UN Expert Urges FBI To Probe Reporter’s Death In South Sudan

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

Three years on from the killing of US-British journalist Christopher Allen in South Sudan, a UN rights expert on Tuesday urged the FBI to step up and conduct an investigation.

Allen, 26, a freelance reporter, was embedded with rebel fighters and fatally shot in the head during a battle with the South Sudanese army in late August 2017.

“The fact that for three whole years there has been no independent investigation into Mr. Allen’s killing sends a very dangerous signal that journalists and media workers can be targeted with impunity,” said Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

“The governments of South Sudan and the United States can and must take steps to ensure that the circumstances of Mr. Allen’s murder are fully, independently and fearlessly investigated,” she said in a statement.

“The FBI has a duty, both legal and moral, to investigate Mr. Allen’s killing because of well-founded suspicions that war crimes may have been committed by members of South Sudanese forces,” she said.

United Nations experts do not speak for the UN but report their findings to it.

South Sudan’s six-year civil war erupted in December 2013, just two years after it obtained independence from Sudan. The war left 380,000 dead and millions displaced.

Callamard said at least 10 other journalists had been killed with impunity during the civil war.

“Mr. Allen’s murder is indicative of the wider climate of hostility towards journalists in the country,” she said.

The rapporteur noted she had written to the South Sudanese authorities on January 30 this year asking about an investigation but had received no response.

Washington said it had raised concerns with the South Sudan government, while London voiced concerns about the lack of an investigation, said Callamard.

She, therefore, urged the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct its own inquiry.

AFP

Seven Killed In South Sudan Plane Crash

South Sudan, officially known as the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa.
South Sudan, officially known as the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa.

 

Four passengers and three crew were killed Saturday when a cargo plane belonging to a local operator crashed near South Sudan’s capital Juba, the transport minister said.

The aircraft crashed shortly after its early morning takeoff in the Kameru neighbourhood around seven kilometres west of the city’s international airport.

“There were eight people on board, three passengers and five crew. A single person from among the passengers survived and she is in good health,” Transport Minister Madut Biar Yol told AFP.

“The four other passengers and the three crew members are dead.”

According to the minister, the crew members were Russian while the passengers were all South Sudanese.

The plane owned by local company South West Aviation had been carrying cash to the Wau region in the country’s northwest for Juba-based Opportunity Bank.

 

AFP

South Sudan Athletes Stranded In Japan Keep Olympic Dreams Alive

 

The postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was a heavy blow for many athletes, but a team of South Sudanese sprinters training in a Japanese town are hoping to turn the delay to their advantage.

The four athletes and a coach have been in the city of Maebashi, north of Tokyo, since November, taking advantage of training facilities that aren’t available in their young but poor home country.

And with news of the historic postponement of the Games over the coronavirus, they’ve decided to stay on until at least July, hoping to beef up their skills.

“The Tokyo Olympics (have been) postponed. It’s not a problem,” team coach Joseph Rensio Tobia Omirok, 59, told AFP.

“I’m happy because I’m still training, and in other countries, they have no training. They’re sitting in their house but here we are OK… Training now is going OK.”

The decision to postpone the Games for a year until July 2021 came after athletes and sports associations heaped pressure on organisers and Olympic officials, pointing to scrapped qualifying events and restrictions on training.

Japan has so far avoided the sort of major outbreak seen in Europe and the United States and even a state of emergency declared on Tuesday only applies to some parts of the country, not including Gunma prefecture, where Maebashi is located.

The city of 340,000 has pledged to continue helping the young athletes by providing them with accommodation, meals and the use of a local public track, along with an army of volunteer coaches and translators.

– ‘Very loving people’ –
Maebashi decided to host the team — the coach, one female and two male Olympic sprinters and one male Paralympic sprinter — as part of its efforts to promote peace through sports.

The athletes have visited local schools and community events to talk about their homeland, which won independence in 2011 and has been battling to recover from a civil war.

They regularly practise with local children and have learned to speak simple Japanese.

The athletes say they have come to enjoy life in the city, abloom with cherry blossoms after a bitter winter, despite being more than 10,000 kilometres from home, where they had to practise on simple empty fields, not a track.

