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 tormadira2013@gmail.com or tormchier.bogspot.com

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

(ST)

Sudan Call forces to mediate between SPLM-N factions

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July 16, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – The opposition Sudan Call alliance Sunday announced the formation of a committee to broker a mediation between the two factions of the Sudan Liberation People’s Liberation-North (SPLM-N) and expressed willingness to coordinate with other opposition groups.

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Deputy chairman of the National Umma Party (NUP), Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi (R), with leading figure at the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) Siddig Youssef at a press conference in Khartoum on 19 April 2015 (ST)

The SPLM-N is now divided into two factions: one in the Nuba Mountains led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu and the other in the White Nile State led by Malik Agar. The rift emerged several months ago over the right of self-determination and other issues.

In a meeting held on Saturday in Omdurman, the opposition parties members of Sudan Call forces, which are allied to the SPLM-N and two armed groups from Darfur, discussed the recent political developments in the country and ways to reinvigorate the activities of the alliance.

Following the meeting, the opposition parties held a press conference and released a statement where they reiterated their keenness to reconcile the two factions and announced they would mediate between them.

The Sudan Call leaders “tasked a tripartite committee with reaching out to Malik Agar and Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu to consult with them on the issue,” said the statement.

Also, the opposition leaders told reporters during the press conference that al-Hilu responded positively to their initiative and vowed to discuss the matter with them once he completes the reorganisation of his group.

Al-Hilu managed to get the support of the SPLA-N in the Nuba Mountains and says he has the support of the SPLM-N members Blue Nile State. Agar disputes this claim. He calls for a collective resignation of the three-member leadership paving the way for a general conference to discuss the causes of the refit, reorganise the movement and elect a new leadership.

The Sudan Call forces announced their support for the American proposal for the medical humanitarian assistance. Further, they called on the SPLM-N to accept it and to discuss its implementation as soon as possible.

Regarding the peace talks in the two areas, they emphasised that peace requires an inclusive national political process to address the root causes of the conflict.

In the past, the political opposition groups blamed the government and the SPLM for negotiating the 2005 peace agreement that led to the independence of South Sudan without them.

Further, the opposition alliance renewed its determination to continue mobilisation to achieve a just and comprehensive peace and a democratic transition that establishes a state of citizenship and justice.

The Sudan Call said they would work with all the initiatives for a national action against the regime, including those coming from the trade unions, women and youth organisations, and reiterated its keenness to coordinate with them through networking or alliances.

“We extend our hands without preconditions to the National Consensus Forces to coordinate with them on common mobilisation issues and to reach to an optimal platform for a joint action,” further said the Sudan Call.

The Sudan Call forces were part of the National Consensus Forces but diverged on whether or not to negotiate an agreement with the regime on peace and democratic reforms. While the political and military alliance accepted an African Union mediation, the left forces rejected the process.

The opposition alliance also reiterated its rejection of calls by President Omer al-Bashir to participate in the drafting of a new constitution on the basis of the recommendations of the government-led national dialogue process.

U.S. Sanctions

On the permanent lift of sanctions, the opposition said the delay for additional three- month period was expected because the new administration of President Donald Trump needs more time to assess the situation.

They further called to link the revocation of sanctions with the end of war and implementation of a peace agreement and democratic rule ensuring freedoms, justice and preventing corruption.

“Otherwise how an economy can grow under internal and border wars and disputes, how an economy can flourish or a national or foreign investor get the guarantee that his money would be protected against corruption and the intervention of security services in all aspects of economic operations?”

(ST)

U.S. Treasury allows full resumption of financial transactions with Sudan: minister

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July 16, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s Minister of Finance Mohamed Salih al-Rikabi said Khartoum has received a letter from the U.S. Department of Treasury stating the full resumption of financial transactions between Sudan and international banks as of last Thursday.

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U.S. Treasury Department building in Washington, DC. (AFP)

Last January, former U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order easing the 19-year Sudan sanctions on a probationary basis. The sanctions relief was to become permanent on 12 July unless the U.S. Administration acted to stop it.

President Donald Trump, in a new executive order issued Tuesday, moved that deadline back by three months, while keeping the temporary sanctions relief in place, citing the need to take more time to assess the robust process.

