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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APTOPIX South Sudan Selling Children

4 February 2018 / 13:20

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In this photo taken Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, children play in empty cardboard boxes during a food distribution by Oxfam outside Akobo town, one of the last rebel-held strongholds in South Sudan. Child abductions have risen during South Sudan’s civil war as desperate people try to make a living, and one child, no matter the age, is said to sell for 20 cows, worth about $7,000. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)

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Amb. Gingrich Praises Church for ‘Fearless Leadership’ in South Sudan, DRC

Ambassador Callista Gingrich speaking at the conference ‘Building Peace Together’ at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome, Jan. 18, 2018. (Edward Pentin photo). Link to image.
In her maiden speech as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich says the Church’s example in trying to bring peace and prosperity to the war-torn nations has been an ‘inspiration to the world.’

The new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, has praised the “fearless leadership” of the Catholic Church in advancing “peace, justice and prosperity” in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo — two African countries wracked by years of crippling poverty, violence and war.

Delivering her first speech as ambassador at a Jan. 18 round table in Rome on how to bring peace to both countries, Ambassador Gingrich said the Church’s leadership in the two nations has been an “inspiration to the world” and that she greatly appreciated the Church’s “hard work and tireless pursuit of peace.”

The ambassador also commended the Church for supporting civil society in the fight for justice and “working for a mediated solution through dialogue.” The Church has taken mediatory roles in both counties, with most direct efforts taking place in the DRC.

The round table at the Pontifical Urbaniana University on the theme “Building Peace Together” was sponsored by a variety of Church organizations involved in humanitarian work in South Sudan and the DRC, as well as the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Development, the International Union of Superiors General, and Caritas Internationalis.

Those in attendance included the ambassador’s husband, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, diplomats, missionaries, and students at the university, while musicians from the DRC provided some traditional music during the intervals.


Development Needs Security

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Ghanaian president of the Dicastery, said the organizers and participants were “seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit” to find peace in these countries, adding that “non-violence is not only rhetoric against war” or about “moving away from war,” but a pledge to “rebuild the dignity” of the people.

Gingrich recalled words Cardinal Turkson had recently told her — that societies cannot be developed without security — and she stressed that children “cannot be educated when they are hungry,” communities cannot be fed “when aid workers and farmers are attacked,” businesses cannot survive when communities are “plagued by corruption,” and the rights of women cannot be guaranteed “when sexual violence is commonplace.”

She said the United States is therefore “actively engaged in supporting democracy, human rights and the rule of law” in both countries, and that the U.S. government, along with the rest of the world, was “shocked” when peaceful Church-organized protests were “violently suppressed” by DRC security forces on Dec. 31.

Catholics had called for a “peaceful march” after Sunday Mass, demanding that President Joseph Kabila step down. The president’s alleged refusal to relinquish office after his second full term ended in 2016 has led to conflict and tension over the past year. Kabila has led the country since 2001.

The DRC, a vast former Belgian colony once known as Zaire, is extremely rich in natural resources which some say has acted like a curse on the nation leading to countless wars. In 2016, it was ranked the second poorest nation in the world. Most of the country is Christian, with Catholics making up about half of its 79 million people.

Gingrich stressed that the U.S. is the DRC’s “largest bilateral donor” and will continue supporting the Congolese people in their efforts to “build a better a future,” as well as the United Nations Stabilization Mission (peacekeeping force) in the country.

Regarding South Sudan, the ambassador called on all parties involved in the continuing civil war there to lay down their weapons, negotiate a permanent peaceful resolution to the conflict, and allow the east African nation to experience the “peace and prosperity” its people deserve.

Gingrich said the conflict there has had a “devastating effect on the people” and that the U.S. government is “watching closely” a ceasefire signed in December.

Neighbors Fighting Everywhere

Loreto Sister Orla Treacy, principal of the Loreto Secondary School in Rumbek, South Sudan, told the conference that “neighbors are fighting each other all over the country” and asked: “Who’s funding the guns?” But her main focus was on efforts to end forced marriage among girls as young as 13, a scourge, she said, which is part of a “struggle to survive.”

Listed the 16th poorest nation in 2016, South Sudan has been torn by a four-year civil war after incumbent leader Salva Kiir accused former vice president Riek Machar of staging a coup d’état. The disagreement degenerated into military confrontation, leading to an estimated loss of at least 50,000 lives (some say it could be as many as 300,000) and the forced displacement of 3.5 million people out of a population of 12 million.

Since last month’s ceasefire agreement in Addis Ababa, several violations have occurred, with both sides blaming each other for the breach.

The extent of the suffering there was documented in a video made by South Sudanese Catholics and shown at the conference. “Children are dying of hunger and women are often raped,” the narrator said, adding that “all citizens must come together to work for peace, to bring to an end this insecurity, above all for women and children otherwise we have no future here.”

