Rwandan Soldiers Arrive in South Sudan Ahead of Thousands More Extra UN Troops

Rwandan peacekeepers from the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) check their armored personnel carriers (APC) before a parade in Juba, South Sudan, August 8, 2017.

About 120 Rwandan peacekeepers have arrived in South Sudan, United Nations said on Tuesday, the first detachment of 4,000 extra troops approved by the U.N. last year to help protect the capital of Africa’s newest country.

The U.N. approved the deployment in August after days of heavy fighting in Juba between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing former Vice President Riek Machar. There are already 13,000 U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan.

South Sudan four-year civil war triggered by Kiir’s sacking of Machar as his deputy. The men come from rival ethnic groups and the fighting, which has uprooted a quarter of the country’s 12 million people, has been largely along tribal lines.

The U.N. Secretary General’s special representative in South Sudan, David Shearer, told a news conference that the recruits, who arrived this weekend, would join a battalion from Nepal and Bangladesh attached to the regional protection force (RPF).

The arrival of this contingent … marks the beginning of the phased deployment of the RPF,” Shearer said. More troops were also expected to be deployed from Ethiopia, he said.

The RPF is mandated to enforce peace in Juba and protect the capital’s sole international airport and other important facilities as well as stopping anyone “preparing attacks, or engages in attacks” against U.N. sites, aid workers or civilians and would confront South Sudanese government troops if needed.

“Having additional troops means we can carry out more tasks related to our mandate to protecting civilian and build a durable peace,” Shearer said.

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Dozens killed in South Sudan’s inter-communal fight

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July 18, 2017 (KWAJOK) – A least 18 people were killed and more than 30 wounded in clashes involving the Apuk and Aguok communities of South Sudan’s Gogrial state, an official disclosed.

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Map of South Sudan showing Warrap state in red

“Some of our people are now moving to the side of the former Western Bahr el Ghazal and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states for fear of their lives,” said the state information minister, Ariech Mayar Ariech.

Ariech, however, said tension remained high as some group of youth suspected to be from the Aguok community attacked the Apuk, burning down villages and forcing residents to flee their homes.

“We need the intervention of many troops to have the state special forces that are now at the places of the clashes,” he added.

Tonj state governor, Akech Tong Aleu and his Gogrial state counterpart, Gregory Deng Kuac have reportedly camped in Gogrial state as they try to persuade the youth to stop fighting.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Tuesday convened an emergency meeting of the national security committee, a day after a state of emergency was declared in parts of the country.

The meeting followed the communal clashes in four states. The state of emergency covered parts of Aweil East, Wau, Gogrial and Jonglei states.


Hunger kills more than 40 people in S. Sudan’s Amadi state

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More than 40 people have died as a result of hunger in Mvolo county of South Amadi State, authorities disclosed Tuesday.

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The map of Western Equatoria in red

The state coordinator for Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, Wilson Moga attributed it to influx over 25,000 displaced persons into Mvolo county.

“In Mvolo, we have a serious hunger as a result of the dry spell and due to influx of IDPs [Internally Displaced Person] from some payams who were displaced due to conflict between cattle keepers and farmers in Mvolo county and because of the crisis in the country we have people who came from Yambio, Maridi, Mundri and other places who fled due to conflict in those area,” Moga told Sudan Tribune.

“Since 2015, we have a serious drought in Mvolo which resulted into poor harvest and people could not plant well as it used to be in the previous years. As per now people are surviving on wild fruits and very few people have vegetables that they are feeding on, but this is not enough for the entire population,” he added.

In response to the crisis, Moga said, the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) are assisting primary health care centers handling children suffering from malnutrition and other diseases within the county.

The official appealed to other partners to visit Mvolo and assess the conditions being faced by women and children in the county and offer the necessary assistance.

An estimated 1.1 million children in the country are acutely malnourished, according to UNICEF. In addition, children lack clean water, which has led to the ongoing outbreak of cholera – the longest and most widespread in the country’s history – with 10,000 cases reported, the majority children.

