Rights body condemns attacks in South Sudan

MONDAY 30 APRIL 2018

April 29, 2018 (KAMPALA) – The Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ) has condemned in the “strongest” terms possible the recent attacks on innocent civilians South Sudan’s counties of Leer and Mayendit.

Thousands of civilians fleeing violence seek shelter at a UN compound in Jonglei state capital, Bor (Photo: UNMISS/Hailemichael Gebrekrstos). Link to image.

CPJ’s executive director, Tito Anthony said the attacks violated the cessation of hostilities agreement the nation’s warring parties signed.

“Leer and Mayendit [counties] are under the control of the armed opposition (SPLM-IO). If there are any attack, then it the government forces attacking,” Tito said in a statement issued on Sunday.

He accused government forces of attacking and displacing civilians instead of protection them as mandated by the country’s constitution.

“I call on the CSTAMM [Ceasefire Transitional Monitoring Mechanism] to take note of the attack on civilian. It is both violation of cessation of hostility and violation of international humanitarian law,” he said.

The CPJ official urged the international community to impose punitive measures against violators of the ceasefire agreement.

Meanwhile, the United Nations said a surge in violent clashes in Unity, Jonglei and Central Equatoria regions is having a devastating impact on thousands of civilians and humanitarian agencies trying to provide desperately needed assistance to vulnerable people.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said it is deeply concerned at the intensification of fighting in areas such as Nhialdiu, Mayendit, Rupchai, Thaker, and Mirinyal, in the vicinity of Leer and Bentiu in the Unity region, as well as around Motot and Akobo in Jonglei.

“Innocent civilians are being caught in the crossfire, including many women, children and elderly people,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer.

“Our teams on the ground are reporting incidents of killing, sexual violence, homes being burnt to the ground, cattle raiding, and the looting of hospitals and schools,” he added.

According to the UN, over 30 humanitarian workers have been relocated over the past two weeks because it is too dangerous for them to operate in the midst of the escalating conflict.

Thousands of people have reportedly fled into swamps and bushy areas without access to the much-needed aid, including food, clean water and medical care.

“This surge in violence is causing immense suffering and harm to civilians and the ability to provide humanitarian support,” said David Shearer.

“It is at odds with the cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed just a few months ago. We urge the warring parties to lay down their guns, put the interests of the people first, and work together to build lasting peace,” he added.

The senior UN official also said the upcoming round of peace talks at the high level revitalization forum is dependent on all warring parties committing to stop the fighting and to come together in good faith.

“Political leaders must demonstrate they are willing to compromise and resolve this conflict which is causing terrible harm to their people,” he stressed.

Link to article.

Why it’s hard to get South Sudan’s former child soldiers back to school

29 Apr 2018

Merethe Skårås, PhD candidate and lecturer, Oslo Metropolitan University

More than 200 child soldiers have been freed from armed groups in South Sudan. The 112 boys and 95 girls, all under the age of 18, took part in a “laying down of arms ceremony” after which efforts will be made to reunite them with their families and their reintegration process will begin.

The children were part of a new civil war that broke out in the Republic of South Sudan, two years after it was granted independence from Sudan. The ongoing conflict has ripped the country apart, making the living conditions for most South Sudanese worse than ever before.

Characterised as a struggle over power and resources, the conflict is driven by corruption and ethnic rivalries. The main actors are the former rebel group and political party Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement led by President Salva Kiir Mayardit, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition led by former Vice President Riek Machar.

About 19 000 child soldiers are thought to be part of the conflict and so the release of any is great news. But it’s not guaranteed that they will reintegrate successfully. The reintegration process, often done by UNICEF and local communities, is crucial in determining whether these youth remain as civilians or return to the barracks as soldiers.

Based on interviews and observations with 20 former child soldiers in South Sudan, my research shows that though children do get forcibly recruited, many “choose” to join the armed groups. They are driven by poor socio-economonic conditions – like a lack of food, housing and security – and because they can’t afford school or physically get to one. And so they find the military, and the protection of a gun, to be the better option.

