South Sudan Speaker Resigns Over Corruption Allegations

 

South Sudan’s parliamentary speaker has resigned after lawmakers threatened to impeach him for blocking efforts to fight corruption and mismanagement, local media reported Monday.

Anthony Lino Makana was accused by fellow MPs of failing to present auditor-general and anti-corruption reports to parliament and blocking lawmakers from summing ministers for questioning.

He was also accused of approving a loan of $400 million (361 million euros) from Afrexim Bank without bringing it first to the house as recommended by law, in a motion tabled by lawmakers who demanded he resign.

“The reason for tendering my resignation is an act of deep and sincere respect to your leadership (of the ruling SPLM party) for you requested me to do so,” Makana said in comments carried by South Sudan Broadcasting Radio on Monday.

Corruption is rampant in South Sudan, which achieved independence in 2011 and plunged into civil war two years later.

AFP

US To Review Support For South Sudan After Unity Government Delay

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir addresses the nation about the extension of the pre-transitional period for 100 days after meeting with the opposition leader Riak Machar in Kampala yesterday for talks on South Sudan’s proposed unity government at Juba international airport, in Juba, South Sudan, on November 8, 2019. PHOTO: Peter LOUIS / AFP

 

The United States said on Thursday it was reviewing its relationship with South Sudan and questioned whether its feuding leaders were suited for office after a new delay in forming a unity government.

“We must review our relationship with the government in light of the delay. The US is considering all possible options to put pressure on those individuals who would impede peace and promote conflict,” Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat for Africa, wrote on Twitter.

South Sudan Rival Leaders Given 100 Days To Form Unity Government

South Sudan’s opposition leader Riek Machar (R) arrives for talks on South Sudan’s proposed unity government at State House in Entebbe, Uganda, on November 7, 2019./ AFP

 

 

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar have been given another 100 days to form a power-sharing government after failing to resolve differences over a peace deal.

The two leaders, whose fall out in 2013 sparked a conflict that has left hundreds of thousands dead, were granted the extension after a rare face-to-face meeting held with regional heavyweights in Uganda.

It is the second time the deadline has been pushed back since the rivals signed a truce last September that brought a pause to fighting.

Both sides had agreed to join forces in a coalition government by November 12. But with the date looming and key issues far from resolved, regional leaders brokered high-level mediations in Entebbe to chart a way forward.

“It was really impossible to have them reach agreement in five days. We’ve given them three months and we will continue our engagement,” Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa told AFP following the closed-door discussions at State House in Entebbe.

The meeting “agreed to extend the pre-transitional period… and to review progress after fifty days from that date”, Kutesa said after the meeting, reading from an official communique.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads neighbouring Sudan’s sovereign council, and Kalonzo Musyoka, a special envoy from Kenya, were among top delegates at the regional gathering.

The peace deal has largely stopped the fighting that erupted just two years after South Sudan achieved independence, violence that left nearly 400,000 dead and displaced close to four million people.

Observers had warned pushing the foes to form a unity government before disagreements over security and state boundaries were resolved threatened to plunge the country back into war.

“Another extension is far preferable than a return to conflict,” said Alan Boswell, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.

UN Aid Workers Killed In South Sudan

Three aid volunteers working at Ebola screening points along the DR Congo border were killed in clashes in South Sudan, the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) said Wednesday.

“The IOM volunteers, one female and two males, were caught in a crossfire during clashes that broke out” on Sunday, in Morobo County in the Central Equatoria region, the UN agency said in a statement.

Two other male volunteers were injured, while a female volunteer and the son of the woman who was killed were abducted.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our colleagues and we extend our heartfelt condolences to their families and friends,” said IOM chief of mission in South Sudan, Jean-Philippe Chauzy.

According to the statement, the IOM has suspended screening for Ebola at five sites along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An Ebola outbreak has killed more than 2,000 people in DR Congo since August 2018, placing the region on high alert, with cases already having spread to Uganda.

“The safety of our personnel is paramount and will not be further jeopardised until we secure guarantees for the security of all our personnel operating in Morobo County,” said Chauzy.

The UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA also condemned the killings in a statement, noting it was the first reported killing of aid workers in South Sudan since 2018.

At least 115 aid workers, mainly South Sudanese, have been killed since the country plunged into conflict in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.

The conflict has left nearly 400,000 dead and displaced millions.

A peace deal was signed in September last year and a ceasefire has largely held, but fighting in the Central Equatoria region has continued between government forces and a holdout rebel group.

A long-delayed unity government is due to be formed by November 12, however Machar is seeking further postponement over crucial outstanding issues.

