Tag Archives: Riek Machar

South Sudan: ministers resigns from government and joins rebels

Reuters

By Katharine Houreld and Denis Dumo | NAIROBI/JUBA

A South Sudanese minister has defected to the rebels, the second high-level resignation this week from the government side locked in a civil war which has displaced more than 3 million people.

Lieutenant General Gabriel Duop Lam, the minister of Labour, sent a one-page letter saying he would join the rebellion of former vice president Riek Machar.

“I reaffirm my full allegiance and commitment to the … wise leadership of H.E. Dr. Riek Machar,” he wrote in the letter seen by Reuters on Friday.

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

The fighting that followed has increasingly followed ethnic lines, and in December the United nations warned that it was setting the stage for genocide.

Government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth, speaking at a news conference in Juba on Friday, confirmed Lam’s defection, the second resignation of a senior figure in a matter of days.

Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the well-respected deputy head of logistics, resigned from the military six days ago but did not say he was joining the rebels.

He cited massive human rights abuses by the military and rampant ethnic favouritism, charging that Kiir was filling key posts in the security forces with Dinka from his home area.

Many human rights groups have reported that the military has looted, raped and killed civilians.

Days after Swaka resigned, the government released a statement saying he had been implicated in a corruption investigation and had fled to avoid justice.

(Reporting by Katharine Houreld and Denis Dumo; editing by Dominic Evans)

South Sudan – army general resigns citing abuses and ethnic bias

Reuters

By Katharine Houreld | NAIROBI

A South Sudanese general has resigned, citing abuses by the security forces against civilians and what he called increasing ethnic favouritism in the military, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Saturday.

Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the deputy head of logistics, is the highest-ranking officer to resign since former Vice President Riek Machar fled after his supporters clashed in Juba in July with soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir.

Swaka, widely known as Cirillo, is respected by the international community and Western governments would see his resignation and the charges he has levelled as an indictment of the government, one security expert in Nairobi said.

South Sudan has been riven by conflict since 2013, two years after seceeding from North Sudan. Fighting broke out a few months after Kiir, from the Dinka tribe, sacked Machar, a Nuer. His reinstatement in 2016 lasted just weeks before violence erupted again.

The conflict has increasingly followed ethnic lines, forcing three million people to flee their homes, bringing the nation of 11 million close to famine and leading the United Nations to say South Sudan was on the brink of genocide.

Swaka’s letter reinforced those warnings.

“President Kiir and his Dinka leadership clique have tactically and systematically transformed the SPLA into a partisan and tribal army,” it read, using the acronym for the government Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

“Terrorising their opponents, real or perceived, has become a preoccupation of the government.”

Swaka said the military, police and other security branches systematically recruited Dinka from the president and chief of army staff’s home region. Non-Dinkas and Dinkas who disagreed with the president’s agenda were given remote postings or sidelined, he said.

He also said “soldiers from the Dinka ethnic group have been strategically deployed and posted in non-Dinka areas to support the policy of land occupation.”

Swaka said the military raped and killed civilians and allowed tribal militias to commit the same abuses as well as running a network of secret prisons where torture was endemic.

The government routinely dismisses charges of ethnic bias and blames rebels for stoking trouble. Officials say any soldier committing abuses will be held to account and the president said on Monday any soldier committing rape should be shot.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang did not return calls seeking comment about Swaka’s letter. The presidential spokesman also could not immediately be reached.

U.N. officials and Western governments have accused both sides in the conflict of abuses.

(Editing by Edmund Blair and Louise Ireland)

South Sudan – Rebel leader Machar backs AU call for end to conflict

Sudan Tribune

January 31, 2017 (JUBA) – South Sudan rebel leader, Riek Machar has strongly supported calls from the African Union, the East African regional bloc (IGAD) and United Nations for an end to the country’s conflict.

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South Sudan’s opposition leader Riek Machar speaks during a briefing in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa April 9, 2016 (Photo Reuters/ Tiksa Negeri)

Machar, who currently lives in South Africa, however, disagreed on the advocacy for an inclusive national dialogue in the young nation, saying it cannot be achieved in the absence of peace and stability.

Calls for both dialogue and an inclusive dialogue were made in a joint statement issued by AU, IGAD and the U.N during consultations on the South Sudan crisis at the sidelines of the just-concluded AU head of states and governments summit in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia.

The South Sudanese official said outcomes of the summit contradict the U.N Security Council approach to South Sudan’s ongoing crisis.

