Sudanese Christians denounce demolition of their church buildings

A letter distributed on social media asks for the “attacks against the church” to stop. Twenty-five buildings are set to be demolished, but Christians in the country are “very resilient”, a source says.

A Sudanese Church of Christ church building in Algadisia, after a demolition. / WWM

Sudanese Christians have been under pressure for a long time. In a risky move, the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) has now published an open letter denouncing the “systematic violations” of their rights.

“We feel deeply sorry and strongly condemn the abusive procedures against the holy places”, the SCOC said in an open letter.

“We hold the National Intelligence and Security Services responsible for the damages and other consequences that can be caused due to their confiscation of documents. We also hold the land authorities of the Ministry of the Planning and Infrastructure Development of the Khartoum state responsible for the attacks against the Church and for the financial damages caused”, the letter states, according to World Watch Monitor.

The letter was sent out one day before the government demolished a SCOC building in east Khartoum.

25 other churches have also been designated for demolition, including Catholic, Pentecostal and Coptic Orthodox churches.

ARBITRARY LAND CONFISCATIONS

The letter “calls on the presidency to allocate land to churches and to guarantee Christians their constitutional right to own land in all of Sudan’s states”, World Watch Monitor said. “It asks President Omar al-Bashir to order the NISS to return all arbitrarily-confiscated land ownership and travel documents and to prevent the NISS from any further violation of Christians’ rights.”

In 2013, the Sudanese government announced that no licenses would be granted to build new churches in the country, claiming “there is no need for new church buildings because many mainly Christian South Sudanese refugees returned to their own country after the secession of South Sudan in 2011.”

An evangelical church in the process of being demolished, in Khartoum. / WWM

A LONG HISTORY OF ABUSES IN KHARTOUM

A Christian worker serving in Khartoum for more than 20 years told Evangelical Focus this kind of governmental action has been common for a long time in Sudan.

“Displaced Christians from the Nuba mountains would often build their places of worship before their own homes and spend many months getting and paying for the correct land ownership documents from the government.”

This source used to work alongside several evangelical Christian denominations in the country (among them, the SCOC), and had had access to ownership documents which verified the legality of several church buildings.

“The ownership documents, however, were often disregarded if the government wanted to re-develop the land on which the places of worship were established.”

Christians in Sudan are “very resilient” and respond with “courage and joy” to these struggles.   EU: SUDANESE CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE PROTECTED In March, the new European Union special envoy for freedom of speech, Jan Figel’, visited Sudan and wrote a letter to the Sudanese government, in which he asked to reduce the “tensions” caused by the pressure on Christians.

“Regarding the ongoing confiscations of religious properties from Evangelical churches, I cordially encourage you to (…) ensure your Government’s full protection of the rightful legal church committees, as recognised by the respective religious leaders and the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Sudan”, he said.

Sudan is number 5 on Open Door’s 2017 World Watch List.

See more: http://evangelicalfocus.com/world/2675/Sudan_Christians_denounce_demolition_of_their_church_buildings

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Sudan hopes US travel ban won’t harm sanctions bid

International passengers arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles. Photo: Reuters
KHARTOUM – Sudan expressed hopes on Tuesday that a US court’s decision to partially reinstate a travel ban that includes its citizens will not harm its bid to have American sanctions lifted.The US Supreme Court on Monday partially reinstated President Donald Trump’s travel ban imposing restrictions on citizens from Sudan, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Syria.

The ruling comes just weeks ahead of an expected decision by Trump on whether topermanently lift the United States’ 20-year-old trade embargo on the North African country.

“Sudan hopes the decision on sanctions should not be impacted by this latest decision,” senior foreign ministry official Abdelghani Elnaim said in a statement.

Elnaim said Khartoum had made “progress” on meeting conditions for Washington topermanently lift the sanctions that were imposed in 1997 over its alleged support for Islamist militant groups.

Then-president Barack Obama eased the sanctions in January but made their permanent lifting dependent on Khartoum’s progress in five areas of concern during a six-month review period that ends on July 12.

These conditions — known as the “five tracks” — include improved access for aid groups, halting support for rebels in neighbouring South Sudan, an end to hostilities in the conflict zones of Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and counterterrorism cooperation with US intelligence agencies.

Soon after the court’s decision on Monday, Trump said it was a “clear victory” for US national security.

Elnaim said Sudan respects the right the United States has to protect its own national security.

“But at the same time, Sudan, its government and its citizens are not a threat to American national security,” he said.

“Sudan is fully cooperating with the United States, which has been acknowledged by US security agencies.”

Although the US court reinstated the travel ban partially, it said the restrictions could not be imposed against people with personal links to the US, including foreigners wishing to visit family or students accepted into US universities.

AFP

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South Sudan churches decry warring factions for ignoring people’s needs

JUBA, South Sudan (CNS) — The heads of the member churches of the South Sudan Council of Churches criticized the country’s political leaders “on all sides” for placing political and personal interests above the needs of ordinary people, which they said has led to economic decline, famine and ongoing violence.

The council, including Archbishop Paulino Lukudo Loro of Juba, charged that the country’s problems are “man-made, a result of mismanagement, blatant corruption, insecurity, lack of governance and the rule of law.”

“Greed, hatred and the struggle for power have left the ordinary people of South Sudan, on all sides of the conflict, as the losers,” the council in a statement June 23 at the conclusion of a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The church leaders said that in Ethiopia, they visited refugee camps to talk with South Sudanese people who have fled the violence; the church leaders said they came away saddened by listening to the refugees’ experiences. They specifically thanked the people, churches and government of Ethiopia leaders for welcoming the refugees.

While welcoming the creation of a forum for national dialogue late in 2016 by President Salva Kiir, council members said that, for the effort to succeed, specific criteria for discussion must be met. They lamented that the attempt at dialogue has gone unaccepted by opposition parties.

In the statement, the church leaders said they were speaking solely as religious leaders and that, because they were not politicians, they could not give “detailed political recommendations.”

“As pastors and shepherds, our first priority is the suffering of our people,” they said.

“Nevertheless, we dare to speak to political leaders as Jesus instructed us, ‘like sheep among wolves … as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves,’” the statement said.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war. But just two years after independence, political tensions erupted into violence and abuses. The fighting, displacement, insecurity and drought have led to large-scale hunger and malnutrition across the country. It’s estimated that 3.8 million people have been displaced and at least 28 million are in need of food aid. Tens of thousands have died in the violence.

A trip to South Sudan by Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury this year was indefinitely postponed in mid-June over security concerns. Because of the postponement, the pope sent nearly $500,000 to two church-run hospitals in the country June 21.

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Libya, Sudan, Somalia hard hit as US top court partially lifts Trump’s travel ban

USA

The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday partially lifted an injunction against the travel bans issued by President Donald Trump.

The apex court’s decision allows the travel ban to take effect but stated that it will listen to the substantive case in October this year.

The order bans citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Three African countries were affected by the order. Libya, Sudan and Somalia. The other three were Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Till date, Trump had signed two separate orders, but both had been suspended by lower courts forcing the case to be taken to the apex court.

The second order called for 90-day ban on nationals of the affected countries seeking to enter the US. The second order also removed Iraq from the original list of seven countries.

