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

Thousands Arrive To Collect Food Supplies In South Sudan’s Nyal

 

At the muddy airstrip in Nyal, an opposition-held town in war-ravaged South Sudan, thousands of people have come to collect the first food supplies to have been dropped there in three months.

Supplies were dropped on Sunday and Monday by the United Nations World Food Programme, which said it expected 30,000 people will have come by the time it has delivered the final drop on Tuesday.

The food was shared out before the people went back home through the marshy surroundings of the Sudd swamp carrying supplies on their heads or in boats.

The UN has been dropping food supplies in Nyal every three months since 2014. The town is unsafe to reach by road, with attacks on humanitarian agencies common.

An annual study on trends of violence against humanitarian groups ranked South Sudan as the world’s most dangerous country for aid workers.

Nyal and the dozens of nearby islands in the swamp have become an adopted home for thousands of people since war began in 2013 following a dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed, a third of the population have fled their homes and the country’s oil-dependent economy has been wrecked.

Earlier this month, Kiir and Machar signed a ceasefire and power-sharing agreement in Khartoum — the latest internationally-brokered attempt to end the war in a country that gained independence in 2011 after a bitter struggle.

 

South Sudan President Kiir Grants Machar, Other Rebels Amnesty

 

President Salva Kiir granted a general amnesty to rebels in South Sudan’s civil war, including his former deputy Riek Machar, as a rights organisation said authorities in Africa’s youngest country should also free its critics.

The amnesty order was read out on state-run television late on Wednesday, three days after Kiir, SPLM-IO leader Machar and the heads of other groups signed a ceasefire and power-sharing agreement in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

A political row between Kiir and Machar degenerated in 2013 into a war that has killed tens of thousands, forced a quarter of the population to flee their homes and wrecked the country’s oil-dependent economy.

The conflict has often been fought along ethnic lines. Previous deals to end it have failed, including one in 2015 that briefly halted hostilities but fell apart after Machar returned to the capital Juba the following year.

SPLM-IO is the largest of the rebel groups fighting Kiir’s government, and fighters allied to it control several areas close to the capital. Other anti-government groups have also emerged, some of which have fought against each other.

Human Rights Watch called on Thursday for the release of a number of government critics jailed by the intelligence services, including Peter Biar Ajak, a prominent economist who has criticised both sides in the war.

“South Sudanese authorities should release everyone being held arbitrarily and change the way the national security agency operates,” Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at the New York-based rights organisation said in a statement.

Biar, a country director for the London School of Economics’ International Growth Centre and a former World Bank economist, was arrested by officers of the agency in July.

 

South Sudan Government, Rebels Reach Peace Deal

 

The President of South Sudan and head of the country’s main rebel group signed a final cease-fire and power-sharing agreement on Sunday and hailed a new longed-for era of peace in the country.

“I call on everyone as a leader of South Sudan that this agreement which we have signed today should be the end of the war and the conflict in our country,” said President Salva Kiir.

South Sudan’s former vice president and rebel leader Riek Machar said after the signing, “today we celebrate, not just in South Sudan, but throughout the world.”

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, but civil war broke out two years later between the government led by Kiir and a rebel movement led by Machar.

Fuelled by personal and ethnic rivalries, the conflict has killed tens of thousands, displaced an estimated quarter of South Sudan’s population of 12 million and ruined its economy that heavily relies on crude oil production.

“An agreement on outstanding issues has been signed and this agreement expresses the commitment of all parties to a ceasefire,” the foreign minister of neighbouring Sudan, Al-Dirdiri Mohamed said on Sudan state television.

Sudan helped broker the agreement.

South Sudan’s President Says New Peace Deal Will Not Collapse

South Sudan

 

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said on Friday he believed the new peace deal between his government and the main rebel group would not collapse because it was not forced upon them like previous accords.

At a news conference in Juba, Kiir said he would travel to Khartoum to sign the agreement at the ceremony on Sunday. His arch foe Riek Machar, leader of the SPLM-IO rebel group which has fought Kiir’s forces intermittently since 2013, is also expected to attend.

Fuelled by personal and ethnic rivalries, the conflict has killed tens of thousands, displaced an estimated quarter of South Sudan’s population of 12 million and ruined its economy that heavily relies on crude oil production.

Previous peace agreements, the most recent in 2015, held for only a matter of months before fighting resumed. Kiir put this down to external influences. Both the 2015 and the 2018 agreements were mediated by Sudan and other East African nations.

“The 2015 (deal) was forced on us, we were not given the opportunity to express our desire. This is why when I came sign… I gave my reservations,” Kiir said.

“People didn’t take me seriously until the agreement collapsed in their face.” But the new deal would not suffer the same fate, Kiir told reporters.

“This agreement (2018) will not collapse and I am sure that it will not collapse because the people of South Sudan have now agreed that they must make peace among themselves,” he said.

Negotiations for the peace deal had been completed and any outstanding issues with his opponents would be settled after signing of the deal, Kiir said.

The conflict has also been driven by ethnic divisions — Kiir and Machar come from Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups respectively.

Some smaller opposition groups have expressed doubts over the new deal. The SPLM has said it contains several shortfalls, including a “serious lack of consistency in allocating power-sharing ratios at all levels of governance”.

Kiir’s side will take 20 slots in the new 35-member government, while Machar’s SPLM-IO and other smaller opposition groups will take the rest.

“I am going to sign,” Kiir told journalists. “The agreement is in place and we will remain committed … and will implement (it),” he said.

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, Opposition Group Sign Peace Deal

File Photo: South Sudan’s map

 

South Sudan’s government and the main rebel group inked a power-sharing deal in the Sudanese capital on Wednesday which they hope will end years of conflict, a Reuters witness said, but smaller opposition groups have refrained from signing.

Riek Machar, a former vice president who will be reinstated into his old post under the deal, was in the room when the agreement was signed by representatives of the government and his group at a security compound in Khartoum.

The agreement, which was reached earlier this month in talks in Uganda, provides for creating a new 35-member government comprising 20 ministers from the current government of President Salva Kiir. Machar’s SPLM-IO rebel group will have nine portfolios and the rest will go to other opposition groups.

Apart from Machar, Kiir will have four more deputies during an interim period under the agreement that was guided by Sudan and other East African nations.

But another opposition group, the SPLM, said in a statement the latest version of the proposed agreement contained several shortfalls, including a “serious lack of consistency in allocating power-sharing ratios at all levels of governance”.

It also cited “lack of clarity” on whether to dissolve a transitional legislature or to expand it to make it more inclusive.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dirdiri Mohamed Ahmed acknowledged some issues needed more work, including how to share power in local government administration.

South Sudan descended into a civil war that ravaged the country in 2013 after a political disagreement between Machar and Kiir pushed them apart.

Several attempts to end the conflict have ended in failure.