250 Child Soldiers in South Sudan Begin Recovery with World Vision

FEBRUARY 09, 2018

Image: Stefanie Glinski / AFP / Getty Images. Link to image.

With the help of World Vision, more than 250 South Sudanese children will have the chance to return to school, reunite with their families, and receive counseling after years of being forced to serve as soldiers and domestic workers during their country’s civil war.

The New York Times reported this week that 87 girls and 224 boys were freed in the second-largest release by armed groups since the conflict began, and several hundred more are expected to transition in the coming weeks.

World Vision, which has worked in South Sudan since 1989 and currently reaches 1 million people displaced by the conflict, received the children on Wednesday and will oversee their recovery and reunification.

“We are particularly concerned about a number of the girls being released who have experienced sexual or gender-based violence,” said Mesfin Loha, interim national director at World Vision South Sudan. “We will get them the support so they have a sense of hope again.”

With high levels of poverty, widespread displacement, and lack of education (70 percent of South Sudanese children are not in school—the highest proportion in the world), youth in what World Vision ranks as the world’s most fragile state are particularly vulnerable targets for the armed groups.

The United Nations has coordinated the release of almost 2,000 of 19,000 children recruited and kidnapped since the civil war began in 2013.

World Vision’s reintegration program gets support from the UN Children’s Fund, or UNICEF. Moving forward, World Vision case workers in the city of Yambio will work with children in recovery, offer school and vocational training, and provide interim care for those unable to locate their families.

“South Sudan’s children have already seen and experienced unimaginable violence. It is jeopardizing the country’s next generation,” Loha said. “These initiatives will help children have the opportunity to earn income in the future and help them navigate away from returning to the conflict.”

South Sudan gained independence in 2011, making it the youngest nation in the world. Though the central African country is about 60 percent Christian, it still ranks among the worst places for Christian persecution (this year it was No. 4).

In initial news coverage following this week’s release, teens described their responsibilities as bodyguards, lookouts, and fighters, traumatized by the killings they witnessed. Most said they had been kidnapped and forced into one of the warring factions, the South Sudan National Liberation Movement or the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-Opposition.

 “Child abduction is always in areas of cattle raids particularly between a tribe called Murle in Pibor. When this people go to raid cattle of the Nuer and Dinka, they end up stealing children as well,” said Edward Dima, president of the Baptist Convention of South Sudan, who has fled to Uganda amid the conflict.

“I pray for peace to be restored in the country to stamp out some of those practices.”

Beyond those recruited by fighters, multitudes more have witnessed and suffered during the five-year civil war. The UN reports that 1 million children in South Sudan will require psychological support due to “the emotional impact of conflict, loss of family members, separation, and displacement.”

Christians serving in areas of active conflict have served as resources for trauma counseling, and faith has been shown to help survivors build resilience rather than despair in the wake of terror and violence.

At the same time, South Sudan has suffered food and water shortages as a result of the war. Last month, UNICEF estimated that a quarter million children were “at risk of imminent death” due to malnutrition.

In 2017, aid workers with evangelical charity Samaritan’s Purse were kidnapped by armed rebels and later released. Fighters regularly use violence against workers and try to block distributions.

The South Sudan Council of Churches has continued to pray for peace and ask for humanitarian assistance.

In 2015, CT traveled to South Sudan with World Vision president and CEO Richard Stearns to see first-hand why Christians remain hopeful about the world’s most fragile state.

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South Sudan Government Objects to Rules for Peace Talks

February 09, 2018

FILE – South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Leuth, spokesperson of the South Sudanese government, addresses a news conference during South Sudan’s negotiation talks in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 5, 2014. Link to image.

South Sudan’s government Friday declined to sign an agreement on rules to facilitate discussion aimed at reviving the country’s collapsed 2015 peace deal.

The government’s delegates refused to approve the Declaration of Principles (DOP), intended to guide a second phase of high-level talks. They cited concerns over the document’s Article 28, which calls for taking punitive measures against individuals who block implementation of the revived peace deal.

The government’s delegates were not obligated to sign the guidelines, South Sudan’s information minister and spokesman Michael Makuei told reporters Friday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the talks are taking place. He said mediators and facilitators had announced Thursday “that the signing of the DOP is optional. So it is up to each party to decide whether to sign.”

Makuei said the government delegation wants Article 28 removed from the declaration.

“There is no reason for us to sign such a document in which there is a provision which incriminates and which irrelevant and which is not a principle,’’ the information minister said.