It also introduces a 120-day ban on all refugees arriving in the US, a move meant to allow Washington to implement tighter vetting procedures.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in March this year slammed the earlier order describing it as “selective and discriminatory.” The OIC said it was of the view that the ban will further complicate the grave situation that refugees find themselves.

OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations. It has 56 other member states across the world. All the affected countries belong to the bloc. The Gambia is set to host the next summit of the body.

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Ghost Nation

An ethnic-cleansing campaign by the government threatens to empty South Sudan

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In his heart, Simon Yakida knew he was digging his own grave.

A few days earlier, clashes between government troops and rebel forces near Bamurye, Yakida’s village in South Sudan, had left three soldiers dead. Now the local military commander stood before him, gesturing at one of the bodies. He told Yakida, “Killing you is payback for this soldier.”

Bamurye, a farming community whose residents live in mud-and-thatch huts called tukuls, lies in the southern part of the country. To feed his two wives and nine children, Yakida, a thirty-two-year-old with close-cropped hair and a wiry frame, grew cassava, maize, and sorghum. The work had always been hard, but his life was peaceful. In recent months, however, the soldiers in the local barracks had grown increasingly abusive—­detaining and mistreating ­civilians and accusing them of supporting the antigovernment rebels. In February, the killings began: Three young men were murdered by soldiers in retaliation for recent battlefield losses. Most in the village, including Yakida’s family, had already fled to Uganda; Yakida was on his way when the troops arrested him.

A child carrying water-filled jerricans at the Laufori refugee collection point, on the border of Uganda and South Sudan. All photographs by Natalia Jidovanu

The soldiers watched as Yakida carved out a knee-deep hole. The commander ordered him to roll the corpse into the pit and cover it with soil. Famished, thirsty, and exhausted, Yakida complied. Once the work was done, the soldiers tied him to a wooden pole, the remnants of a rudimentary hut.

“Where is the headman of the village?” the commander barked. “Where is Abu Sala?”

Abu Sala is what people in Bamurye called Alex Kajoba, a night watchman at the local medical dispensary who was known for advocating on behalf of villagers who had been detained at the barracks. It wasn’t a question but a threat; both men knew exactly where Abu Sala was and why he wouldn’t be coming to Yakida’s aid.

Eventually, the soldiers—members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (S.P.L.A.)—untied Yakida and ordered him to sit on top of the fresh grave. They bound his hands and ankles. One of the soldiers offered a salute, then cocked his weapon. The commander ordered him to fire, and he pulled the trigger.

Yet two days later, Yakida stood before me, wearing a gray polo shirt with marks & spencer emblazoned on it and ill-fitting jeans that read bing boss. We were in Laufori, a Ugandan border town with dusty dirt roads and wooden stalls where you could buy cheap flip-flops and warm Cokes. Yakida was living beneath an immense mango tree, still separated from his family. His lean arms bore the marks from where the rope had dug into them.

Tears spilled down his drawn cheeks as he told me about his failed execution. A bullet passed through his oversize shirt, just beneath his left armpit. On the second and third attempts, the rifle jammed. After an argument among the troops, a soldier allowed him to leave, and Yakida joined the tide of refugees pouring out of Bamurye and dozens of other South Sudanese villages. He seemed broken by the ordeal.

After Yakida told me his story, I asked if he had any questions for me. “These are government soldiers. They’re supposed to be protecting civilians, but they’re the ones who are killing us,” he replied. “Why are they killing the people they’re supposed to be protecting?”

One afternoon this February, I stood on the side of a dirt track that led from South Sudan to Uganda. It was the worst time to travel, with the midday sun baking the road, but at least one refugee crossed the border every minute, coated in a mix of sweat and dust from the rust-colored earth. For a week, I staked out trails like this, in an attempt to understand what has become the fastest-growing refugee crisis on the planet: a wave of ethnic cleansing that experts warn may tip into genocide.

There were three other roads nearby with refugees making the same trek. Many had run with only the clothes they were wearing—threadbare dresses and long colorful skirts, blouses held together by safety pins, a soiled ted nugent: body count T-shirt, a pair of dress pants several sizes too big belted around a diminishing waist with twine, an aqua-blue sandal on one foot and a battered brown loafer on the other.

Simon Yakida in Laufori

The current conflict has deep roots. From 1983 to 2005, southern Sudanese fought a civil war against Sudan’s government. In 2011, the South gained its independence, becoming the world’s newest nation. Salva Kiir, a member of the largest of the country’s sixty-four ethnic groups, the Dinka, became the first president of the Texas-size nation of 12 million.

South Sudan was an American nation-building experiment, the recipient of $11 billion in assistance since 2005—perhaps the largest investment the United States has made in sub-Saharan Africa. Washington and other international partners trained soldiers and mentored government officials, but they ignored the country’s stunted economic, military, and political development, which left South Sudan mired in corruption, ethnoracism, and violence. Six years after independence, most people still lack electricity, phone networks are spotty, and paved roads are nonexistent outside the capital, Juba.

In July 2013, South Sudan began to unravel. Riek Machar, the vice president—a member of the second-largest tribe, the Nuer—was fired by Kiir, then announced that he would challenge him in upcoming elections, which were never held. That December, government forces killed large numbers of Nuer soldiers and civilians on the streets of Juba. Rebel forces loyal to Machar responded, massacring Dinkas in villages and towns in the north.

In 2014, as the conflict raged between the ­S.P.L.A. and Machar’s rebels, known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army—In Opposition (I.O.), Kiir visited the White House. A former guerrilla, he is often photographed in one of the cowboy hats given to him by President George W. Bush or Secretary of State John Kerry. Unwilling to pressure Kiir and the leaders they had fostered, the Obama Administration failed to impose a unilateral arms embargo. An eleventh-hour push for an international arms ban at the U.N. Security Council collapsed, in part because the outgoing administration lacked sufficient political capital. As a result, Kiir has been able to purchase $1 billion worth of arms, including tanks and helicopter gunships.

During the early stages of the current conflict, the south of the country had been largely spared. But South Sudan is riven by all manner of differences and enmities. In the north, the Dinka are cattle keepers. The south is made up of the Equatorias—Central, Western, and Eastern. The region is the breadbasket of the country, with fields of cassava, sorghum, peanuts, and maize and orchards of fruit trees. For years, Dinkas had moved huge herds into Equatorian farmland, and in 2015, these land grabs escalated into skirmishes between the ­S.P.L.A. and homegrown militias.

Many of the militia fighters allied themselves with the I.O., and ever since, they have clashed with the S.P.L.A. The government has responded by killing civilians throughout the Equatorias.

These attacks set in motion the exodus unfolding before me. Women toted impossibly large bundles atop their heads, their necks kept ramrod stiff, their bodies subtly shifting to keep the parcels stationary. Many had tiny babies tightly swaddled and strapped to their backs.

The men and boys, their noses polka-dotted with perspiration, pushed bicycles—some with only one semi-inflated tire—overloaded with heavy sacks of maize flour, sorghum, or beans; bottles glowing with golden cooking oil, a washbasin, a few plastic bowls; 1970s-vintage hard plastic suitcases with broken locks replaced by rope; foam mattresses rolled around shovel heads, bicycle parts, or coils of wire; yellow jerricans for hauling water and blue plastic jugs that once held motor oil; a homemade wooden cage barely larger than the chickens crammed inside it.

