Tag Archives: Salva Kiir

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.

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.

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.