Category Archives: East Africa

Kenya – economy bigger by 25% after rebasing statistics

Reuters

(Reuters) – Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) was assessed to be 25 percent bigger in 2013 after the authorities changed the base calculation year to 2009 from 2001, the government said on Tuesday.

Economic output was calculated to be 4.76 trillion shillings ($53.3 billion) after rebasing, up from 3.8 trillion Kenyan shillings ($42.6 billion), the minister for devolution and planning, Anne Waiguru, told a news conference.

Growth in 2013 was calculated to have been 5.7 percent after rebasing, up from the previous estimate of 4.7 percent.  Reuters

 

BBC

Kenya’s economy grows by 25% after recalculation

Construction workers in Nairobi

Kenya’s economy is believed to be 25% larger than previously estimated following a change in the way its size is calculated.

The recalculation means it will now be considered by economists and the World Bank as a middle-income country, rather than a low-income one.

As a result growth for 2013 was calculated to have been 5.7%, up from an earlier estimate of 4.7%.

It is now the fourth biggest economy in sub-Saharan African.

Nigeria, South Africa and Angola are the three biggest economies in the region.

Economic output was calculated to be 4.76 trillion shillings ($53.1bn; £32.8bn) in 2013 after rebasing, up from 3.8 trillion shillings, the minister for devolution and planning, Anne Waiguru, said on Tuesday.

Some of the most profitable sectors in Kenya – communications and property – were not considered in earlier calculations of GDP which used 2001 as a base year.

Authorities in the East African country have now changed the base calculation year to 2009 and revised the annual and quarterly national accounts statistics for the period 2006 to 2013.

Poverty levels

Standard Chartered Bank Africa economist Razia Khan said the recalculation confirmed “what we had previously suspected”.

“The economy has demonstrated good momentum and has been growing faster than the official data indicated all along. It fits with much of the anecdotal evidence available to us – still-robust business confidence and healthy private sector credit growth.”

Ms Khan said the rebasing lifted the average per capita income in Kenya to $1,246 “effectively meaning that the country moves to lower middle income status”.

According to the World Bank middle economies are those with a GDP per capita of more than $1,045 but less than $12,746.

While the recalculation is expected to lower debt levels and increase foreign investor confidence, analysts said the figure will change little for much of the population.

Poverty levels in the country remain at 45.9%, and life expectancy is at 61 years, as estimated by a 2013 World Bank report.

Several African countries have recently been reworking their economy figures, a trend which the Africa Development bank has said will show the continent’s economies collectively being one third bigger than previously thought.

Earlier this year Nigeria vaulted ahead of South Africa to clinch the number one position after it conducted a similar rebasing of its economy, placing the country’s GDP at $522.6bn.

BBC

China suspends arms deliveries to South Sudan

Bloomberg

China Halts Arms Sales to South Sudan After Norinco Shipment

Photographer: Samir Bol/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

President of South Sudan Salva Kiir, center, returns to Juba following a meeting in Ethiopia with rebel leader Riek Machar in Juba, South Sudan on August 26, 2014.

China halted weapons sales to South Sudan after it discovered the state arms manufacturer sold millions of dollars worth of equipment to the war-torn nation, a Chinese Embassy official said.

China North Industries Group Corp., known as Norinco, delivered its first consignment of a $38 million order to South Sudan in June. The Chinese government decided it was “inappropriate to implement” the remainder of the contract after details of the order came to light in July, Lan Kun, an attache at the Chinese Embassy in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, said in a Sept. 21 interview.

“No more weapons are heading to South Sudan,” he said. “There are some media reports that were alleging that the Chinese government was behind this business operation and wants to undermine this peace process. That is totally untrue.”

South Sudan has been wracked by a civil war since mid-December in which thousands of people have died and sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, according to the United Nations. China’s Foreign Ministry has repeatedly called for an end to hostilities, while Chinese Ambassador to the African Union Xie Xiaoyan has worked with U.S., Norwegian and U.K. diplomats to try to end the conflict.

U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth said he raised the issue about the weapons sale with Chinese officials during a visit to Beijing in July.

‘Frozen Delivery’

“I have been told and assured that they have frozen delivery of any further arms that are already sold and they continue to have a policy of no new arms agreements,” he said by phone from New York.

