Category Archives: Central Africa

South Sudan – Sudan’s Bashir says Egypt providing South Sudan’s Kiir with arms

Sudan Tribune


(KHARTOUM) – Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir has ruled out the direct involvement of the Egyptian arm in South Sudan’s conflict but said Cairo provided President Salva Kiir with weapons and ammunition.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (Photo Reuters)

Speaking to reporters aboard the plane returning to Khartoum from Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, al-Bashir denied that Egypt had conducted any air attacks on the positions of the SPLM-In-Opposition in Kaka town of Upper Nile state, as it was claimed by the rebels on 3 February.

However “We have intelligence that they supported the South Sudanese government, and continue to support the government with arms and ammunition,” he disclosed in his answer to a question from a journalist.

“But I do not expect to fight in the South Sudan,” he further said.

Last January President Salva Kiir visited Cairo where he held talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Egyptian officials.

At the time, officials in Juba said the purpose of the visit was to thank Egypt for its diplomatic support to Juba government at the level of the United Nations Security Council.

Sudan as the rest of the IGAD countries including Uganda vowed to not support the warring parties in South Sudan’s festering conflict. They also agreed to keep the former Frist Vice-President Riek Machar out of the region.

Also, Washington called to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, pointing to UN reports about “strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines with a potential for genocide”.

(ST)

Cameroon – revolt by English-speakers indicates wider opposition to Biya

Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane)

23 Feb 2017 <!––>  /  by Liesl Louw-Vaudran

For three activists from western Cameroon who joined a call for the recognition of their linguistic preferences, last week didn’t bring any good news. The lawyer, teacher and journalist have been locked up since mid-January, and their case before a military tribunal was again suspended on 13 February, to 23 March. Cameroonian jails are notorious for not being easy on their inmates.

The arrests of Agbor Balla, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibissi came amid a crackdown against Cameroonians from the Anglophone regions who participated in anti-government protests these past few weeks. The three, who are among at least 100 people arrested, are charged with sabotage, terrorism and inciting secessionism and civil war – charges that could carry the death penalty.

Meanwhile, the Internet in northwest and southwest Cameroon, the two affected Anglophone regions of the country (out of a total of 10), has been cut off completely for over a month. This decision is estimated to be costing the country US$1.39 million. The organisation Access Now has appealed to the Internet service providers to ignore a directive by the government in Yaoundé and to re-establish the connections.

The Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, a well-known rights group, has also been banned since civil society groups and students took to the streets in mid-November last year; and local independent media have been shut down. The protest action was marked by violent clashes between stone-throwing youths and the police, as well as stay-aways and boycotts.

The main gripe of these groups is that the bilingual principle enshrined in the constitution is not respected. Instead, English-speakers feel they are forced to assimilate and accept what the predominantly Francophone majority dictates.

The crisis has historical roots. Cameroon went from being a German colony, to two separate colonial territories ruled by France and Britain after World War I up until independence in 1960. Following a plebiscite in 1961, the British part was reunited with the French Cameroon. The Francophone authorities that have ruled the country since then have pursued a centralised system of government after a brief period of federalism that officially ended in 1972, following a referendum.

Teachers and students say that the central government should send Anglophone rather than French-speaking teachers to schools in the two regions where English dominates. Lawyers also complain that the British Common Law, used in British Cameroon during colonial times, should be maintained in the region. The use of French in the administration limits access and discriminates against those who speak English, they argue.

Some analysts also emphasise that the revolt in the northwest is symptomatic of a larger problem of governance and a state characterised by corruption and inertia. Between 2000 and 2009, northerners – predominantly Muslims – also complained of marginalisation and the absence of the state.

In 2008, protests against soaring food prices rocked the country, as it did periodically since the 1990s. This also led to a violent crackdown by the government.

‘There have been many missed opportunities by the government to handle this issue adequately,’ says Fonteh Akum, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, who has previously written on the Anglophone zones in Cameroon.