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar speaks in an interview with The Associated Press in Johannesburg on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. Machar says a political process is needed to revive a peace deal that has collapsed in his country. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell). Link to image.

Talks enter fifth day

Meanwhile, rebels of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM IO), loyal to Riek Machar, issued a statement Friday affirming their commitment to ending violence in South Sudan.

They and other opposition groups strongly support Article 28.

The South Sudan parties signed an agreement in December on ceasing hostilities, protecting civilians and providing humanitarian access in South Sudan, but violated it within hours.

The talks entered their fifth day Friday, with the parties reaching another deadlock on the composition of the South Sudan’s transitional National Legislative Assembly. The various opposition groups would like the current assembly dissolved and reconstituted. But the government delegation insisted the assembly should be expanded to accommodate new groups.

Talks will continue

Rajab Mohandis, representing an umbrella group of South Sudan’s civil society at the talks, said negotiations would continue despite the setback by the government delegation.

“We are here to negotiate,” Mohandis said. “By not signing this document [DOP], it doesn’t signal any party pulling out from the process.”

Mohandis said the civil society stands ready to encourage good-faith negotiations.

“It our hope as the civil society that the parties, with the help of the mediators, will find a common ground” on Article 28 and “sign the document and continue with negotiations.”

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Egypt, Sudan agree on measures to restore relations

FRIDAY 9 FEBRUARY 2018

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February 9, 2018 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan and Egypt have agreed on a package of measures to be implemented over the next few months to addressing outstanding issues and restore confidence between the two neighbouring countries.

The foreign ministers of the two countries, Ibrahim Ghandour and Sameh Shoukry held a meeting on Sunday in Cairo with the participation of the head of intelligence services Abbas Kamel of Egypt and Sudan’s Mohamed Atta to discuss tensions between the two countries after Khartoum’s decision to recall its ambassador on 5 January.

The government-controlled media in Egypt carried out an unprecedented hostile media campaign against Sudan and its president Omer al-Bashir after a visit to Sudan of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Also, in January Sudan accused Egypt and Eritrea of backing armed opposition groups.

In a joint statement issued after the tripartite meeting, the two countries announced a number of technical decisions to restore bilateral relations including the ban of hostile media campaigns and to enhance security and military cooperation between the two countries.

On the dispute over the Nile water, the statement referred to the commitment of both sides to the 1959 bilateral agreement and tripartite declaration of principle on the resolution of the dispute over the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in signed in Khartoum on 23 March 2015.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Shoukry said the meeting contributed to remove misunderstandings and to develop a roadmap to restore the relationship in line with the aspirations and guidance of the two countries’ leaders.

He called on the Egyptian and Sudanese media to be objective and not to offend the peoples and leaders of the two countries.

For his part, Ghandour announced that the meeting set up a mechanism to solve on the outstanding issues, also he said the media in the two countries has to observe the sanctity of relations between the two countries in the future.

When asked about an agreement to establish a Turkish naval base in Suakin on the Red Sea Ghandour said there were no foreigners in the small town pointing there are 400 houses inhabited by Sudanese nationals.

Also, “there was no talk about a Turkish military base in the city or elsewhere in any place in Sudan, but the Turkish President offered to restore and rebuild old houses and to use (Suakin) as a tourist island for mutual benefit,” he disclosed.

on the Ethiopian dam, Ghandour said it was agreed to hold a meeting including nine ministers of Irrigation, foreign affairs and intelligence from the three countries in Khartoum next March.

Cairo meeting was decided last month after an encounter between President Omer al-Bashir and Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi in Addis Ababa on 28 January.

Observers say the bilateral relations are undermined by the mistrust between the two government as Cairo believes that Khartoum supports the Egyptian Islamists overthrown by al-Sisi in 2013.

This lack of confidence complicates the solution of the dispute over border triangle of Halayeb and also pushed Sudan to foster its strategic alliance with Ethiopia.

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Economic collapse in Sudan is rapidly accelerating

By Eric Reeves

The Central Bank of Sudan, which has only a very small amount of foreign exchanged currency (Forex), is reported today to have banned any non-governmental agent or business from using its own Forex for imports of any kind. One way or another, in other words, the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime is determined to arrogate to itself all Forex (also known as “hard currency,” currency not subject to the massive inflation rates presently ravaging Sudan).

