South Sudan director jailed for not airing president’s speech

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South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir addressed the nation during an independence day event at the Presidential palace in Juba. Picture: Jok Solomun/Reuters

Johannesburg – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday revealed that South Sudan authorities have jailed Adil Faris Mayat, the public broadcaster director, because he failed to air a live state of the nation speech by President Salva Kiir on that country’s independence day.

CPJ, which is calling for the immediate release of Mayat, said National Security Service agents arrested the director of the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation in Juba on July 10.

“South Sudanese authorities should immediately release Adil Faris Mayat,” CPJ said in a statement.

CPJ said Mayat’s wife, Amira Alnahawi, believes agents arrested her husband because he failed to air a live state of the nation speech by Kiir on 9 July, marking the country’s sixth independence day.

“Which news to air or not air is not a decision for South Sudanese authorities to make or even to influence,” said CPJ Africa Program coordinator Angela Quintal, who is based in New York.

“We call on the government of President Salva Kiir to release Adil Faris Mayat immediately and allow the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation and all news outlets to do their work without political interference or fear of arrest.”

CPJ said since 2013, South Sudan has been embroiled in a civil war that has displaced millions and killed tens of thousands.

Press freedom conditions have worsened during that time, with journalists telling CPJ that they fear detention or death for writing critically. In 2015, Kiir threatened to kill journalists for writing stories that went “against the country.”

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South Sudan confirms outbreak of fall armyworm pest

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July 18, 2017 (JUBA) – South Sudan has reported an outbreak of fall armyworm pest in its Equatoria region, including Magwi, Yei and Juba, Northern Bahr el Gazal and in parts of Jonglei states.

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Central Equatoria farmer, Regina Awate, in a field after a visit by the state Minister of Agriculture after the launch of a community seed and agricultural project in Yei County. (Source: Alfred Poverty Taban)

Fall armyworm is reportedly a new pest in Africa, preferring maize plants, but feeds on sorghum, millet and vegetables, among others.

However, as maize and sorghum are staple foods in the war-torn nation, there are fears the emergence of the deadly crop pest is likely to put an increasing number of people at risk of hunger.

“It is nearly impossible to eliminate this pest from South Sudan – now that it is here, it will stay. Following its initial detection in Magwi Country, it is spread to nearly all areas of the country at an alarming rate,” said Serge Tissot, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) representative in South Sudan.

“Given FAO’s experience with the pest in other countries in Africa, we can say this could be a significant blow to prospects of agricultural recovery,” he added.

In the wake of the outbreak of the pest, FAO in close partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security are continuing with assessment of fall armyworm infestation across the country.

“The results of these assessments will give a more accurate picture of where the pest is found, and extent of crop yield losses incurred in the affected areas,” said Tissot, adding “It is likely that it will spread both geographically and in intensity unless farmers learn to manage it.”

The fall armyworm arrival is an additional challenge for South Sudan which currently faces an unprecedented food crisis. More than 80% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods.

“Experiences that have been shared in three regional technical meetings on fall armyworm convened by FAO point out difficulties that farmers are facing in controlling the pest,” said Lawrence Kedi, a FAO Agriculture officer.

“The range of options available for immediate response are limited as the knowledge of control interventions are low, and costs are high, leaving them out of reach for the majority of farmers in South Sudan,” he added.

The fall armyworm pest, experts say, has developed resistance to several pesticides and this reportedly calls for more coordinated research on the pest to understand how it adapts to the local environments and training of farmers in how to manage it.

South Sudan has a wealth of untapped agricultural resources. With 30 million hectares of arable land across six agro-ecological zones, the East African nation is capable of producing an array of agricultural products, from cereals to oil seeds, horticulture, and specialty products such as Shea butter and Gum Arabic.

However, despite the huge agricultural potential it possessed, only about 5% of the country’s land is cultivated. Moreover, South Sudan also offers abundant water resources in the Nile basin, and forestry assets are plentiful, with tens of thousands of hectares of teak and other high-value hardwoods available for sustainable harvesting.


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Machar appoints governors for S. Sudan’s new states

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July 14, 2017(JUBA) – The leader of South Sudan’s armed opposition faction, Riek Machar on Friday appointed governors in the country’s newly created states of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Lol and Gbudue.