“The joint statement by the AU invigorated IGAD and the U.N seems to interpret the national dialogue declared by President Salva Kiir to invigorate peace process that was declared by the UNSC. The national dialogue we believe cannot replace the process aiming at reviving the agreement and ending the war,” explained Machar.

He said for a meaningful dialogue to take place, there was need to first end the war so as to create conducive environment and a safe space for the people of South Sudan in order to achieve inclusivity and enable people to express their views minus fear or favour.

“Our vision of the national dialogue is a participatory process inclusive of grassroots, refugees, internally displaced, victims and perpetrators of atrocities,” stressed the South Sudanese rebel leader.

Last month, the UNSC president called for a new invigorated inclusive political process to restore the agreement on the resolution of South Sudan’s conflict and end renewed fighting in the country.

Machar, however, insisted the new mechanisms adopted in Addis-Ababa at the sidelines of the AU summit, instead blessed president Kiir “self-made” national dialogue, which, he said, contradicted what the UNSC president said in relation to the South Sudan crisis.

“A national dialogue will not work as war continues across South Sudan. Dialogue comes after meaningful peace is achieved,” he said, urging the regional and international partners to instead dedicate their commitment a peace process that will end the war.

The South Sudanese rebel leader welcomed the appointment of Alpha Konare’s as the new AU envoy to South Sudan, vowing to closely work with the latter for peaceful resolution of the conflict.

(ST)

South Sudan – government rejects additional 4,000 UN troops

Al Jazeera


More than 12,000 UN peacekeeping mission troops have been in South Sudan since it gained independence in 2011 [File: EPA]

South Sudan has announced it will no longer accept the deployment of an additional 4,000 United Nations peacekeepers, saying the security situation in the county has improved.

The regional protection force, authorised by the UN Security Council in August after renewed fighting in the capital, Juba, is meant to strengthen the 13,500-strong UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan

UN dismisses South Sudan peacekeeping force chief

“The government of South Sudan has the ability to provide security and stability for the country and for its citizens without the deployment of a … protection force,” South Sudan’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Mawien Makol Ariik said on Wednesday.

The government’s move is a reversal of its earlier decision in November to accept the troops’ deployment.

Defence Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk also said there was no need for the regional protection forces to be deployed in South Sudan.

“Most of the people abroad still believe that there is fighting in Juba and around the country … but Juba is now secure,” Juuk told DPA news agency.


READ MORE: South Sudan accepts 4,000 more UN peacekeepers


Juuk’s remarks contradict reports of recent fighting in the north and south of the country.

The South Sudanese government had warned in August 2016 that the deployment of more UN forces would marginalise its sovereignty, but later gave its consent amid the threat of an arms embargo.

In December, a UN human rights commission urged a rapid deployment of the additional peacekeepers amid reports of ethnic killings.

A political split between President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his former deputy Riek Machar escalated into a military conflict in December 2013. Tens of thousands have been killed and more than two million displaced.

A unity government was formed in April, but fighting broke out again in July, sending Machar into exile.

The UN’s top human rights official has previously blamed South Sudanese government troops and rebels loyal to the president of ethnically targeted violations, including extrajudicial executions and sexual violence incidences in August 2015.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has previously faced criticism for failing to fully protect civilians facing violence.

In early November, Ban Ki-moon, the former UN secretary-general, dismissedthe commander of the UNMISS force following a damning report that accused the peacekeepers of failing to protect civilians during the outbreak of violence in July.

The report from a UN special investigation found that a lack of leadership in the UNMISS ended in a “chaotic and ineffective response” during the heavy fighting in the capital, Juba, from July 8 to 11 that killed dozens of people.

UN accused of giving arms to South Sudanese rebel commander before massacre

Washington Post

December 15 at 4:03 PM
The U.N. mission in South Sudan gave weapons to a top rebel general just weeks after civil war began three years ago, and his forces went on to carry out one of the war’s worst atrocities, according to a report released Thursday.

The Small Arms Survey, a ­Geneva-based research group, found that in December 2013
U.N. officials in the town of Bentiu in northern Unity state handed dozens of weapons, as well as ammunition, to rebel general James Koang.

Four months later, Koang’s troops killed hundreds of civilians sheltering in a mosque and a hospital in Bentiu, according to the United Nations and human rights groups. Koang has said in interviews that those killed were not civilians but members of a pro-government militia. The report did not say whether the weapons given by the United Nations were used in the massacre.

U.N. officials in South Sudan and New York did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the allegations.

