South Sudan’s Vice President Tests Positive For Coronavirus

File photo of Riek Machar

South Sudan’s first vice president, the former rebel leader Riek Machar, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, his office said on Monday.  

Machar’s wife, Defence Minister Angelina Teny, and “a number of his office staff and bodyguards” have also been infected, according to a statement posted on the office’s Facebook page and attributed to press secretary James Gatdek Dak.

Machar “has issued a public statement declaring that he is found positive, and from today will self-quarantine in his residence for the next 14 days,” the statement said.

South Sudan, which is emerging from a devastating six-year civil war, has so far recorded 339 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths, according to the latest figures from the health ministry, also released Monday.

Although the number is relatively low, only 3,908 tests have been conducted.

Aid agencies have been sounding the alarm over a sharp rise in cases in recent days.

Last week, officials announced the virus had reached a camp of some 30,000 displaced people who have been seeking United Nations protection in the capital Juba since 2013. Two cases have been confirmed there.

A case has also been confirmed in a similar camp in northern Bentiu, home to almost 120,000 people.

The country continues to be gripped by humanitarian emergency and hunger, even after Machar and President Salva Kiir — the main rivals in the civil war — formed a unity government in February.

The two men remain deadlocked on key issues such as the control of regional states.

Until last week, Machar had been serving on a task force intended to combat the coronavirus.

But on Friday Kiir dissolved the taskforce, removing a number of politicians including Machar.

The statement released on Monday from Machar’s office said: “a number” of other former members of the task force had also tested positive.

It said Machar was “healthy and with no symptoms.”

AFP

S.Sudan Rebel Leader Machar Sworn In As Vice President

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 17, 2019 South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (L), South Sudan’s opposition leader Riek Machar (R) and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo (C)”Hemeti”,
Majak Kuany / AFP

 

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar was sworn in as first vice president on Saturday, formally rejoining the government in the latest bid to bring peace to a nation ravaged by war.

President Salva Kiir hailed the “official ending of war” and said peace was now “irreversible” as the new unity government was formed after more than a year of delays and bickering over crucial issues.

It is the third time that bitter foes Machar and President Salva Kiir will attempt to rule together and the pair have many differences yet to iron out as they form the unity government that is a cornerstone of a September 2018 peace deal.

“For the people of South Sudan, I want to assure you that we will work together to end your suffering,” Machar said after taking the oath.

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Machar embraced and shook hands with Kiir after being sworn in.

The rebel leader returns as first vice president. Four other vice presidents from the government and other opposition groups will also form part of a bloated government of 35 ministers and 550 lawmakers.

The rivals started out as president and deputy at independence in 2011 but Kiir sacked Machar in 2013 and later accused him of attempting a coup against him, sparking a bloody war characterised by ethnic bloodshed between Kiir’s Dinka and Machar’s Nuer communities.

“We must forgive one another and reconcile. I also appeal to the people of Dinka and Nuer to forgive one another,” said Kiir.

A 2015 peace deal brought Machar back as vice president and he returned to Juba amid heavy security.

When that deal fell apart in July 2016, the capital was plunged into a brutal battle between rival armies and Machar was forced to flee on foot.

The ensuing war drew in new parts of the country and other local grievances and disputes came to the fore.

After six years of the war some 380,000 have died, four million fled their homes and more than half the population is facing severe hunger.

The economy of the oil-rich nation is shattered, infrastructure barely existent, and millions of children are out of school.

The September peace deal has led to the longest period of relative calm since 2013 but fighting continues between government and holdout rebel groups in the Central Equatorial region.

Bloody localised conflicts between communities in the absence of a functioning state have soared.

Machar on Saturday hailed the strengthening of the South Sudanese pound on the back of the formation of the unity government from 320 to 220 pounds to the dollar, saying “this is the dividend of peace.”

And, with around 190,000 people still cowering in United Nations protection camps around the country, the UN special envoy to South Sudan David Shearer said he believed that “we will see lots of people once displaced moving back to their homes.”

