesday, as southern Africa counts the human and economic costs of this month’s torrential rains.

The United Nations said last week the rains in early January had triggered floods affecting nearly one million people in Mozambique, Malawi, Madagascar and Zimbabwe. About a quarter of a million people in total were forced to leave their homes.

“The floods have killed 117 people, an increase from the last balance of at least 84 dead a week ago,” Mozambique’s Deputy Health Minister Mouzinho Saide told Reuters.

A majority of the deaths occurred in the central coastal region of Zambezia, he said, adding: “The deaths were caused by drowning, lightning and collapsed houses.”

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika said on Tuesday his country, one of the poorest in the world, would probably miss its economic growth forecast this year of 5.8 percent due to the rains, which killed more than 60 people.

A lack of funds has hampered the region’s ability to tackle the effects of the disaster, aid groups say.

Mali’s Tuareg MNLA hit by suicide bomb attacks


An MNLA fighter in Kidal, northern Mali, on 27 July 2013 Tuareg rebels have been in conflict with the government since independence

Suicide bombers and armed attackers have killed about a dozen people in an assault on rebel positions in northern Mali, security sources have said.

This is the first suicide bombing blamed on the pro-government Gatia militia fighting Tuareg rebels.

However, it may have been infiltrated by militant Islamists who joined the attack, correspondents say.

Northern Mali has been hit by conflict between government forces, Tuareg separatists and militant Islamists.

French-led troops beat back al-Qaeda-linked groups who had seized control of most of the region in 2012 with the backing of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the main rebel group campaigning for the rights of ethnic Tuaregs.

‘Very volatile’

The MNLA and the al-Qaeda-linked groups later fell-out, and animosity between them now runs strong, correspondents say.

The UN has a 9,000-strong force trying to restore stability in Mali.

United Nations soldiers patrol on 27 July 2013 in the northern Malian city of KidalThe UN is battling to end the conflict

Correspondents say there are strong suspicions that the government is increasingly relying on militia groups such as Gatia to strengthen its position against the MNLA in the north.

A UN source told the AFP news agency that two bombers blew themselves up in the attack near Tabankort town while a third was killed before he could detonate himself.

“Gatia fighters, accompanied by suicide bombers, attacked a rebel Tuareg and anti-government Arab position in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday near the town of Tabankort. There were a dozen deaths in total,” a Western military source told AFP.

“The situation is very volatile, and it is essential to calm the situation,” added the source.


The BBC’s Alex Duval Smith in the capital, Bamako, says details around the attack are still unclear.

However, only al-Qaeda-linked groups have up to now carried out suicide bombings in Mali, and it is likely that they have infiltrated Gatia.

On Tuesday, three people were killed during clashes between protesters and UN troops in Tabankort, a stronghold of Gatia.

The protested stormed the UN base in Tabankort, accusing it of planning to create a buffer zone that would favour the MNLA. The UN denied there was such a plan.

Last week, the UN launched air strikes to push back MNLA fighters who had launched an assault to capture Tabankort from Gatia, the French acronym for Imghad and Allies Tuareg Self-Defence Group.

Northern Mali has been a flashpoint of conflict since Mali’s independence from French rule in 1960, with Tuareg rebels campaigning for independence or more autonomy.

The conflict has become more complex with emergence of jihadi groups, which roam freely across large parts of the Sahara desert.

South Africa – ANC suggests land ownership cap of 12,000ha

Mail and Guardian

The ANC top brass have proposed limiting the amount of land South Africans can own and the party won’t wait for the law to be tested constitutionally.

The ANC wants to accelerate the implementation of land reform policy. (David Harrison, M&G)

The pleasures of owning vast tracts of farmland is a luxury that will soon end for some as the ANC has resolved to impose a ceiling on how much land you can own.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe announced following the ANC’s three-day national executive committee (NEC) lekgotla that there would be a land cap of a maximum of 12 000 hectares or two farms.

The party says this will assist in making land ownership more equitable.

Questions arose regarding the constitutionality of the proposed legislation, but Mantashe said government should not wait for the matter to be tested constitutionally.

“Government must actually pass the law and test it in the Constitution,” he said.

At the same time, the ANC wants elaboration on a proposed policy framework by Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti that farmlands should be shared with farmworkers on a 50/50 basis.

“Government is expected to elaborate on the 50/50 policy framework [relative rights for people working and living on the land] arising from the ANC 53rd National Conference Resolution giving effect to the Freedom Charter clause that the land must be shared amongst those who work it.”

Nkwinti has told the Mail & Guardian previously that farmers are in the process of providing input on the proposed law and can make suggestions to government.