South Sudan’s war, which entered its fourth year Thursday, has pitted soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against those backing the former vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer. Tens of thousands of people have died in battles that have played out along ethnic lines, and U.N. officials and human rights groups have accused both sides of committing crimes against humanity. A top U.N. human rights official recently warned that the country is on the verge of “all-out ethnic civil war” that could result in genocide.

U.N. warned of possible ‘all-out ethnic civil war’ in South Sudan

Members of the UN Human Rights Council were warned on Dec. 14, that inter-ethnic violence in South Sudan could degenerate into a “Rwanda-like” genocide. (UNTV)

The United Nations established a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan in 2011 that has grown to more than 13,000 soldiers and police officers.

Throughout the war, the U.N. mission has found itself caught in the crossfire, accused by each side of supporting the other, with U.N. bases at times coming under attack. U.N. investigations, aid groups and research groups have accused the U.N. mission of failing to adequately protect civilians, including people on and near its bases.

According to the new report, U.N. officials in South Sudan said in interviews that they gave about 80 assault rifles, five machine guns, grenades and ammunition to Koang. At the time, U.N. officials in Bentiu reported to the mission’s headquarters in Juba that there had been a transfer of 40 rifles, the report said. It quoted an unidentified rebel, meanwhile, as saying they received 500 guns from the United Nations.

The weapons came from soldiers and civilians who fled to the U.N. base in Bentiu for protection during the fighting and handed over their weapons to peacekeepers, according to the report.

Koang, a soft-spoken Nuer who was the top government military official in Bentiu when the war began, quickly defected and took control of Bentiu. He asked the United Nations to give him the guns, according to the report. U.N. officials complied, apparently because they considered the general a friend, the report said.

“When [James] Koang took power, we all knew him,” said one unidentified official from the U.N. mission in South Sudan who was quoted in the report. “The majority of the opposition leaders in Bentiu had been our usual interlocutors. We had even trained them.”

The report said that U.N. officials in Bentiu asked their bosses in the capital for guidance on the matter but none came, so they made their own decision. A subsequent request by Koang for more weapons was turned down, it said.

The United Nations and the U.S. government have imposed sanctions on Koang, with the U.S. Treasury Department saying that his rebels had “targeted civilians, including women and children, with killing, sexual violence and attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, and locations where civilians were seeking refuge.”

Meanwhile, the chief of the U.N. mission in South Sudan at the start of the war, Hilde Johnson, tried to give the government in Juba weapons that had been collected from Nuer who had fled to a U.N. base there after government soldiers went door-to-door executing Nuer citizens, according to the report.

The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York overruled Johnson, the report said, citing a cable sent to her from the headquarters. After Johnson stepped down in July 2014, her successor destroyed the weapons, the report said.

The Small Arms Survey report said the episodes reveal how the U.N. mission, known as UNMISS, struggled to maintain unified command and control and to understand that the South Sudanese officials on both sides who they had worked with before the crisis were now liable to commit atrocities.

The two cases show that ­“UNMISS failed to adapt quickly enough to the changed circumstances provoked by the conflict, and that it lacked neutrality,” the report said. “Both issues also show that the conflict triggered divisions within UNMISS” over which forces to support.

The South Sudan government still accuses the U.N. mission of supporting the rebels, in part because some 200,000 mostly Nuer people are staying at U.N. bases for fear of attack by government forces. The government has not presented evidence to back such accusations. People on the bases are also critical of U.N. peacekeepers, accusing them of standing by or running away when Kiir’s troops have sprayed bullets inside.

Who can stop the threat of genocide in South Sudan?

IRIN

KAMPALA, 14 November 2016

The alarm has been raised over the threat of genocide in South Sudan, with civilians increasingly targeted and persecuted in a scorched earth counter-insurgency campaign waged by government forces and their allies in the southern region of Equatoria.

After a visit to the southwestern town of Yei, Adama Dieng, the UN secretary-general’s special adviser on preventing genocide, warned on Friday that in the prevailing climate of violence and intolerance, there was “the potential for genocide”.

“Even on the day I visited,” he told a media briefing, “I saw families packing up the few belongings they have left and waiting on the side of the road for transport – either to Juba [the capital] or to neighbouring Uganda for refuge.”

Dieng said the gravity of the situation “merits immediate intervention – a full-scale fact-finding investigation and enhanced humanitarian support”.

Frontline Equatoria

Since former vice president Riek Machar fled Juba in July, the conflict in South Sudan has shifted from Greater Upper Nile to Equatoria, where the bulk of his SPLA-IO forces are sheltering.

