Tag Archives: UN and South Sudan

UN says flood of refugees from South Sudan rising fast

Reuters

U.N. says tide of refugees from South Sudan rising fast

By Elias Biryabarema | KAMPALA

KAMPALA Some 1.5 million refugees have fled fighting and famine in South Sudan to neighbouring countries, half of them to Uganda, and thousands more are leaving daily, the U.N. refugee agency said on Thursday.

Political rivalry between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar ignited a civil war in 2013 that has often followed ethnic lines.

The two signed a shaky peace deal in 2015, but fighting has continued and Machar fled in July after days of clashes between soldiers loyal to him and Kiir’s forces in the capital Juba. He is now in South Africa.

Charlie Yaxley, spokesman for the UNHCR in Uganda, said the agency estimated the total number of South Sudanese who have gone to neighbouring countries at 1.5 million, half in Uganda.

In December there were an estimated 600,000 South Sudanese who had arrived in Uganda.

Yaxley said there were thousands of new arrivals every day. The UNHCR had planned for 300,000 this year.

“We have already in the first two months of this year received 120,00 new arrivals. If this rate of inflow continues actually that figure for 2017 will be far higher,” Yaxley said.

Refugees arriving in Uganda often say they are fleeing from ethnic violence.

“I was in Invepi … and almost every refugee I spoke to had either seen a friend or family member killed in front of their eyes,” Yaxley said, referring to the latest refugee settlement set up in Uganda.

Violence has prevented many farmers from harvesting crops and the scarcity of food has been compounded by hyperinflation, triggering famine in parts of South Sudan.

The UNHCR says the refugee crisis is the world’s third largest after Syria’s and Afghanistan’s.

(Editing by George Obulutsa and Andrew Roche)

Tens of thousands flee hunger in South Sudan into Sudan

Reuters

KHARTOUM More than 31,000 South Sudanese refugees – mostly women and children – have crossed the border into Sudan this year, fleeing famine and conflict, the United Nations refugee agency said on Monday.

The United Nations declared famine last week in parts of South Sudan’s Unity State, with about 5.5 million people expected to have no reliable source of food by July.

“Initial expectations were that 60,000 refugees may arrive through 2017, but in the first two months alone, over 31,000 refugees arrived,” a statement from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Khartoum said.

More than a million people have fled South Sudan since a civil war erupted in 2013 after President Salva Kiir’ fired Vice President Riek Machar. Fighting between government forces and Machar-led rebels has caused the largest mass exodus of any conflict in central Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Some 328,339 South Sudanese refugees have sought refuge in Sudan, including about 131,000 in 2016, many exhausted, malnourished and ill, having walked for days. More than 80 percent of the latest arrivals were women and children.

The fighting has uprooted more than 3 million people and the U.N. says continuing displacement presented “heightened risks of prolonged (food) underproduction into 2018”. In the fighting, food warehouses have been looted and aid workers killed.

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 with an area of 619,745 square km (239,285 square miles).

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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.

Japanese troops deployed with UNMISS in South Sudan – first deployment since WWII

Reuters

Japanese troops land in South Sudan, fears of first foreign fighting since WW2

Mon Nov 21, 2016
Soldiers of Japan's Self Defence Force stand at attention during the opening ceremony of a military base on the island of Yonaguni in the Okinawa prefecture, March 28, 2016.     REUTERS/Nobuhiro Kubo
 

JUBA (Reuters) – A contingent of Japanese troops landed in South Sudan on Monday, an official said – a mission that critics say could see them embroiled in their country’s first overseas fighting since World War Two.

The soldiers will join U.N. peacekeepers and help build infrastructure in the landlocked and impoverished country torn apart by years of civil war.

But, under new powers granted by their government last year, they will be allowed to respond to urgent calls for help from U.N. staff and aid workers. There are also plans to let them guard U.N. bases, which have been attacked during the fighting.

