South Sudan president appoints new army chief of staff

May 2, 2018 (JUBA) – South Sudan President Salva Kiir has appointed General Gabriel Jok Riak as the country’s new army chief of staff.

General Gabriel Jok Riak (Getty Image). Link to image.

Riak, according a decree issued on Wednesday, succeeds General James Ajongo Mawut who died last month.

The order of appointment came into effect in a decree Kiir issued on 2 May.

Riak, who hails from South Sudan’s Jonglei state, briefly served as the acting army chief of staff after the position recently became vacant.

A former deputy army chief of staff, Riak also served as sector commander in Bahr el Ghazal region before moving to the general headquarters for top level assignment at command leadership.

In July 2015, the United Nations Security Council imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Riak, among other senior military officers. The move came after the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated for sanctions Riak, who was then commander of Sector One of the South Sudanese military.

The president, despite the sanctions, promoted Riak to the deputy chief of defence forces in December last year.

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No gold rush for South Sudan

2 May 2018

Gold is smuggled across the border and sold for a higher price, robbing South Sudan of its wealth.

 Mining for gold is the only source of income for many people living in the eastern part of South Sudan. But the country is not benefiting from it, because most of the gold discovered is quickly smuggled out of the country.Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan reports from Kapoeta state, where gold digging is a way of life.

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10 aid workers freed after going missing in South Sudan

30 APRIL 2018

Ten aid South Sudanese workers who were taken by an armed group last week were returned to Juba by a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Picture: AP Photo/Hassan Ammar. Link to image.

Johannesburg – Ten aid South Sudanese workers who were taken by an armed group last week were returned to the capital Juba on Monday by a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The aid workers were transported by ICRC aircraft from an area around Yei to the capital.

“The ICRC has a long-standing record as a neutral intermediary in these kinds of situations. We are pleased that these ten aid workers will now be able to return to their families,” said François Stamm, the head of delegation for the ICRC in South Sudan.

The ICRC said it provided the transportation of the released aid workers with the consent of all the parties involved and was not involved in any negotiations. None of the aid workers were ICRC staff members.

“While we are relieved these 10 humanitarians have been released, we want to remind all parties to the conflict that aid workers are never a target,” Stamm added.

African News Agency/ANA

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South Sudan: MSF stops operating clinics in remote areas around Mundri after violent armed robbery

30 April 2018

Juba – A team working for the international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) were victims of a violent armed robbery on Tuesday 24 April. The robbery took place in an area south of Mundri town in South Sudan. MSF condemns this brutal act.

While the MSF team was delivering much-needed healthcare to remote areas of Mundri, a group of 10 unidentified armed men stopped their convoy, physically assaulted the team, threatened them with violence and took their personal belongings, along with medical supplies and other MSF property.

This attack forces MSF to stop operating mobile clinics in the area until safe access to the isolated communities we support can be assured by all armed actors. The people of South Sudan suffer most when our mobile clinics and other facilities cannot operate safely. In this case, the armed robbery directly affects much-needed healthcare services for around 75,000 people.

MSF has been operating in Mundri since October 2016. Despite the challenges we face when providing much-needed medical and humanitarian assistance, from January to March 2018, MSF provided 1,760 medical consultations to communities in Mundri, including 509 patients treated for malaria.

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S. Sudan president not mentally ill: spokesperson

April 29, 2018 (JUBA) – South Sudan President Salva Kiir says he is mentally fit and not sick, despite reports to the contrary, which he descried as a political propaganda.

South Sudan’s presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny (AFP). Link to image.

Kiir, who spoke through his press secretary, said he is fit, in good health and carrying out his constitutional mandate.

“The president is in good health and fit to continue to lead this nation. If he is sick, the government will come out and tell the people of South Sudan of his health. But now there is no problem,” Ateny Wek Ateny told Sudan Tribuneon Sunday.

“What Dr. Mawien [Mawien Akot] said is a lie. It is not true”, he said.

Mawien, a South Sudan-Canadian physician said the young nation faces a “dysfunctional system” and Kiir is “detached from his advisers and generals”.