AFP

Over 100 Civilians Killed In Fresh South Sudan Violence

 

The UN said Wednesday that conflict had intensified in a region of South Sudan since a peace deal was signed, with hundreds of civilians raped or murdered by warring factions.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said civilians had been “deliberately and brutally targeted” in Central Equatoria since the agreement was inked in September.

At least 104 people had been killed in attacks on villages in the southern region, it said.

A roughly similar number of women and girls were raped or suffered other sexual violence between September and April, it said in its latest human rights report.

READ ALSO: Eight Dead, 15 Missing After Indian Dam Breach

Many were taken captive by armed groups to serve as “wives,” it said.

The surge in violence has forced more than 56,000 civilians to flee their homes, becoming displaced in South Sudan itself, while another 20,000 have crossed the border into Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

South Sudan descended into war in 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy and fellow former rebel leader Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

The conflict has been marked by ethnic violence and brutal atrocities and left about 380,000 dead while some four million have fled their homes.

UNMISS said overall there had been a “significant decrease” in violence across the country since Kiir and Machar signed the deal.

“However, Central Equatoria has been an exception to this trend, particularly in areas surrounding Yei, where attacks against civilians have continued,” the report said.

The report identified government forces, fighters allied to Machar and rebel groups who did not sign the peace agreement, as responsible for atrocities in their quest to take territory in Central Equatoria.

In the first phase of fighting, that coincided with the signing of the peace agreement, at least 61 civilians were killed in deliberate attacks or caught in the indiscriminate crossfire.

“At least 150 civilians were also held in captivity by these groups, including women and girls taken as ‘wives’ by commanders or raped and beaten by multiple fighters,” the report said.

The second outbreak of violence began in January when government forces punished those believed to rebel collaborators with “sexual violence as well as looting and destroying homes, churches, schools and health centres”.

Under the peace deal, Kiir agreed to set up a unity government with longtime rival Machar, who is to return from exile.

But this new government, initially scheduled to take office on May 12, was postponed for six months.

AFP

South Sudan Hires US Lobby Group To Block War Crimes Court

 

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has hired an American lobby group run by a former ambassador to block the creation of a court to judge war crimes in the conflict-torn nation.

According to a contract between the government and the lobby group, Gainful Solutions, published online by the US Department of Justice, the $3.7 million (3.3-million euro) deal was signed on April 2.

The contract states that Gainful Solutions, run by former US ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, was hired to “improve relations with the United States, both politically and economically”.

This includes persuading Trump’s government to “reverse sanctions and prevent further sanctions” and to mobilise American investment in South Sudan’s oil.

However, in a clear indication of the government’s hostility to the proposed body, the contract also states that the lobby group must “delay and ultimately block the establishment of the hybrid court” envisaged in a peace deal signed in September 2018.

The creation of the African Union-South Sudanese hybrid court dates back to an earlier peace agreement in 2015, a bid to win justice for atrocities committed during a war that is now in its sixth year.

 Six years of war 

Conflict erupted in December 2013 after Kiir accused his longtime rival and former vice president Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.

Battles between those from Machar’s Nuer community and Kiir’s Dinka people were characterised by brutal violence on both sides, rape and UN warnings about “ethnic cleansing”.

The war has left around 380,000 people dead, forcing more than four million South Sudanese — almost a third of the population — to flee their homes.

Kiir and Machar are meant to reunite in a power-sharing government in less than two weeks, under the terms of the September deal.

Implementation of the peace deal is running behind however, and Machar has called for a delay.

The United States, Norway and Britain — the so-called troika leading diplomacy efforts — said in a statement Tuesday that the peace deal was at a “critical juncture”.

“Any decision on forming the transitional government as scheduled or delaying to a later date should be made through consensus of the parties,” read the statement.

 ‘Lack of political will’ 

South Sudan’s government has previously pushed back against the creation of the court, dismissing it as “a tool of regime change” by foreign partners.

In February a United Nations human rights report on South Sudan said the process of setting up the court had stalled due to “lack of political will and uncertainty about the future of government”.

US Ambassador to South Sudan, Thomas Hushek, described the contract with the lobby group as disturbing.

“This, to me, is very disturbing because this is a commitment made in the peace agreement. The hybrid court is part and parcel of chapter five of the peace agreement,” Hushek said, according to Eye Radio in Juba.

Ranneberger retired in 2016 after a long diplomatic career in Africa, and served as ambassador to Kenya and Somalia from 2006-2011.

While in his post he spoke strongly against corruption in Kenya and angered government when diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks showed him criticising the country’s leaders for graft and political violence.

