Tag Archives: South Sudan

South Sudan – mounting calls for investigation of atrocities

Sudan Tribune

(ADDIS ABABA) – The United Nations Human Rights office has called for an independent body to investigate crimes committed during the more than three-year conflict in South Sudan.

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A general view of participants during the 29th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 3 July 2015 – (UN Photo)

A three-member commission made the call during a three-day workshop on transitional justice in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

“An independent mechanism is needed to immediately assist in investigating violations in South Sudan, in advance of the establishment of the hybrid court,” said Yasmin Sooka, chair of the U.N-mandated commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

The Human Rights Council, she urged, should immediately establish a specialised mechanism to map and document conflict-related sexual violence in South Sudan with a specific emphasis on command and superior responsibility.

“Too many of those who say ‘justice should only come later’ really mean ‘justice should never come at all,” said Sooka.

“It is imperative to immediately start collecting evidence of violations even before the hybrid court is established,” she added.

Commissioner Ken Scott on his part, however, said investigations needed to start now so that the hybrid court has cases to hear.

“Critical evidence is being lost every day as witnesses are killed or disappear, as memories fade and physical evidence degrades”, he said.

During a visit to South Sudan in December last year, members of the commission reported that the level of sexual violence in the young nation had reached epic proportions and required urgent attention.

The Commission was established in March 2016, by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and tasked with, among other mandates, monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights in South Sudan and making recommendations for its improvement.

On 14 March 2017, the U.N Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan will present its report on the human rights situation and make recommendations on accountability to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“We will be calling for an international, independent, investigative mechanism for South Sudan to be set up,” said Sooka.

“It should be well-resourced to collect evidence on the ground, focusing primarily on the most recent serious crimes,” she stressed.

Chapter V of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) calls for the establishment of a Hybrid Court for South Sudan, tasked to investigate and prosecute individuals bearing the responsibility for violations of international law.

(ST)

South Sudan – famine declared in Unity State

Sudan Tribune

February 20, 2017 (JUBA) – War and a collapsing economy have left some 100,000 people starving in parts of South Sudan, government and three United Nations agencies said Monday.

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IDPs wait to receive food rations and other items from the WFP at a distribution point in Pibor town, Jonglei 21 March 2009 – (photo UN)

An additional one million people in the war-torn nation, the United Nations agencies projected, could be on the brink of famine.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that urgent action is needed to prevent more people from dying of hunger.

“If sustained and adequate assistance is delivered urgently, the hunger situation can be improved in the coming months and further suffering mitigated,” partly reads a joint statement the agencies issued on Monday.

The total number of food insecure people is expected to rise to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the severity and spread of the food crisis.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) update released today by the government, the three agencies and other humanitarian partners, 4.9 million people, over 40% of South Sudan’s population, are in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance.

Unimpeded humanitarian access to everyone facing famine, or at risk of famine, is urgently needed to reverse the escalating catastrophe, the UN agencies urged. Further spread of famine can only be prevented if humanitarian assistance is scaled up and reaches the most vulnerable.

Famine, the agencies said, is currently affecting parts of Unity State in the northern-central part of the country. A formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger. The situation is the worst hunger catastrophe since fighting erupted over three years ago.

“Famine has become a tragic reality in parts of South Sudan and our worst fears have been realised. Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” said FAO Representative in South Sudan, Serge Tissot.

“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,” he added.

Malnutrition is a major public health emergency, exacerbated by the widespread fighting, displacement, poor access to health services and low coverage of sanitation facilities.

The IPC report estimates that 14 of the 23 assessed counties have global acute malnutrition at or above the emergency threshold of 15%, with some areas as high as 42%.

“More than one million children are currently estimated to be acutely malnourished across South Sudan; over a quarter of a million children are already severely malnourished. If we do not reach these children with urgent aid many of them will die,” said Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan.

“We urge all parties to allow humanitarian organizations unrestricted access to the affected populations, so we can assist the most vulnerable and prevent yet another humanitarian catastrophe,” he added.

U.N agencies and other partners have conducted massive relief operations since the conflict began, and intensified those efforts throughout 2016 to mitigate the worst effects of the humanitarian crisis. In Northern Bahr El Ghazal state, among others, the IPC assessment team found that humanitarian relief had lessened the risk of famine there.

In 2016, WFP said it reached a record 4 million people in war-ravaged South Sudan with food assistance, including cash assistance amounting to US$13.8 million, and more than 265,000 metric tons of food and nutrition supplies. This is reportedly the highest largest number of people assisted by WFP in South Sudan since independence from neighbouring Sudan in July 2011.