‘Much More To Work Through’

The formation of the unity government was postponed twice by failure to move forward on forming a unified army, carving out-state borders and creating a protection force to assure Machar’s security.

A last-minute deal on the number of states was achieved, although little progress has been made on the other issues.

Kiir has said his forces would be in charge of Machar’s protection as a special VIP protection force is still undergoing training.

A compromise by Kiir to cut to 10 the number of states, which he increased unilaterally to 32 after independence, was seen as key in moving towards the creation of the unity government.

However, the opposition remains reticent about an additional three “administrative areas” pushed through by Kiir.

“Kiir’s compromise on the state’s issue paved the way for the two sides to finally move forward, even if the parties have much more to work through in the coming weeks, months, and years,” Alan Boswell, a South Sudan expert with the International Crisis Group (ICG) told AFP.

Both Kiir and Machar are former rebel leaders who rose to power during Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war between north and south — a conflict in which they also fought each other — before South Sudan won freedom in 2011.

United Nations experts say Kiir and Machar are both responsible for most of the violence committed during the war.

A report from a UN rights probe released this week delivered a damning indictment of “predatory and unaccountable elites” who had gone so far as to “deliberately starve” civilians in pursuit of their war.

It highlighted that corruption had robbed the state of precious resources and “made several officials extremely wealthy at the expense of millions of starving civilians.”

AFP

South Sudan President Makes Move Towards Peace

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit attends the 33rd Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit, at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, on February 10, 2020. MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit attends the 33rd Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit, at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, on February 10, 2020. MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP

 

South Sudan’s president said on Saturday he would return to a system of 10 states, a key opposition demand, paving the way for a unity government and an end to the country’s civil war.

“The compromise we have just made is in the interest of peace…I expect the opposition to reciprocate,” Salva Kiir said, after a meeting of top government and military officials in the capital Juba.

Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar are under increasing pressure to resolve their differences by February 22 and form a unity government as part of a peace agreement.

The pair have already missed two previous deadlines to enshrine peace to end a six-year conflict that has left at least 380,000 people dead and millions in dire poverty.

Trainee soldiers for a new unified army sit on the ground with their wooden rifles while attending a reconciliation programme run by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) at a makeshift barracks in Mapel on January 31, 2020. TONY KARUMBA / AFP
Trainee soldiers for a new unified army sit on the ground with their wooden rifles while attending a reconciliation programme run by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) at a makeshift barracks in Mapel on January 31, 2020. TONY KARUMBA / AFP

 

The number of states is contentious because the borders will determine the divisions of power in the country.

When it gained independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan had 10 states, as set out in its constitution. Kiir increased that in 2015 to 28, and then later 32.

But on Saturday, a presidential statement confirmed that Kiir had “resolved to return the country to 10 states and their previous counties”.

Kiir’s had repeatedly refused to back down on the number of states but had come under intense international pressure to compromise.

Kiir and Machar are old rivals who have fought and made up multiple times.

 

AFP

South Sudan Govt, Rebels Accuse Each Other Of Breaking Truce

This photo shows African Union chairman Moussa Faki (2nd L-top) sitting with members of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) as they attend a signing ceremony for the ceasefire agreement amongst South Sudanese parties to end the four-year war in the country. Photo: Solan Kolli / AFP

 

South Sudan’s government and main rebel group on Sunday accused each other of breaking a ceasefire that went into effect shortly after midnight.

The ceasefire is the latest bid to end a devastating four-year war which broke out after a falling out between former vice president Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir in 2013.

In a statement on Sunday, Machar’s rebel group the SPLA-IO accused government forces of launching an “aggressive attack” on their positions in the town of Bieh Payam in the north of the country, as well as positions in southwestern Yei county.

“These are all acts against the peace process as the government in Juba wants the SPLA-IO to respond so that war continues and they continue to loot the resources of the country,” said the statement from SPLA-IO spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel.

Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang denied the incidents, instead accusing the rebels of “serious violations” of the ceasefire deal elsewhere in the country.

He said that the rebels ambushed an “administrative convoy that was trying to deliver food and salaries for Christmas” in the southern Amadi state.