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South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar addresses a news conference in Uganda’s capital Kampala January 26, 2016 (Reuters photo)

“Pursuant to the resolution of the SPLM-IO Political Bureau September 23, 2016, I Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon, Chairman and Commander-In-Chief, SPLM/SPLA (IO) do hereby appoint Cde Adhar Ajak Chol as governor of Lol State, Cde Samson Michael Masiya as governor of Gbudwe State and Cde Mubarak Deng Duang as governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State with effect from 14 July 2017,” reads Machar’s letter.

The rebel leader’s spokesperson, Lam Kuei said the exercise was a normal procedure done after recommendations from the grass-root.

He, however, described the appointment of the new governors of three South Sudan states as spart of the movement’s re-organization.

“Some of the appointed governors have defected to Juba [South Sudan capital] and others got promoted in the SPLM/SPLA (IO) army ranks and others given new assignments,” Lam said.

The South Sudanese conflict started in 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused Machar of a coup attempt. Since then, tens of thousands of people been killed and over 2 million displaced.


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Veteran Journalist Becomes South Sudan MP

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FILE - South Sudanese veteran journalist Alfred Taban Lo Gune addresses the crowd at the launch of the new VOA transmitter in Juba, South Sudan, March 21, 2013. (M. Davis Rwakaringi/VOA)

FILE – South Sudanese veteran journalist Alfred Taban Lo Gune addresses the crowd at the launch of the new VOA transmitter in Juba, South Sudan, March 21, 2013. (M. Davis Rwakaringi/VOA)

A veteran South Sudanese journalist says he has joined the SPLM-in Opposition (SPLM-IO) Taban Deng faction to speak out on behalf of the people of Yei River state.

Alfred Taban Lo Gune, who was appointed a member of parliament in South Sudan’s Translational National Legislative Assembly earlier this week, said he joined politics to bring about much-needed change for the people of Kajokeji.

He told South Sudan in Focus the country needed courageous leaders like himself in the national assembly to speak up for the people.

“It is my duty to do something about the situation,” Taban said, adding that he could not stay aloof while his people were suffering, either in exile or in the bush.

Taban, founder and editor in chief of the privately run Juba Monitor, a daily newspaper, and a former BBC correspondent in Khartoum, said that while he was now a member of the SPLM-IO Taban Deng division, he did recognize factions within the SPLM-IO. “I have been a SPLM member for many, many years, and I still remain SPLM,” Taban said.

Taban contended that the SPLM-IO was, at the moment, a unified body.

“The Arusha agreement of 2104 made it very clear that the SPLM is not under the state, so there is no SPLM former detainees, SPLM-IO or SPLM in government. It is now one SPLM,” Taban told South Sudan in Focus.

Pact not implemented

Various factions of the SPLM and SPLM-IO have had their own spokespersons for the past several months. Taban said that was the problem in South Sudan.

“Even the peace agreement that we are now quarreling over, it is because the people have not decided to implement it,” he said. “Likewise, the Arusha agreement has not been implemented, but it is there.”

Taban vowed to continue fighting for the rights of the people of South Sudan, “the rights of journalists and the rights of the oppressed” as a member of parliament.

“In the media here, we were at the mercy of the government, but I still continued to struggle and I’m going to take the same struggle to parliament,” Taban said.

On May 29, Taban declined President Salva Kiir’s offer to sit on the president’s National Dialogue Committee. Taban said he wanted no part in the dialogue steering team unless the president released journalists in prison and ended aggressive acts toward press freedoms in South Sudan.

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John Tanza

John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is themanaging editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon
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South Sudan Media: An endangered landscape

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By Tor Madira Machier

With the disappearance of some websites from South Sudan’s radars on Monday, the news exaggerates fears of government’s advance on media strongholds in the country. What is so sad regarding this government crackdown is that, although there is limited internet access in the country, most South Sudanese citizens (both in IDPs UN-manned camps and in their homes) do not have the capacity to spend a daily amount of 150 South Sudanese pounds on News Papers circulated daily in Juba. Instead, they resort to collecting information about the country from online news outlets with the use of the country’s limited internet. Now, with government’s crackdown on online news outlets like Radio Tamazuj, Sudan Tribune, Nyamilepedia and the PaanLuel Wel, South Sudanese are going, without doubts, to face hindrances to access information.

Although there are some online news outlets, Sudan Tribune, Radio Tamazuj, and Nyamilepedia are the most visited South Sudanese news sites both at home and abroad according to some reports. With the shutdown, few, especially those who will be able to buy newspapers, would have access to what is going on around them, but with limited information, because most papers in Juba and other parts of South Sudan are government monitored and have to report what favour the government.