Attempts at implementing a federal system where Anglophones would have their own courts with effective administrative decentralisation have been undermined by ‘irresponsibility and corruption,’ he says. A decentralisation framework already exists, but has been selectively implemented.

‘The government initially argued   that this was a non–issue and that these are secessionists. They refused to acknowledge that Anglophones have legitimate claims,’

Cameroonian scholar Achille Mbembe points out that the claims by Anglophones started as linguistic and cultural, but have become far more political. ‘They don’t feel there is a place for them in this centralised state,’ Mbembe, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, told ISS Today.

Anglophones are treated like second-class citizens who don’t benefit from the oil revenues that are situated in their region. Very few important government positions are occupied by Anglophones. ‘There has never been an Anglophone minister of defence or finance. People complain that the administration doesn’t speak their language’.

However, Mbembe says the calls for secession by civil society groups and on social media is ‘very dangerous’. These started in the mid-1990s, with the first call for secession by the Southern Cameroon National Council. ‘The cost of secession is just too great,’ says Mbembe, who believes that Africa should move towards greater pan-Africanism instead of dividing in small ‘micro-states’.

He says the regime of President Paul Biya, who has been in power for 35 years, is characterised by ‘inertia, indifference and abandonment’.

Opinions differ as to how much support there is for the Anglophone cause in the rest of Cameroon. Some say that in the initial stages of the protests, Francophone Cameroonians supported the calls by trade unions and students. These were seen as legitimate. However this sympathy has waned due to some radical views – expressed on social media – that a ‘genocide’ is being planned against western Cameroonians. The majority Francophone inhabitants also reject the secessionist claims.

Yet there have also been expressions of solidarity with the Anglophone cause countrywide. Following the African Cup of Nations victory by the Cameroonian Lions last month, goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa, who is Francophone from Yaoundé, dedicated the African Cup to ‘our brothers from Bamenda’ [the capital of northwestern Cameroon]. ‘We need a united Cameroon,’ he said in a message widely circulated on social media. ‘I am from Bamenda, for you,’ he concluded in English.

Thus far, there has been little reaction from the international community. The African Union (AU), apart from one statement expressing concern over the situation, hasn’t been involved in any efforts to calm the situation in western Cameroon. It is likely that the AU is adopting a wait-and-see attitude, and will only act if the situation worsens.

What matters most to the international community is that Cameroon remains stable and continues to be part of the global fight against terrorism. (The government has joined forces with Nigeria, Chad and Niger to root out Boko Haram.)

For now, the instability, characterised by various waves of contestation, is up to Cameroonians to handle. Biya (84) is set to stand for re-election next year – and the expectation is that he will win another mandate, despite the growing popular displeasure with his rule.

Liesl Louw-Vaudran, ISS Consultant

South Sudan – EU pledges $82m in emergency famine aid

Sudan Tribuneseparation


February 22, 2017 (JUBA) – The European Commission has announced an emergency aid worth €82 million in the wake of the declaration of famine outbreak in South Sudan.

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European flags are seen outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels (Reuters Photo)

At least 100,000 people, aid agencies said, are facing starvation in parts of the country while 4.9 million of them need urgent humanitarian assistance.

“The humanitarian tragedy in South Sudan is entirely man made. Urgent action is needed to prevent more people from dying of hunger. I have seen for myself the impact of this crisis when visiting South Sudan and neighbouring countries such as Uganda, and I’m ready to return to the region,” the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides said in a statement.

“Crucially what matters is that all parties allow humanitarian organisations to have immediate and full access to do their job and deliver aid. Ultimately it is only by laying down arms that the country can be rebuilt and that the hopes that came with independence can be fulfilled,” it adds.

The new EU humanitarian aid package will be used for the most urgent needs in the country and help neighbouring countries cope with the massive influx of refugees.

