PIBOR, South Sudan — Ten years ago, Mary Oleyo hid in the bushes and watched as armed bandits launched a days-long attack on her town to steal their cattle. When the dust settled, she realized that two of her children had been taken, too.
“I almost went mad,” said Oleyo. “I don’t know where they are, or if they’re dead or alive.”
Her children are just two of the thousands that have been forcefully taken from their families in South Sudan. Once kidnapped, children are often bought and sold for cows and used as brides or laborers.ADVERTISEMENT
Child abduction has been taking place for centuries in South Sudan, but the kidnappings spiked when nearly 20,000 kids were forced to the frontlines during the country’s six-year civil war. The fighting ended two months ago and many of the child soldiers have returned to their families. But those who were abducted for other reasons, Oleyo’s kids, are still missing — and South Sudan’s government has made little effort to find them.
In an act of desperation, Oleyo turned to a former warlord named David Yau Yau to help get them back.
“It becomes a business,” said Yau Yau, now governor of the state that includes Oleyo’s town of Pibor. “If someone manages to get a child from the neighboring community, he’s going to take the child to the market.”
A decade ago, when Oleyo’s children were taken, Yau Yau was the leader of a rebel group called the Cobra Faction, one of South Sudan’s fiercest anti-government militias. He was responsible for forcing more than 1,700 children, some as young as 10, to join his ranks.
It would be years before he’d disband his rebel group and return his child soldiers to their families.
Yau Yau would then use that one act to burnish his reputation as a reformer to get himself appointed as the Governor of Boma State. He’s now South Sudan’s most vocal advocate against child abduction.
“We realized that it was totally wrong,” Yau Yau said. “We need to apply all the efforts to be able to bring back children and return them to their owners.”ADVERTISEMENT
But after two years of these efforts, Yau Yau has only managed to return 54 abducted children to their parents. Oleyo is still waiting for her children to return.
Asked if she thought Yau Yau would find her children, Oleyo said, “If there was no hope, many women would have died.”
Camera: Phil Pendlebury, Roberto Daza. Editors: Michael Shade, Josh Luddeni
South Sudan’s Vice-President Riek Machar has tested positive for coronavirus.
He said he had no symptoms, but would self- isolate for 14 days.
His wife, Defence Minister Angelina Teny, some bodyguards and other staff have also tested positive.
Mr Machar was tested on 13 May after one of the members of the government task force leading the fight against the virus tested positive. The vice-president was until last week a member of the task force.
South Sudan has recorded 282 cases of the virus while four people have died, according to a tally by the World Health Organization.
Last week, the UN said at least two people living in camps for the internally displaced had tested positive raising fears that coronavirus could spread rapidly in the overcrowded camps.
Witnesses in Khartoum describe attacks by militia using teargas and firing live ammunition.
Thousands of protesters camped in the centre of Khartoum appear to have defied a fresh attempt to clear them by armed militia loyal to the Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir.
Civil society groups run by medics reported two dead and many wounded, some critically, in renewed violence in the capital on Tuesday morning. Other groups put the toll as high as five dead, including at least one soldier, and more than a hundred hurt.
Protesters have occupied a crossroads in front of a heavily guarded military and intelligence headquarters since Saturday, when vast crowds braved searing temperatures to gather there.
Security forces have made several attempts to break up the protest, but army soldiers have repeatedly come out to protect the demonstrators, often firing shots in the air and deploying soldiers on streets around the protesters.
There are conflicting accounts of events overnight but witnesses described repeated attacks by militia using teargas and firing live ammunition between 2am and 5am.
One witness said an officer opened the gates to the naval headquarters, allowing protesters to shelter from an unidentified gunman who was firing on protesters from a nearby building under construction. Images on social media showed hundreds of mainly young people in the naval headquarters at dawn.
There were also reports of dozens of smaller protests around the country on Tuesday. The apparent divisions among security forces could pose a serious challenge to Bashir’s repressive rule, experts say.