This will be “disastrous”: it means that even food (i.e., flour for bread) and medicines cannot be imported, commodities desperately needed by the people of Sudan. It also means even greater inflation for the price of bread, the staple food for many Sudanese families. Having already suffered a 300% increase in the price of bread with the promulgation of the 2018 budget in late December 2017—and another 25% increase this past weekend—prices are set to skyrocket even further upwards. The ban on use of private Forex to import even the most critical medicines will certainly cost lives, and put many medicine beyond the financial reach of millions of Sudanese.

The rapacious effort to deny the use of Forex for imports reflects a desperate attempt by the regime to halt the precipitous slide in the value of the Sudanese Pound, which continues to lose value at an extremely rapid rate because it is not back by hard currency. Black market trading in the U.S. dollar, the benchmark hard currency, reveals that there is no bottom to the decline.

Professor Hamid Eltigani, the head of the Department of Public Policy and Administration at the American University (Cairo) is reported to have declared (fully accurately) that “economic measures that will have disastrous consequences in a matter of days…these measures by the government will force the flight of investors, exporters, importers, and halt trade.”

The lifting of U.S. sanctions, hailed by so many foolish observers, has simply proved to be the starting point for utter disaster in the Sudanese economy. The root issue was never sanctions, but decades of gross economic mismanagement and equally gross self-enrichment by the NIF/NCP regime—a fact that the international community simply refused to acknowledge. The most spectacular example remains that of Edward Gemayel, speaking in 2013 as the IMF’s Mission Chief for Sudan:

“Mr. Edward Gemayel, the IMF’s Mission Chief for Sudan noted that ’Sudan has a long track record of implementing sustainable economic policies.’”(IMF press release, October 12, 2013)

This was cynical mendacity on the part of Gemayel, but had no effect on his career and gave cover to those who wished to ignore the policies we see culminating in the present catastrophe. But this looming catastrophe was there for all to see at the very time Gemayel was serving as dissimulator-in-chief for the Khartoum regime. See |

“Watching the Bubble Burst: Political Implications of Sudan’s Economic Implosion,” Eric Reeves for the Enough Project Forum, 17 September 2014 | http://www.enoughproject.org/reports/enough-forum-watching-bubble-burst

“Kleptocracy in Khartoum: Self-Enrichment by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party,” Eric Reeves for the Enough Project Forum, December 2, 2015 | https://enoughproject.org/blog/enough-forum-release-kleptocracy-khartoum

It was simply not in the perceived self-interest of various international actors to acknowledge the scale and consequence of Khartoum’s immensely destructive economic policies or the extent of the kleptocracy that lies at the very heart of the regime, and generates most of its “political support.”

Now the people of Sudan will suffer terribly, one way or another, as a consequence of this self-serving myopia. Further demonstrations and popular protests are inevitable—but so, too, is violent repression by the regime and its ruthless security forces. Newspapers will continue to suffer extreme censorship, especially when it comes to the topics of the economic crisis or protests; demonstrations will be met with increasing violence—excessive and indiscriminate use of tear gas; beatings; incarceration and torture (especially of political leaders and activists); and ultimately, if génocidaire-in-chief Omar al-Bashir determines it necessary for his survival, the use of live ammunition accompanied by “shoot to kill” orders, as was the case in September 2013.

Will the army continue to be quiescent in the face of the slaughtering of Sudanese civilians? There were signs in September 2013 that many in the army were appalled, and at least one major left the army in protest. The National Intelligence and Security Services, Military Intelligence, and other intelligence organizations will undoubtedly stay loyal to al-Bashir and his cronies: their lives and livelihoods depend upon it. But the army will survive regime change as an institution if one thoroughly corrupted by 29 years of purges and re-shaping by the NIF/NCP regime. Its mid-level officers—especially colonels and majors—may well decide that the only way to regain any favour among the people of Sudan is to support them if they again face “shoot to kill” orders issued to the police and security services.

But in the short term, only increasing hardship and violence loom for the people of Sudan—hardship and violence that the international community ignores and refuses to address in its variously self-interested relations with the Khartoum regime.

Eric Reeves, Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights

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FREED SOUTH SUDAN CHILD SOLDIERS RECOUNT TRAUMA OF ABDUCTION

More than 300 children, 87 of them girls, were released by armed groups in Wednesday’s ceremony.

FILE: Two former child soldiers are seen in Juba, South Sudan. Picture: United Nations Photo. Link to Image.

Bakhita was only 12 years old when rebels snatched her from her family’s farm, adding her to a grim list of almost 19,000 children that the United Nations says have been recruited, often by force, by armed groups in South Sudan’s brutal civil war.