In an interview with the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper Sunday, al-Rikabi described the U.S. Department of Treasury letter as “significant breakthrough” in Sudan’s relations with the international financial sector and international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, foreign investors, as well as all Sudanese expatriates whose annual remittances are estimated at $6 billion.

He stressed his ministry would continue to deal with the regional and international financial institutions to attract foreign investments and achieve economic stability.

Commenting on Washington’s decision to delay the permanent lifting of economic sanctions, al-Rikabi said “despite dissatisfaction with the decision but it has achieved significant gains regarding the international financial transactions”.

He added the new executive order didn’t provide for additional restriction on President Obama’s decision to ease the sanctions.

Last May, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS) Badr al-Din Qurashi acknowledged that Khartoum didn’t benefit from Washington’s decision to ease the economic sanctions saying investors look forward to seeing a full lift of sanctions in July.

He pointed that the international banks, especially U.S. banks, refrained from making transactions with their Sudanese counterparts, saying foreign investors fear to enter into large investments in Sudan before the full lifting of sanctions.

Qurashi added the sanctions have prevented the Sudanese banking sector and Sudanese citizens from using international payment and settlement systems and bank transfers, saying the banks were also prevented from acquiring advanced U.S technology.

(ST)

Putting Sudan on notice

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Extending the sanction review period is a good first step toward ending the crimes of a genocidal regime.

Sudanese Genocide War Criminal Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

Sudanese Genocide War Criminal Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If you were told that an indicted war criminal who is responsible for the death of thousands of Sudanese citizens should be allowed to gain the economic benefits of trading with the U.S., what would you say? On July 12 the Trump administration postponed a decision for 90 days on whether to continue to implement Executive Order 13761 regarding sanctions on Sudan that were established as the result of decades of violence, genocide and crimes against humanity.

My first visit to Sudan was in 1989. I have been there numerous times since and I was the first member of the House to go to Darfur during the genocide in 2004. What I saw there was one of the worst scenes I have ever witnessed. Shortly after I returned, Congress passed a resolution declaring that genocide was taking place in Darfur. President Bush declared it genocide as well, effectively becoming the first president to declare an ongoing conflict to be genocide.

Since 2011, the Sudanese government has continued to target Sudanese villages in the Nuba Mountains and other areas dropping thousands of bombs on them over the past six years, indiscriminately killing thousands of civilians including women and children. Nuba Reports, a journalism initiative based in the Nuba Mountains has documented more than 4,000 bombs dropped on civilian areas since June 2011.

Then there is the latest report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom which states, “Religious freedom conditions in Sudan continued to deteriorate in 2016. Government officials arrested and prosecuted Christian leaders and marginalized the Christian community.” The report goes on to state, “The government of Sudan, led by President Bashir, imposes a restrictive interpretation of Sharia and applies corresponding hudood punishments on Muslims and non- Muslims alike.”

South Sudan state TV director arrested and detained

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July 15, 2017 (KAMPALA) – The director of South Sudan state television (SSBC), Adil Faris Mayat has been arrested after the station failed to relay a live broadcast of President Salva Kiir’s speech during the sixth independence day anniversary held on 9 July, his wife said.

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State-owned SSTV has been transformed into SSBC (File photo)

Security officials arrested Mayat in the South Sudan capital, Juba on 10 July.

Mayat, his wife told Reuters, acted so as “to avoid any technical difficulties (which) might appear during the live [speech] broadcast.”

That move reportedly angered the country’s authorities, many of who viewed it as act meant to undermine the South Sudanese leader.

Officials from the government could not willingly comment on Mayat’s arrest.

In recent years, increasing reports of harassment faced by journalists in South Sudan have raised concern that the nation is reneging on the basic freedoms its authorities promised the population when the country seceded from Sudan after a referendum in January 2011.

Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) recently ranked South Sudan as the second worst country in Africa and fifth globally in the impunity index, highlighting the failure to bring persons who kill or attack journalists to justice.

Since December 2013, over eight journalists have been killed in South Sudan.

Also, South Sudan government’s failure to pass legislation protecting the media has increased concerns about the state of press freedom.

(ST)