“Before I reached Japan, I didn’t know what kind of people the Japanese are,” said Abraham Majok Matet Guem, 20, who runs the 1,500 metres.

“The love I got here… is more than even what I expected. So I have not missed home so much because I am staying in a very peaceful environment with very loving people. So I was very surprised at that.”

The city has raised more than 14 million yen ($128,000) from across Japan through a special taxation scheme and is continuing to raise funds to secure the total 20 million yen needed to keep the team on through July.

Officials were quick to reassure the team they would be welcome to stay until at least July, after the Olympic delay was announced.

“We are eager to give them our continued support,” said Shinichi Hagiwara, a sports official at the Maebashi city government.

– ‘I still have time’ –
The athletes’ fate after that will be decided after the city consults with South Sudan’s Olympic authority, the Japanese government, the track team and others, Hagiwara said.

The athletes said their warm reception left them hoping they might one day be able to welcome their hosts to their home country.

“Right now, people are scared to go to South Sudan. But we believe in the near future, it will be a very peaceful country and everyone will be free to travel there,” said Guem.

“And we shall be happy to see people from Maebashi there also.”

Guem left his mother and seven siblings at home to train in the city for the Games and said the delay was no more than a minor bump in his Olympic journey.

“My dream is always, before I retire from athletics, I should become an Olympic medallist,” he said.

“I will continue training and it is my hope to one day be a champion. I still have time.”

-AFP

Only Six African Nations Yet To Record Any Case Of COVID-19

(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP.

 

 

Six of Africa’s 54 nations are among the last in the world yet to report cases of the new coronavirus.

The global pandemic has been confirmed in almost every country, but for a handful of far-flung tiny island states, war-torn Yemen and isolated North Korea.

In Africa, authorities claim they are spared by god, or simply saved by low air traffic to their countries, however, some fear it is lack of testing that is hiding the true impact.

– South Sudan –

The East African nation is barely emerging from six years of civil war and with high levels of hunger, illness and little infrastructure, observers fear the virus could wreak havoc.

Doctor Angok Gordon Kuol, one of those charged with overseeing the fight against the virus, said the country had only carried out 12 tests, none of which were positive.

He said the reason the virus has yet to reach South Sudan could be explained by the low volume of air traffic and travel to the country.

“Very few airlines come to South Sudan and most of the countries affected today they are affected by… people coming from abroad.”

He said the main concern was foreigners working for the large NGO and humanitarian community, or people crossing land borders from neighbouring countries.

READ ALSO: Global Lockdown Tightens As Coronavirus Deaths Mount

South Sudan has shut schools, banned gatherings such as weddings, funerals and sporting events and blocked flights from worst-affected countries. Non-essential businesses have been shuttered and movement restricted.

The country can currently test around 500 people and has one isolation centre with 24 beds.

– Burundi –

In Burundi, which is gearing up for general elections in May, authorities thank divine intervention for the lack of cases.

“The government thanks all-powerful God who has protected Burundi,” government spokesman Prosper Ntahorwamiye said on national television last week.

At the same time, he criticised those “spreading rumours” that Burundi is not capable of testing for the virus, or that it is spreading unnoticed.

Some measures have been taken, such as the suspension of international flights and placing handwashing stations at the entrances to banks and restaurants in Bujumbura.

However, several doctors have expressed their concerns.

“There are zero cases in Burundi because there have been zero tests,” a Burundian doctor said on condition of anonymity.

– Sao Tome and Principe –

Sao Tome and Principe — a tiny nation of small islands covered in the lush rainforest — has reported zero cases because it is unable to test, according to World Health Organisation representative Anne Ancia.

However “we are continuing preparations,” with around 100 people in quarantine after returning from highly-affected countries, and the WHO keeping an eye on cases of pneumonia.

With only four ICU beds for a population of 200,000 people, the country is desperate to not let the virus take hold and has already shut its borders despite the importance of tourism to the local economy.

– Malawi –

Malawi’s health ministry spokesman Joshua Malango brushed aside fears that Malawi might not have registered any COVID-19 cases due to a lack of testing kits:

“We have the testing kits in Malawi and we are testing.”