“I was thinking of my family every day. Sometimes, I cried but I couldn’t escape, the soldiers were everywhere in the bushes,” Bakhita told Reuters in a soft voice from the western town of Yambio, where she was among hundreds of children handed over to the UN on Wednesday.

She had been with the rebels two years, she said.

“There’s no house. We sleep in a tent. Sometimes at night, some soldiers come to my place and want to rape me by force. If I resist, they will beat me and make me cook for a week as a punishment for refusing to sleep with them,” the 14-year-old said, beginning to cry.

More than 300 children, 87 of them girls, were released by armed groups in Wednesday’s ceremony – the start of a process which the UN says is expected to see at least 700 children freed in the coming weeks.

But militias are recruiting children faster than humanitarians can free them.

Many, like Bakhita, are kidnapped at gunpoint. Others choose to join, lured by food and protection in a country whose economy has been wrecked by conflict and hyperinflation. Pockets of the nation plunged into famine last year.

“I didn’t kill. My commander was nice to me. I was given a gun to protect myself and people around me,” said Henry, a short 16-year-old rebel recruit with unkempt hair who wore battered open-toe sandals.

But even his hurried interview hinted at underlying trauma.

“The sound of the gun has affected my brain, I need something to help my brain recover,” he said hesitantly.

CIVIL WAR

Oil-rich South Sudan became the world’s youngest nation when it won independence from Sudan in 2011. Civil war broke out two years later, eventually forcing a third of the 12-million-strong population to flee their homes.

The conflict has spawned ethnic killings. Many top military chiefs are Dinka, the same ethnic group as President Salva Kiir Mayardit, and many rebels are Nuer, the ethnic group of former vice president Riek Machar. Many smaller groups have carved out territory controlled by their own militias. Gang rapes and attacks on civilians are common.

Mahimbo Mdoe, the representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund in South Sudan (Unicef), said the mass release of children was the biggest in three years.

“It is vital that negotiations continue so there are many more days like this,” he said in a statement.

Most of the children were released by the South Sudan National Liberation Movement, a rebel group that signed a peace agreement with the government in 2016. Nearly 100 children were released from the ranks of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), the biggest rebel group, which is led by Machar.

Some had previously escaped and been reunited with their families but had not been able to get any support.

Unicef plans to provide the children with civilian clothes, counselling, food assistance and vocational training as it tries to reunite them with their families. Those whose families can’t be traced will be taken to care facilities.

Among those facing an uncertain future is 17-year-old Justin, who became a bodyguard for a senior commander, after rebel forces attacked his home village in Zahra, near Yambio, in 2017. Justin said he burned his army uniforms to help erase traumatic memories.

“A lot of bad things happened when I was in the bush. If you don’t go and steal, you wouldn’t have something to eat, when the government forces attacked us, we would be on the run the whole day fighting with nothing to eat,” he said. “I don’t have clothes to wear, even these shoes, I stole them from someone.”

“I am the only one left. My mother died, and my father went to Bentiu but he didn’t come back. I am only hearing he was killed in the war because he’s a soldier. I don’t want to work in the army (militia) anymore.”

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His Banner Over Them is Love

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“He has brought me to his banqueting place, And his banner over me is love [waving overhead to protect and comfort me]. Song of Solomon 2:4 (Ampl)

“Father God, we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that You will banner Your love over the families of Sudan and South-Sudan. We pray that all who are experiencing trauma will feel your comfort in this day and that you will protect them. Amen.”

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U.S. imposes arms embargo on S. Sudan

3:38 am, February 04, 2018

The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is imposing a U.S. arms embargo on civil war-torn South Sudan while urging the United Nations and other countries to do the same.

The State Department said Friday the United States is restricting all sales of defense equipment and services to all parties to South Sudan’s conflict, saying it is “appalled” by the continuing violence that has defied a ceasefire. It’s mostly symbolic since the United States has almost no defense trade with the East African country in the first place.

The United States is also calling on South Sudan’s neighbors to implement similar arms restrictions and urging the U.N. Security Council to support a global embargo on the country. “The message must be clear — the United States, the region and the international community will not stand idly by as innocent South Sudanese civilians are murdered,” the statement said.

Late last month, U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley announced that the United States had given up on South Sudan’s leader after investing more than $11 billion in the country, and she called President Salva Kiir an “unfit partner” in the pursuit of peace.