It is therefore imperative that education, whether formal schooling or an alternative system, be part of the reintegration process. Because without it the children find themselves in a vicious cycle and though thousands have left armed groups, they find themselves back with them for the same reasons as before.

But education isn’t accessible to most children in South Sudan. In 2016 only 50% of children aged 6-13 were enrolled in primary education and just 3.5% aged 14-17 were enrolled in secondary education. There are challenges in finding a school, and being able to afford to go to one. This is even harder for demobilised child soldiers who are often traumatised and stigmatised.

Education challenges

One of the biggest problems in South Sudan is a lack of school facilities. A recent report states that there have been 293 military attacks on schools, affecting over 90,000 children. Due to this security concern, education isn’t readily available in many home communities and so shortly after the former child soldiers are reunited with their families, they leave. They usually go to bigger towns in search of schools, staying with distant relatives or family friends.

Even if the children manage to get into a school, the classrooms are overpopulated (in some secondary schools there can be over 100 students in a class), there are few decent textbooks and the teachers aren’t properly trained. The education the children get is very poor in quality.

The children will also have to pay for it. Even though most of the schools are meant to be government funded, my research shows that teachers are often not paid and so the students pay fees to give the teachers a little income. But with few resources and no support system, the children struggle to do this and run the risk of not attending or not having teachers.

Way forward

The global agenda for education is focused on teaching and learning for all, with an emphasis on quality and sustainability. But in the case of South Sudan the first main problem is access. If this was resolved it could keep former child soldiers occupied and prevented them from being re-recruited. It would also ensure that they were socialised in a non-violent environment and were working together with others towards a common future.

Experience shows that to reach child soldiers with educational interventions, they must be specifically targeted. The government also needs to ensure teachers are paid and trained in psychosocial support. The education should be geared towards accommodating and supporting the childrens’ traumatic past, increasing their chances of successful reintegration.

Unfortunately, this might all be too much to ask in the midst of a civil war where I often hear people say:

We are all traumatized.

Link to article.

Former Sudanese ‘Lost Boy’ Helps Other Refugees

April 29, 2018

A cup of coffee is a good way for many people to start their day. But, it can also do much greater good.

Manyang Kher is a former Sudanese child refugee. When he was three years old, his village was attacked and burned during his country’s civil war in the 1980s.

He was separated from his parents. He never saw them again.

Kher is one of the so-called Lost Boys of Sudan – one of 20,000 young Sudanese who escaped from their villages and made the 1,600-kilometer walk to Ethiopia.

Kher lived in a refugee camp in Ethiopia’s Gambella region for 13 years.

When he was 16, Kher came to the United States as an unaccompanied minor refugee. While he was in college in the American state of Virginia, he started Humanity Helping Sudan to raise awareness of the refugees.

Today, Kher is an American citizen. He is owner and founder of a coffee company called 734. It is part of his larger Humanity Helping Sudan project.

The coffee company’s name is meaningful. It comes from the geographical coordinates of the Gambella area: 7 degrees north and 34 degrees east.

The company helps the more than 200,000 refugees living in the Gambella area.

Kher said, “I know the struggle those refugees face every day. You see kids die from hunger because they don’t have enough food. You see kids dying of cholera. You see kids dying of a disease. You see kids just running away from the refugee camp, just want to go to a place to be home but they die there on the way.”

Eighty percent of Kher’s profits from 734 coffee goes toward the refugees. Profits go toward buying school supplies and sending more of the children to school.

And, as Kher explains, the money helps “refugees help themselves.”

A cup of 734 coffee, for example, can also buy one fishing net for a refugee. This helps them become self-sufficient, Kher explains.

“That’s why we give fishing nets because they can go to river and fish for themselves. If you build more community gardens they can grow their own food.”

Kher operates 734 Coffee from two warehouses in Virginia. But the coffee beans come from African owned and operated farms in Gambella. The beans are roasted by local coffee roasters in the U.S.