To date, the European Commission has reportedly made more than €381 million available to respond to the worsening humanitarian crisis in South Sudan since fighting erupted in December 2013 in areas such as health and nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene interventions, education as well as shelter and protection.

The EU is one of the biggest donors of humanitarian aid in South Sudan, having provided over 40% of all humanitarian financing to support life-saving programmes in 2016.

(ST)

South Sudanese exiles fear kidnap in Kenya after activist disappears

Reuters

By Katharine Houreld | NAIROBI

NAIROBI A Kenyan court said on Wednesday that the state did not have custody of two South Sudanese activists missing from Nairobi, stoking suspicions among other opposition supporters that they may be detained by Juba’s security agents.

Human rights lawyer Dong Samuel Luak and writer Aggrey Idri Ezibon, both supporters of South Sudan’s opposition, went missing from the Kenyan capital within hours of each other on Jan. 23 and 24.

After they disappeared, their families filed a case in Kenya to stop a possible deportation back to South Sudan after other opposition figures were sent home.

But Kenyan state lawyers said the men were not in Kenyan custody. The judge ruled “the applicants’ disappearance can only be … abduction”.

Oil-rich South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, plunged into war in 2013, when President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, fired his deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer.

Machar fled after a shaky peace deal collapsed in July and fighting has increasingly split the country along ethnic lines. Parts of the country are suffering from famine and more than 3 million South Sudanese have fled their homes.

Many opposition figures, including Luak and Ezibon, sought refuge in other East African countries.

But regional powers became less welcoming to Machar’s supporters after the rebellion split and one of Machar’s former colleagues, Taban Deng Gai, joined the government in July, said Casie Copeland, senior analyst for South Sudan at Brussels-based thinktank International Crisis Group.

Since then, Machar’s supporters have faced curbs on their political activities in Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan, she said.

In November, Kenya deported James Gatdet Dak, Machar’s main spokesman, back to Juba.

A man previously imprisoned at the headquarters of South Sudan’s National Security Services told Reuters he saw Gatdet there. The former inmate, who asked not to be named, said torture was rife and prisoners malnourished.

The South Sudanese government did not return calls seeking comment. It have not confirmed Gatdet is in custody.

A South Sudanese rights activist based in Uganda, Peter Gai Manyuon, told Reuters on Wednesday that a friend in the South Sudanese security services had told him that agents wanted to kidnap him and another activist.

They blamed Manyuon and Luak for a report detailing the wealth of South Sudanese officials, he said.

Aya Benjamin, Ezibon’s wife, said she feared others may go missing. Three opposition leaders had fled Kenya, she said.

“I’m not safe anywhere except home. I hope peace comes in South Sudan so I can go home,” she said.

Another Nairobi-based opposition activist who asked not to be identified named five prominent opposition figures who left Kenya in recent months.

“Some were called from an anonymous number and warned,” he said. Their circle feared Luak and Ezibon had either been secretly deported to Juba by Kenya or kidnapped by South Sudan, he said.

Kenyan police and foreign office officials did not return calls seeking comment.

(Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Editing by Alison Williams)

Africa – why are there still famines?

BBC

Women hold their babies as they wait for a medical check-up at a Unicef-supported mobile health clinic in Nimini village, Unity State, South SudanReuters

The United Nations has declared a famine in parts of South Sudan, the first to be announced anywhere in the world in six years. There have also been warnings of famine in north-east Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. Why are there still famines and what can be done about it?

What is happening in South Sudan?

UN agencies say 100,000 people are facing starvation in South Sudan and a further 1 million there are classified as being on the brink of famine. This is the most acute of the present food emergencies. It is also the most widespread nationally. Overall, says the UN, 4.9 million people – or 40% of South Sudan’s population – are “in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance”.

“Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” says the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization representative in South Sudan, Serge Tissot.

The basic cause of the famine is conflict. The country has now been at war since 2013 and more than 3 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

As World Food Programme country director Joyce Luma says: “This famine is man-made.”