Untold tens of thousands of people have been killed in the civil war that erupted in December 2013 after tensions between supporters of Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his deputy Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer. Machar is now in exile. The United Nations and others have warned of ethnic violence, the recruitment of thousands of child soldiers and the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war.

The number of South Sudanese refugees could reach 3 million by the end of this year, Africa’s largest refugee crisis since Rwanda’s genocide in 1994, the United Nations said Thursday.

The United States in the last days of the Obama administration tried and failed to have the U.N. Security Council impose an arms embargo on South Sudan.

Haley has urged the council to impose an embargo, but Russia and China remain opposed.

The world’s youngest country won independence from Sudan in 2011, and later that year the United States clarified that its arms embargo on Sudan didn’t apply to the new nation.

Frustration with South Sudan’s government and rebels has been rising. The latest ceasefire, which went into effect Dec. 24, was violated within hours.

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Fire destroys nearly 70 homes in South Darfur camp

Published on 04 Feb 2018

Major fires that broke out in Otash camp for the displaced near Nyala, capital of South Darfur, last week, completely destroyed 67 homes and 47 stalls.

A camp sheikh reported to Radio Dabanga that the first fire broke out at the camp’s market at about 9 pm on Wednesday. “47 market stalls and sun shades were destroyed. Owners of cafes and small restaurants, butchers, and leather workers were the hardest hit.”

On Thursday evening, another large fire developed in the camp.

“In addition to the 67 homes that burned down, we had to dismantle 54 other homes to stop the fire from spreading further,” the community leader said. “If we had not reacted quickly, the flames would have destroyed the entire camp.”

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Children being sold in South Sudan ‘for the price of 20 cows’

Feb. 4, 2018, at 9:30 p.m.

Akobo, one of the last rebel-held strongholds in South Sudan, where children are being abducted AP. Link to image.

Child abductions have risen sharply during South Sudan’s civil war as desperate people try to make a living.

One child, of any age, is said to sell for 20 cows, worth about £5,000.

During a visit to one of the opposition’s last remaining strongholds, reporters spoke with a father whose children were seized from the yard of his home.

All were under the age of 5. He fears that two were sold for cattle and that the youngest is no longer alive.

Deng Machar told how three of his children were abducted from Akobo (AP). Link to image.

It is a little-acknowledged tragedy in South Sudan’s five-year civil war.

Child kidnappings between clans have increased as people become more desperate amid widespread hunger and a devastated economy, human rights groups say.

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Sudan devalues pound to 30 against US dollar

2018-02-05 06:04

Khartoum – Sudan’s central bank on Sunday announced it will devalue the local currency to 30 Sudanese pounds against the US dollar, the second such move in weeks amid soaring inflation.

The new official exchange rate will go into effect on Monday, the central bank said on its website.

The Sudanese pound has been trading at an official rate of 18 to the dollar but on the black market it has hit an all-time low and was selling for between 40 and 43 to the dollar on Sunday.

The new devaluation would be the second within weeks and the weakening of the pound has contributed to surging inflation, which currently is at 34 percent.

 The central bank called on commercial banks for better coordination in order to put the foreign currency in “good use to help import essential items”.

 

Trading on the foreign exchange market has been very volatile since October 12 when Washington lifted its 20-year-old trade embargo imposed on Khartoum.

Authorities have even arrested dozens of black market traders in a bid to curb the speculation.

The pound had been expected to strengthen against the greenback after the embargo was lifted, but it has only slipped since then.

Despite the lifting of the restrictions, banks across the world remain wary of working with Khartoum, officials say.

Although Washington lifted the embargo it has still kept Sudan on its list of “state sponsors of terrorism,” a factor which officials say keeps investors away from the east African country.

Sudan’s economy is already suffering from the loss of three-quarters of its oil resources when South Sudan gained independence in 2011.

Sporadic anti-government protests

In 2016, the World Bank had urged Sudan to adopt swift structural reforms to revive its ailing economy.

The World Bank had even said that removing exchange restrictions to unify official and black-market exchange rates of the Sudanese pound against the US dollar could help revive Sudan’s sluggish economy.

Sudan’s average gross domestic product growth between 1998 and 2008 was above six percent, after which it steadily declined to around three percent in recent years.

Previous efforts at economic reform have proven controversial.

An attempt in September 2013 to cut fuel subsidies led to bloody confrontations between anti-austerity protesters and security forces that left dozens dead in Khartoum.

Since January Sudan is witnessing sporadic anti-government protests again after a sharp rise in food prices.

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