Kher sells the coffee online, at events and to coffee stores.

Megan Murphy owns a bakery near Washington, D.C. She serves 734 Coffee to her customers.

“The customers love it,” she says. “Whenever they find out about the project, about the mission, they connect right with it. The coffee tastes delicious, so it’s a win-win on both sides. You get to enjoy coffee and at the same time be part of the bigger project.”

Link to article.

Open letter to U.S. Secretary of State

April, 29th,2018

Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
US Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
USA

Dear Secretary Pompeo,

On behalf of the desperate people of Darfur enduring an unacknowledged genocide, the Sudan Liberation Movement is heartened that the statement issued on April 27th by your spokesperson Heather Nauert, called for a cessation of violence in the Jebel Marra region of Sudan and for immediate access to both international and local humanitarian organizations to render sorely needed assistance, as the plight of untold numbers of civilians is only more severe by the day. We are grateful that the United States of America under the current Trump administration is expressing a greater, active interest and concern for the well being of the people of Darfur, in sharp contrast to the previous Obama White House, that while having pledged to end the tragedy of Darfur, in our painful experience did precious little to bring about any tangible change and offered only hollow lip service.

With all due respect, however, we take exception to the recent State Department communique, de facto, presenting a false equivalency between aggression by the Sudanese Armed Forces, paramilitaries and worst of all the former, Janjaweed militias, now rechristened the Rapid Support Forces, long waging war on their own people with a bestial ferocity, thoroughly well documented by every leading human rights watchdog organization on earth, and those whom are duty bound to resist them by force of arms, to spare a defenseless civilian population from extermination.

The blood-spattered record of the RSF as the spearhead of Khartoum’s genocidal policy in Darfur, is not a matter for debate, it is an empirical fact. Upon closer scrutiny the RSF’s conduct reveals a casual penchant for atrocities and crimes largely perpetrated against unarmed men, women and children.Mass murder of civilians, the routine use of torture, rape en masse of women and girls of any age, summary executions, kidnappings and forcible disappearances, the wanton looting of villages then put to the torch, the poisoning and disabling of water wells, the destruction of food supplies and the killing of livestock, these are all hallmarks of the RSF, little more than thugs and brigands in uniform with a license to murder.

We would also point out, that contingents of the same RSF are serving as vassal troops for Riyadh as part of the Saudi led coalition in the Yemeni War, where having active genocidaires in the ranks of the coalition, must do little for moral ascendancy. In all fairness and objectivity, the soldiers of the Sudan Liberation Army, whom act only in self-defense, can in no instance be equated as equally morally and physically culpable as the RSF and the Sudanese Army, for the upsurge in violence. Attacker and defender are not interchangeable. The communiqué was entirely silent on the Sudanese Air Force having of late introduced chemical warfare in Darfur. The SLA does not have Antonov bombers nor Hind helicopter gunships, nor does it make war on civilians.

The communique also makes no mention, that the recent Sudanese military offensive in the Jebel Marra, which the SLA were able to repulse, was launched without any provocation and as ever regime forces drew first blood by focusing the brunt of their effort against civilian population centers, prompting the displacement of many tens of thousands of new internal refugees. The SLA does not engage in offensive operations, rather it protects liberated territory, as the sole guarantor of physical security for civilians and responds only when attacked or is clearly subject to imminent attack.

Moreover, repeatedly, to their great shame, peacekeeping troops from the combined African Union-United Nations UNAMID force have stood idly by and failed to intervene as civilians were slaughtered and villages razed to the ground. UNAMID is always on the scene, when the bodies are being counted and seldom takes a proactive role. We recognize that UNAMID is a poorly resourced force, severely understrength, and still burdened with a weak mandate, rather than the more appropriate peace enforcement warrant, we have consistently urged to no avail. We also are left bewildered, in light of the recent offensive, that the UN Secretariat has cited an improved security climate as cause to further reduce UNAMID boots on the ground by forty percent, but then the UN stopped counting the butcher’s bill in 2008 at 300,000 fatalities, when the number of graves we’ve dug is now twice that grisly calculus. With no insult intended it verges on unwitting dark parody that the communique requests UNAMID be given unhindered access to the conflict zone, in of itself exposing UNAMID’s inherent weakness, just as the call for safe passage to humanitarian efforts, excludes noting Khartoum’s entrenched strategy of maintaining a deliberate humanitarian aid blockade in place as a tool of war.