“We broke through the ambush and we were able to kill five rebel fighters,” he said.

He also accused the rebels of attacking military police in Aweil East, in the northwest of the country.

“We have not been engaging the rebels, we have been fighting all in our defensive positions and we also have been fighting whenever we are attacked on the roads,” the army spokesman told AFP.

The clashes have marred the latest in a series of ceasefire deals, signed between the government and several armed groups on Thursday and went into effect at 00:01 local time on December 24.

The agreement said all forces should “immediately freeze in their locations”, halt actions that could lead to confrontation and release political detainees as well as abducted women and children.

South Sudan’s leaders fought for decades for independence, but once they achieved it in 2011, a power struggle between Kiir and Machar led to all out civil war.

A peace deal was signed two years later but it collapsed in July 2016 when fresh fighting in Juba forced then first vice president Machar into exile.

The violence has killed tens of thousands and forced more than a million South Sudanese to flock to neighbouring Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in what has become the biggest refugee crisis on the continent.

A permanent ceasefire is seen as the first step in negotiations to include a “revised and realistic” timeline to holding elections.

AFP

South Sudan’s Machar Vows To Return 

Riek MacharSouth Sudan’s sacked vice-president Riek Machar has vowed to return, saying his credibility is intact.

Speaking from South Africa, Mr Machar, who fled the country in August said that his rebel faction can still negotiate a peace deal with President Salva Kiir.

Speaking to the BBC’s HARDtalk programme, Mr Machar said: “I’m going to return to South Sudan.”

“Because President Salva Kiir doesn’t want democratic and transparent and fair elections to be conducted, he attacked us, he has restarted the war.

“But I am hoping that wise leaders in the region, and in Africa, and the rest of the world will throw up a political process which will bring about peace again, and the resuscitation of the peace agreement, and the reconstitution of the transitional government of national unity.”

His statement comes despite last week’s heavy fighting in the city of Malakal.

Mr Mashar, who first fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, is now being treated in Johannesburg.

He claimed his life was in danger and that there was a “botched attempt to assassinate him.”

In July, Mr Mashar’s bodyguards and President Salva Kiir’s presidential guards fought each other, sparking days of violence.

Hundreds of people died and more than 100,000 fled across the border.

Clashes Flare In Southwest Of South Sudan’s Capital

south sudanFighting flared late on Saturday in southwest of the capital of South Sudan between forces loyal to the President and those backing the opposition.

This is coming after clashes last month raised fears of a slide back into civil war.

Steven Lodu Onseimo, the Information Minister for Yei region where Saturday’s clashes took place, told Reuters that two civilians and a soldier were killed, but said the area was calm on Sunday.

Witnesses had reported heavy gunfire around Yei, which lies on a road linking the capital Juba with neighboring Uganda. The government and opposition each blamed the other side.

Following the fighting in July, the U.N. Security Council authorised the deployment of a 4,000-strong protection force to support the existing 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission.

“Our forces have managed to close Juba-Yei road. Our forces destroyed the government’s convoy that attacked our forces in the area,” opposition spokesman James Gatdet said by telephone.

The Yei Information Minister described the attack as an “ambush” of a government convoy by the opposition.

Political differences between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar first erupted into conflict in late 2013. They signed a peace deal in August 2015, but sporadic fighting has continued.

Machar had recently returned to Juba to take up his position as deputy again when the July clashes flared. Machar then withdrew with his forces from the capital.

Kiir’s spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, said after Friday’s vote for extra U.N. troops that the government would not accept the new force, describing it as a U.N. bid to take over South Sudan.

The United Nations had threatened an arms embargo if the government did not cooperate.

Regional states have backed sending extra troops to South Sudan in a bid to quell the conflict and prevent any further spillover.

More than two million South Sudanese have been displaced by more than two years of conflict since the nation got its independent from Sudan and many have fled to nearby states.

 

Buhari Warns Against Collapse Of South Sudan Peace Agreement

South SudanPresident Muhammadu Buhari pledged on Thursday in Abuja that he and other members of the African Union High-Level Consultative Committee on South Sudan will do their best to ensure the peace agreement signed by various political factions in the country is successfully implemented.