Discontent has long simmered over the southern region’s perceived political marginalisation. Some groups have stuck with the government, but many others have teamed up with Machar’s SPLA-IO, resisting both the government’s undisciplined troops and their allies: armed Dinka cattle herders – tribesmen of President Salva Kiir – who are encroaching on their land.

South Sudanese refugee boys holding chickens on arrival in Uganda
Samuel Okiror/IRIN
South Sudanese refugee arriving in Uganda

The government response to dissent has historically been brutal. It is now fuelling not only an outpouring of refugees from the region, but also increasing local hostility towards the government and the Dinka – the largest ethnic group in the country who Kiir’s forces are seen as representing.

“The government appears to be conducting a brutal counter-insurgency campaign in greater Equatoria, including reports of the systematic targeting of civilians, gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and widespread sexual violence,” said Kate Almquist Knopf, director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, at the National Defense University, Washington.

“In response, Equatorian self-defense forces and armed groups have retaliated by attacking vehicles and targeting Dinka civilians, particularly in central Equatoria,” she told IRIN.

Tit-for-tat

In the most notorious case to date, gunmen ambushed a convoy of vehicles on the Yei-Juba road in October, separated the Dinka and executed them. Some youth groups have vowed revenge, prompting an exodus of Equatorians from the Dinka heartland of Bahr el Ghazal.

“Following the retreat of Machar and his opposition forces from Juba in July, we have witnessed a spike in the number of armed clashes and abuses against civilians in the Equatoria region,” noted Jonathan Pedneault, Human Rights Watch researcher for South Sudan.

Responding to the guerrilla tactics ,“the government has prosecuted very abusive counter-insurgency tactics in those areas,” Pedneault added. “Government forces have arbitrarily arrested, detained and beaten or tortured civilians for prolonged periods of time, often along ethnic lines and upon suspicions that they participate in the rebellion.”

There are many, overlapping conflicts in the greater Equatoria region. There is longstanding distrust between some Equatorians and the government, grievances that are separate from the national political dispute playing out between Kiir and Machar.

My enemy’s enemy

Some Equatorians feel sandwiched by the ethno-politicised conflict represented by Kiir and Machar, who draws much of his support from the Nuer, the country’s second largest ethnic group. They do not feel that a diverse Equatoria gets a fair shake from either side as both men battle for control of Juba, despite the fact the city falls within their territory.

But Machar’s rebel SPLA-IO remains a distinct presence, with its aligned Equatorian militias. Backing Machar in the short-term against perceived “Dinka domination” may seem a pragmatic strategy for a region that has historically been militarily weak.

SPLA soldiers
SPLA soldiers (file photo)

There is also local politics at play. Land grabbing, the appointment of an unpopular governor in Yei River State, and the depredations of a pro-government militia, the Mathiang Anyoor, have also helped accelerate the souring of relations.

As a consequence, greater Equatoria risks fracturing further. At the end of October, a new group calling itself the South Sudan Democratic Front announced a new rebellion against the Kiir government.

“We should expect more Equatorians to join the armed opposition groups that exist, and perhaps even additional ones to be declared,” Knopf said.

“The attacks and counter-attacks in greater Equatoria have sparked ethnic incitement from members of the Equatorian and Dinka communities, especially amongst the youth,” she added. “Nearly every indicator of risk of genocide is now evident in South Sudan.”

Humanitarian toll

The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has warned that the conflict has spawned one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises. Since the fighting in Juba in July between Kiir’s and Machar’s forces, some 320,000 refugees have fled to neighbouring countries.

It noted that in October an average of 3,500 people crossed into Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Sudan each day.

“Genocide is a process. It does not happen overnight”

Refugees from Equatoria are increasingly using informal border crossing points, reportedly due to the presence of armed groups along main roads. Many refugees report having had to walk through the bush for days, often without food or water.

“The refugees are fleeing due to armed groups harassing civilians, killings and torture of people suspected of supporting opposing factions, burning of villages, sexual assaults of women and girls and forced recruitment of young men and boys from the Equatoria region,” said Richard Ruati, a spokesman with UNHCR in South Sudan.

Rachel Jacob at Max Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm, told IRIN that civilians had borne the brunt of the violence, “either directly by fighting, or in reprisals by government forces seeking to root out the opposition and collectively punish locals to discourage any support for rebels.

“For those remaining, the situation is exacerbated by deliberate obstruction of UN and aid agencies by armed actors, as well as the prevailing insecurity along major roads in Equatoria, which have escalated violence and restricted humanitarian access to civilians.”