He was well versed in the crises gripping South Sudan, having helped lead the negotiations between the south and Khartoum, which led to a peace deal in 2005 after a long independence war.

South Sudan later voted in favour of independence from Sudan in a 2011 referendum.

After midwifing its independence, the United States remains South Sudan’s main international donor, providing more than $480 million in humanitarian aid in 2018, according to US State Department figures.

However their patience has worn thin with South Sudan after countless failed peace efforts, and ties between Juba and Washington have chilled.

The US lobbied hard for an arms embargo imposed in 2018 and has also applied sanctions against top officials.

AFP

South Sudan Stays Armed For War Despite Sanctions

 

Despite long-standing restrictions, new weapons have continued to reach South Sudan’s battlefields, often via neighboring countries, a detailed report by an arms monitoring group said on Thursday.

A four-year investigation, by London-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR), into the supply of weapons that have helped keep South Sudan’s civil war alive since December 2013, has revealed the important role played by neighboring countries, particularly Uganda, in circumventing arms embargoes.

While the UN Security Council did not impose an arms embargo on South Sudan until July 2018, more than four years into a war that has killed an estimated 380,000 people, the EU has banned direct sales of weapons by member states to Sudan since 1994, amending the embargo to include newly-independent South Sudan in 2011.

Nevertheless, the government army — known as the SPLA, or Sudan People’s Liberation Army — has been kept well supplied with weaponry, often funneled through Uganda and sometimes originating from Europe or the US.

The rebel SPLA-IO (SPLA In Opposition) has had less success in sourcing weapons, the researchers found, relying heavily on scavenging arms.

CAR executive director James Bevan said his group’s “comprehensive, on-the-ground survey of the weaponry used” included documenting hundreds of weapons and more than 200,000 bullets.

“The result is a forensic picture of how prohibitions on arms transfers to the warring parties have failed,” he said.

 Weapons ‘shopping list’ 

CAR found that, despite numerous allegations and rumors, no new Chinese weapons reached South Sudan after May 2014, six months into the war.

Nevertheless, two large shipments of Chinese weapons to Juba, via Mombasa in Kenya, while legal due to the lack of an arms embargo, ensured the SPLA was well-supplied for the ongoing civil war: the shipments included more than 27 million rounds of small-caliber ammunition, as well as rockets, grenades, missiles, pistols assault rifles, and machine guns.

CAR found that, while Chinese ammunition had previously accounted for “less than two percent” of bullets in circulation in South Sudan, once the shipments arrived over half the ammunition in use was Chinese.

“The logical conclusion is that the 27 million rounds of small-caliber ammunition legally transferred to the SPLA from China in 2014 have sustained SPLA operations in the years since,” CAR said.

Meanwhile, Uganda “has continued to be a conduit for material” to the SPLA, CAR said. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is a stout supporter of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir.

Kampala is alleged to have transferred to South Sudan weapons legally supplied to Uganda in 2014 and 2015 from manufacturers in Europe and the US, most likely without the knowledge of the companies involved.

The re-transfer of weapons may contravene clauses contained in the so-called end-user certificates that are intended to ensure weapons are used by the countries they are originally sent to.

The armaments have included military aircraft as well as ammunition sold to the Ugandan military.

CAR also found evidence of long-suspected Sudanese weapons deliveries to SPLA-IO, but not recently.

The researchers’ work also underscored how isolated the rebels, under former vice president Riek Machar, have been, leaving fighters short of both external supporters and bullets.

“Despite allegations made by the SPLA during 2017, CAR has found little indication of external resupply to the SPLA-IO since mid-2015,” the report said.

Efforts by Machar in early 2014 to seek delivery of a “shopping list” including 43 million rounds of ammunition, mortars, rockets, rifles and surface-to-air missiles failed.

Instead, rebels have been forced to rely on defections or capturing weapons after battles.

AFP

South Sudan Rebel Leader Machar Back In Juba After Two Years

South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar (C) arrives at Juba international airport with his wife to attend a peace ceremony in Juba, South Sudan, on October 31, 2018. South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital Juba for the first time in more than two years to take part in a peace ceremony. Akuot CHOL / AFP

 

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital Juba for the first time in more than two years on Wednesday for a ceremony to welcome the latest peace accord for the war-ravaged country.

Machar, who under the terms of the September deal is to be reinstated as vice president, had not set foot in the city since he fled in July 2016 under a hail of gunfire when an earlier peace agreement collapsed.