Until last July, about 231,000 South Sudanese had fled to Uganda. The number has risen to 834,000 and shows no signs of slowing. Kiir’s government has said that his soldiers are fighting a counterinsurgency against the I.O.; the official line is that civilian deaths are either regrettable collateral damage or the isolated acts of rogue soldiers.

What I discovered is far different: a coordinated campaign of atrocity and terror by Kiir’s forces that refutes the government’s narrative. For more than a month I traveled by foot, motorcycle, car, truck, motorboat, ferry, and prop plane through South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda, visiting backland border crossings, refugee collection points, and formal and informal settlements.

I spoke with more than 250 refugees and internally displaced people—from villages spanning some 300 miles, from Arapi in the east to Yambio in the west. Multiple eyewitnesses described attacks by S.P.L.A. soldiers on twenty-six communities, resulting in no fewer than 141 deaths and possibly close to 400. Individual witnesses from nine other villages told me of another twenty-eight killings. Survivors also offered harrowing accounts of rape, torture, assault, mutilation, looting, the destruction of homes, and other crimes of war. These attacks, in addition to news reports of atrocities elsewhere in the Equatorias, reveal a systematic effort carried out by government forces to empty the southern part of South Sudan.

Since the U.S. election, attacks on civilians have dramatically increased, leading some analysts to suggest that the Kiir regime is emboldened by what it sees as the Trump Administration’s hands-off policy. In fact, Kiir said in a speech this February, it was “no secret we had a strong feeling that the previous U.S. administration might have sought a regime change agenda…. We know that the new U.S. administration will take a different direction on South Sudan.”

The price of America’s neglect is now being borne by South Sudanese in villages like Bamurye. The Equatorias, I found, are the site of an ethnic-cleansing campaign that threatens to extinguish the entire region. But as the international community wrings its hands and the Trump Administration warns that “the parties must cease hostilities [and] engage in meaningful and inclusive dialogue,” more than 15,000 refugees cross the southern border each week. Given the scale of the government’s atrocities, how much time is left before a stillborn state is transformed into a ghost nation?

Northern Uganda is dotted with new or expanding refugee collection points and settlements run by the Ugandan government and the United Nations. But often the places where I found refugees weren’t even official checkpoints.

One such crossing is the Kayo stream. During the rainy season, you can pay strong young men to half-swim, half-carry you through the swollen torrent of rushing water. In February, it was a parched creek bed. Clamber down a steep rock formation in South Sudan, and when you reach the sandy embankment on the other side, you’ve entered Uganda.

A hundred feet from the border, I met fifty-two-year-old Peter James. His red baseball cap shielded his eyes from the sun as we talked about his hometown, a village called Litoba, several miles north. James, one of the five people from Litoba I spoke with, told me that Dinka soldiers are coming down to the Equatorias, where they are “robbing people, they are killing, they are even raping our wives and children.” James believed that as many as twenty civilians had been killed in his village.

Two women leaving the Pagrinya refugee settlement, in Uganda, to return to their homes after receiving rations from the World Food Program

Joshua Mari couldn’t run when troops began terrorizing civilians in Litoba. His family fled and left behind the seventy-five-year-old, who is exceptionally tall and stooped, and suffers from back problems. Days later, a motorcycle driver rescued him from the battered village. “The government has been killing people,” he told me in a shaky baritone that rumbled out of his rib cage. “I had to leave because even though I’m sick, they would kill me.”

It was a forty-five-minute walk from the Kayo stream to the Afoji refugee collection point in Uganda, a humble marketplace transformed into a medical-screening and registration center where women cradled squalling infants and men sat despondent amid piles of battered luggage.

Veronica Keji spent one week “footing” through the bush to get to Afoji from Mondikolok, another village in the deep south of South Sudan. In January, Keji, who is sixty-one, was returning from a nearby borehole with her water can when gunshots rang out. She saw soldiers—S.P.L.A. in uniform—so she dashed into the tall grasses surrounding the village. She crouched, listening to the rattle of gunfire as smoke began to sting her eyes.

In the scalding heat of Afoji, Keji balled her right hand into a fist and pounded her open left hand—slap, slap, slap, slap—mimicking the sound of gunshots. The soldiers, she explained, set fire to nearby crops and the sun-scorched grass, forcing her deeper into the bush. After the ­S.P.L.A. left Mondikolok, Keji returned to find torched homes and the scattered bodies of her neighbors. Eight lay dead, including a woman who had been thrown into a burning tukul and a bedridden man executed at close range. Soon after, she left for Afoji. “We heard there might be others, but this is what we saw,” Keji explained.

* This is how I pieced together narratives of attacks across the Equatorias—interviews
with multiple sources, in various locations, to uncover inconsistencies and collect details
from several vantage points.

I searched for other refugees from Mondikolok to confirm or contest Keji’s recollections.* Another woman at Afoji offered a nearly identical account of the attack, including the disabled man who was killed. That murder, of someone completely defenseless, stayed with me. Over the next few days, I learned about eight people killed in the village of Lire, another seven slain in Pagelle, two people gunned down in Kit, five killed in Mundari, ten massacred in Lejo, one attack in Limi that claimed between three and fifteen lives, and a second that killed between four and eleven, but I kept thinking about the man in Mondikolok.

Fifteen miles to the east, at the Laufori refugee collection point, kids with bruised feet trailed their parents from one snaking line to another. Nearby, I spoke with Emmanuel Diliga, a forty-seven-year-old Episcopal priest clad in tattered dress pants, a green shirt, and a striped sweater-vest. Diliga looked dignified but exhausted. He had spent several hours trekking through the bush in ninety-five-degree heat with nothing to eat or drink. “On January twenty-second, the ­S.P.L.A. went to look for the I.O. in Mondikolok. They said civilians were killed in a crossfire, but that is not true,” he told me with the cadence of an experienced public speaker. “A woman was raped, and her body burned when they set fire to the grass. An older man who is disabled was pulled out of his bed and shot. Six people were killed.”

Refugees load their belongings onto a motorcycle at the Afoji collection point, at the Ugandan border

Two days later, I met Helen Poni, a slight twenty-two-year-old whose eyes were heavy with concern. She was from Bamurye but had family in Mondikolok. One of them was Meje, her father-in-law. “A relative tried to safeguard him, but he can’t move. Meje said, ‘Leave me. You better run or you’re going to die,’” she told me. So he was left in his bed. Her brother-in-law went back later, found Meje’s corpse, and buried him.

Finally I had a name for the disabled man. I heard it again, several days later, when I traveled to the Pa­lorinya refugee settlement, a palm-tree-studded wilderness where the sun was blistering, water was scarce, and gaunt children dug into the ground, hunting for rodents to supplement their families’ diets. There, I met forty-one-year-old Pilister Kaku, who told me that Samuel Mori Meje was her brother. “They said he was an I.O., but he can’t even walk,” she told me plaintively. In total, she said, six people were killed.

A few of the Mondikolok refugees I spoke with mentioned that, hours before the killings, a group of rebels had ambushed government forces nearby. But the I.O. soon withdrew. The ­S.P.L.A. then attacked local civilians in retaliation. “The rebels weren’t even doing anything then,” Veronica Keji said. “They weren’t around.”