The civil war in South Sudan has raged on for the past three years with such viciousness that parts of the country are bereft of food and a third of the population fled their homes.


Over 26 million people need food aid in East Africa: U.N

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(KAMPALA) — The United Nations humanitarian agency (UNOCHA) said at least 26.5 million people in East Africa are in need of food assistance due to severe drought that is ravaging the region.

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Part of an 18-truck WFP convoy crossing into South Sudan from Sudan, carrying 700 metric tons of food, in Nov 2014 (WFP video screen capture)

OCHA, in its latest report, said the number of refugees who have sought protection in the Horn of Africa region has increased by 640,000 people to 4.4 million over the past six months or so.

The report, for instance, said more than 3 million people have been displaced in the East African region over the last eight months alone.

“This is driven by successive episodes of drought and failed harvests, conflict, insecurity and economic shocks affecting the most vulnerable. Humanitarian needs are expected to increase in the months ahead,” partly reads the report.

The East Africa region currently faces one of the biggest humanitarian crises in its history. Recent rainfall has been insufficient to compensate for the delayed start of the rainy season, which brought below average levels of precipitation in March and April.

In South Sudan, it said, a famine outbreak affecting 90,000 people in Unity State was declared in February. Conditions in South Sudan continue to deteriorate with 5.5 million people expected to be severely food insecure in July, figures from the world body indicate.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the probability of El-Nino occurring in the autumn is at 50 to 60 percent and is expected to affect Ethiopia, northern Kenya, Somalia, western Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and southwestern South Sudan.

“The Fall Armyworm has appeared in western Kenya, southwestern Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda and central and western Uganda. In Uganda, it affects 54 districts, attacking up to 40 percent of maize farms in some areas,” the UN said.

According to OCHA, acute malnutrition, especially among refugees and children under five, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers remains a major concern in many parts of South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur, Kordofan region, and Eastern Sudan), northern Kenya and Uganda’s Karamoja region.

Meanwhile, the report said 640,000 people have sought protection since the start of 2017, making a total of 4.4 million refugees and asylum seekers in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa region.

The majority of the newly displaced are from South Sudan and Burundi, with South Sudan being the fastest growing refugee crisis globally.

Almost 2 million people are internally displaced in South Sudan, and more than 1.9 million South Sudanese have fled the country as refugees and asylum seekers since December 2013.



On South Sudan’s sixth birthday, here are 6 things you should know

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South Sudan is 6. The government has canceled its birthday party. The treasury is empty. Neither the army nor rebels have command and control in a civil war that stumps peace mediators. Three million have fled their homes.

This situation escalated from a shootout in the presidential guard on the night of Dec. 15, 2013. The misunderstanding spread through the army barracks, to the capital, and then the rest of the country.

But the civil war has older roots, in 50 years of Sudanese conflicts. When British colonizers left Sudan in 1956, Khartoum’s carousel of military juntas continued a British policy of mistreatingsoutherners. Dissidents formed the Anyanya (“snake venom”) rebels in the ’60s, going dormantin 1972, to resurface as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) under the leadership of John Garang.

From 1983 to 2005, the SPLA/M fought a bloody war with Sudanese armed forces and a patchwork of rival southern militias. These fighting fronts multiplied in 1991, when Garang, an ethnic Dinka, fell out with his deputy, Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer. The faction rejoined in 2002, but had killed the SPLA/M’s multiethnic spirit.

In 2005, after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement with Sudan, the SPLA/M took charge of a semiautonomous south, then held a secession referendum Jan. 9, 2011. South Sudanese received independence six years ago today — with internal divisions still raw.

Here are six things to know about the world’s newest country on its independence day.

1. Accidental independence?

The SPLA/M had not always pursued independence. Up until 2005,  Garang wanted to remain within Sudan. But after his death in a helicopter crash, secessionists took charge. The new leadership under now-President Salva Kiir stopped promoting unity.

Political scientist Matt Qvortrup’s thorough review and analysis of referendums argues that secession votes only bring peace if ruling elites reach consensus on how to solve the conflict. The SPLA/M, however, was internally divided. Garang’s loyalists distrusted Machar’s faction, and party intellectuals distrusted Kiir’s supporters.