Protests first erupted on 19 December after a government decision to triple the price of bread. The unrest quickly evolved into nationwide demonstrations against Bashir’s 30-year-rule.
In recent weeks, the momentum of the protests appeared to have slowed, in part because of a state of emergency imposed in February and fierce repression. However, the biggest demonstrations so far have taken place in recent days, shaking authorities in Khartoum.
The group spearheading the protests has appealed to the army for talks on forming a transitional government. Though some lower-ranking soldiers have shown support for the protests, the position of senior officers is less clear.
Addressing a meeting of military commanders, Bashir’s defence minister and vice-president said security forces would not permit attempts to divide them, state news agency Suna reported on Monday.
However, Gen Awad Ibnouf did not criticise the protesters and expressed some sympathy with their grievances.
“Sudan’s armed forces understand the reasons for the demonstrations and is not against the demands and aspirations of the citizens, but it will not allow the country to fall into chaos,” he said.
Bashir has also acknowledged that the protesters have legitimate demands, but says they must be addressed peacefully, and through the ballot box.
Officials say 38 people have died in protest-related violence so far, while Human Rights Watch has put the death toll, from December to the end of January, at 51. Hundreds have been arrested and jailed after summary trials.
The UK and UN have called for restraint and urged that the protesters’ complaints be heard.
The European Union said an “unprecedented” number of people had come out calling for change since Saturday. “The people of Sudan have shown remarkable resilience in the face of extraordinary obstacles over many years,” the EU’s external action service said. “Their trust must be won through concrete action by the government.”
A report released last week by the US-based NGO Physicians for Human Rights said the authorities had used “unnecessary and disproportionate force against … citizens, illegally attacked medical responders and facilities, and tortured detainees”.
The sit-in protests recall those during the Arab spring of 2011, when demonstrators in Cairo and other capitals camped out in public squares for days demanding change.
Observers have pointed to possible inspiration from Algeria, where weeks of peaceful popular protests forced Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, to resign as president this month.
Bashir, who seized power in a military coup, faces genocide charges at the international criminal court relating to extensive human rights abuses perpetrated by Sudanese forces against civilians in Darfur, the western region gripped by conflict since 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government, accusing it of discrimination and neglect.
In October 2017, the US eased sanctions against Sudan, citing improved humanitarian access, the mitigation of conflicts within the country and progress on counter-terrorism. The move was condemned by human rights organisations.
This chilling account of the war in South Sudan gives a voice to those trapped by the brutality.
Early in this readable, rigorous and important account of the tragedy of the world’s youngest nation, Peter Martell, a former BBC correspondent, explores the stories that the people of South Sudanhave told to one another about their shared heritage.
These “fireside fables” have been handed down through the generations: accounts of war, slavery, violence, defiance and rebellion that were instrumental in giving the hugely diverse communities of South Sudansomething approximating to a shared identity. Above all, they have reinforced the sense that they are people who have long been victims.
That historical suffering has been at the heart of these stories is entirely justified. The early chapters of First Raise a Flag cover the raids by heavily armed and organised slave traders who came down the Nile from the north in the 19th century to capture tens of thousands of men, women and children for sale into markets in the Middle East. There followed the far-from-benign neglect of British administrators who deliberately underdeveloped the south of Sudan. When the imperialists left in 1956, their rule was replaced by that of a political elite in Khartoum that displayed systematic brutality, authoritarianism and discrimination, irrespective of its ideological orientation.
That so many of those living in the lands beyond the Sudd, the vast swamp barring the upper course of the Nile and dividing the broadly Christian and “African” south of Sudan from the largely Arab and Muslim northern parts, might wish for independence after such appalling treatment by others is entirely understandable. The sacrifices made to achieve this aim were huge: up to 3 million people may have died in the successive wars fought by the southern Sudanese against Khartoum between 1956 and 2005, when a peace deal was finally concluded.