China is one of the biggest buyers of South Sudan’s oil, output of which has fallen by a third to about 160,000 barrels a day since fighting between President Salva Kiir’s government and insurgents loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar started nine months ago, according to the Petroleum Ministry. The violence has displaced 1.8 million people and left 4 million, almost a third of the population, in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.

China National Petroleum Corp. is one of three companies that pump oil in South Sudan. The company evacuated 97 of its staff in December because of the conflict, the state news agency Xinhua reported on Dec. 25.

‘Meaningful Steps’

Human Rights Watch, the New York-based advocacy group, has accused South Sudan’s army and rebel forces of crimes against humanity including massacres and rape during the fighting. Civilians had been purposefully targeted and killed, child soldiers recruited and towns pillaged, said HRW South Sudan researcher Skye Wheeler.

“Neither side has made any meaningful steps toward ending abuse or holding their forces to account for crimes driving South Sudan deeper into humanitarian crisis and causing terrible levels of suffering,” she said by e-mail.

Since the start of the war, China’s government “has asked all relevant Chinese companies to stop the weapons trade to South Sudan and this stance of the government has not changed,” Yu Ruilin, chief of the political section at the embassy, said in a Sept. 23 interview.

China’s government is committed to restoring peace to the nation, she said. Yu was unaware which shipments by Beijing-based Norinco had been stopped. The deal for the weapons was struck before the war broke out and the embassy had no knowledge of the sale, Lan said.

‘Critical Support’

“China’s support in halting arms flows to all parties in the conflict is critical to reaching a political resolution of the conflict,” Casie Copeland, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group’s South Sudan analyst, said by e-mail.

No one was available at Norinco in Juba for comment. The company’s office in Beijing referred questions to a man named Ji, who declined to comment when reached by phone on Sept. 29.

“Norinco observes international laws and the laws and regulations of the Chinese government,” he said. “We are under no obligations to talk about Norinco’s internal business with journalists.”

South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer said in a Sept. 21 interview in Juba he was unaware that the Chinese had stopped arms sales.

“We have weapons,” he said. “We are an army. We have no shortage of arms.”

‘Convenient’ Cancellation

South Sudan’s Army Chief of General Staff Paul Malong declined to be interviewed and two calls to Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk’s mobile phone didn’t connect.

News of the weapons order prompted Amnesty International, the London-based advocacy group, and a coalition of 30 non-governmental organizations to call for an embargo against arms sales to South Sudan. During a visit to Juba last month, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said reports of arms purchases were “very worrying.”

China’s decision to halt the weapons sale comes “conveniently” after one shipment arrived in South Sudan, said Jonah Leff, director of operations at Brussels-based Conflict Armament Research.

“Nevertheless, it’s indicative of a renewed effort on their part to not play a part in fueling the conflict with arms,” Leff said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Ambassador Mawien Makol Arik, spokesman for South Sudan’s foreign minister, said he did not understand what the issue was with buying military equipment.

‘Sovereign Right’

“When it comes to weapons, this is a sovereign country, we can contract anybody who can give us some weapons,” he said. “This is the right of any country not just South Sudan.”

Chinese weapons have been a feature of South Sudan’s conflict, said Emile LeBrun of the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based research institute.

“If it is true that the Chinese government has frozen exports of weapons and ammunition to South Sudan it would be a wise step in light of the situation on the ground and the potential for violence in the dry season,” she said.

Arik declined to comment on whether South Sudan’s government was planning a major offensive against rebel forces in the northern part of the country early next year, after the current rainy season has ended.

“We cannot judge something that has not come. We are telling the rebels, fighting will not help us. You better wind up now,” he said.

Asked again, Arik said: “We hope that peace comes and that is the hope of all South Sudan.” He then laughed and ended the interview. Bloomberg

South Sudan – Kiir government agrees federal system

Sudan Tribune

September 27, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The peace talks between the South Sudanese warring factions have seen a slow but encouraging progress as president Salva Kiir’s government has agreed to installation of federal system of governance.

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IGAD mediators and South Sudan negotiating teams at the sigining of the ceasefire agreement in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 23 January 2014 (Photo: IGAD/CEWARN)

Observers at the peace talks told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that various committees formed were working on different documents in order to agree on issues of security, governance and economy of the young troubled nation.

“Government negotiators have agreed to the call for federalism in South Sudan. This is a significant step and good gesture to reach a political settlement,” an observer close to the process said.