The government’s anti-press activities are not surprising both to the South Sudanese and to the press. With the onset of the South Sudanese civil war in December 2013, most journalists are continuously harassed, expelled from the country, detained, or even killed by the government’s unknown gunmen. In early this year, South Sudan’s media authority whose members are appointed by the South Sudanese president issued an order banning the Qatari based Aljazeera Network’s Bureau in Juba from reporting, or covering any issue related to South Sudan. The ban followed an Aljazeera report on an escalating fighting between government and opposition forces in Kajo-Kaji county of Central Equatoria State on which the network reported the government facing setbacks in a number of battles in the area. This explains that the government favours a friendly media, in which what please it is reported. But where there is no truth, there is no development. The government must realise mistakes it committed yesterday so as to take care of what it is doing tomorrow.

Although the government might see this as a war between it and the media, of course, it is a war between the government and the people of South Sudan. With the closure, the messenger will not do his job and the South Sudanese citizen will not have access to the relevant information he deserves to know about the situation of his country on daily basis.

If the government in Juba believe that the ban affects those with a positive view of the South Sudan opposition and negative view of the South Sudanese government, then the government is wrong. Without exceptions, the negative effect of the move includes people with a positive view of the South Sudan’s government.

The journalists, I believe, won’t surrender and the government is ready to fight an indefinite war. That’s why one would ask himself a question such as; why the government mind is opening several war fronts with the armed opposition, the South Sudan citizens, the South Sudanese and the international media?

The government of South Sudan should free the media landscape and leave it alone.

Tor Madira Machier is a South Sudanese columnist living in Cairo, Egypt he can be reached via or

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War-torn South Sudan at grave risk on climate change

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“I’m addicted to cutting trees,” says Taban Ceasor.

His stained hands sift through jagged pieces of charcoal in his busy shop in South Sudan’s capital. But the 29-year-old logger says the number of trees needed to fuel his trade is falling sharply as the country’s forest cover disappears.

The world’s youngest nation is well into its fourth year of civil war. As South Sudan is ravaged by fighting and hunger, it also grapples with the devastating effects of climate change. Officials say the conflict is partly to blame.

South Sudan’s first-ever climate change conference in June highlighted a problem for much of sub-Saharan Africa: The impoverished nations face some of the world’s harshest impacts from global warming and are the least equipped to fight back.

The United States’ recent withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement hurts a huge potential source of assistance. The U.S. Embassy in South Sudan said it “does not currently support climate change efforts” in the country.

The United Nations says South Sudan is at grave risk at being left behind.

According to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2017 compiled by global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, South Sudan is ranked among the world’s five most vulnerable countries and is experiencing some of the most acute temperature changes.

“It’s rising 2.5 times quicker” than the global average, says Jean-Luc Stalon, senior deputy country director at the U.N. Development Program.

Both U.N. and government officials call it a partially man-made crisis. While up to 95 percent of South Sudan’s population is dependent on “climate-sensitive activities for their livelihoods” such as agriculture and forestry, the civil war is worsening the problem.

The rate of deforestation in South Sudan is alarming and if it continues, in 50 to 60 years there will be nothing left, says Arshad Khan, country manager for the U.N. Environment Program. The lack of trees is directly contributing to the rise in temperatures.

Tree-cutting is especially lucrative in South Sudan because there’s no central power grid to supply electricity. A reported 11 million people use charcoal for cooking, or almost the entire population.

“This makes me more money than any other business,” says Ceasor, the Juba vendor, who says he could barely survive before turning to tree-cutting.

Thirty-five percent of the country’s land was once covered with trees, and only 11 percent is now, according to the ministry of environment and agriculture.

“Desperate people are destroying the environment,” says Lutana Musa, South Sudan’s director for climate change.

Countries across Africa are struggling to cope with a warmer world. Although the continent produces less than 4 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, the UNDP says climate stresses and a limited capacity to adapt are increasing Africa’s vulnerability to climate change.

In South Sudan, the deforestation is compounded by an increase in illegal exports of wood and charcoal by foreign companies.

“People are taking advantage of the insecurity,” says Joseph Africano Bartel, South Sudan’s deputy environment minister. He says that due to the conflict there’s no supervision at the country’s borders, even though South Sudan has banned the export of charcoal.