Though a bewildering array of local, regional and international actors – Ethiopia, Uganda, Eritrea, Libya, Cuba, Israel, the USSR – exploited the conflict with astonishing cynicism, there was rarely any sustained attention devoted to one of Africa’s longest wars by western media, policymakers or even humanitarians. When such interest eventually came, faith and blind optimism were more evident than deep consideration of how to achieve successful outcomes for the many millions whose lives should have mattered most. In 2011, with enthusiastic backing from the US and, especially, African American and conservative Christian lobbies (and George Clooney), South Sudan came into being, free at last.
Martell, a BBC reporter based in Juba, the new country’s capital, was there to witness the optimism and joy that greeted independence. His experience, gained over years of living in and reporting on the country, is invaluable and notably absent from many other accounts.
Historical narrative and careful analysis are thus mixed with interviews with individuals chosen to illustrate the broader story. Each draws a new portrait. Martell is a sympathetic and sensitive listener and his writing powerful and moving. We hear the voices of those who have fought, fled, struggled, hoped and suffered; we see both the celebrations and the skeletons.
There are few of the former, many of the latter. Martell carefully and accurately describes what has happened to South Sudan since 2011: a tragedy. There are many who can be blamed, but standing above them all are the new country’s venal, corrupt, brutal and brutalised leaders. These rapidly set about the systematic looting of billions of dollars from oil revenues, then unleashed armed men on civilians to rape, mutilate, burn, torture and kill on a horrific scale. As many as 400,000 have died in a civil war that, if currently suspended by a precarious truce, still threatens to become a genocide. This is a death toll to rival that in Syria. Millions have fled. Famine and cholera are killing daily. The country is a ruin.
On a reporting trip to Pibor, in the east of South Sudan, last year, I found misery of a depth I have rarely seen in 20 years of working in such places. The international community, with all its experts, peacekeepers, humanitarians and fine rhetoric, has proved singularly incapable of stopping atrocity upon atrocity.
None of this makes easy reading and Martell does not flinch from the details. But he also carefully explains why it has happened. The account of divisions within the ranks of the insurgent forces before independence is particularly useful and goes a long way to explaining the horror of today. The 1990s saw internecine violence on increasingly ethnic lines, with consequent famine and mass displacement. Martell rightly wonders why anyone helping create South Sudan would have thought there would be any improvement once the common enemy of Khartoum was removed.
There is little reason to be hopeful, though Martell does his best. Running through First Raise a Flag are references to storytelling: the fables told around the fireside, the narratives of witnesses and victims, the simplified bulletins the author broadcasts in his dispatches for the BBC, the propaganda of regimes and campaign groups, the lies of corrupt commanders.
“The stories of long ago were once themselves repeated and reinforced by new rounds of violence,” he writes. “In an oral culture, exact dates slip. History as a linear narrative is distorted, because stories are as alive now as they ever have been. These are not the dry, dull dates of faded textbooks. They are the events that had shaped life and have been fused into the history with blood.”
• First Raise a Flag: How South Sudan Won the Longest War but Lost the Peaceby Peter Martell is published by Hurst (£25). To order a copy for £25 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99
South Sudan’s opposition leader Riek Machar has arrived in the capital, Juba, for the first time since he fled into exile in 2016.
Mr Machar who has been leading a rebellion against President Salva Kiir signed a peace deal in August.
Under the agreement he will be one of five vice-presidents.
Mr Machar will be attending the country’s Peace Day celebrations.
Last week, Mr Machar declined President Kiir’s invitation to return but his spokesman said that both sides needed to trust each other if there was to be peace.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into conflict in December 2013 following a power struggle between Mr Kiir and Mr Machar.
Previous attempts to find a solution to the conflict have failed.
Mr Machar returned to Juba once before, in 2016, but was forced out of the country after fighting broke out.
Hundreds of thousands have been killed in the civil war which has also displaced millions.
‘Received as a dignitary’
Two years ago Riek Machar fled South Sudan on foot during heavy fighting between his troops and government forces.
