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 Spends $16m For Lawmakers’ Car Purchase

South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir.                                                                        Credit: Getty Images

 

400 Lawmakers in South Sudan came under fire on Thursday after it was announced they would receive $40,000 car loans.

The amount comes when more than half the population depends on food aid.

A presidential spokesman defended the $16m expenditure, saying MPs could not be expected to “use motorbikes”.

Critics have accused the government of rewarding MPs two weeks after they voted to extend President Salva Kiir’s term to 2021.

The government says elections cannot be held because of the ongoing civil war.

Parliamentarians’ salaries are just 9,000 South Sudanese pounds ($50) so it is unclear how they would be able to repay such a large debt, although MPs have been pushing for a pay rise.

“The money should have been used for fixing roads. I don’t think it is a good idea giving that $40,000 (34,000 euros) to one person. That $40,000 is a lot to South Sudanese currently,” said Paul Kenyi, a motorcycle trader in the capital Juba.

A lawmaker and a parliament spokesman both independently confirmed the scheme to AFP.

South Sudan, which became independent from Sudan in 2011, has been gripped by civil war, including fighting within the national army.

The war has left the oil-rich country’s economy in ruins, agriculture heavily disrupted and civil servants unpaid for months.

Seven million South Sudanese, more than half of the population, will need food aid in 2018, the United Nations says.

“One would wonder as to how they will pay it back,” said University of Juba economics professor and former deputy finance minister Marial Awou.

“This will trigger a series of demands for salary increases which the country cannot afford at this time.”

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.

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’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.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Sacks Army Chief

President Salva KiirSouth Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir has sacked the head of the Army.

A decree read out on state television announced that General James Hoth Mai would be removed with immediate effect. No reason was given.

The country has been in turmoil since December. Last week, rebels seized the oil hub of Bentiu.

Meanwhile the UN has accused the government of providing “erroneous information” regarding a massacre of hundreds of civilians in the town

The UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said that after rebel forces captured Bentiu on April 15 and 16, they targeted hundreds of people who had taken refuge inside a mosque, a church and a hospital, and killed them because of their ethnicity.

U.N. Peacekeeping Chief, Hervé Ladsous briefed the Security Council on Wednesday (April 23) on the recent attacks and emphasized that the circle of violence in the country most stop immediately.

“The first, from my part is that we are not and cannot be in the business as usual format. I think this cycle of violence that started on the 15th of December last year has to stop. It must stop immediately. Yet, we see that neither party is ready to in any way cease the hostilities, the agreement on that which was signed exactly to this day three months ago has never been implemented. They do not give indication that they sincerely want to participate in the peace talks.”

The rebels slaughtered hundreds of civilians when they seized the South Sudan oil hub of Bentiu, hunting down men, women and children who had sought refuge in a mosque, church and hospital.

Joy Ogwu, Nigeria’s U.N. Ambassador and the current council president, echoed Ladsous’ sentiment. She said that most council members in the meeting had suggested “using the principle of deterrence to send a message unequivocally to the parties responsible for this impunity that it must not happen again.”

“The responsibility of every nation – that is to protect its citizens and maintain order within its territory. And we stressed the inviolability of U.N. institutions resident in the member state countries that they can’t violate the sanctity of the U.N. institution and kill people inside those institutions. It’s intolerable, it should not happen,” she said.

The U.N. Mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, has approximately 8,500 military peacekeepers and police deployed in a country the size of France with a population of some 11 million.

 

South Sudan Rebels Seize Oil Hub Bentiu, Tell Foreign Firms To Go

south sudan rebel

South Sudanese rebels said on Tuesday they have seized the capital of oil-producing Unity State, Bentiu, and warned oil firms to pack up and leave within a week.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than one million displaced since fighting erupted in South Sudan in the middle of December, triggered by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar.

“The recapturing of Bentiu marks the first phase of liberation of oil fields from (the) anti-democratic and genocidal forces of Kiir,” rebel spokesman, Lul Ruai Koang, said in a statement.

Urging all oil firms operating in government-held areas to shut their operations and evacuate their staff within a week, he said, “Failure to comply with this request, the oil companies risk forced oil shutdown and the safety of their staff.”