South Sudan is rich in mahogany and teak, both of which are in high demand especially in Arab nations, Bartel says. He says South Sudanese tree-cutters are hired by companies primarily from Sudan, Libya and Lebanon that smuggle the coal and wood out through neighboring Uganda.

In an abandoned charcoal warehouse in Juba, 50 tons of coal sits stacked in bags. Arabic writing scribbled on the front of each sack reads: “Made in South Sudan.”

“I’ve seen bags that say ‘Destination Dubai’,” Charlie Oyul, a lead investigator with the environment ministry, told The Associated Press.

A few weeks ago, Oyul’s team impounded the warehouse and arrested the company’s owner and his assistant, who Oyul said were working for a Sudanese contractor. But Kamal Adam, a South Sudanese company official who is out on bail, says they sell charcoal only to locals.

The company is one of five illegal operations known to authorities in Juba and the surrounding area, and it’s the only one to be shut down. As much as South Sudan’s authorities try to stem the illegal exports of charcoal and wood, Oyul says he can’t keep up.

During a recent visit by The Associated Press to the impounded warehouse, roughly 10 trucks carrying piles of wood and charcoal were seen swiftly driving by.

At its climate change conference last month, South Sudan reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris climate agreement and criticized the U.S. withdrawal under President Donald Trump.

“Trump thinks climate change isn’t a reality,” says Lutana, South Sudan’s climate change director. “He should know that his pulling out won’t stop people from continuing to work on it.”

Sitting alone at his empty desk in a dimly lit, run-down office at the environment ministry, Lutana says that although South Sudan has several proposed projects to fight climate change, he doesn’t expect action any time soon as the civil war continues.

The UNEP is working with South Sudan’s government to appeal for $9 million to set up an early warning system for the weather and train government officials on climate change. But donors are showing concern because of growing insecurity, and officials say the project won’t move forward without peace.

“Because of our situation, the environment just isn’t a priority,” Lutana says.

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UN peacekeeping head to visit Sudan, South Sudan

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United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix. Photo: MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

JOHANNESBURG – The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix will visit Sudan, South Sudan and Abyei, the world body said in a statement on Monday.

Lacroix will visit the UN peacekeeping operations in Darfur (UNAMID), in Abyei (UNISFA) and in South Sudan (UNMISS).

While in Sudan, the senior UN official is expected to meet government officials, UNAMID personnel and the country team representatives to discuss the reconfiguration of the UN mission in Darfur.

“In addition to El Fasher, Lacroix is expected to visit Golo, Central Darfur, where UNAMID will be establishing a new team site,” said the UN.

After Sudan, Lacroix proceeds to Abyei to meet UN personnel and community representatives to discuss the status of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission and the situation in Abyei.

“He will then head to Juba, South Sudan, where he will advocate for a country-wide cessation of hostilities, the importance of an inclusive political solution towards ending the current conflict and greater cooperation with the UN Mission and humanitarian actors”, stressed the UN statement.

Lacroix is also expected to visit Malakal and Bentiu, where UNMISS is protecting over 145,000 civilians.

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Four months later, special inspection report on GSDF’s South Sudan activity logs still in the works

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Four months later, special inspection report on GSDF’s South Sudan activity logs still in the works

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada has instructed her ministry to announce the results of an investigation of the alleged mishandling of daily activity logs written by Ground Self-Defense Force troops during a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. However, it is unclear whether the report will be published before her likely exit from the Cabinet. | KYODO

The Defense Ministry has not yet produced a report on the alleged mishandling of daily activity logs written by Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) troops during their peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.

It is being closely watched whether the report will be published before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe conducts a Cabinet reshuffle — possibly on Aug. 3 — in which Defense Minister Tomomi Inada is widely expected to be replaced.

Inada ordered the special inspection to be carried out into the case by the Defense Ministry Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance in March.

Following a request for the disclosure of the daily logs to review GSDF peacekeepers’ activities in the strife-torn African nation, GSDF officials said last December that they had been discarded. But it was later revealed that electronic data about the logs was still available on GSDF devices.

There is suspicion that an order may have been issued for the data to be deleted.

With the help of prosecutors, the special inspection office, under the direct control of the defense minister, has interviewed more than 100 personnel in an attempt to find out who decided to keep the data secret.