Many in the region express support for the I.O. Some men have joined them; others supply them with food, although not always by choice. In Western Equatoria, they call them “the boys” or “our boys,” despite looting, child abductions, rape, and the murder of civilians at their hands. (According to locals, the I.O. are responsible for far fewer atrocities than the S.P.L.A.) Attacks by “the boys” against government forces have led to heavy-handed reprisals on minority communities across the Equatorias. The current campaign ramped up following rebel ambushes and targeted killings, late last year, of Dinka civilians on the roads between Juba and Yei (twenty-one dead), Nimule (one), and Kajo-Keji (eleven), in addition to ongoing attacks on ­S.P.L.A. forces. There’s a simple pattern: The I.O. attacks, and the government retaliates against civilians.

What happened in Mondikolok has happened in numerous villages. Details of government reprisals varied, but residents of thirty-five communities in Eastern, Central, or Western Equatoria described a consistent pattern. Survivors identified the offending troops as almost exclusively Dinkas, whom they recognized by their language, build, and distinctive tribal scars. Those soldiers, they said, entered villages on foot or in military pickup trucks, saying little or nothing before opening fire with assault rifles. The troops didn’t need to wipe out an entire community to cleanse it. Killing four or eight or ten civilians—and often setting fire to a handful of homes—was enough to send survivors scrambling for the border.

One high-ranking S.P.L.A. officer from the Equatorias, Thomas Cirillo Swaka, confirmed these accounts in a resignation letter addressed to President Kiir:

S.P.L.A. soldiers from the Dinka ethnic group have been strategically deployed and posted in non-Dinka areas to support the policy of land occupation and enforcing the agenda of forceful Dinkanization and domination of the country.

Scores of fellow Equatorians, victims of what Cirillo called “ethnic cleansing, forceful displacement of people from their ancestral lands, and ethnic domination,” say this is a land grab, that they’ve lost their homes for the sake of the massive cattle herds of the ­S.P.L.A. senior command and the Dinka elite.

President Kiir’s press secretary, Ateny Wek Ateny, told me that such refugees have a “hidden agenda” and a grudge against fellow South Sudanese. I told him that refugees from the Kuku, Madi, Acholi, Kakwa, and other minority peoples all recounted to me stories of abuse by Dinka soldiers. “Whatever community you’re talking to, they will tell you rubbish about other communities,” he said. “When you are in a refugee camp, you have to justify the reason you left your country. So you have to create a story to allow you to stay in another country.”

A refugee’s receipt of payment at Afoji. South Sudanese officials charge 50 South Sudanese pounds to cross into Uganda

An ­S.P.L.A. spokesman similarly dismissed suggestions of ethnic cleansing by government forces, alleging that representatives of the affected communities in South Sudan’s parliament would have held the government accountable. But politicians are hamstrung or in Kiir’s pocket. A parliamentarian from a minority ethnic group told me that he didn’t believe ethnic cleansing was occurring, even as he admitted that the ­S.P.L.A. was a private militia of Kiir’s party. “I take it as the behavior of untrained, unprofessional soldiers, based on tribal thinking,” he said of the rampant violence. He seemed to want to say more, but such is the state of affairs in South Sudan. Careless honesty can mean detention, disappearance, or death.

International observers can be far more frank. In late 2016, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan conducted two fact-finding missions across the country and in refugee camps in neighboring nations. “We found ethnic cleansing is under way,” Yasmin Sooka, the chairperson, told me—noting that civilians perceived as supporting the opposition were being attacked by Kiir’s government as if they were combatants. “What is happening is definitely ethnically targeted.”

From the refugee camps, I made my way west to a town called Salia Musala. The road threaded Ugandan villages on one side and Congolese villages on the other. I found myself at the edge of a dusty marketplace of shuttered wooden shacks. A three-trunked tree stood just beyond; locals told me that it marked the place where the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and South Sudan meet. A group of Congolese soldiers sat silhouetted against thick green bushland that climbed the nearby hills.

There, I spoke with David Koma­kech, an intelligence officer with the Uganda People’s Defence Force, who told me that 230 refugees had passed through the area the day before. I asked him what he’d heard from inside South Sudan. “When women go to collect food from the garden, they are raped. And if you’re a man, you will be killed,” Komakech said. “They’ve burned all the villages—hundreds—all along the border.”

Just inside Congo, I found a group of about twenty-five ethnic Kakwas who had fled their homes outside Yei—a strategic town that serves as a regional hub for transport and trade with South Sudan’s neighbors. Forty-two-year-old Jacob Michael Karaba, an Episcopal archdeacon from the Diocese of Yei, was one of several adults who had traveled with a large group of teenagers from the village of Lasu. He told me that it had taken him three days to get to the border.

A child stops for a rest on the road to Laufori

Karaba explained that since last July, more than 100 people from his area had been killed by ­S.P.L.A. soldiers. “If you run, they’ll kill you. If you don’t run, then they’ll kill you. If youths are caught like this,” he said, gesturing to the group of children and teens—all elbows and knees—sitting silently in the shade of a tree to my right, “soldiers will say they’re a group of I.O. and kill them.” At that, the kids, led by two teenaged girls, chimed in to confirm the account.

Karaba, dressed in a gray sweater-vest and clerical collar, told me that for more than twenty miles, between Yei and this border zone, most of the homes had been burned by the ­S.P.L.A. “There is nobody in the bomas, the payams. Nobody,” he explained, referring to the administrative units that fall between villages and counties. “People are just scattered in the bush.” A United Nations map created from satellite photos of Yei and the surrounding area, taken in March, shows 18,318 destroyed structures across 1,405 square miles, including the area where Karaba traveled. U.N. analysts say most of the homes appear to have been burned.

In March, I boarded a prop plane in Juba that deposited me on a dirt airstrip in Yambio, near the Congolese border in Western Equatoria. The area is home to the Azande ethnic group, communities of farmers that have suffered at the hands of government troops. At the encampments in town, people were living out in the open with little in the way of food. There, I met Ismail Nelson. On New Year’s Day, he was on his way to the local Episcopal church to celebrate Sunday mass when Dinka soldiers entered Bazumburu, a village outside Yambio. They grabbed him, bound his hands, and forced him to the ground.

A soldier stomped on the back of Nelson’s neck, driving his face into the dirt. Within moments, a machete slashed through Nelson’s skin and into the back of his skull. Then another blow to the back of his head. The soldier turned him over, sliced through his left cheek, then cut open his throat. Another soldier hacked away at a second man, several feet away. The two victims, dazed and bleeding, were dragged into an empty tukul, which the ­S.P.L.A. troops set on fire.

“Get up,” Nelson heard a voice booming in his head. “Get up!” He later thought it might be a spirit. Whatever it was, it pushed Nelson to rouse himself and help the other man out of the flames.

Nelson lurched toward the shade of a tree and dropped to the ground, trying to regain his senses. Then he forced himself to his feet and staggered to the main road. He was so mutilated that people didn’t recognize him, but someone finally called his name and asked, “Is that you?” A fellow villager managed to get word to one of Nelson’s sons, who took his father to the hospital in Yambio.

Outside Laufori, a man travels back into South Sudan to attempt to recover belongings from his home in Bamurye. It can take families several trips to transport their belongings across the border, risking attack by the S.P.L.A.