The rebel faction SPLM-in-Opposition under the leadership of the former vice-president, Riek Machar have been calling to restructure the South Sudanese state on the basis of federalism which the government had previously rejected.

The recent change of heart by the government is seen as a good gesture towards reaching a political settlement to end the 9-month-long civil war in the country.

Sources indicated that government negotiators have also agreed that a prime minister, which would be a nominee by the rebel group in the proposed transitional leadership power-sharing arrangements, would also run for public office. The latest development is a reverse to the IGAD protocol which denied the prime minister the right to contest in elections, a position previously supported by the government.

Machar’s opposition faction also suggested a prime minister would be the head of government and its security organs while the president would be the head of state who would be ceremonial in roles.

While the rebels agreed and preferred to discuss a parliamentary system similar to the leadership arrangements in Ethiopia, the government leaned towards adopting a system similar to the Grand Coalition which Kenya used between the former president Mwai Kibaki and his rival Raila Odinga.

It is not clear whether the parties will beat the 45-day dateline imposed by IGAD within which to reach a final peace agreement.

Meanwhile the warring parties continue to trade accusations over the recent clashes in Upper Nile state which threatens to interrupt the oil production in the main oil fields of Paloich.

Tens of thousands of people have died and over 1.5 million displaced since the conflict within the ruling party turned violent in mid-December.

The IGAD-mediated peace process is seen as the only hope to peacefully end the conflict and avert the looming humanitarian crisis in the fragile region.

(ST)

South Sudan – human rights chief says conflict heightening ethnic divisions

Sudan Tribune

September 28, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese conflict, now in its ninth month, has promoted tension, fear and mistrust among the Dinka and Nuer tribes, a senior official said last week.

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Lawrence Korbandy (C) with other members of the panel addressing South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network members, September 21, 2012 (ST)

Lawrence Korbandy, the chairperson of South Sudan Human Right Commission (SSHRC), told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that ethnic tensions have destroyed the social cohesion and fabric of communities especially among larger tribes.

“This explains why over 90,000 IDPs who live under protection of the UNMISS (UN Mission in South Sudan) are reluctant to go back to their homes. Often, their reluctance is justified by ethnic tension, mistrust and sense of fear for possible annihilation by the other tribe,” Korbandy said from Geneva.

“All these undermine the spirit of coexistence, peace and reconciling process,” he added.

However, South Sudanese president Salva Kiir told the 69th session of the UN general assembly in New York on Thursday that the conflict was purely a political crisis and not an ethnic struggle for power.

“My government has demonstrated its firm commitment to peace, has unreservedly honoured these agreements, and is continuing to negotiate in good faith to find a peaceful solution to the conflict,” said Kiir, who accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of “impatience”.

Korbandy said the young nation has witnessed one of the worst internal displacements of its civilian population, notably in central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states. To date over 90,000 people are living in IDP camps, the majority under the protection of the UN at various sites across the country.

“The conditions of the IDP camps have not been very good which needs humanitarian intervention,” he told the UNHRC meeting.

Nearly 1.5 million South Sudanese have been displaced due to the conflict as aid agencies warned of possible famine early next year.

The SSHRC chairperson, however, acknowledged efforts by government to promote and protect the rights of the country’s citizens, citing the formation of the investigation committee on human rights abuses headed the former chief justice of South Sudan.

“The committee is doing its work and soon may issue their findings in a form of a comprehensive report. The Commission is monitoring this process very closely,” said Korbandy.

Also in place, he said, was the formation of the crisis management committee by government to, among other functions, educate the people, that; the conflict did not target certain ethnic groups, but a national crisis requiring the unity of the South Sudanese to resolve it.

Meanwhile, Korbandy said SSHRC accepts and welcomes of the African Union Commission of Inquiry into the South Sudan conflict. The five-member body, which is headed by former Nigerian president Olusugen Obasanjo, has been tasked with investigating rights abuses and promoting the healing process.

(ST)

Somalis feel safer in Mogadishu than a year ago according to survey

BBC

Somalis ‘feeling safer’ in Mogadishu, survey says

Children play in celebration after attending Eid al-Fitr prayers to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan in Somalia"s capital Mogadishu, July 28, 2014.Many Somalis have returned home in recent years as security has improved

Residents of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, are feeling safer and more optimistic than they were a year ago, according to a new survey.