Equatoria is the country’s traditional food basket, responsible for more than half of net cereal production. A fall in output as a result of the violence is affecting an already precarious nationwide food security situation in which 31 percent of South Sudanese, approximately 3.7 million people, are facing severe food shortages.

According to Dieng, “genocide is a process. It does not happen overnight. And because it is a process and one that takes time to prepare, it can be prevented.”

How that is to be achieved right now, is not clear. For many in Equatoria, the alternative is simply to flee their country.

so/oa/ag

TOP PHOTO: South Sudan refugees arriving in northern Uganda. Credit: Sam Okiror

South Sudan – machar says Kiir sent seven planes to kill him

Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – South Sudan’s former First Vice President, Riek Machar, has revealed that President Salva Kiir’s forces used 7 different planes to locate and kill him as they pursued him for 37 days from the national capital, Juba, to the Congolese border.

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Riek Machar gestures as he speaks to rebel General Peter Gatdet Yaka (not seen) in a rebel controlled territory in Jonglei on February 1, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

Speaking to various radio and TV media outlets from South Africa where he is currently residing to do medical checkup with his special doctor, Machar also said he is currently “very fit” and healthy after being hospitalized in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, for extreme exhaustion and swollen leg.

“I can now walk another 500 miles,” he was quoted by Kenya media outlets, as he was mockingly referring to the similar distance he travelled from Juba to Congo while under constant attacks and was being pursued by President Kiir’s forces.

He narrated the incident and how he survived, saying President Kiir set him up at the Presidential Palace of J1 in Juba to kill him on 8 July, but said his small force of about 70 bodyguards who accompanied him fought hard against hundreds of Kiir’s troops and created a “situation of stalemate” where the president failed to assassinate him and instead an arrangement was eventually made for the two leaders to go to their respective residents.

Machar narrated that President Kiir abandoned his plan to assassinate him when he realized that all of them, including the president, would get killed inside the palace by the rival close bodyguards.

He revealed that he had 20 close bodyguards with him inside the palace and 50 of his bodyguards were outside the palace, adding that among the 50 outside the palace only 6 survived during the attack by President Kiir’s forces. But the other 20 close bodyguards inside the palace ensured his safety.

Machar also described the claims by President Kiir that he was carrying a pistol on the day of the incident as a “big lie”, adding that he had not carried a pistol for 25 years since 1991 when he became chairman of a movement for the first time. He said he used to carry a pistol or gun when he was a field commander before 1991.

The opposition leader accused President Kiir of attempting to assassinate him and hired planes and “international killers” who pursued him up to the Congolese territory. Also ground forces were attacking him and his forces as planes continued to drop bombs on them from the air. He said the planes attacked them three or four times a day every day for 37 days, revealing that President Kiir’s helicopter gunships also continued to attack them on the side of the Congolese border before the United Nations extracted him.

The planes involved in the operations of hunting him down on daily basis, he revealed, were 7 in number and included “one drone, two spy planes and four helicopter gunships.”

The total number of the days of the violence is 40 days, he said, including the three days of fighting in and around Juba.

The former First Vice President said planes were hovering over them every single day, bombarding them, as the hired spy planes continued to locate them and the helicopter gunships kept on bombarding them, while they were also fighting on the ground with ground forces deployed from different directions.

He said a total of 70 of his soldiers were killed during the pursuit from Juba to Congo.

The government, he said, has a huge debt now to repay for the planes they hired to try to kill him, saying the operation was “very expensive”, adding they “regret having not killed me.”

The former First Vice President, who was immediately replaced as he was being pursued in the bushes, narrated that he had gone through “difficult terrain” in Western Equatoria, crossing numerous valleys full of water, some empty with sharp slopes and climbing mountains through thick “tropical forests” in harsh weathers.

He said he would someday when in government in the future use the difficult terrain he passed through as a site in which to train his special forces, saying he had discovered during the pursuit that the “difficult terrain” of Western Equatoria would be good for training special forces for his government.

Machar blamed the regional and international community for not condemning President Kiir’s government for the incident, which he said, has resulted to the collapse of the peace deal as well as the transitional government of national unity.

He however added that his faction is for the August 2015 peace agreement to be resuscitated but said in the absence of a peace initiative or political process his faction has the right to self-defence, even if that will lead to changing the current “regime” in Juba.

He revealed that he will soon travel to Kenya from South Africa to meet the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is IGAD rapporteur, over the peace process.

(ST)