Dr Bridget Malewezi from the Society of Medical Doctors told AFP that while “we may not be 100 percent ready”, government was gearing up for the arrival of the virus.

She suggested it may only be a matter of time before the pandemic hits Malawi.

“It’s only been in the past few weeks that it has been rampantly spreading across Africa so most people feel it will get here at some point…,” she said.

Malawi has asked people coming from hard-hit countries to self-quarantine, which Malawezi said had helped “safeguard the country from any possible spread of the virus”.

– Lesotho –

Tiny Lesotho, a kingdom encircled by South Africa with only two million inhabitants, went into national lockdown on Monday despite registering zero cases.

Until last week the country had no tests or testing centres and received its first kits thanks to a donation by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

Authorities had reported eight suspected cases that they had not been able to test and the first results are expected soon.

– Comoros –

The Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros, situated between Madagascar and Mozambique, has yet to detect a single case of the virus, according to the health ministry.

One doctor in the capital Moroni, Dr Abdou Ada, wonders if it may not be because of the wide use of the drug Artemisinin to treat malaria.

“I believe that the mass anti-malarial treatment explains the fact that Comoros is, at least for now, spared from COVID-19. it is a personal belief that needs to be confirmed scientifically.”

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.

READ ALSO: Lesotho Police Postpone PM Court Appearance Over Wife’s Murder

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

UN Accuses Warring South Sudan Parties Of Deliberately Starving Citizens

People displaced by conflict and living at the Protection of Civilians (POC) site mingle amongst shelters in Wau on February 1, 2020.
TONY KARUMBA / AFP

 

South Sudan’s government forces and other armed groups have “deliberately starved” civilians by denying aid access and displacing communities, a report from a United Nations rights probe said Thursday.

“Today in South Sudan, civilians are deliberately starved, systematically surveilled and silenced, arbitrarily arrested and detained and denied meaningful access to justice,” it said.

The three-member commission looked into abuses between the signing of a peace deal in September 2018 and December 2019.

The panel delivered a damning indictment of “predatory and unaccountable elites” and the suffering of civilians after six years of conflict.

The report comes two days before the latest deadline to form a unity government — a process beset with delays and bickering, and “lack of political will”, according to the commission.

“Political elites remained oblivious to the intense suffering of millions of civilians for whom they were ostensibly fighting,” it said.

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

‘Catastrophic’ Floods Could Provoke Famine In South Sudan, WFP Warns

 

Devastating flooding in South Sudan following a fierce drought could tip parts of the country into famine in the next few months, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Thursday.

According to the UN refugee agency nearly one million people were affected by floodwaters that submerged entire towns, compounding an already dire humanitarian situation after six years of war.

The WFP said that 5.5 million people are expected to be going hungry in early 2020 — the time at which the population is generally benefiting from their harvest in October and November of the previous year.

An earlier harvest failed due to drought. This time crops have been washed away.

“The number of people in need is likely to increase because of the catastrophic level of destruction caused by floods since October following a drought that hammered parts of the country earlier in the year,” the agency said in a statement.

The floods wiped out 73,000 metric tons of potential harvests as well as tens of thousands of cattle and goats, said the WFP.

“We know the problems that we’ve been having in South Sudan, but the rains and the floods have led to a national disaster and are much worse than anyone could have anticipated,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

“In fact, if we don’t get funding in the next few weeks and months, we are literally talking about famine. We need support, we need help and we need it now.”

The agency estimated its needs at $270 million (242 million euros) for the first half of 2020.

South Sudan declared a “man-made” famine affecting around 100,000 people in 2017.

The term “famine” is used according to a scientific system agreed upon by global agencies, when at least 20 percent of the population in a specific area has extremely limited access to basic food; acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent; and the death rate exceeds two per 10,000 people per day for the entire population.

“Famine in South Sudan was defeated after four months in 2017 by a concerted large-scale humanitarian response,” said the WFP.

“Experts now say the country’s food security outlook has never been so dire.”

Political instability is also high as President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar have again delayed their formation of a power-sharing government, this time by 100 days until February 2020.

AFP

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