The Heritage Institute of Policy Studies, which analysed data collected from more than 1,600 residents, said people reported a decline in violence.

However, serious concerns remain, such as attacks by Islamist group al-Shabab, and mistrust of the security services.

Somalia has been ravaged by conflict for more than two decades.

Thousands of Somalis have been returning from abroad to help rebuild the country as security has improved in recent years.

A displaced child stands outside the family"s temporary dwelling after fleeing famine in the Marka Lower Shebbele regions to the capital Mogadishu, September 20, 2014. But life remains grim for the thousands of people who live in Mogadishu’s refugee camps

Al-Shabab was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 but still stages frequent attacks in the city and controls many rural areas.

In February, its fighters stormed Villa Somalia, a large complex which houses the presidential palace and other government institutions, killing 11 people.

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Analysis: Mary Harper, BBC Somali expert

Although most of those interviewed for the survey feel safer and more optimistic than they did last year, the fact that they still have major security concerns shows the vast challenges facing the Somali government and its international supporters.

The fear of increased attacks by Islamist insurgents and others, the deep mistrust of the judiciary and the security forces, and the violent land disputes would, in most countries, be considered an unacceptably insecure environment in which to live.

But for Somalis in Mogadishu, this is seen as an improvement compared to the intense violence they have endured for the past two decades.

Somalia, particularly the southern and central regions, still has a long way to go, both in terms of security and institution-building.

But optimism and resilience are key parts of that journey, and if they can be harnessed by the government and others responsible for improving life in Somalia, they could help propel the country towards a better future at last.

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According to the report, “the overwhelming majority of respondents stated that they had not witnessed clan or group conflict in the last 12 months”.

However, many people still say they are concerned about disputes between different clans, and al-Shabab attacks.

They also said they did not trust the security forces of the judiciary.

In one area, 66% of respondents say they preferred to report civil matters to traditional elders, with just 7% going to the police.

Only 13% said they trusted the courts, compared to 48% for traditional leaders and 29% for religious leaders.

The African Union has some 22,000 troops in Somalia, in support of the UN-backed government.

Soldiers of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) secure an area near a prison in Mogadishu on 31 August 2014 The African Union has helped the government retake territory from al-Shabab

Rwanda’s forgotten men in the international tribunal system

Reuters

Rwanda court’s forgotten men pose challenge to international justice

Sun Sep 28, 2014 7:02pm BST

Preserved skulls are spread out on a metal shelf in a Catholic church in Nyamata April 9, 2014.  REUTERS/Noor Khamis

Preserved skulls are spread out on a metal shelf in a Catholic church in Nyamata April 9, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Noor Khamis

THE HAGUE/DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Justin Mugenzi was legally cleared of any role in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. But an oversight in the international justice system means he remains a virtual prisoner in a United Nations safe house in the eastern African state of Tanzania.

“My wife and eight children are all Belgian citizens now,” the 75-year-old former trade minister told Reuters in Dar es Salaam after submitting a third – and unsuccessful – visa application to the Belgian embassy there.

“I have nowhere else to go,” said Mugenzi.

Despite his acquittal last year by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based 650 km (400 miles) further north in the city of Arusha, he is too scared to go back to Rwanda, where political rivals now hold sway.

The ICTR is scheduled to hand down four more verdicts on Monday, potentially creating more such limbo cases.

The plight of Mugenzi and others like him is a setback to years-long efforts to create a system of international justice by using special courts such as the ICTR – set up to try those accused of carrying out the Rwandan genocide – or permanent tribunals with a more general remit such as the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

Backers say such courts are needed to deal with the world’s worst criminals: perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. But some doubt their legitimacy, pointing to the ICC’s patchy record in securing convictions.

The ICC’s critics say it ignores crimes in the West to focus on Africa. The collapse through lack of evidence this month of the case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta – accused of stoking ethnic violence after Kenya’s 2007 elections – was a new blow to its credibility after a string of failed prosecutions.

Arrangements exist for witnesses to resettle or for defendants to go to jail in third countries. But when the tribunals were created in the early 1990s, no one imagined that those acquitted would be either unable or unwilling to go home.

International law experts say this snag could further undermine confidence in the courts.

“How can we possibly consider a system to be fair if before the trial, the tribunal makes lots of arrangements about where to put the defendants in jail if they’re convicted but makes no arrangements at all for what’s going to happen to them if they’re acquitted?” said Kevin Heller, Professor of Criminal Law at SOAS, University of London.