Some past special inspection cases took more than a year to complete. But the ministry is planning to publish the results of the ongoing inspection before the Cabinet reshuffle, with a source close to the ministry saying the report pertaining to this case should be published while Inada is in office.

At a news conference Friday, Inada said she has instructed her ministry to announce the inspection results soon. But she also said it is important to confirm all the facts thoroughly.

One focus is disciplinary measures to be taken against those responsible for the scandal.

Senior GSDF officers are said to have denied organizational efforts to keep the data from being disclosed. A GSDF source said one officer is likely to have acted without authorization by surmising the intent of the top echelon.

Still, a senior Defense Ministry official said Gen. Toshiya Okabe, chief of staff of the GSDF, cannot escape responsibility.

The defense minister is not covered by the special inspection and the scrutiny will continue even if Inada is replaced in the coming Cabinet shake-up.

But Inada is expected to again be accused of lacking leadership if the results of an inspection she ordered are not published after four months, analysts said.

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Under hail of bullets, Indian peacekeepers rescue aid workers in South Sudan

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NEW DELHI: Indian peacekeepers in South Sudan rescued more than a dozen humanitarian workers who came under heavy fire from unknown gunmen in a town in the African country on Thursday.

The troops, serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), were alerted about the incident in the restive town of Pibor in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

When they arrived at the location where the workers were under seige, there was a hail of bullets fired by the attackers using automatic weapons. The peacekeepers responded by firing warning shots into the air, at which the attackers fled the scene.

The humanitarian workers were successfully evacuated from the compound, unharmed, before being taken back to the UNMISS base for medical attention.

UNMISS said about 40 offenders were involved in the incident.

As the incident unfolded in Pibor, the Indian battalion was alerted to an attempt to infiltrate another humanitarian compound nearby.

They responded quickly by sending a team of peacekeepers who once again forced the offenders to flee.

The peacekeeping contingent sent troops to check on other humanitarian compounds in the area and conducted a patrol of the town later that morning.

As of June this year, a total of 7676 Indian peacekeepers are serving in UNMISS, including 6849 troops and 760 police.

(With PTI inputs)

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South Sudan mourns fallen war veteran

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July 16, 2017 (JUBA) – South Sudanese from various political entities are mourning Kawac Makuei Mayar, one of the founding commanders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 1983.

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Kawac Makuei Mayar, one of the founding commanders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 1983 (File photo)

Mayar died on Saturday after returning from a medical trip to Cairo, Egypt, but the cause of his death remains unclear and family members are yet to make a statement on the matter.

Former deputy defense Minister Majak D’ Agoot on Sunday described the late Kawac as “not just any other commander”.

He trekked to reach Bilpam in Ethiopia together with other prominent south Sudanese personalities, including Victor Bol, Lual Diing Wol, Amon Wantok, and Marco Maciec in 1983 to unify the struggle.

They were held up after the initial split in Itang in Lou Nuer by forces loyal to Uncle Akuot and Col. Samuel Gai for the rest of the year. They blamed this delay on the madness of Upper Nile leaders.

However, in November 1983 Kawac and Victor Bol decided to march away under intense pursuit and pressure from AnyaNya II to reach the Ethiopian border and join Col. Garang. Forces under William Nyuon reportedly intervened to rescue the rest – especially those from Lakes state who remained behind.

The men he led to Ethiopia formed part of the Tiger and Tumsah Brigade. The former deputy chief said he went to the SPLM political school with some of those who trekked to Ethiopia with him like Sultan Kom Geng Atem, Aluk Akec, Marco Maciec, Amon Wantok, Michael Manao, and Marial Chanuong.”

The veteran officer was commissioned a Lt Col and led the Jamus-Wau Battalion that brought elements of AnyaNya II to the SPLA that constituted the Mour Mour Division including former chief of general staff Paul Malong and Luka Lual Riny.

He reportedly fell out with deputy chairman Kerubino Kuanyin Bol and later with late founder leader, John Garang following the death of Benjamin Bol Akok in Addis Ababa in September 1984 which led to his 7 years detention. He was released in 1991 but given the bitterness, he never had faith in the SPLM”.

He later left and became a governor for Aweil after the Khartoum’s peace agreement.

The presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said the death of Kawac was “untimely”, “shocking” and “exceedingly agonizing”, adding that the late Kawac has left insurmountable legacy.

Other leading figures in the government and in other communities said Kawac had unmatched principle, with many describing him as a great patriot who was never swayed by lust for wealth and power.


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