“The president is in sound mind, but he could be under influence. I treat most of the generals and most of them are so sick. Even when the president appears in public, he is not in sound mind and physical appearance,” said Mawien.

“The president is not in his mental and physical capacity to rule the country. What he says are not his words”, he further added.

Mawien, who claimed he worked at the presidential health unit, accused some people around the South Sudan leader of drawing money from the war-torn nation in “fraudulent” ways.

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Rights body condemns attacks in South Sudan


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.

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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.

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200 child soldiers freed in S. Sudan, but problem continues

Apr 18

Link to image.

JUBA, South Sudan — More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, part of a series of releases that will see almost 1,000 children freed in the coming months.

An estimated 19,000 children are believed to be in armed forces amid the country’s 5-year civil war, which has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions. South Sudan has one of the highest numbers of child soldiers in the world, according to the U.N.

At the “laying down of the guns” ceremony, 112 boys and 95 girls were returned to their families in areas outside the town of Yambio on Tuesday. It was the first community release of child soldiers where children were directly reunited with their parents and siblings instead of first going to institutions.

“It’s about sending a clear message that children should not be in the army,” UNICEF’s representative in South Sudan, Mahimbo Mdoe, told The Associated Press. He called on all of South Sudan’s armed factions to release all children.

The release comes weeks ahead of the young country’s third round of peace talks, scheduled to be held at the end of the month in neighbouring Ethiopia. A ceasefire signed on Dec. 24 was broken hours later and another round of talks were inconclusive.

To date, the U.N. has released more than 2,000 child soldiers, yet despite progress and the government’s commitment to halt the recruitment of children, advocacy groups say it continues.

“Thousands of children are exploited as cooks and porters and as domestic slaves, while girls in armed groups are regularly subjected to serious sexual abuse, taken as ‘wives’ by their captors and kept far beyond the frontlines,” said Sandra Olsson, program manager at Child Soldiers International, a rights group.

South Sudan’s government says it condemns the use of child soldiers and blames the opposition for recruiting children.

“It’s happening in areas not under our control,” army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang, told AP.

The opposition says the children in its ranks weren’t recruited but were taken in after government soldiers murdered their families.

“Many children who come to us are traumatized by what they have seen the regime soldiers do to their parents or relatives. Many witnessed their parents molested and killed,” said opposition spokesman, Lam Paul Gabriel.

But several children released by the opposition said they had been taken by force, speaking to AP at their release in February.

“They tied my eyes and tied our bodies to theirs,” said a former child soldier in Yambio earlier this year. AP is not using her name to protect the identity of a minor.

Nervously clasping her fingers, the 17-year-old said she was abducted from school in the middle of the day at the age of 14 by opposition fighters who “came in shooting.” She said for two years she was ordered hike from town to town with the soldiers and loot houses of towns that they captured. She saw many other children get killed in crossfire. “I just kept praying not to die,” she said.

The children released this week will get food assistance for three months, psychosocial support and vocational training, to help reintegrate them into their communities, said UNICEF. But some aid groups say this type of short term “emergency intervention” is not enough to keep children from returning to the armies.

“Demobilization and disarmament rarely stick while war is still going on,” said Samantha Nutt, founder of War Child USA, an international humanitarian organization that provides support to children and families in war zones.

Without longer term help from the international community, Nutt said many children will be “back in the bush fighting again a year from now.”

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South Sudan’s refugee flow is often a children’s crisis

2018-04-15 12:00

The flood of South Sudanese refugees from the country’s 5-year civil war has been called a children’s crisis.

More than 60% of the well over one million refugees who have poured into neighboring Uganda are under the age of 18, government and United Nations officials say. More than two million people have fled South Sudan overall.

Amid the fighting, over 75 000 children have found themselves on their own in Uganda and other neighboring countries, according to the U.N. refugee agency, separated from their families in the chaos or sent by their parents to relative safety.

While many children have reunited with relatives after crossing the border, others are matched by aid workers with foster families in an effort to minimize the disruption in their lives. Without parents, some children are left vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, aid workers say.