The deployment of 350 soldiers is in line with Japanese security legislation to expand the military’s role overseas. Critics in Japan have said the move risks pulling the troops into conflict for the first time in more than seven decades.

Tsuyoshi Higuchi, from the military’s information department, told Reuters in Juba that 67 troops arrived in the morning while another 63 were expected to land in the afternoon. The last of the 350 are expected to arrive on Dec. 15, he said.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 – a development greeted at the time with mass celebrations in the oil-producing state. Aid agencies and world powers promised support.

But fighting, largely along ethnic lines, erupted in 2013 after President Salva Kiir sacked his longtime political rival Riek Machar from the post of vice president.

A peace deal, agreed under intense international pressure and the threat of sanctions, brought Machar back to the capital Juba in April, but he fled after more clashes and the violence has continued.

(Reporting by Denis Dumo; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Edmund Blair and Andrew Heavens)

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.

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

US preparing to ask UN for arms embargo against South Sudan

Reuters

By Michelle Nichols | UNITED NATIONS

The United States circulated on Thursday to the 15-member United Nations Security Council a draft resolution to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan and further targeted sanctions amid warnings by a senior U.N. official of possible genocide.

Political rivalry between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his former deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer, led to civil war in 2013 that has often followed ethnic lines. The pair signed a shaky peace deal last year, but fighting has continued and Machar fled the country in July.

Adama Dieng, U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, last week visited South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

“I saw all the signs that ethnic hatred and targeting of civilians could evolve into genocide if something is not done now to stop it. I urge the Security Council and member states of the region to be united and to take action,” Dieng told the council.

“There is a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines with a potential for genocide. I do not say that lightly,” he said, urging the council to impose an arms embargo.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the council that Dieng’s warning should serve as a wake-up call. “None of us can say we did not see it coming,” Power said.

The U.N. Security Council has long-threatened to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, but veto powers Russia and China are skeptical whether such a move would make a difference as the country is already awash with weapons.

“We think that implementing such a recommendation would hardly be helpful in settling the conflict,” Deputy Russian U.N. Ambassador Petr Iliichev said. “Introducing targeted sanctions against South Sudanese leaders would be the height of irresponsibility now.”

The Security Council set up a targeted sanctions regime for South Sudan in March 2015 and has blacklisted six generals – three from each side of the conflict – by subjecting them to an asset freeze and travel ban.

“An arms embargo is effective if there is a broad and robust commitment to its enforcement,” Power told the council.

“Imposing new targeted sanctions designations will isolate the individuals who have consistently been responsible for the acts that have brought South Sudan to this moment and which have caused so much suffering,” Power said.

South Sudanese soldiers and rebels said on Thursday they had clashed in a state bordering Sudan, killing at least 15 people.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Sandra Maler)

UN warns of danger of mass atrocities in South Sudan conflict

Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned of the “risk of mass atrocities” in South Sudan, should renewed violence in the world’s youngest nation continue.

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Ban Ki-moon (Photo UN)

In a report released Wednesday, Ki-moon said the UN peacekeepers must be prepared to protect innocent civilians.

“There is a very real risk of mass atrocities being committed in South Sudan, particularly following the sharp rise in hate speech and ethnic incitement in recent weeks,” said the UN Secretary General.

“It must be clearly understood that United Nations peacekeeping operations do not have the appropriate manpower or capabilities to stop mass atrocities,” he added.

The UN recently approved the deployment of regional protection forces in the aftermath of renewed violence that broke out in the country in July between South Sudan’s two main rival factions.

An estimated 14,000 soldiers and police are deployed in the UN mission in South Sudan, but recent investigations implicated peacekeepers in the failure to protect civilians during the attack.

South Sudan descended into war in mid-December 2013, leaving tens of thousands dead and more than 2.5 million people displaced.

Meanwhile, the Security Council will discuss South Sudan on Thursday amidst earlier threats to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan.

(ST)