Gingrich said the U.S. has been the largest donor of humanitarian aid in South Sudan since 2013, delivering $2.9 million to its people, refugees and neighbouring states. She called on the government to provide “free, safe and unhindered access” for humanitarian organisations, and assured the Church leaders present that they have the “full support” of the United States.

Last month, South Sudanese Church leaders called on Pope Francis to visit the war-ravaged nation, hoping he could be a “a voice for the voiceless.” The Holy Father had planned to visit the country in October, but cancelled it citing security concerns. Instead, he donated $30,000 to help feed the country’s most vulnerable citizens ahead of the upcoming dry season.

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250,000 South Sudanese children could die by July

A South Sudanese child fleeing from recent fighting in Lasu in South Sudan. Photo: SIMONA FOLTYN / AFP / Getty Images. Link to image.

Henrietta Fore, the executive director of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), told Al Jazeera more than 250,000 children in South Sudan “are going to be facing death this year before July” due to malnutrition.

Why it matters: Since fighting began in South Sudan in 2013, the war-torn country has seen more than 2,300 children killed, and 19,000 “recruited into armed groups,” Al Jazeera reports. The war has “devastated agricultural production,” and as South Sudan approaches its dry season, concerns over food and water are rising.

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UN warns of “lost generation” in South Sudan’s grinding conflict

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Seventy percent of South Sudan’s children are out of school and the young country risks losing a generation that would make it harder to rebuild after conflict ends, a United Nations official said.

South Sudan, which split off from its northern neighbour Sudan in 2011, has been gripped by a four-year civil war sparked by political rivalry between incumbent leader Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, made the warning after visiting some of the areas most devastated by the war.

“70 percent of the children are out of school, that is highest in the world. There is too much violence,” she said.

“If we don’t help… we are going to lose this generation and that would be tragic for South Sudan because a country cannot build itself without this next generation of young people.”

Fore said she had visited towns in the country’s north and witnessed widespread malnutrition among children and warned: “We are heading into the dry season… we might lose up to a quarter of a million children in South Sudan.”

Tens of thousands are estimated to have died in the conflict which has also displaced a quarter of the country’s population of 12 million.

The economy, almost entirely dependant on oil exports, has been left in tatters as output has been cut.

Agricultural production, too, has declined as insecurity has left sometimes entire villages abandoned and crops untended.

A ceasefire deal was signed in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa last month but it has been violated repeatedly with both sides blaming each other.

Attacks have also been directed at humanitarian workers, complicating delivery of relief services on which hundreds of thousands of the displaced depend.

Some 28 aid workers were killed in South Sudan last year, with nine shot dead in November alone, according to the United Nations.

South Sudan’s Cabinet Affairs minister Martin Elia Lomuro warned non-governmental organisations (NGOs) against reporting on alleged ceasefire violations.

He told reporters in Juba some NGOs had “taken as part of their job to report on military issues including violations, ambushes and misleading (the) international Community.”

“We want to warn you severely,” he said, adding monitoring such violations should be left to international monitors.

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Soldiers Committed Gang-Rapes in South Sudan’s Capital, Group Says


Men in army uniforms sexually assaulted more than 150 women and children around South Sudan’s capital last year, in some cases mutilating the victims, a group monitoring the four-year civil war said.

There’s “clear evidence” that such violence by government soldiers and security personnel is prevalent in the capital, Juba, and surrounding central Equatoria region, the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism said in a report dated Monday. It identified 154 reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence between February and December and said many others go unrecorded.

South Sudanese army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said by phone he wasn’t aware of the number of reported assaults. He said two such cases had been brought to the military’s attention and were successfully prosecuted.

 The conflict that erupted in the East African nation in December 2013 has claimed tens of thousands of lives and been marked by frequent reports of atrocities including sexual violence. Several victims recounted gang-rapes by two or three soldiers who broke into houses in the early morning, according to the monitoring group that was set up in 2015 by an East Africa bloc trying to mediate a peace deal.
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Sudan police fire tear gas as protesters march against price rises


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Khartoum – About 200 protesters marched on Wednesday in the Sudanese capital’s twin city of Omdurman against rising food prices, with anti-riot police firing tear gas to disperse the rally.

Prices of food items but mainly bread have surged in past weeks across Sudan after a jump in the cost of flour due to a shortage of wheat supplies.

Sporadic protests have since erupted in parts of Sudan, including Khartoum, with demonstrators coming out onto the streets in their hundreds.

“No, no to hunger! No, no to high prices!” protesters shouted as they marched towards a square in central Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum on the west bank of the Nile River.

 Anti-riot police moved in swiftly to stop their march and fired tear gas, an AFP correspondent reported.

Authorities had poured water into the streets leading to the square in an attempt to prevent protesters from reaching the site, he said.

Wednesday’s rally was called by the main opposition Umma Party, a day after a similar demonstration held near the presidential palace in Khartoum following a call issued by the Communist Party.

Tuesday’s protest was also broken up by police using tear gas and beating protesters with batons.