The SLA is not preventing the flow of urgently needed humanitarian supplies to render assistance to a wretched civilian population plagued by hunger, disease, a dearth of potable water and a near total absence of medical supplies and medical staff, instead, it begs for such relief, which it would not impede. The SLA also remains disposed to cooperate with UNAMID, were UNAMID to undertake its duties in earnest, nor does the SLA take hostile action against UNAMID and is forbidden to do so in its own code of conduct.

We understand that the language of diplomacy is measured and calculated and seldom reflects a pure candor given the objectives that underline sometimes conflicting policy directives, complex strategic concerns and guiding national interests, especially now in a juncture in history with multiple, pressing global crises, where we are but one page turning. We live in the true, imperfect world, and grasp that there is little genuine altruism to be found in the power dynamics of geopolitics. We cannot lament this overmuch as it is reality.

We know all too well, the bulk of the international community, cares little for the fate of Darfur, or South Kordofan, or Blue Nile State or East Sudan, all enduring a relentless assault by the military and hardline Islamist dictatorship led by Omar al Bashir, the only sitting president on earth indicted by the International Criminal Court for Crimes Against Humanity, Genocide and War Crimes, now enjoying increased albeit tempered rehabilitation by both the United States and the European Union, where Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, together with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Qatar in particular, is the prime sponsor and enabler of the Khartoum regime, which also benefits from strong backing from Russia and the People’s Republic of China. At the United Nations Security Council, the people of Darfur and Sudan as a whole enduring an oppressive, brutal and corrupt tyranny, are orphans without a voice and little recourse. And if one considers the composition of UNAMID, the African Union is also largely deaf to our pleas and more often than we would wish, a pliant tool for al-Bashir to act with impunity. The same may be said of the Arab League.

In this vein, perhaps the greatest asset in our possession, of benefit to you, is our lucidity and our deeper grasp of the true nature of events in Sudan and the machinations of the regime in Khartoum, its intentions, its masterful duplicity and the long term harm, you are unwittingly doing to your own self interest in the larger region and continent of Africa as a whole, with clear repercussions for your own security and linkages to the strategic question of containing the threat of Salafi extremism and terrorism, where we are natural allies, though you do not yet acknowledge us as such. If you will not be moved by moral considerations to put an end to genocide, which stains all of humanity, we urge you to consider better, that we fight the same enemy.

We are victims of state terror perpetrated against us by a fundamentalist Islamist and militarist dictatorship, that despite its pledges to cease harboring, enabling, cooperating with and promoting Salafi terror groups, has in the shadows continued its partnership with the worst possible nihilist elements of Wahhabi extremism to wreak havoc across Africa and the Middle East.

Since you were formerly director of the Central Intelligence Agency, surely you will be aware that Khartoum has retained its close ties to various Islamist militias in Libya and helps to fund them and benefits from them through the vile illicit trade in human trafficking, selling our brethren in the modern-day slave trade. Khartoum has neither severed ties with elements of either the Al Qaida terrorist franchise nor DAESH, though it says otherwise.

And how would we know? They are among those that wage war upon us, in the ongoing process of dispossessing us from our ancestral lands and a policy of Arab resettlement. For this very reason, we cannot comprehend why during the Trump administration’s tenure and the previous Obama White House both, sanctions were lifted on the basis of Khartoum’s cooperation on counter-terror efforts, which we liken to assigning the fox to guarding the chicken coop.