Even though we spoke through an interpreter, I noticed that Nelson was stammering and repeating himself. “I used to speak fluently,” he said. His wife told me his psychological trauma was even more profound than his physical scars. “I thought I would definitely be killed. I thought only about God,” Nelson told me with his bone-in-the-throat stutter.

Early one morning, a local guide and I left Yambio, to find Nelson’s village and others that had endured violence. We bounced down the rough dirt track in a Toyota Land Cruiser, following the path of least potholes. The sky brightened, the immense orange sun climbing higher over the verdant fields and emerald-topped trees. Forty minutes and fifteen miles later, we reached the burned homes of Bazungua. There was a cluster of flame-scorched tukuls here, and another a short distance away—incomplete squares of tan mud bricks, homes now charred, blackened, and roofless.

We drove on to Bodo, with burned out, roofless tukuls flanking the road. Not far away, house after house sat untouched by flame but eerily empty, as if hit by an epidemic. A small market along the main drag was deserted. The Peace Restaurant and Bar was shuttered. We pressed onward, passing fields and garden plots—filled with cassava, peanuts, and maize—all abandoned. I thought of the families who fled to Yambio and told me they feared starvation.

The devastation had reached Gitikiri, six miles to the east. More burned, abandoned tukuls. It was silent but for birdsong. Even the dogs had disappeared.

We jolted along, past palms and towering, fruit-laden mango trees, then a blackened stretch of ground, a field put to flame. There were even more burned tukuls in Bazumburu, on both sides of the road. “S.P.L.A.,” my guide said, acknowledging the handiwork of the soldiers, as he nodded toward another cluster of charred homes.

A few minutes later, we climbed out of the Land Cruiser and followed a ribbon-thin path that opened to a patch of scorched earth barely visible from the road. Off to the right, there was a rectangular tukul, missing its roof, ashes inside. A few paces away were the remains of another structure—just a semicircle of six charred branches sticking out of the ground. “This one was the kitchen,” my guide said, gesturing to the long, grooved grinding stone, now blackened by flame. Nearby, I found what looked to be a fresh grave.

Leaving Nelson’s village, we headed back down the road into ravaged areas of Gitikiri, Bodo, and Bazungua, finding one hut and one home after another, burned. Broken dishes were scattered among the ashes, torn clothes, a charred bicycle, an orphaned metal plate. I stared at painted white runes, still visible on one scorched tukul. They told a story: Three children had lived here, and had been vaccinated for polio last year. Now there were only charred wooden beams that once supported the roof. The kids were gone.

After South Sudan erupted in civil war in 2013, tens of thousands of civilians ran to United Nations bases, seeking protection from rampaging soldiers. Many have been stranded there ever since. Today, more than 200,000 South Sudanese live behind berms and razor wire in these sanctuaries-cum-prisons, 3.6 million have fled their homes, and more than 7.5 million need aid and protection. With farmers separated from their fields and relief agencies unable to reach large parts of the country, the resulting famine has left 100,000 South Sudanese in imminent mortal danger. One million more are at risk of starvation in the near future—one of four hunger crises across the Middle East and Africa that together, according to the U.N., constitute the greatest humanitarian disaster since World War II.

Last November, the United Nations also began warning about the potential for genocide in South Sudan. Yasmin Sooka uttered the name synonymous with African holocausts: Rwanda—where, in 1994, 800,000 people were killed in one hundred days, about 333 murders an hour, more than five lives exterminated every minute.

When I met with South Sudanese activists, politicians, and religious leaders, they often skirted the topic of genocide. In a nation where local civil society advocates and journalists have been harassed, tortured, and even killed for dissenting views, it’s too dangerous for most to talk openly about genocide or accuse the government of ethnic cleansing even as similar campaigns rage farther north, in the states of Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Western Bahr el Gazal.

In a low-slung beige building inside a compound on one of Juba’s anonymous unpaved streets, I met Edmund Yakani, a lawyer who once investigated atrocities in Darfur for the U.N. Today, he is the most outspoken human rights activist in South Sudan, a man who says aloud what others will only whisper in private. “Genocide is in the making. Crimes against humanity are in the making,” he told me as we sat in his conference room in February. “If we don’t defuse it right now, the violence could escalate to something worse than Rwanda.”

Yakani argued that America has a special obligation to his nation because South Sudan is a product of U.S. foreign policy. “We need the leaders of the United States to take responsibility to ensure that South Sudan is a stable, peaceful, and united country,” he said.

A day earlier, a bipartisan coalition of American legislators had sent a letter to President Trump, raising the specter of genocide and imploring him to appoint a special envoy to “bring urgently needed diplomatic leadership to international efforts to achieve a sustainable peace” in South Sudan. “Your swift action on this matter will make a difference in millions of lives,” they wrote.

One of the legislators who signed the letter was Michael Capuano, a Democratic representative from Massachusetts and a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan. “Not being able to do something is not the same as not being able to push for it,” he told me. He believes that the United States has a duty to stop “the murder of tens of thousands, if not more, innocent, unarmed civilians,” he said. “I don’t think this is at the top of the administration’s agenda, but it better be close to it, because if it isn’t they could end up with a real tragedy on their hands. And it will be on them if it happens.”

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in March, Nikki Haley, the administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, described the situation in South Sudan as a “civil war” with “no political solution in sight.” She threatened that “if the government is not taking care of their own people, we need to have strong actions that condemn them.” She said the United States intends to “challenge member states to start walking the walk and not just talking the talk of human rights.”

But there’s little indication that the administration is moving toward a coherent plan, let alone appointing a special envoy. “A policy review is under way with regard to South Sudan, and I’m not going to get ahead of that process or speculate on its outcomes,” a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told me. “We continue to press directly the government of South Sudan to do more to end attacks on its own civilians and create the conditions for peace.”

Neither Haley’s office nor the White House would concede that Kiir’s campaign of murder and massacre amounted to ethnic cleansing, though the ambassador did eventually call South Sudan’s famine “man-made” and refer to “an apparent campaign against the civilian population.” I asked a State Department spokesman the same question. Instead of answering, he expressed concern about “reports that some civilians are being targeted on an ethnic basis” without attributing the attacks to any particular party.

Kate Knopf, a South Sudan expert who heads the Pentagon’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, told me that substantial U.S. diplomatic engagement and economic assistance are essential to any path forward for South Sudan. But after pouring in billions of dollars, supporting Salva Kiir’s regime, training the ­S.P.L.A., and holding back on an arms embargo that helped Kiir to go on a weapons-buying spree, the U.S. government seems unwilling to offer even an honest assessment of the carnage, much less take any action.

For Kiir, months of international inaction have allowed his regime to operate unchecked. “The Obama Administration was very rough with the government of South Sudan,” Ateny Wek Ateny told me. “President Kiir hopes that the Trump Administration will be different, given that the Trump Administration will be focusing on making America great again and therefore will be reducing interference in other countries’ affairs.”

One afternoon in February, a mile or two from the Laufori collection point in Uganda, I met Salina Sunday, a thirty-eight-year-old resident of Bamurye and chair of the local women’s chapter of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, Kiir’s political party. When ­S.P.L.A. troops began killing civilians in Bamurye, Sunday left town with Alex Kajoba, the village elder whom Simon Yakida and the ­S.P.L.A. officer referred to as Abu Sala.