The latest deal was signed in September to try to end a civil war that erupted in the world’s youngest country in December 2013 and uprooted about four million people — roughly a third of the population.

The rebel chief was welcomed by President Salva Kiir, Machar’s former ally turned bitter enemy, on his arrival at Juba’s airport from Khartoum.

The two rivals are to join regional leaders at the ceremony to publicly welcome the most recent agreement, signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

It was not immediately clear how long Machar would remain in Juba, as his aides have expressed concerns over his safety in the city.

 ‘Here for peace’

Lam Paul Gabriel, a spokesman for Machar’s SPLM-IO rebel group, had said on Tuesday that he would be accompanied by around 30 political figures.

“We are worried for his security in Juba, but the truth is here: we are for peace, and what we are trying to do is build trust. So that is why he is able to leave his forces behind and just go with politicians,” Gabriel said.

Several thousand people had already gathered for the ceremony at the John Garang Mausoleum, built in honor of the independence hero who was killed in a helicopter crash in 2005.

Among regional leaders in Juba for the ceremony were Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Ethiopia’s newly appointed President Sahle-Work Zewde and Somalia’s head of state Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was also expected to attend.

Machar fled Juba in July 2016 after fierce fighting erupted between government forces and his rebels, leaving several hundred people dead.

He first headed on foot to the Democratic Republic of Congo before finally going into exile in South Africa.

Deep humanitarian crisis

South Sudan’s civil war erupted when Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, accused his then deputy Machar, a Nuer, of plotting a coup.

The conflict split the country along ethnic lines and has seen mass rape, the forced recruitment of child soldiers and attacks on civilians.

It has caused one of the world’s greatest humanitarian crises and wrecked the economy in a country which relies on oil production for the vast bulk of its revenues.

The United Nations and the African Union earlier this month appealed to the country’s warring parties to make concrete steps to implement the latest accord.

South Sudan gained independence from its northern neighbor Sudan in 2011 after a 22-year civil war pitting rebel groups against Khartoum.

Several ceasefires and peace agreements have so far failed to end the fighting in South Sudan that has killed an estimated 380,000 people, uprooted a third of the population, forced nearly two-and-a-half million into exile as refugees and triggered bouts of deadly famine.

Sudan earlier this month appointed a peace envoy to South Sudan following the signing of the September accord in Addis.

AFP

South Sudan’s Rebel Group Accuses Govt Of Violating Ceasefire Deal

 

South Sudan’s main rebel force SPLM-IO has accused government forces of attacking their defensive positions a day after both sides signed a peace deal, while the U.N. mission said one of its peacekeepers was shot and wounded by a government soldier.

President Salva Kiir signed a peace agreement with rebel factions in the Ethiopian capital on Wednesday to end a civil war that has killed at least 50,000 people, displaced some three million and held up the country’s progress since it gained independence seven years ago.

“The regime’s forces heavily stormed our position at Mundu in Lainya county,” said Lam Paul Gabriel, the rebels’ deputy military spokesman, in a statement seen by Reuters on Saturday.

He said the attack happened in the early hours of Friday and that eight government troops were killed in the ensuing battle. Another attack took place in Mangalatore, near the site of the first attack, where four government soldiers were killed, the statement said.

Both Mundu and Mangalatore are in Yei River State, close to the border with Uganda.

South Sudan Plane Crash Toll Rises To 20

 

A total of 20 people died when a plane crashed in South Sudan with an Anglican bishop and four foreigners among the dead, officials said Monday, a day after the deadly accident.

Hiking the death toll by one, regional spokesman Taban Abel Aguek said 20 people had been killed and only three survived when the small plane crashed into a lake near Yirol, a town in the center of the country.

“Among the dead, 16 are South Sudanese nationals while four are foreigners including the pilot and the co-pilot, who are Sudanese. One Ugandan and an Ethiopian… also died in the crash,” Abel said.

The Anglican Bishop of Yirol, Simon Adut, was among those killed as was a staff member of the SouthSudanese Red Cross, while an Italian doctor and two children were among the survivors.

The crash occurred in the morning as the plane was trying to land in foggy weather, Abel said with Radio Miraya posting images on its Twitter account of the twisted wreckage submerged in water.

An official with the South Sudan Aviation Authority said an investigation was underway but that overloading and bad weather may have contributed to the accident.

Officials said the plane was a 19-seater but it was not clear whether this included crew seats.

Overloading of planes is a common problem in SouthSudan and may have contributed to a major crash in 2015 that killed 36 people.

Abel said the regional government had declared three days of mourning.