These divisions explain how violence exploded Dec. 15, 2013. Kiir had put his security in the hands of a presidential guard — the “Tiger Division” — answerable only to him. Nuer and Dinka Tiger Division soldiers turned their guns on each other amid rumors of a coup. Machar’s militia took to the bush the following day as a new insurgency, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO).

2. Corruption fuels the conflict

South Sudan was born rich. On independence, it received half the former Sudan’s oil wealth — comprising 98 percent of government income, and pushing its GDP per capita above Kenya’s. The SPLA/M used this wealth to rule by kleptocracy, embezzling funds and using suitcases of cash to persuade rival rebel militias to “integrate” into a South Sudanese national army.

But in 2012, the government escalated a dispute with Sudan over an oil transit fee by closing its oil wells (South Sudan relies on a pipeline through Sudan to bring its oil to market). A leaked World Bank report predicted fiscal collapse. The number of South Sudanese in extreme poverty jumped by 50 percent, while the elite had to delve deep into Swiss bank accounts to maintain their fleets of SUVs.

No oil meant no army salaries. When SPLA commanders could no longer pay their soldiers, they brought in relatives to fight without remuneration. Historian Clemence Pinaud writes that during the civil war with Sudan, SPLA/M generals tied subordinates to them with gifts of wives and bridewealth. These relationships added to the recipe for the army to disintegrate on ethnic lines after the Tiger Division shootout in December 2013.

3. Civilians pay the price

My research on deaths in South Sudan shows that the civil war has killed many more ordinary citizens than soldiers. For instance, 2015 proved a bloody year, even though Kiir and Machar signed a peace agreement. Their armies fought despite this deal, disproportionately killing civilians. They destroyed or disfigured many corpses so badly that investigators had to record them as “unknown.”

The living now endure cholera in the shadow of famine. While South Sudanese once dreamed that their country would become Africa’s breadbasket, fighting has obliterated agriculture. The government and the rebels have blocked food distribution while people starve. (When I tried to fly with the World Food Program to rebel-held territory in July 2015, the government denied flight clearance. They eventually let me through on a charter flight, but not the food.)

4. The victims are changing 

In the midst of the slaughter, the government and SPLM-IO sent delegates to peace talks in Ethiopia. Drawing daily expense allowances of up to $2,000, negotiators took 18 months to reach a peace deal in August 2015. These talks changed but did not end the violence.

Armed men with concealed identities began attacking civilians in towns originally spared. Government soldiers also killed and raped aid workers for the first time. This pattern matches political scientist Stathis Kalyvas’s predictions about what happens when fighting forces are unequally matched but neither has full control: They sow fear by selectively killing civilians, forcing others to denounce neighbors to save themselves.

According to UNICEF, both the government and rebels have abducted children to use as soldiers. Political scientist Dara Kay Cohen has found that recruitment by abduction often leads commanders to use rape to build bonds among their troops. The “epic proportions” of government and rebel sexual violence fits this trend.

5. The peace agreement is dead

The 2015 peace deal established terms for a cease-fire, reconciliation process and power sharing between Kiir and Machar. None of that has happened.

A war crimes court is yet to migrate from paper to practice. Machar lives under house arrest near Pretoria, after a multilateral deal with South Africa to restrict his movements. Meanwhile, Kiir has unilaterally launched his own “national dialogue” for South Sudanese to discuss the country’s future. Political scientists Andreas Hirblinger and Thania Paffenholz argue that neither the peace accord nor national dialogue have a hope without a cease-fire.

6. Prospects

A stable future under Kiir or Machar seems far-fetched. Military hard-liners are threatening to step in and take over the country. But chaos and dictatorship need not reign.

Amid government intimidation, torture and detention of journalists, some young South Sudanese intellectuals have nevertheless insisted on speaking out. The Sudd Institute has delivered evidence-based research about political reform options — even when its staff has literally dodged bullets. The South Sudanese Young Leaders Forum has denounced the ethnic platforms of the government and SPLM-IO leadership.