Soon after they reached the border, both decided to head back to their village, hoping to salvage whatever belongings they could. Kajoba took one path back, Sunday another. She made it back to Uganda. He didn’t.

Sunday told me she could take me to see Kajoba, but it meant crossing the border, traveling within earshot of the Bamurye barracks.

We spoke with dozens of drivers who refused, saying that the journey to Bamurye meant certain death. Finally I found a young man and negotiated a price. For forty minutes, we rode hell-for-leather—three of us on an overloaded motorcycle—down narrow, rutted footpaths to reach the outskirts of Bamurye.

I spotted Alex Kajoba—husband, father, grandfather—lying on the roadside at the edge of town, where multiple villagers, including Simon Yakida, said they had last seen him. His body was blackened and bloated, reeking of the sweet, terrible scent of putrescence, his stomach bursting out of his tan shirt. His hands were missing. What remained was a bloody stump on the right, a jagged shard of bone jutting from torn flesh on the left. His head was gone. Where it had met his neck was alive with a writhing mass of maggots spreading down his chest.

“After killing Abu Sala, they tried to shoot his wife. Fortunately, she was able to run and hide in the bush. They took his money and his bicycle,” Jackson Milla, thirty-seven, told me. The soldiers shot Kajoba in the side, then executed him, firing a bullet through the back of his head. Later they returned to defile his corpse, leaving the mutilated man as a warning to others.

It’s impossible to know just how many civilians in the Equatorias have been killed, but the indicators are staggering. “A hundred and twenty thousand South Sudanese refugees poured into Uganda in just the first two months of this year,” Yasmin Sooka said. “Almost all of them, when interviewed, said they had witnessed someone close to them being killed.”

In the face of this immense bloodshed, the government’s response has been remarkably cavalier. “If the Sudan People’s Liberation Army were killing people, there wouldn’t be any civilians left in South Sudan right now. We would have finished them off,” Ateny Wek Ateny told me.

In fact, analysts believe that something similar is happening. “There will be nobody left in South Sudan shortly,” Kate Knopf, the Pentagon expert, told me. “Either they will be dead, or they will have fled.” Her husband, Payton Knopf, until recently the coordinator of the U.N. Panel of Experts on South Sudan, said that by the end of the year, the country is projected to lose half of its population—counting only those who flee and those likely to die of starvation. “That’s an extraordinary and very rare thing,” he told me. “By comparison, in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, about a third of the people were killed—and that was an indisputable genocide.”

Facing the unimaginable, South Sudanese asked me why the international community—especially the United States—hadn’t come to their aid. “If this message can reach Donald Trump, ask him to come and see the situation in South Sudan. Let him come and see us living outside under trees,” said fifty-six-year-old Rkangelo Gbado Naakpurakondo, who fled to Yambio when his village, Gitikiri, was attacked by the ­S.P.L.A. in January.

I explained that Trump was pursuing an “America First” agenda, hoping to temporarily halt and then severely cut the number of refugees entering the United States. His plans, if approved by Congress, would slash the 1 percent of the budget previously devoted to foreign aid, cutting contributions to the U.N.’s peacekeeping funds while reducing support for overseas humanitarian organizations. The money saved might even be earmarked to build a wall to keep people out of the United States.

Naakpurakondo told me he believed that the United States could save his country—or at least be his own personal salvation. “If we had wings like birds, we would fly to America,” he said. “And we would stay there until peace finally comes to South Sudan.”

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Is South Sudan Government Engaged in Ethnic Cleansing, Triggering Africa’s Biggest Refugee Crisis?

Please WATCH the 12 minute interview (from minutes 47 to 59) for insight into what’s happening in South Sudan right now. Here is the link.

STORYJUNE 23, 2017

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s show by looking at South Sudan, where the United Nations warns an ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by the South Sudanese government is threatening to empty the country. The United Nations has accused soldiers with the government’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army, known as the SPLA, of killing, torturing and raping civilians, as well as burning down homes and villages. The violence has caused one of the biggest refugee crises in Africa. More than 1.7 million South Sudanese civilians have already fled to neighboring countries since the civil war erupted in 2013. This is a South Sudanese refugee named Maria Lalum, speaking from a refugee camp in Uganda.

MARIA LALUM: [translated] I crossed into Uganda at the beginning of this year, when government soldiers started attacking us. We just heard gunshots and took to the forest for safety. My children and grandchildren scattered off in different directions, and we were reunited just recently in this camp.

AMY GOODMAN: South Sudan is the world’s youngest country. The United States backed South Sudan’s independence in 2011 and South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, whose troops are now accused of carrying out the majority of crimes in the ongoing war.

For more, we’re joined by journalist Nick Turse, a reporter with The Investigative Fund, spent six weeks reporting from across South Sudan and in refugee camps in neighboring Uganda and the Central African Republic. His new article for Harper’s is titled “Ghost Nation: An Ethnic-Cleansing Campaign by the Government Threatens to Empty South Sudan.”

We welcome you to Democracy Now! You just actually were recently in South Sudan. Talk about what’s there. This is covered almost not at all in the United States.

NICK TURSE: Yeah, it’s very difficult to get coverage of it here. Thank you for having me on. And I spent about six weeks in northern Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, interviewing internally displaced persons and refugees. I talked to about 250 people when I was there. It’s the fourth time in the last four years that I’ve been covering the civil war there, and it was by far the worst I’d seen it. There’s a government ethnic cleansing campaign that’s going on through the southlands of the country, known as the Equatoria region. Government troops will roll into villages in trucks or on foot, say almost nothing and just begin opening fire. They’ll generally kill somewhere between four and 10 people and then also set fire to homes.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you give us a little history lesson here? South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, established in 2011. Explain also the U.S. role and what you feel the U.S. responsibility is today. But begin with how it was founded and how it has deteriorated into what it is today.

NICK TURSE: Sure. South Sudan, or southern Sudan, I should say, has been more or less at war since the 1950s, with very few respites in between. The last civil war between the Khartoum government in the north of Sudan and the southerners raged from the early 1980s, 1983, to 2005. And from this, South Sudan was born in, as you said, 2011. You know, the last two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, put it indelicately, but there’s some truth in it, that the United States midwifed South Sudan into existence. The United States provided a tremendous amount of support, financial assistance, training to the government and to the military that’s now carrying out these crimes. In many ways, the United States was the guarantor of South Sudan’s independence. But after the nation plunged into civil war in December of 2013, the U.S. has walked away, in many cases. It didn’t push for an arms embargo until very late in the Obama administration, until the administration was out of political capital. It never even imposed a unilateral arms embargo. Under the new Trump—

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

NICK TURSE: Well, you know, there was a lot of support for these leaders in South Sudan, including Salva Kiir, the president, who the United States had fostered. You know, there was a lot of lingering support from the prior civil war. I think there was always the idea that somehow tough talk would convince the government there to change its ways. And over and over again, it’s proved not to be the case. This government doesn’t—doesn’t respond to that.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the rift between the president and the vice president in South Sudan.