SAFE HOUSE

Like Mugenzi, 10 other individuals acquitted or freed by the ICTR are living in a safe house – in limbo in a country that is not theirs.

“We couldn’t leave these men on Arusha’s sidewalks, with their small suitcases, no pocket money and not the slightest idea of where they would go,” said Pascal Besnier, chief of the judicial and legal affairs section at the ICTR.

But what was intended as a temporary solution when the first acquittal was handed down in 2001 is still in place. Only six men have been resettled – in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. The safe house’s longest-standing resident has been there for over 10 years. This month, an acquitted former general joined his family in Belgium – the first to leave since 2010.

Tanzania tolerates their presence under UN surveillance but other countries are not keen to welcome them. France has taken in two and believes others should now step forward.

In the well-appointed safe house in Arusha, where the ICTR’s registrar used to live, acquitted and freed prisoners share meals and do the chores. They are allowed to travel around but they often stay in. “Why would we go to town?” one resident asked. “We can’t work or study.”

Each resident costs $1,500 a month including rent, telephone, cooks, guards and other outgoings. The house, paid for by the United Nations and guarded by Tanzanian police, is almost full even before Monday’s fresh set of verdicts.

In a statement to the ICTR, Kigali said it would welcome the acquitted and respect the ICTR’s verdicts.

“The official position of the Government of Rwanda … is of respect for decisions of courts, including the ICTR, irrespective of whether the Government, Civil Society or any other person or body perceives them to be less than fair”, said the Ministry of Justice.

But after Mugenzi and his family fled Rwanda 20 years ago, he has nothing to return to. He fears for his safety in a land where his acquittal was condemned at public demonstrations.

“They’re very high profile people,” said the ICTR president, Judge Vagn Joensen. “We can’t force them back.”

Some of them have “well-founded fears” of going back, said Human Rights Watch senior Africa researcher Carina Tertsakian, adding that they risked being prosecuted on other charges.

“It may well be that those people have a case to answer but our concern has to do with whether the process of justice would be fair,” she said.

Contacted by Reuters, Rwandan Justice Minister Johnston Busingye denied there would be any attempt to make them face similar charges if they returned.

“I can assure you that nobody would say, ‘Now they have survived conviction for genocide I am going to hit them with genocide denial or ideology or divisionism’ – nobody!” he said.

ANTI-IMMIGRANT SENTIMENT

Applying for refugee status is a long shot for them. Having been accused of the worst crimes is often enough for an application to be rejected. The Western countries in which they have families are increasingly reluctant to receive them, not least because of a rise of anti-immigrant sentiment that has accompanied Europe’s protracted economic downturn.

“The potential public reaction might be quite an issue,” said Belgian Justice Ministry official Adrien Vernimmen.

According to the ICTR statute, states must assist the tribunal, including in the arrest and detention of defendants. But it does not mention the relocation of acquitted individuals. Neither does the Rome statute, which created the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Yet, with only two convictions and one acquittal so far – all being appealed – even the ICC is already facing this issue.

Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, a former Congolese militia leader acquitted in 2012 after prosecutors failed to prove he ordered atrocities in eastern Congo in 2003, has lodged an asylum request in The Netherlands saying he will be persecuted after he testified against Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

ICC officials play down the issue. “So far there is one acquitted person. He didn’t want to go back but nothing tells us that that will be the norm for the future,” said ICC registrar Herman von Hebel, adding he was sure Ngudjolo could return.

Yet, the problem could come up in future. If acquitted, would former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo want to return to a country led by his rival Alassane Ouattara and where his wife, who also faces ICC charges, sits in detention?

Experts fear this could hurt the image of international criminal justice, already criticised for its alleged slowness, selectivity and alleged shortcomings of its prosecutions.

“It is a human rights issue that the international community, through the UN, takes over criminal proceedings and then doesn’t complete the work and reinstate people who have been acquitted by our system,” said the ICTR’s Vagn Joensen.

Von Hebel said he was confident the ICC would be able to build a wider network of states willing to help in the future. But international tribunals, by definition dependent on states’ cooperation, have no means of forcing them to comply.

With the ICTR due to close next September, observers wonder what will happen to the remaining residents of the safe house. The tribunal says it will find a solution for the time being.