Speaking at an audience with South Sudan’s First Vice President, Dr Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon, President Buhari assured him that Nigeria and the Committee will work with all stakeholders to overcome problems hindering the implementation of the seven-month old agreement.

“The situation must not deteriorate”, the President told the First Vice President who is a signatory to the peace agreement.

Expressing concern that compliance with the agreed ceasefire in South Sudan has not been total, President Buhari said that Nigeria will work in collaboration with other African Union members to achieve a speedy stabilisation of the situation.

The President advised leaders of South Sudan not to allow ethnicity and corruption to gain a foothold in the new country.

“Ethnicity and corruption are a lethal combination. You have to deal with them otherwise instability will continue,” President Buhari warned after receiving a briefing from Dr. Riek Machar on the current state of affairs in South Sudan.

Also Thursday in Abuja, President Buhari received a Special envoy of the African Union Chairman, President Idris Deby-Itno.

The Special envoy, Mr Abubakar Saleh Chahaimi, delivered a message from President Deby on strengthening of bilateral relations between Nigeria and Chad, as well as the work of the African Union Consultative Committee on South Sudan.

South Sudan President Reappoints Rival As Part Of Peace Deal

South Sudan PresidentIn a bid to give peace a chance after two years of war, South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, has reappointed his bitter rival, Riek Machar as Vice-President.

The civil conflict in the country erupted in December 2013 after Mr Kiir accused Mr Machar of plotting a coup.

Since then, thousands had died and more than two million people had been displaced.

Mr Machar told the BBC that Mr Kiir wasn’t doing him a favour by making him the vice president, but that instead he was just following a peace agreement they made in August.

“We had worked before together in the liberation of South Sudan, although we had differences. We will work together and make South Sudan independent for eight years. we will see how things go,” he said.

South Sudan is the world’s youngest country and one of the least developed. It splits from the North (Sudan) in 2011.

Amid a threat of sanctions from the UN, the two sides signed a peace deal in August last year.

Last month’s confidential report by a U.N. panel that monitors the conflict in South Sudan for the Security Council stated that Kiir and Machar were still completely in charge of their forces and were therefore, directly to blame for killing civilians and other actions that warrant sanctions.

According to the report, those violations include: extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence, extrajudicial arrest and detention, abductions, forced displacement, the use and recruitment of children, beatings, looting and the destruction of livelihoods and homes.

The report described how Kiir’s government bought at least four Mi-24 attack helicopters in 2014 from a private Ukrainian company at a cost of nearly $43 million.

It added that Machar’s forces were trying to “acquire shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to counter the threat of attack helicopters, specifically citing the need to continue and indeed escalate the fighting”.

South Sudan Fails To Form Transitional Government

South SudanSouth Sudan has failed to form a transitional government, despite a deadline agreed in a peace deal in August 2015, to end the civil war that began in 2013.

Although President Salva Kiir, has reservations about the deal, he appointed 28 new governors for additional provinces, from the original 10, just as rebel delegates arrived in the capital, Juba, to begin work on the new government.

South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir and his rival, former Vice President, Riek Machar, signed an accord in August to end fighting.

The deal stated that a transitional government would be created for a period of 30 months followed by an election.

Festus Mogae, the chair of the monitoring commission, said Kiir’s government would nominate 16 ministers, including the ministers for finance, defense and justice.

Machar’s SPLM/A would nominate 10 ministers to portfolios such as petroleum and interior which were reserved for his side.

The United Nations recently released a report, accusing both President Kiir, and his former deputy, Riek Machar’s rebels of mutual killings, including hundreds of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, gang rapes, sexual slavery, forced abortion and massive child soldier recruitment.

Thousands of people have been killed in violence that resulted from President Kiir accusing Riek Machar of plotting a coup in 2013.

Millions more have been displaced.

South Sudanese Parties Agree To Share Cabinet Slots

South SudanSouth Sudan’s warring parties agreed on Thursday to share ministerial positions in a transitional government of national unity, the chair of the body monitoring a peace deal said.