An oil ministry official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that three Russian oil workers were injured in a rebel attack at a newly built refinery facility in Bentiu on Monday.

Army spokesman, Phillip Aguer, said there was fighting in Unity state but he did not have a full report on what had happened.

“There has been serious fighting in Unity today, so far the SPLA (government) forces are still on the ground but we are still waiting for a full report to tell us exactly what has happened,” Aguer said.

The civil war in Africa’s newest state has created a humanitarian crisis in the country, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011, but has since been plagued by disorder.

The conflict has also disrupted oil production, which provides a hefty portion of the government’s revenue.

Upper Nile state is the only province pumping oil in South Sudan since the shutdown in Unity state. Output there stood steady at about 160,000 barrels a day late last month.

A ceasefire signed in January has been broken frequently and peace talks in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa have stalled often.

Negotiations have repeatedly been postponed because of a dispute over who should be represented, although IGAD, the regional bloc mediating between the two sides, says the talks are set to resume later this month.

The lack of progress has frustrated Western backers of the world’s youngest country who are pressing both sides to lay down their weapons.

The United States, Britain, the European Union and Norway have threatened measures against the country’s warring sides. Last month, U.S. President, Barack Obama, authorised possible targeted sanctions against those committing human rights abuses or undermining democracy and obstructing the peace process.

First Ceasefire Talks Between South Sudan, Rabels ‘Fruitful’

The first phase of the ceasefire talks between the South Sudan government and the rebels have been fruitful, an Ethiopian official has said.

Ethiopia’s foreign minister, Tedros Adhanom, said direct talks between the two sides, aimed at ending the violence, would begin on Saturday.

Fighting between supporters of President Salva Kiir and those of his sacked deputy Riek Machar has killed at least 1,000 people since 15 December.

More than 180,000 people have been displaced in the conflict. Aid workers say many are living without shelter, clean water and sanitation.

Tensions are increasing around the rebel-held cities of Bor, in Jonglei state, and Bentiu, in the northern state of Unity.

A build-up of military personnel around both cities has prompted fears that renewed heavy fighting may be imminent as the government attempts to regain control, the BBC  reported.

One rebel spokesman told Reuters its troops were marching towards Juba, while a spokesman for the government said its forces were closing in to recapture Bor.

Delegates from both sides began arriving in the Ethiopian capital on Wednesday but talks were delayed until the full negotiating teams had arrived.

Observers have said the discussions are likely to be complicated, as the two sides will have to agree on a mechanism to monitor any ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the US state department said it had ordered a “further drawdown” of its embassy staff in Juba “because of the deteriorating security situation”.

It evacuated a large number of non-essential staff soon after the fighting began on 15 December.

Increasing Conflict In South Sudan, CAR Leaving Millions Homeless

South Sudan and CAR CrisisThe conflict in South Sudan and the Central African Republic is increasingly rendering many homeless and causing a concern for the United Nations, African Union and other individual countries that have stakes in both countries.

The UN has called on the factions to address their differences through an inclusive dialogue.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said that his recent discussions with the South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, showed that he was willing to engage in dialogue while the African Union has called for immediate cease fire, describing the killing of peacekeepers as war crime.

As the conflict escalates, several countries have begun evacuation of their nationals.

A U.S. evacuation mission was aborted when an aircraft on an evacuation mission was short at.

The number of deaths recorded has continued to increase in the country that gained independent from Sudan in 2011.

Elsewhere, in Central African Republic, the president, Michel Djotodia, has expressed his readiness to hold talks with the Christian Anti-Balaka militia, insisting that the country’s survival depends on disarmament.

He urged both the Christian and Muslim vigilante groups to lay down their arms and talk.

Amnesty International said that the number of death recorded in the recent attacks was twice higher than what was previously reported.

The Red Cross had reported that around 460 people have been killed in the violence.

But Amnesty said that the number was higher than that, as some persons prefer to bury their dead without taking the corpse to the Red Cross.

Despite the presence of French troops and other peacekeeping troops, civilians are still being killed on a daily basis.

Amnesty called for more international troops to stop the killings in the conflict that has left hundreds of thousands homeless, increasing humanitarian needs.

Nearly five hundred tonnes of food have been distribute the Central Africa Republic since the crises that has left more than 1.3 million people in urgent need.