AFP

17 Killed In South Sudan Plane Crash

 

 

At least 17 people died in South Sudan on Sunday when a small aircraft carrying passengers from Juba International Airport to the city of Yirol crashed, State information Minister Taban Abel told Reuters.

“The plane crashed and killed 17 people and we have three survivors,” Abel told Reuters by phone from Yirol. The plane carried a total of 22 people and two were still missing.

One of the survivors, an Italian doctor working with an NGO, is in critical condition and undergoing surgery in Yirol Hospital, the minister said.

The plane crashed by a river and an eyewitness had earlier said bodies were recovered from the water.

There were three children among the 22 passengers, a source said.

David Subek, Chief Executive officer of South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority in Juba, confirmed the crash and told Reuters he did not know the death toll yet.

Several crashes have occurred in war-torn South Sudan in recent years. In 2017, four passengers were injured after bad weather caused their plane to crash into a fire truck upon landing and burst into flames.

In 2015, dozens of people were killed when a Russian-built cargo plane with passengers on board crashed after taking off from the airport in Juba.

South Sudan Troops Jailed For Rape, Murder

South Sudanese soldiers behind bars wait for their verdicts at the military court in Juba, on September 6, 2018. The military court found 10 soldiers guilty of raping five foreign aid workers and murdering a local journalist during fighting in Juba in July 2016. Akuot CHOL / AFP

 

A South Sudan military court on Thursday found 10 soldiers guilty for their role in an attack on a Juba hotel in which five foreign aid workers were gang-raped, and a journalist was killed.

“The military court has found out that the accused… are guilty for their direct responsibilities in committing these crimes,” said Judge Knight Baryano Almas, detailing charges of rape, murder, looting and destruction.

One suspect was acquitted while another, a military commander accused of overseeing the horrific attack, died in prison last October in what the army said was a “natural death”.

After 31 trial sessions, two soldiers were sentenced to life in prison for the murder of local journalist John Gatluak, as well as rape and other crimes.

The others received sentences ranging from seven to 14 years for charges including rape, sexual harassment and looting.

Gang-rape and mock executions 

Violence erupted in South Sudan‘s capital when a peace deal between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar collapsed in July 2016.

During the clashes, government forces rampaged through the Terrain hotel compound housing some 50 employees of foreign organisations.

In his evidence at the start of the trial, the hotel’s British owner, Mike Woodward, said that “50 to 100 armed soldiers” broke into the compound.

Woodward listed “the gang rape of at least five international women”, the murder of a South Sudanese journalist, the shooting of a US aid worker and “the beating and torture of almost every person in the entire building”, including mock executions, among the crimes allegedly committed at his hotel.

During the attack the aid workers made multiple appeals for help to nearby UN peacekeepers, which went unanswered.

A special UN investigation found that a lack of leadership in the UN mission — which has 13,000 uniformed personnel in South Sudan — culminated in a “chaotic and ineffective response” during the July fighting.

The court on Thursday ruled that South Sudan‘s government must pay compensation of $4,000 (3,440 euros) to each rape victim, and more than $2 million to Woodward for damage to his property.

Gatluak’s family will be compensated with 51 head of cattle.

 ‘Step towards ending impunity’ 

“The leadership of the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) would like to issue an apology to the victims,” army spokesman Colonel Santo Domic told journalists after the ruling.

He said the long trial and delayed verdict was because “most of the victims had left South Sudan immediately after the conflict — getting them took long.”

Last year a victim from Italy returned to testify, while six others who were raped or sexually harassed gave testimony via video link, Domic said.

Woodward welcomed the verdict.

“I am very happy that the criminals have gone to prison, I think that is a good thing. I am happy that the family of the victim who was murdered… got compensated,” he told AFP.

Defence lawyer Peter Malual said he would appeal the verdict, claiming that under South Sudanese law it was illegal to send a soldier to jail for murder when the victim’s family had received compensation.

Both government troops and rebel forces have been accused of atrocities — including widespread, brutal rape — in South Sudan‘s civil war which began in 2013 when Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup.

The Terrain trial was a rare example of justice in the conflict, which some observers attribute to the unusual presence of foreign victims.

“After much foot dragging, today’s convictions and sentences represent a first step towards ending chronic impunity in South Sudan,” said regional Amnesty International chief Seif Magango.

In a statement the US embassy in Juba urged the government to hold accountable those responsible for numerous other violent attacks that have killed tens of thousands and “rampant sexual violence”.

“At least 107 aid workers and 13 journalists have been killed trying to help the South Sudanese people or cover the conflict in South Sudan since it started in December 2013,” the statement read.

AFP