Acceleration of policy
While the ANC has been singing the land reform song for many years, it has now indicated that it wants an acceleration in the implementation of policy.

Mantashe said government ought to be “firm” in their approach to land reform.

“Land ownership by foreign nationals will also be prohibited. They will however be able to access land through leaseholds,” Mantashe said.

This discussion was first introduced following the ANC’s Mangaung conference, but now the party is prompting government to act fast on it. It is unclear how much land foreigners own in South Africa.

The department of rural development and land reform said it was conducting a land audit on private ownership but has not made its findings public as yet.

“On rural development, land and agrarian reform, [the] lekgotla has called for more decisive and interventionist leadership from government to accelerate the pace of land redistribution. The ANC has committed that land will be returned to our people and government must move with the necessary speed to put legislation in place to effect this,” Mantashe said.

Energy concerns
While discussions on land formed an integral part of the lekgotla, the ANC raised concern around the energy crisis gripping South Africa.

“The current energy shortfalls were identified as a binding constraint to higher economic growth and development,” Mantashe said.

Now government has been mandated to “come up with a concrete programme to accelerate the nuclear programme”.

“Priority must be given to projects that can bring energy into the grid within the next 18 to 24 months,” Mantashe said.

Central African Republic – UN says world must wake up to the crisis

UN News Service

The top United Nations humanitarian official in the Central African Republic (CAR) is calling for increased protection of displaced communities in the northern town of Batangafo, where relief agencies are working hard to ease suffering as the country’s ongoing conflict drives a steady stream of terrified people into the area seeking safety.

Senior Humanitarian Coordinator Claire Bourgeois visited Batangafo over the weekend to assess the increasing protection needs in the area caused by a continuous influx of newly displaced persons (IDP). There are now more than 30,000 IDPs in the main site of the city, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

After visiting the overcrowded displacement site in Batangafo – which daily receives hundreds of people driven from their homes by violence – Mrs. Bourgeois, in a press release today, stressed the urgent need to restore State authority in the town.

While impressed by the way the humanitarian response is organized by the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain, and by the active role played by the Committee of Wise Men and the Transhumance Committee, she nevertheless emphasized that immediate action is needed to ensure the safety and protection of civilians who are at severe risk of attacks in the region, especially in the western area.

“This will stop the daily influx of hundreds of displaced people arriving at the site searching for safety; it will facilitate the return to their places of origins; and, at the same time, will enable humanitarian actors to reach people in need in areas where activities are now interrupted due to safety concerns,” Mrs. Bourgeois said.

Mrs. Bourgeois was accompanied on her visit by representatives of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, as well as the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN refugee agency (UNHCR), World Health Organization (WHO), and other humanitarian partners.

The delegation met with the Committee of Wise Men, representatives of the Pheul community, non-governmental organizations and IDPs themselves in Batangafo, to discuss their basic needs and the challenges impeding their return to their places of origin.

OCHA notes that the most urgent needs identified were: improvement of the security and protection of civilians, and assistance to newly arrived displaced people. The mission participants called on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians and humanitarian workers in CAR.

“The world needs to wake up to the enormity of the crisis in CAR. This is one of the most serious humanitarian emergencies in the world. We urgently need more action and more commitment. Action to protect civilians must be the top priority for all actors,” Mrs. Bourgeois added.

Her strong call comes following the launch last Friday by UNHCR of its latest funding appeal to help more than 450,000 Central African Republic refugees struggling to survive across the region. The $331 million appeal presented seeks to provide safety, food, clean water, shelter, health and other basic services to people, which the agency expects will be seeking refuge in Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Republic of the Congo by the end of the year.

More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence have displaced thousands of people in the CAR amid continuing clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka alliance and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian CAR faces a humanitarian crisis of major proportions. Nearly a million people have been displaced and 2.7 million people, over half of the population, are in dire need of immediate assistance.


South Africa – refugees, asylum and xenophobic attacks

Mail and Guardian

The recent spate of looting, mostly in Gauteng townships, has again brought attention to the stasis that asylum seekers find themselves in.

In a weekend visit to Mayfair to “calm tempers down”, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said that foreign shopkeepers should have trading licences and pay taxes “so we can protect you”. He also uttered a stern warning against the use of illegal firearms, telling them “we know where you buy your illegal firearms”.

As the looting spread to the East Rand and thousands of people fled to Mayfair, Somali, Bengali and Ethiopian shopkeepers told of the difficulties they had in legitimising their businesses and defending them legally.