“The people are predominantly farmers and war has disrupted agriculture. They’ve lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch,” says Mr Tissot.

Crop production has been severely curtailed by the conflict, even in previously stable and fertile areas, as a long-running dispute among political leaders has escalated into a violent competition for power and resources among different ethnic groups.

As crop production has fallen and livestock have died, so inflation has soared (by up to 800% year-on-year, says the UN) causing massive price rises for basic foodstuffs.

This economic collapse would not have happened without war.

What does the declaration of famine mean?

The UN considers famine a technical term, to be used sparingly. The formal famine declaration in South Sudan means people there have already started dying of hunger.

More specifically, famine can be declared only when certain measures of mortality, malnutrition and hunger are met. These are:

  • at least 20% of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope;
  • acute malnutrition rates exceed 30%;
  • and the death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons.

Other factors that may be considered include large-scale displacement, widespread destitution, disease outbreaks and social collapse.

The declaration of a famine carries no binding obligations on the UN or anyone else, but does bring global attention to the problem.

Map showing scale of malnutrition

Previous famines include southern Somalia in 2011, southern Sudan in 2008, Gode in the Somali region of Ethiopia in 2000, North Korea (1996), Somalia (1991-1992) and Ethiopia in 1984-1985.

The possibility of three further famine declarations in Nigeria, Somali and Yemen would be an unprecedented situation in modern times.

“We have never seen that before and with all of these crises, they are protracted situations and they require significant financing,” World Food programme director of emergencies Denise Brown told the Guardian. “The international community has got to find a way of stepping up to manage this situation until political solutions are found.”

What can be done in South Sudan?

In the immediate term, two things would be necessary to halt and reverse the famine: More humanitarian assistance and unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies to those worst affected.

Camp for displaced people in South SudanAFP   Many South Sudanese are living in makeshift camps, having been displaced by the fighting

UN agencies speak of handing out millions of emergency livelihood kits, intended to help people fish or grow vegetables. There has also been a programme to vaccinate sheep and goats in an attempt to stem further livestock losses.

But, says Ms Luma, “we have also warned that there is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security”.

The areas where a famine has been declared are in parts of Unity State seen as sympathetic to the rebels.

Unity state, South Sudan

Some UN officials have suggested President Salva Kiir’s government has been blocking food aid to certain areas. There have also been reports of humanitarian convoys and warehouses coming under attack or being looted, either by government or rebel forces.

Although it denies the charges, President Kiir has now promised “that all humanitarian and development organisations have unimpeded access to needy populations across the country”.

But apart from that, there has been no indication that the huge suffering of civilians will prompt South Sudan’s warring parties to stop fighting.

Why are there food security crises elsewhere?

The common theme is conflict.

Yemen, north-east Nigeria and Somalia are all places where fighting has severely disrupted stability and normal life.

In Yemen, a multi-party civil conflict has drawn in regional powers, causing widespread destruction, economic damage and loss of life.

Nigeria and Somalia have faced insurgencies by extremist Islamist groups Boko Haram and al-Shabab, respectively, leading to large-scale displacement of people, disruption of agriculture and the collapse of normal trading and market activities.

Yemenis collect water from a donated source amid continuing disruption of water supply in the impoverished coastal village on the outskirts of the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, on February 20, 2017AFP   Yemenis have suffered disruption to water supplies

In some cases, conflict has compounded pre-existing problems.

Yemen has long-standing water shortages and successive governments have been criticised for not doing more to conserve resources and improve the country’s ability to feed itself. (Even before the conflict started, nearly 90% of Yemen’s food had to be imported, Oxfam says.)

In other cases, shorter term climatic factors may be relevant.

South Sudan and Somalia have both been affected by a months-long drought across east Africa.

How is it different for more stable countries?

In Kenya, the government has declared a national disaster because of the drought and announced a compensation scheme for those who have lost livestock.

The Kenya Red Cross has been making cash payments, distributing food vouchers and aid and helping livestock owners sell off weakening animals before they die.