These community organizers and policy analysts could run the ministries and fill the cabinet of a professional, deliberative and inclusive government. The question is how to get them there.

Sophia Dawkins is a PhD student in political science at Yale University.

South Sudan rebels warn of “river of body bags” as fighting rages in Upper Nile


Pagak/Juba, July 6, 2017 (SSNA) — Heavy fighting between government and rebel forces have resumed in and around Upper Nile’s Guelguk and Mathiang towns, the South Sudan News Agency(SSNA) has learned.

Senior rebel military officers told the SSNA in Pagak that a combination of government, Sudanese rebels, and militias have launched surprise attacks on rebel positions in and around Mathiang and Guelguk, causing civilians to flee their homes.

Rebels said they lured in heavily armed government convoy of specialized military armored trucks into Mathiang and Guelguk thinking that they captured them without a fight.

“We knew they were coming. So, what we did was to leave major areas to fool them into believing that they capture our bases,” SPLA-IO military intelligence officer Khamis Mawwil told the SSNA in Pagak.

“There will be a river of body bags if they think they can take over our areas in Upper Nile,” he warned.

The armed opposition also states that Juba attacked their areas because it doesn’t want any revitalization of the 2015 South Sudan peace deal.

Rebels said they have recaptured both Mathiang and Guelguk Thursday and that they inflicted heavy losses on the government forces, adding, “We captured many of their weapons and military trucks.”

A senior government official who refused to be identified told the SSNA in Juba that the goal of the government is to take full control of Gaatjaak areas and then replace rebel institutions with government ones.

The South Sudan News Agency has learned that after Juba-backed troops captured Mathiang and Guelguk, a unit of government forces was sent to Thoch with instruction to attack the SPLA-IO areas and proceed to Maiwut and Pagak.

However, South Sudanese government forces panicked Thursday evening after SPLA Bilpham General Headquarters in Juba informed them that rebel forces retook Guelguk and Mathiang.

The South Sudan News Agency was told by a senior rebel General that at least five SPLA-IO low-level officers who were caught communicating with government troops were arrested by the SPLA-IO military intelligence unit and taken to unknown location.

The officer refused to identify the identities of the officers alleged to have been secretly collaborating with the government forces.

There was no immediate comment from the SPLA-IO’s Spokesman, Brig. General William Gatjiath Deng.

However, minutes after the South Sudan News Agency published the report, SPLA-IO’s Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Deng, released an official statement confirming the fighting.

“In the Mangok, Mathiang, Malou and Biot fighting, the gallant SPLA-IO forces of Division Five (5) under the command of Cdr Major General Khor Chuol Giet and Deputy Sector Four (4) Commander Major General Peter Lim Bol resisted and repulsed the Juba regime aggression from the Guelguk direction back to their Malou temporary trenches, where their remnants are now being contained,” Deng said.

Deng added that Juba-backed forces suffered both in material and human losses.

“In this intense fighting, the Juba regime suffered a very debilitating loss both in human and materially. In terms of human, the Juba regime lost some seventy-four (74) soldiers, including eight (8) officers, on spot. This is in addition to those injured and without access to any food or medical attention whatsoever. Materially, the Juba regime abandoned one (1) Worrol mounted with 14 (4) barrels and other four (4) land cruisers mounted with 12.7mm machine guns,” he said.

“In this intense fighting, the Juba regime suffered a very debilitating loss both in human and materially. In terms of human, the Juba regime lost some seventy-four (74) soldiers, including eight (8) officers, on spot. This is in addition to those injured and without access to any food or medical attention whatsoever. Materially, the Juba regime abandoned one (1) Worrol mounted with 14 (4) barrels and other four (4) land cruisers mounted with 12.7mm machine guns,” he said.

Brig. General Deng accuses Juba of believing only in action, warning, “the armed opposition will no longer entertain any further provocations and aggressions anywhere in South Sudan.”

Deng further reveals that fighting between the rival forces has also been intensifying in Equatoria region.

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