Were you to see the SLA and the soldiers of our closest allies in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North, as a coalition of moderate Sufi Muslims and moderate Christians as well as the many practitioners of animism and folk religions, all seeking a secular democracy, where we are all deigned apostate heretics worthy of death by the Wahhabi Mullahs in Khartoum, for our ecumenical tolerance and spiritual beliefs, as your friends, you would have 90,000 rifles in the same fight.

But the final counsel we may offer in this communiqué is that Washington is misreading the changing tide in larger Sudanese society, the people of Sudan collectively are tired of enduring al Bashir’s Islamic brand of fascism and the callous kleptocracy that now sees them in the street clamoring for bread in their tens of thousands voicing their dissent openly, where their exhaustion over many decades of institutional abuse and misrule is turning to rage. Neither be assured that the integrity of the Sudanese Armed Forces is inviolate, there are rumblings in the military as well, from the rank and file to even within the highest echelons of the command structure.

The past is prologue and we urge Washington expand its breadth of view on Sudan and focus more incisively on the ailing condition of the Sudanese regime, a doomed regime in state of accelerating collapse, that means regime change is inevitable and looming. The West collectively badly misread the advent of the Arab Spring, but Washington now has an opportunity to side with the national opposition and not an illegitimate dictatorship, headed on inexorable course for its Gaddafi moment, if it can better read the coming of the Sudanese Spring.

Thus, in addressing the most powerful diplomat of the most powerful nation on earth and leader of the Free World, Mr. Secretary, we hope you will forgive us for expressing ourselves without any artifice. We are weak and poor as you are mighty and strong and our only weapon to prevent our extinction, is our will to resist our annihilation alongside with our unyielding determination to forge a pluralist, free, secular, democratic Sudan and at last be free of the subjugation and horrors we have endured for far too long, so a brighter future may emerge for the generations to come. We rose up, as your own forefathers could no longer submit to the absolutism of the British Crown in 1776, having reached our own point of no return long ago. Our obligation is to the living but the ghosts of our six hundred thousand dead, also implore us to endure our struggle for justice and freedom, no matter the tears we must still shed.

Out of our respect for American democracy, which we uphold as the pinnacle of our ambitions, to build a free society to mirror your own in our own cultural context, we offer to you our friendship and beseech you to regard events in Sudan in a new light and bring your dynamism to bear to forge a mutually beneficial relationship with common goals and shared ideals of fair play and the God given right for self-determination and freedom from fear.

We cannot participate in a non-existent and purely illusory “peace process” punctuated by artillery and air bombardments, the use of chemical weapons, an unceasing scorched earth policy that sees our people slaughtered and dots our landscape with burning villages, nor will we stop hearing the screams of our people tortured in al Bashir’s dungeons, ignore all the mass graves that feed the soil of Darfur or the haunted stare of all our women and girls that have been gang raped. As with al Bashir’s stated intent to aid counter-terrorism, the vast majority of the participant factions in the so-called peace process, are paper figures, irrelevant on the ground both politically and militarily, or otherwise in other instances co-opted and subservient to Khartoum, where neither camp musters any credible support from the civilian population.

All of Sudan is clamoring for change and the SLM together with the SPLM-N is the very vanguard of this change, alongside the bulk of our brave university students, an intelligentsia unwilling to endure the quashing of free expression any longer longing to break free from the shackles of authoritarianism that imprison an entire nation, where every Sudanese that has buried a loved one murdered by the regime, and every empty stomach, will now ensure the march to freedom to fulfill the destiny of the Sudanese people. You have a chance now, excellency, to choose what path you will walk upon, if you are on the correct side of history, then you will find no truer friends than us, if you will indeed choose freedom and justice over an expedient alliance with the evil of genocide and dictatorship.

To quote from your own revolutionary Founding FatherPatrick Henry for us there is only one choice. “Give me liberty or give me death.” I humbly thank you for allowing me to write you so candidly. If we may be of service to you, please know the SLM and SLA would not hesitate to come to your aid and we are open to direct dialogue.

Sincerely,

Abdul Wahid al Nur, Chairman Sudan Liberation Movement and Commander in Chief Sudan Liberation Army

Link to article.