In pictures: Kenyans share their dinner to save livestock

This kind of ameliorative action is much less possible or likely in countries riven by war.

A mother feeds her malnourished child at a feeding centre run by Doctors Without Borders in Maiduguri, NigeriaAP   The Islamist insurgency in north-east Nigeria has left the area on the brink of famine

UN assistant secretary general Justin Forsyth told the BBC: “Nobody should be dying of starvation in 2017. There is enough food in the world, we have enough capability in terms of the humanitarian community.

“In South Sudan, [the UN children’s agency] Unicef has 620 feeding centres for severely malnourished children, so the places where children are dying are places we can’t get to, or get to only occasionally. If there was access, we could save all of these children’s lives.”

The US-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies says 19 African countries are facing crisis, emergency, or catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

Of these, 10 are experiencing civil conflict. Eight of these are autocracies and the source of 82% of the 18.5 million Africans who are internally displaced or refugees, the ACSS says.

UN allocates $21 million to Sudan Humanitarian Fund

Sudan Tribuneseparation


WFP food assistance being offloaded from a truck at a distribution site in the South Kordofan capital Kadugli (File Photo WFP)
February 20, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – The United Nations has contributed $21 million to the 2017 Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SHF) to help address growing humanitarian needs in Sudan.

In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune Monday, the UN said “the humanitarian challenges in Sudan are diverse and complex, including in Darfur where over 3 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance”.

“Funds to the SHF for this allocation have been donated by the governments of Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom,” read the statement.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Marta Ruedas, said the SHF “will continue to support the frontline responders in Sudan, the organisations working to provide relief every day, especially to the most vulnerable, such as women and children”.

The statement pointed that SHF plays a vital role in ensuring an effective, coordinated, prioritised and principled humanitarian response in Sudan.

“Since 2006, the SHF has received and granted over $1 billion to international and national NGOs, and UN agencies, funds and programmes, enabling these entities to provide relief to people in need,” it added

According to the statement, in 2016, the SHF allocated $38.8, which represented about eight percent of the overall funding available to humanitarian partners.

(ST)

South Sudan famine – Kiir promises access to civilians as famine bites

Star (Kenya)

Kiir promises safe access to civilians as South Sudan famine bites

Feb. 21, 2017, 3:00 pm

Women carry sacks of food in Nimini village, Unity State, northern South Sudan, February 8, 2017. /REUTERS
Women carry sacks of food in Nimini village, Unity State, northern South Sudan, February 8, 2017. /REUTERS

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Tuesday promised aid agencies safe access to hunger-stricken civilians, a day after his government declared a famine in parts of the war-ravaged country.

South Sudan has been mired in civil war since 2013 and the United Nations said on Monday it was unable to reach some of the worst hit areas because of the insecurity.

“The government will ensure all the humanitarian and developmental organisations have unimpeded access to the needy population across the country,” Kiir said in a speech to parliament.

Nearly half of South Sudan’s 11 million people will lack reliable access to affordable food by July, the government predicts, because of the fighting, drought and hyperinflation.

South Sudan has been hit by the same east African drought that has pushed Somalia back to the brink of famine, six years after 260,000 people starved to death in 2011.

The UN children’s agency, Unicef, on Tuesday said nearly 1.4 million children were at “imminent” risk of death in famines in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria.

South Sudan is rich in oil resources. But, six years after independence from neighbouring Sudan, there are only 200 km (120 miles) of paved roads in a nation the size of Texas. In the fighting, food warehouses have been looted and aid workers killed.

The conflict has increasingly split the country along ethnic lines, leading the United Nations to warn of a potential genocide.

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it had set up an emergency intervention in northern Mayendit county to help malnourished children. One in four children in Mayendit had acute malnutrition, MSF said.

“Providing healthcare is a major challenge in such a dangerous context: people are constantly moving to seek safety,” MSF said on Twitter.