NICK TURSE: Sure. This was the beginnings of the civil war. President Salva Kiir, who’s still in power, dismissed his vice president, Riek Machar. Kiir hails from the Dinka people, the largest of South Sudan’s ethnic groups. Machar was from the—is from the Nuer. And the civil war really began as an ethnic cleansing campaign in the capital after Machar said that he would challenge Kiir for the presidency in upcoming elections—elections that never were held. Kiir’s troops went throughout Juba, the capital, slaughtering civilians and soldiers of the Nuer ethnic group. Since then, the civil war has fractured in many ways, and now its targets are not only the Nuer, but also ethnic minorities in the south of the country—the Acholi people, Madi, Kuku, Kakwa, Azande—all these other smaller ethnic groups that are being chased from the country.

AMY GOODMAN: You begin your piece, “Ghost Nation,” in Harper’s by writing, “In his heart, Simon Yakida knew he was digging his own grave.” Tell us who Simon is, what his story is.

NICK TURSE: Sure. I found Simon Yakida, who’s a father of nine, a resident of a village called Bamurye in the far south of South Sudan, living under a tree, a large mango tree, in Uganda. Most of his village was chased out after a series of killings by the South Sudanese government troops, and they caught Simon on his way out of town. They forced him to dig a grave, which Simon believed would be his own grave. And they took steps to execute him. It was only through happenstance, poor aim and a gun jam, that saved his life. After an argument among soldiers, they allowed him to leave. But, you know, Simon Yakida left something in that village, the site of his supposed execution. The man I found was completely shattered, traumatized. I don’t think he knew what to do next or where he would go. And it’s like this for so many South Sudanese. It’s a country whose population has been traumatized.

AMY GOODMAN: In South Sudan, refugees fleeing civil war say government soldiers have indiscriminately killed civilians, slitting the throats of adults, running down children with a vehicle, shooting those who tried to flee. Hundreds of survivors recount the violent scenes as they flee toward safety in Uganda. This is one civilian, Password Okot.

PASSWORD OKOT: [translated] I had two brothers. One of them was arrested by the soldiers and slaughtered for no reason. The other one was trying to flee but was shot dead. I don’t even know what to do with their widows and children.

AMY GOODMAN: Just one voice. Talk about why you went there. And also, this is becoming the biggest refugee crisis in all of Africa now, with 1.7 million refugees, people trying to leave.

NICK TURSE: Yes. And, in fact—and the number of internally displaced persons is even higher. We’re talking about around 4 million people who have now fled their homes. And on top of this, there’s a great deal of hunger, you know, and all of it completely man-made or war-made—6 million people who are severely food-insecure, 1.7 million who are on the brink of famine. But this story doesn’t get covered very much in the United States. And the United States has, I believe, a special responsibility to South Sudan. So I’ve felt an imperative to keep going back. It’s really the people that bring me back. The South Sudanese deserve so much better. And I think it’s important that Americans know exactly what’s going on.

AMY GOODMAN: What do people tell you needs to happen there?

NICK TURSE: Well, people in South Sudan are looking for the international community to step up, to put real pressure on the government there. You know, it’s always difficult to tell exactly what they want, but, generally, they’ll say, “The United States is our benefactor. They’re a superpower. We’re a very small country. Why isn’t the United States doing more?” At the very least, I think the United States could, you know, appoint a special envoy. This is something that a bipartisan group in Congress has begged the Trump administration to do. They haven’t, so there’s no point person even coordinating this for the U.S. government.

AMY GOODMAN: And is there any arms embargo in place right now?

NICK TURSE: Not at the present.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, how would you assess U.S. military action in Africa? You’ve been reporting on it for years. Has it changed under President Trump?

NICK TURSE: Well, you know, as we’ve seen in other contexts around the world, the military, in some ways, has been given carte blanche by the Trump administration. We’ve seen a loosening of restrictions in Somalia. And I think we’re seeing a ramp-up of the American-backed war there, more U.S. boots on the ground. There was an American special operations forces soldier killed there recently, two others injured. I think we’re going to see more of that. Of course, there are U.S. forces still on the ground in Libya, troops that are in western Africa aiding the fight against Boko Haram. So, it’s early to see exactly what the Trump administration is doing. I think there isn’t a real heavily coordinated policy with Africa. But I think we’re going to see a ramp-up, more troops on the ground, more bases. And this has been the way that things have been going for years now.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 15 seconds, but the danger journalists face going to South Sudan? I mean, the people in South Sudan, obviously, clearly face massive danger.

NICK TURSE: Definitely. Local journalists face the most difficulties. They’re threatened, detained, tortured, even killed, and no one’s ever been held responsible. But the crackdowns against foreign journalists have become greater. More and more people are being accused of being spies. I was myself, threatened with jail. NPR’s Eyder Peralta was accused of the same and actually jailed there. They banned about 20 foreign reporters, people who know the country best. So, it’s become a difficult environment.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Nick, we’re going to link to your article, “Ghost Nation.”

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres says peace in South Sudan is “a must”

 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres says peace in South Sudan is “a must”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres says peace in South Sudan is “a must”

22 Jun2017

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES SAYS PEACE IN SOUTH SUDAN IS “A MUST”

MACHRINE BIRUNGI & SANI MARTIN

Peace in South Sudan is “a must”, for these people to be able to have a future, the UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres has said.

Secretary-General António Guterres was speaking to journalists in Arua Uganda, shortly after he visited Imvempi Refugee camp on Thursday. The camp currently hosts more than 100 thousand South Sudanese refugees.

He made a direct appeal to the donor community, saying the generosity and solidarity shown by Uganda should be reciprocated.

“What we all have seen, he said “is a demonstration of extra-ordinary generosity of the people and the government of Uganda receiving so many hundreds of thousands, almost one million South Sudanese as sisters and brothers and sharing with them their land and everything they have.” Guterres.

Mr. Guterres will preside over a pledging conference in Kampala this Friday, which seeks to raise $2 billion US dollars to meet the humanitarian needs of refugees and to support the hosting communities over the next four years.

Link to web article here.

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Sudan Sanctions July Deadline “Won’t Work”: Trump Administration Should Delay Decision

Photo: dabangasudan.org/Getty Images/File

“July Deadline Won’t Work”: Trump Administration Should Delay Decision on Sudan Sanctions

Washington, DC, June 22, 2017 — The Trump administration should delay a July decision on U.S. sanctions on Sudan, according to a report published today by the Enough Project.

The report, “The July Deadline Won’t Work: Why the U.S. needs to delay the decision on Sudan sanctions,” highlights serious questions about progress by Sudan on the “five tracks” under U.S. review, including humanitarian access and a cessation of hostilities. The report also highlights that the senior U.S. government officials responsible for Africa policy who would typically play central roles in such an important decision are not yet in place, and thus are unable to weigh in on this critical decision.

John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project, said: “Given inconclusive evidence concerning multiple tracks and the fact that senior Africa policy posts have not yet been filled, the Trump administration should defer for at least six months the mid-July decision on what to do about the sanctions. This five-track policy initiative is deeply flawed and incomplete, undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives, and gives away a major point of U.S. leverage for little beyond potential short-term counter-terrorism gains while doing nothing to address the structural issues in Sudan that have led to increased refugee flows to Europe, further repression of Sudanese Christians and other minority groups, and continued war and authoritarian leadership. A six month delay in the decision would give the Trump administration time to pursue a separate, new and independent track for peace and human rights in Sudan. Incorporating modernized and focused financial pressures tools, as well as new incentives, this new track could seek to advance human rights, religious freedom, essential democratic reforms, anti-corruption efforts, good governance, and a comprehensive peace in Sudan.”