President Salva Kiir and his rival, former vice president Riek Machar, signed an accord last August to end fighting that killed thousands of people and drove more than 2 million people from their homes.

The deal stated that a transitional government would be created for a period of 30 months followed by an election.

Festus Mogae, the chair of the monitoring commission, said Kiir’s government would nominate 16 ministers, including the ministers for finance, defense and justice.

Machar’s SPLM/A will nominate 10 ministers to portfolios such as petroleum and interior which were reserved for his side.

Smaller parties will get four slots including the foreign affairs brief and the Cabinet Affairs Ministry, Mogae said in a statement.

He did not say when the appointments will be completed.

South Sudan’s Warring Sides Sign Another Ceasefire Deal

South SudanSouth Sudanese President, Salva Kiir and rebel commander, Riek Machar have signed a ceasefire deal on Monday, edging them closer to a final agreement to end a 15-month conflict that has ravaged the world’s newest country, mediators said.

African diplomatic sources said that the deal which is yet to be made public, sets out how the two leaders would share power once they
formed an interim government.

It is proposed Salva Kiir would remain President while Riek Machar would emerge as the Vice President.

The warring sides had also agreed to abide by a ceasefire deal that was earlier signed in January 2014 but violated.

The rebels, however, said many more details need to be ironed out before the deal can be labeled a “power-sharing” agreement.

Regional diplomats had warned the warring sides that if they could not come up with a new deal, sanctions would be imposed on them.

The chief mediator of the East African IGAD bloc, Seyoum Mesfin, said that the two leaders had agreed to resume talks on February 20.

“(Those talks) would be final and that would lead them into concluding a comprehensive agreement to end the crisis in South Sudan,” Mesfin told reporters minutes before Kiir and Machar signed the latest peace deal.

Several previous peace deals and ceasefires that accompanied the agreements had been broken.

The conflict in South Sudan erupted in December 2013 and has rumbled on since then despite several commitments by Kiir and Machar to stop the violence.

It was also reported that more than 10,000 people have been killed, about 1.5 million people have been rendered homeless and many in the oil-producing nation of about 11 million people could not get enough food to eat.

South Sudan is Africa’s newest nation and one of its poorest.

 

South Sudan Uses Fashion To Appeal For Peace

akuja2South Sudan’s capital, Juba, recently played host to the Fashion and Arts for Peace Festival South Sudan, to raise money and awareness to the plight of thousands of South Sudanese who have been affected by the country’s current political crisis.

The world’s newest nation has been besieged by a political crisis, where at least 10,000 people have been killed since fierce fighting erupted in South Sudan in December, pitting President Salva Kiir’s government forces against supporters of Riek Machar, his former deputy and long-time political rival.

Adding to the country’s many problems, aid agencies recently said that South Sudan could be headed for the worst famine since the mid-1980s, when malnutrition swept through East Africa and killed over a million people.

However, organisers behind the festival are hoping to inspire South Sudanese to come together and showcase some of the country’s riches, including culture and fashion.

In its second edition, the festival aims to promote peace and tolerance in South Sudan through artistic expression.

It’s not just about dazzling designs and the CatWalk, the show also featured dancing, singing, food and fashion. The event also provided a platform for artisans and artists to show and sell their works, showcasing jewellery and other fashion items made from local materials and designs that they hope would have global appeal.

Event founder and organiser, Akuja Garang, hopes that the festival would help South Sudanese see that they have more that unites than separates them.

With so many items to choose from, from jewellery, clothes and books, many visitors said that they were spoilt for choice and Garang said she hopes that the event can also help change perceptions of South Sudan and promote a positive image of the country.

Combat in the nation that won independence from Sudan in 2011 has played out along deep ethnic fault lines, with Kiir’s Dinka community battling Machar’s Nuer.

More than one million people have been displaced by the violence and more than 400,000 have fled the country. According to U.N. officials, the U.N. Peacekeeping Operation in South Sudan is sheltering nearly 100,000 civilians at its bases.