 Some teenagers find themselves the head of their households, taking care of siblings. One 16-year-old boy now takes care of his younger brother. “My father was shot in the war,” he said. “And then my mother, I don’t know where she went.” He doesn’t know if she’s dead or alive.
More than 60% of the well over one million refugees who have poured into neighboring Uganda are under the age of 18, government and United Nations officials say. More than two million people have fled South Sudan overall.Amid the fighting, over 75 000 children have found themselves on their own in Uganda and other neighboring countries, according to the U.N. refugee agency, separated from their families in the chaos or sent by their parents to relative safety.While many children have reunited with relatives after crossing the border, others are matched by aid workers with foster families in an effort to minimize the disruption in their lives. Without parents, some children are left vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, aid workers say.

Some teenagers find themselves the head of their households, taking care of siblings.

One 16-year-old boy now takes care of his younger brother. “My father was shot in the war,” he said. “And then my mother, I don’t know where she went.” He doesn’t know if she’s dead or alive.

The two brothers fled to Uganda on the back of a car after seeing their father’s body on a street in their village. After arriving in Uganda they were taken to a reception center run by the U.N. refugee agency.

Efforts to support the children have been hurt by a recent scandal in Uganda in which officials were accused of inflating refugee numbers to siphon off aid money. That has shaken international donors.

Aid workers say resources are stretched thin as they try to place the unaccompanied children with foster families with close ethnic ties.

It’s crucial to place children with families that speak the same language, said James Kamira, a child protection expert with the World Vision aid agency.

One young mother of two, Beatrice Tumalu, now takes care of eight other children who are not her own.

“I feel pity for them,” she said, as she grew up under similar circumstances during the years that South Sudan fought for independence from Sudan. That independence was won in 2011, and South Sudan’s civil war broke out two years later.

The unaccompanied children have little of that aid workers call psychosocial support to help deal with trauma. In one refugee settlement just six case workers are available for 78,000 children, according to the Danish Refugee Council.

Another 16-year-old said his parents died three years ago in South Sudan. He walked into Uganda last year and later was placed with a foster family from another ethnic group.

“Staying there, it is not very well,” he said of the cultural and communication issues.

Sitting against a tree, he opened the Bible he carried with him and began to cry as he read one passage: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

South Sudan’s many unaccompanied children need stability and education or “we can lose actually that generation,” warned Basil Droti, who is in charge of child protection at one settlement for the Danish Refugee Council.

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Actions of Lt. Col. Melanie Childs saved scores of South Sudan refugees

16 Apr, 2018 5:00am

As the attack helicopters buzzed over densely-packed city streets, and rotor-blades and machinegun bullets kicked up dust and fear, people ran for their lives.

The South Sudan civil war raged on the streets of the world’s newest country’s capital, Juba. Mortars exploded and RPGs rounds fizzed. Caught in the middle, were 30,000 internally-displaced civilians living in a ramshackle, rambling camp.

They began running to the nearby United Nations headquarters where 1800 international troops were stationed, with a clear mandate to protect civilians.

However, as the battle intensified, with hundreds dying, UN soldiers started turning away the refugees, carrying their lives with them – 20L containers of water, mattresses, babies – seeking safety and protection.

Inside the compound, New Zealand Defence Force Lieutenant Colonel Melanie Childs, who was attached to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UMISS) as a deputy plans officer, was getting increasingly frustrated.

“It was a very challenging situation,” said the Christchurch-born East Timor and Afghanistan veteran.

“We had a number of troop contributing countries who didn’t react the way they needed to. There was widespread confusion over whether these civilians should be allowed in or pushed back.

“What resulted was a bunch of staff officers getting out on the ground, trying to explain to these different nations that, ‘This is our job, to protect them, this is why we are here’.”

While orders from the Joint Operations Centre were failing to be carried out, either through translation issues or the fog of war, Childs decided to take her own action.

Alongside a Dutch lawyer, she hit the chaotic streets and started corralling hundreds of refugees and convincing them to follow her inside the UN compound, which was a relatively safe zone. She was in radio contact with a British Royal Marine who was doing the same. Elsewhere, US police officers and Norwegian staff officers also rounded up refugees caught in the crossfire.

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