(ST)

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)

Lord’s Resistance Army – “you belong to Kony”

African Arguments

“You belong to Joseph Kony”: How Dominic Ongwen and others became child soldiers

Testimony from a former child soldier of the Lord’s Resistance Army highlights the moral and human complexity of Ongwen’s case at the ICC.

The Lord's Resistance Army terrorised northern Uganda for several years. Credit: Martin Bekkelund.

Earlier this month, one of the most morally complex cases to face the International Criminal Court (ICC) resumed. In it, Dominic Ongwen stands accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed as a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

In December 2016, Ongwen pleaded not guilty to the charges, arguing that since he was abducted by the LRA as a child, he is a victim of the rebel group.

Ongwen is the only LRA member out of the five indicted by the ICC who was abducted as a child. The other four reportedly joined voluntarily, including the still-at-large Joseph Kony, who founded the LRA in the late-1980s and is the only other surviving indictee.

The prosecution argues that Ongwen’s status as a former child abductee should not absolve him of responsibility for alleged crimes though the Chief Prosecutor conceded it might be a mitigating factor in his sentencing. The defence insist Ongwen was traumatised by the LRA and should be seen as a victim.

If accounts of other former LRA members can act as a guide, entrance into the group would certainly have had a profound effect on Ongwen. His abduction and daily existence in the LRA would have been characterised by extreme violence, both targeted at him and forcing him to target others, all in ways specifically designed to recondition him into a loyal fighter.

This is clear from the following vivid testimony of Okello, another LRA fighter who was also abducted as a child in early days of the brutal rebel group. His traumatic story reflects the experiences of many children forcibly conscripted. Without providing any answers, it highlights the complexity of the questions around responsibility and blame raised by Ongwen’s case.

It is excerpted from my 2016 book, When The Walking Defeats You: One Man’s Journey as Joseph Kony’s Bodyguard.

LRA child soldiers. Mid 2015, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo obtained by Paul Ronan.

Okello’s story

Okello started to talk about his life, as people usually did around the fire in LRA camps, following the Acholi tradition known as wang oo. Okello started his speech by lamenting the fact that he had no family of his own left, and that the LRA government was now his family, and Joseph Kony his father.

“My own father died when I was born, or that is what my mother told me. I had an older brother named Paul. People said he was crazy but Paul was not crazy, I knew him well. Paul had a sickness that made it difficult for him to understand others, but he was nice and always helped my mother and me. We lived in Minakulu, by the big road that links Gulu with Kampala.

The holies [LRA fighters] came to our village in 2003 when I was thirteen. It was early in the morning but it was still dark outside. Kidega was the commander, I know him well now. They kicked our door and grabbed us while we slept.

One of the youngus [child soldiers] held a razor blade to my neck and told me to go out. Someone grabbed mother and Paul. Paul was only sixteen, but he was tall and strong. He refused to be dragged and ran towards mother, who was being whipped by Kidega. She was too scared and confused to sit on the floor like Kidega asked her.

Kidega’s guard yelled at Paul to drop on the floor but Paul did not understand. He tried to help our mother so Kidega’s guard shot him in the stomach. Then they all beat Paul in front of us and let him bleed to death. We saw him die slowly, his blood just poured until he dried out, like a sheep being prepared for cooking. Kidega said mother was stupid for not controlling Paul, who now was dead because of her. ‘You are a bad woman,’ he said, and slit her throat.’”

Okello continued, his voice quivering when mentioning his mother.

“I was scared. When I saw Paul and my mother dead on the ground covered in blood, I could not move my hands or feet. It was like an evil spirit pinned me down. I was sure I was going to die and I wanted to. Kidega pointed his knife at my head and said, ‘You are now with the LRA, forget your family.’ The others pulled me up as I could not stand up and tied me with other children from Minakulu, also taken that night. We walked for hours until we reached the bush. I did not think I would live.

But these people here teach you to be strong. You have no choice but to obey and be strong or to die weak. The day after I was taken as we walked towards Kitgum, one kid called Olweny, whom I knew very well because we played ‘nine-stones’ together, tried to escape but they caught him and brought him back to where we stopped. Kidega then ordered all abducted children from Minakulu, thirteen of us, to pick up sticks and beat Olweny to death.

We were all in a circle around Olweny, who was really scared. He was small bodied and young, maybe eleven years old. He asked us not to kill him and started crying. Kidega made fun of him because Olweny pissed his pants. Kidega said, ‘If you don’t kill him, we will kill you.’

I picked my stick and hit him in the face, then everyone else hit him many times until he stopped moving and his brain came out of his head. I felt bad but I knew I had become a man then, a soldier.