‘If we kill someone, it’s a big thing
After the premier’s departure, a lanky greying Somali businessperson, Abi Nuur Mohamed, said of Makhura’s visit that it was as if he “threw a bomb and ran” away.

Mohamed explained that many Somali business owners wanted to abide by the law but, for many, their status as asylum seekers made it difficult for them to obtain trading licences and qualify to legally own firearms. “If you have documents, like an ID and a passport, or even refugee status, then it’s easy to get a trading licence. Like myself, I have a British passport; it’s easy.”

On the question of obtaining legal firearms, Mohamed says people often contravened the law to protect their lives.

“We’re not soft. We will defend ourselves,” said the fez-wearing Mohamed, index-finger wagging for emphasis.

“If we get killed – and there has been plenty of that – it’s nothing, but if we kill someone in defence, it’s a big thing. The premier is right to say we mustn’t take the law into our own hands, but our lives are in our hands.”

For Mohomed Diiriye, it has been 12 years, and counting, without permanent residence status.

Seated around a table at the popular Ebrahim’s coffee shop, he said: “The attitude of the home affairs people, I’m ashamed. For 12 years using A4 papers [a reference to his continued status as a refugee], I can’t even open a bank account. You can’t even apply for a passport with A4 papers. It’s like we’re prisoners here. I haven’t seen my mom in 14 years.”

Caught napping in Soweto
Diiriye, who has had been in business in Soweto since last year, said the attacks there caught everybody napping, but other shopkeepers said there had been an element of co-ordination in parts of Soweto.

“In 2008 the xenophobic attacks happened all over South Africa but not in Soweto,” he said. “That’s why I thought Soweto was safe.

“Somalians find it difficult to survive in town. You need cash and facilities. The rent is about R85 a square metre and a [decent-sized] shop is about 200 or 300 square metres. And then you’ll need probably three, four workers. Their salaries might be relatively high because they need to get accommodation and transport money.”

Somali Community Board (SCB) chair Amir Sheikh said that, since Monday, there were more than 700 documented cases of Somalian, Ethiopian and Bengali-owned shops being looted. This was plunging Mayfair into a worsening humanitarian crisis as scores of displaced shopkeepers from the East Rand and Soweto continuing to pour into the suburb.

“Mayfair is very flooded,” said a tired-looking Sheikh on Monday evening, outside the Nura Community Hall. As he spoke, an open-top van off-loaded goods into a storeroom near the hall. “You’re looking at plus/ minus 1?000 shop owners that have come in. But now remember that every shop would have about three people. So you’re looking at about 3?000 people that have been uprooted.”

Nowhere to go
Many of the displaced were staying in lodges around Mayfair, at discounted prices. Others were living with friends, family or with other people who had offered them their homes.

Sheikh said the SCB was neither prepared nor trained to deal with the scale of the crisis, but was grateful to everybody who contributed moral or physical support.

Signs that Mayfair was bursting at the seams were not only on street corners, where bands of young men hung around aimlessly, but in overcrowded buildings that had become refugee camps.

In a flat off Albertina Sisulu Street, one of Mayfair’s main arteries, 35-year-old Saidi Ahmed Muhammed told of how he was still trying to pay off the loan for a business he lost in 2011 in a Lesley, Mpumalanga, arson attack.

Men broke into the shop while he and his family were asleep and poured acid on his wife’s back. They forced the family out the shop before looting it and setting it alight.

The Soweto lootings, he said, had put him out of business for a second time, which meant he would have to raise a third concurrent loan.

His Ethiopian business partner, their three assistants and his family of four are currently sleeping in the single sleeping area of his rented, subdivided flat. Muhammed’s four-year-old daughter Sa’ada, with flat, ear-length plaits, is sprightly but she breathes with a wheeze.

“She was operated on in Mpumalanga in 2013 but can no longer receive treatment at Gauteng hospitals as her birth and hospital records went missing in the 2011 fire.”

The burly, clean-shaven Muhammed said he had been to Evander Hospital in Mpumalanga more than four times with the requisite affidavit but her records could not be verified.

“She needs to get checked up but she hasn’t gone since the operation,” says Muhammed. “She had an oxygen nebuliser. That helped but it also got burned in Lesley.”

According to the National Health Act, foreign patients without any documentation or permits cannot be refused emergency medical treatment.

A Mail & Guardian story titled “Xenophobia violates Health Act and migrants’ rights to care”, detailed how, in contradiction of the Act, a guideline document was circulated to health workers in Gauteng last year, which “requires a migrant patient without documentation to pay in full before accessing healthcare services”.

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