Sudan’s powerful National Intelligence and Security Service early on Wednesday arrested the Communist Party chief, Mokhtar al-Khatib, from his home, his party spokesperson told AFP.

Several other senior Communist Party figures, student leaders and activists have already been arrested since the bread price protests began earlier this month.

The protests erupted after the cost of a 50kg sack of flour jumped from $9 to $25, as wheat supplies dwindled following the government’s decision to leave grain imports to private companies.

So far they have been sporadic and quickly broken up by security forces. But a student was killed during a protest in the western region of Darfur on January 7.

Similar protests were held in late 2016 after the government cut fuel subsidies.

The authorities cracked down on those protests to prevent a repeat of deadly unrest that followed an earlier round of subsidy cuts in 2013.

Dozens of people were killed when security forces crushed the 2013 demonstrations, drawing international condemnation.

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28 aid workers killed in South Sudan last year, a new high


Akobo – The United Nations says violence against aid workers in South Sudan reached a new high in 2017, with 28 killed.

Nearly half of the 1 159 humanitarian access incidents reported last year by aid agencies involved violence including killing, looting and threats.

The UN humanitarian office calls the trend “indicative of increasingly difficult times for aid workers in the country.” It says the trend continues even after President Salva Kiir in November ordered unimpeded movement for aid groups.

South Sudan’s civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed tens of thousands and plunged parts of the country into famine. Two million people have fled the country.

 South Sudan is considered the world’s most dangerous place to be an aid worker, with at least 95 killed since the conflict began.
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Family seeks help with kin in South Sudan

Steven’s mother Angeline gives an interview as his father Jotham Wekesa, and brother Bernard and other relatives listen. They are asking government to assist them find him. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP. Link to image.


A family in Kakamega County is in agony after their son was detained in unclear circumstances in Juba, South Sudan, a month ago. Steven Wekesa was expected to fly back home on November 13, but his family says they have not heard from him after he was reportedly arrested.

When the Nation team toured the family’s home in Likuyani on Monday, his parents and siblings were pondering their next move as they have not heard from their kin for the past one month.

“My brother has been working for the last 11 years in Juba for various companies and we have never heard of anything unusual,” said Steven’s younger brother Bernard Wekesa. “Up to now, we are still pleading with the government to help us know what is keeping my brother in Juba.” According to the family, the last they spoke with him was on November 12 when he assured them that he would be coming home for holidays.

“But at 11am when he was supposed to be in Nairobi, his phone remained switched off,” said his brother.


This prompted his family to call his friends back in Juba who confirmed that he had left for the airport.

The family claims that Steven’s colleagues told them that he was arrested by people claiming to be from “national security” and taken to a place called Blue House, a detention centre.

“We contacted his employer but he said he had no idea what had happened, but promised to look into the matter. He is yet to get back to us,” said Steven’s father Jotham Wekesa.

The family claims that Steven’s friend in Juba said he saw him in the cells.

“The friend told us that he was allowed to see him and he called us to confirm that Steven was indeed alive but that there is an investigation going on,” said the distraught father.

“He thereafter said that they were waiting for the director general to sign his release after investigations were completed but since then we’ve heard nothing,” he added.


The family has also contacted the Kenyan Embassy in Juba but no help has come.

“My son has been the sole provider to this family since I can remember. He has helped in making sure that his siblings have gone to school and that we have food on the table. He has also seen taking care of our medical bills as we are aged,” the father said.

Steven’s wife Vivian Ingaso said she is having a difficult time explaining the whereabouts of her husband to the children since they were expecting him.

“We were looking forward to meeting him at the airport when he comes home and it is saddening that he has not come,” she said. “I am appealing to the government to ensure my husband arrives home safe.” The couple has seven children.


The family says that since he started working in Juba 11 years ago, their son has never been on the wrong side of the law.

“We are very worried. We fear he is being mistreated where he is. His children need him,” said his mother Angeline Wekesa.

“He has worked since he was young in Nairobi and I have never heard of him being irresponsible. He has assisted us and he takes great care of his children,” added the mother.

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Residents find ‘haven of peace’ in war-torn South Sudan


South Sudan gained independence in 2011, but descended into civil war four years ago when President Salva Kiir (pictured) accused his deputy Riek Machar of trying to oust him. Picture: Xinhua/Mohamed Khidir. Link to image.

Ganyiel – Surrounded by swamps and accessible only by plane or boat, South Sudan’s Ganyiel, a rebel-held town in a country torn apart by civil war, has been dubbed a “haven of peace” by its residents.

Impoverished and living with the constant threat of floods, Ganyiel’s population of some 40 000 people nevertheless consider themselves lucky.

Several ethnic groups live together relatively peacefully – navigating the town’s waterways in tree-carved boats.

The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan gained independence in 2011, but descended into civil war four years ago when President Salva Kiir accused his deputy Riek Machar of trying to oust him.

 The war has killed tens of thousands of people and created Africa’s largest refugee crisis.
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