Kidega told us to throw Olweny’s body in the bush, warning us that anyone who tried to escape would suffer the same fate. ‘You are now real soldiers of the Lord,’ Kidega said, ‘and you belong to Joseph Kony, our father.’

This is how I ended up here. This is now my family because God wanted me to be Kony’s child.”

Ledio Cakaj is the author of When The Walking Defeats You: One Man’s Journey as Joseph Kony’s Bodyguard (Zed books, 2016).

South Sudan – army and rebels clash in Upper Nile

Sudan Tribune

January 26, 2017 (JUBA) – A South Sudanese army (SPLA) official claimed on Thursday that its forces clashed with the armed opposition forces (SPLM-IO) loyal to the country’s former First Vice President, Riek Machar.

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A member of South Sudanese rebel patrols the streets of Malakal, on March 4, 2014 (Photo AFP/Andrei Pungovschi)

The acting SPLA spokesman, Santo Domic Chol claimed the two rival forces clashed near Malakal, the Upper Nile state capital.

Chol told the Associated Press that government forces were attacked Wednesday by militias under Johnson Olony’s command.

He neither gave details on the exact location where the clashes occurred nor unveil information on any casualties from the incident.

Olony could not, however, be reached for a comment.

Local officials told Sudan Tribune they heard sounds of gunfire from the direction of Lul area, which is located north of Malakal town.

Residents did not know the source of the gunfire or those involved.

“We heard sounds of guns in the morning at around 11:30 am. It was not heavy change of gunfire. We heard twice and it stopped. We don’t know who was involved or what caused the shooting. We don’t know whether it is a clash between the government and rebel forces or it was just normal shooting by some government soldiers or police personnel,” a state lawmaker said.

The U.N. mission in South Sudan, which runs a base in the area, is yet to confirm the incident. Some of its staff, however, say the area has been relatively calm since the beginning of the year.

South Sudan has experience violence since December 2013 when political disagreements between President Salva Kiir and Machar saw the nation split along ethnic lines. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in South Sudan’s worst ever outbreak of violence since independence from neighbouring Sudan.

(ST)

 

South Sudan – government denies SP_LA clash with pro-Machar rebels in Equatoria

Sudan Tribune

January 25, 2017 (JUBA) – South Sudan army (SPLA) has denied it clashed with armed opposition forces under the leadership and overall command of the former vice president, Riek Machar. However the UNMISS confirmed the violence.

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South Sudanese SPLA soldiers in Pageri in Eastern Equatoria state on August 20, 2015 (Photo AFP/Samir Bol)

Acting SPLA spokesman told Sudan Tribune he has no reports indicating government soldiers clashed with rebels but received reports of criminals and high way robbers stormed a village in Magwi county in Eastern Equatori with intention to loot from the civilians before running away when government soldiers arrive to the area.

“I have not received such reports. This is just another strategy by making propaganda to show that they are in the area. What I have learned is that there were criminals who entered one of the villages in Magwi County on January 22, 2017. Their intention was to loot from local population but they fled when our forces were alerted and went to the area,” said Colonel Santo Dominic when reached on Tuesday to comment on the matter.

The government military spokesman was reacting to a statement in which the spokesman of armed opposition claimed the positions of their forces came under attack in several places in Eastern Equatoria but they repulsed the government forces during a clash in which six pro government militiamen were killed.

The SPLM-Io spokesperson William Gatjiath Deng said government forces on Sunday morning they drove back a government force that moved from Magwi and attacked and burned down Acholi villages, including Licari, on Magwi-Pajok road.

“While still on their way to pillage to the villages and commit additional atrocities in the Magwi area, the SPLA-IO Anyanya division forces under the command of Major General Patrick Ohiti Chapuho ambushed them, killing six (soldiers),” he said.

He also claimed their forces in division 3 under Maj.General Tut Riik have regained control of Nordeng area under Nasir state in Upper Nile region, which government forces had allegedly taken from them last week.

“On the same Sunday January 22, 2017, more than 18 regime soldiers who attempted to attack the gallant SPLA-IO positions in and around Yei were ambushed. After the ambush, the gallant SPLA-IO forces under sector 8, division 2B pursued the ruthless regime soldiers toward Yei town”, he adds.

UN CONFIRMS CLASHES
However, UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York on Wednesday that the UN Mission in South Sudan(UNMISS) received reports about clashes in Central and Eastern Equatoria provinces.

“UNMISS has received reports of fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and opposition in Central Equatoria on Sunday. It is also following up on reports of civilians killed and displaced towards the border areas, he said”.

He added that the Mission has also received reports of clashes in Obbo Payam in Magwi County in Eastern Equatoria over the weekend and is seeking to verify reports of civilian casualties.

(ST)