In an associated report released last week, the Enough Project presented the case for a new framework of U.S.-Sudan engagement focused on peace and human rights issues that would be underpinned by strong financial pressures.

Omer Ismail, Senior Policy Advisor at the Enough Project, said: “The Trump administration lacks the verifiable information that it needs to confirm that the government of Sudan has sustained these positive actions on all five tracks. There are multiple public reports to suggest the contrary related to at least two of the tracks.  There is little evidence of a recent “marked reduction in offensive military activity” in Darfur. Instead there is ample evidence of the Sudanese government’s disregard of the safety of civilians or outright targeting of civilians, with numerous reports of violent attacks in Darfur by Sudanese government forces, integrated militia known as the Rapid Support Forces, and other government-armed ethnically-based militias in Darfur.”

In a related development, this week the U.N. Security Council is considering decimating the capacity of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNAMID) based on a strategic review conducted by the United Nations.

Ismail added, “The UNAMID review is based on a fundamentally flawed analysis of the situation in Darfur, an analysis undermined by the violence that took place shortly after the report was submitted to the Security Council. While it’s hard to predict the immediate effect these cuts would have on civilian protection, we know the risk of conflict is high in many of the areas where bases are to be closed and military contingents are to be withdrawn. The withdrawal of these UNAMID military forces and the closure of bases will make several key areas unsafe for humanitarian operations, likely leading to closures of programs upon which tens of thousands of conflict-affected people rely.”

Read the full report: http://eno.ug/2sQXja7

http://eno.ug/2suc56d : الملخص التنفیذي

Read Enough Project’s Recent Reports on Sudan:

Recent Congressional Testimonies:

  • Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s hearing on Sudan: Human Rights and SanctionsTestimony of Enough’s Omer Ismail (April 2017)
  • House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations The Questionable Case for Easing Sudan SanctionsTestimony of Enough’s Brad Brooks-Rubin (April 2017)

Recent Op-eds:

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606gh@enoughproject.org.

About THE ENOUGH PROJECT: The Enough Project supports peace and an end to mass atrocities in Africa’s deadliest conflict zones. Together with its investigative initiative The Sentry, Enough counters armed groups, violent kleptocratic regimes, and their commercial partners that are sustained and enriched by corruption, criminal activity, and the trafficking of natural resources. By helping to create consequences for the major perpetrators and facilitators of atrocities and corruption, Enough seeks to build leverage in support of peace and good governance. Enough conducts research in conflict zones, engages governments and the private sector on potential policy solutions, and mobilizes public campaigns focused on peace, human rights, and breaking the links between war and illicit profit. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org.

Link to web article here.

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Is It Time to Repeal U.S. Sanctions On Sudan?

The clock is ticking for President Trump who must decide by July 12 whether to lift decades-long U.S. sanctions on Sudan.

PRESS RELEASE

As a July decision approaches on whether to permanently remove most sanctions on Sudan, the Trump administration should properly evaluate progress, or lack thereof, on each of the five tracks on which progress is required, and the administration should not privilege any single track over others. Enough’s view is that the evidence available concerning multiple tracks is inconclusive. Combined with the fact that key senior Trump administration officials responsible for Africa policy are not yet in place, this calls for a six-month delay on the decision, during which time the Trump administration should assign the additional staff needed to gather credible information and assess progress on each of the five tracks. While properly assessing progress on the five tracks, the Trump administration should also pivot to pursue a separate new track of engagement focused on advancing peace and human rights in Sudan.

A convoy of WFP trucks in North Darfur (file photo).

Introduction

This past January, the outgoing Obama administration conditionally eased almost all U.S. sanctions on Sudan, arguing that the Sudanese government had made improvements in five tracks of engagement: (1) cooperation on counterterrorism; (2) cooperation in countering the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); (3) commitment to a cessation of hostilities in Sudan’s conflict areas; (4) ending support to South Sudanese armed opposition actors; and (5) providing humanitarian access to populations in need. The Obama administration asserted that the prospect of full sanctions removal created incentives for the Sudanese regime to improve conditions for the Sudanese people. The executive order initially easing U.S. sanctions in January provided that the sanctions would be lifted altogether in mid-July 2017 if the Sudanese government verifiably “sustained the positive actions that gave rise to this order.”

There are four major problems with the executive order and the way it was implemented by the Obama administration. First, it removed one of the biggest points of leverage the United States has to achieve its policy objectives at the very time the sanctions were beginning to bite more effectively, mostly because of enforcement of Iran sanctions that led to enforcement actions related to Sudan. Second, the Trump administration is just now putting in place the personnel needed to properly track and make use of the potential opportunity provided by the conditional easing of sanctions. Third, at the time of the issuance of the executive order in January, the Sudanese regime in fact had not made such meaningful progress on at least two of the five tracks as to warrant the easing of sanctions at that time. Fourth, the five tracks do not by themselves address the core human rights and governance issues that are at the center of the ongoing crisis. This policy initiative is therefore deeply flawed and incomplete, undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives, and gives away a major point of U.S. leverage for little beyond potential short-term counterterrorism gains while doing nothing to address the structural issues in Sudan that have led to increased refugee flows to Europe, further repression of Sudanese Christians and other minority groups, and continued war and authoritarian leadership.

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S Sudan to lift ban on foreign journalists: media official

2017-06-22 21:04

Juba – South Sudan’s media authority will lift a ban on around 20 foreign journalists who had been refused access to the country, a top media official said on Thursday.Earlier this month the government’s media regulatory authority said it had banned the journalists over “unsubstantiated and unrealistic stories”.

The National Dialogue Steering Committee – tasked with leading consultations to restore peace in the country – put pressure on the Media Authority to lift the ban.

“They are going to allow any journalists to come. They were preventing some journalists because they said some journalists are fond of criticism of what is happening in the country,” said Alfred Taban, the committee’s chief of media affairs.

 “They were in other words skeptics. I said whether skeptic or not, they must be allowed to come to the country. So now if the BBC wants to come there is no question of somebody being denied a visa.”
Media Authority chief Elijah Alier Kuai said permits would be granted to all foreign journalists and there was “no problem” with the reporters coming to South Sudan.A report by Juba-based Eye Radio two weeks ago said those banned were deemed to have produced stories with “the potential to incite hate and violence” or that “do not have reliable sources or specific locations” or “that insult or degrade the country and its people”.

Alier told the radio station: “You need to respect also the country, you can’t just label the country as crazy.”

Taban said Alier had since “promised that he will facilitate entry to the foreign journalists.”

The civil war that began in South Sudan in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir fell out with his former deputy Riek Machar, has been characterised by ethnic massacres, attacks on civilians, widespread rape, the recruitment of child soldiers and other forms of brutality and human rights violations.

Both government and rebel forces are accused of what many commentators regard to be war crimes.

According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa, journalists from leading news organisations – most of whom had previously reported in South Sudan – have been refused visas or accreditation over the past six months.

Last month Al Jazeera English staff were banned from working in South Sudan after airing a report from a rebel-held part of the country.

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