“As long as those people have not found homes elsewhere, we will try to continue helping them,” said judge Theodor Meron of the ICTR.

In the longer term, says David Donat Cattin, secretary general of Parliamentarians for Global Action, a network of international lawmakers, it boils down to political will.

“Governments are very lazy,” he said. “They are ready to support the court when there is an anniversary, but when they have to do concrete things, they are very reluctant.”  Reuters

 

South Sudan – Obasanjo says South Sudan conflict was political but became ethnic

Voice of America

South Sudan Conflict ‘Quickly Turned Ethnic,’ Obasanjo Tells UN Rights Council


FILE - A sick displaced man lies asleep on a bed while a mother bathes her son and keeps an eye on her other child in the United Nations camp in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 12, 2014.

FILE – A sick displaced man lies asleep on a bed while a mother bathes her son and keeps an eye on her other child in the United Nations camp in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 12, 2014.

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo told a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting this week that the nine-month conflict in South Sudan took on distinct ethnic overtones early on.

“The recent problem – the one of the 15th of December – started as a political disagreement in Juba,  but quickly degenerated into an ethnic conflict… and it has led, particularly among two major ethnic groups, the Dinka and the Nuer, to a very, very bad situation,” Obasanjo said.

Obasanjo, who chairs an African Union Commission of Inquiry that is investigating human rights abuses in South Sudan, was reacting to a speech made by South Sudanese Justice Minister Paulino Waniwilla Unango at a panel discussion hosted by the Geneva-based Rights council

The recent problem – the one of the 15th of December – started as a political disagreement in Juba, but quickly degenerated into an ethnic conflict.

Unango praised the government of President Salva Kiir for successfully defusing tensions in South Sudan, including by sending members of a committee around the country to spread the message “… that there was no ethnic struggle, based especially among the two major ethnic groups in my country.”

“It was a political struggle within the same party, resulting in the armed conflict,” Unango said.

The justice minister also asserted that government efforts have led to vastly improved security in Juba, and thousands of internally displaced persons (IDP) who had sought shelter at U.N. compounds have returned to their homes.

No South Sudan leader can claim innocence.

Unango said a peacebuilding committee set up by the government “has succeeded in Juba in bringing out a lot of people from the IDP centers, from IDP compounds on UNMISS” sites.

“And, also, the government has improved security in Juba by providing more police force,” he said.

But Ibrahim Wani, the director of Human Rights for the U.N. Mission in South Sudan  (UNMISS), told the panel South Sudan was still rife with “serious human rights problems,” including revenge rapes, killings — some of them ethnically targeted — and mass displacement. Security was still lacking and people’s lives are still severely disrupted, he said.

Juba-based UNMISS spokesman Joseph Contreras disputed the claim that IDPs are leaving U.N. bases around South Sudan and going back home.

FILE - A young displaced girl washes clothes alongside a row of tents in the United Nations camp in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 12, 2014.

FILE – A young displaced girl washes clothes alongside a row of tents in the United Nations camp in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 12, 2014.

“The latest estimate is, I think, around 99,000 staying at various bases of UNMISS nationwide,” Contreras said. Data released Thursday by the U.N. show that around 97,000 people are sheltering at U.N. bases in South Sudan; 28,000 of them are at two U.N. compounds in Juba.

“I think it’s fair to say that most of the people we have been protecting for the past months are still staying on our premises,” Contreras said.

Both sides guilty of rights violations

Mr. Obasanjo did not indicate  when the African Union commission he leads will submit its final report, but he said he has “no doubt that there have been gross violations of human rights in South Sudan,” and that they have been committed by both sides.

“No South Sudan leader can claim innocence,” he said.

The panel discussion was held during the Geneva-based Human Right’s Council’s 27th session. South Sudan has also been the topic of discussion on many occasions at the U.N. General Assembly session, being held in New York this week.

In speeches to the General Assembly and at high-level meetings, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and African presidents have urged the leaders of South Sudan to make peace so that the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who are displaced, face hunger and are exposed to disease, can be alleviated.

Peace talks, which regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), has been hosting since January, have so far been unsuccessful in ending the fighting in South Sudan, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives and displaced around 1.8 million.

President Kiir will address the U.N. General Assembly session in New York on Saturday. VoA

Waakhe Simon Wudu contributed to this report.