On Wednesday morning he was received as a dignitary at the airport in Juba.
Mr Machar’s spokesman said the former first-vice-president would be arriving without his own security despite concerns for his safety.
Lam Paul Gabriel told the Associated Press that this return was a sign of his commitment to peace.
He will join his rival President Salva Kiir at South Sudan’s Peace Day celebrations today, but even with the recent peace deal they signed in August, their troops are still fighting in parts of the country.
This week the World Food Programme said that continued violence between both sides was blocking the deliveries of food aid to areas where it was desperately needed.
According to the African Development Bank South Sudan is the most oil-dependent country in the world.
Until conflict disrupted the industry in 2013, oil accounted for 60% of the economy, contributing 95% of the government’s revenues.
The sector produces 130,000 barrels of crude a day, but the government in Juba aims to double that after opening negotiations with companies like Total of France and UK-based Tullow Oil.
If stability becomes a reality South Sudan could develop farming. Experts say 70% of the nation’s land is fertile, but only 5% is cultivated.
Investment is needed to build modern roads in a country where few exist and provision of electricity will remain a problem with most businesses forced to use diesel generators.
South Sudan will still rely on importing goods and services from neighbours like Uganda and Sudan. In the longer term the aim will be to integrate the country into the economy of the East African Community.
A major problem facing South Sudan is the loss of human capital, as many who would have added to the skilled workforce left the country as refugees during the conflict.
Last month, a Sudanese court sentenced a 19-year-old woman to death for killing her husband who had repeatedly raped her. The prosecution of Noura Hussein, forcibly married at the age of 16, has triggered global outrage and drawn attention to the millions of girls worldwide who are married against their will.
A high-profile campaign has been initiated to overturn Hussein’s death sentence, with celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Emma Watson, and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard lending their support.
Not only are these girls often left isolated from their families and support networks, they face a greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and experiencing dangerous complications in childbirth. They are also much more likely to experience domestic violence and be taken out of school. Often, they are married to much older men and with limited economic opportunities are more likely to live in poverty.
Child forced marriage in South Sudan
Rates of child forced marriage are exacerbated by conflict and crisis, which have been particularly pronounced problems in South Sudan, the nation that split from Sudan in 2011 following decades of debilitating war. Conflict has continued nearly unabated since then, displacing millions of people and causing widespread food shortages.
The minimum legal age for marriage in South Sudan is 18. This is set out in the transitional constitution and the Child Act of 2008. The minimum age limit is much higher than in neighbouring Sudan, which allows a girl to marry with a parent’s permission at just 10 years of age.
Despite the laws in South Sudan, however, UNICEF estimates 52% of girls are married there before their 18th birthday, the fifth-highest rate of child marriage in the world. (In Sudan, the rate is 34%.)
As part of a recent study between Plan International and Monash GPS, we conducted research with adolescent girls in South Sudan and in refugee camps in northern Uganda. We found that there are numerous and overlapping drivers for forced child marriage in South Sudan.
The current food crisis and economic downturn means that the collection of a bride price makes early and forced marriage a viable – yet negative – coping mechanism for families. One of our research participants, a member of civil society in the capital, Juba, remarked “with this current situation some parents take their girls as assets, which are sold expensively, so in most cases most parents sell off their daughters for money.”
In Nimule, another noted “Due to the conflict, most of the parents are forcing their girls to get married so that they can get money to survive in this current situation.”
We found family separation increased the risk of early and forced marriage. Many adolescent girls who, due to the ongoing conflict, are separated from their parents and residing with extended family, are far more vulnerable to forced marriage. This is primarily driven by male relatives such as uncles and cousins.
We also found that once married, girls nearly never return to school. One of the adolescent girls we interviewed told us: “The future is not good at all … many girls will end up getting married as a means of survival.”
But forced child marriage cannot be explained simply as a transactional arrangement for families to secure resources to survive. Its prevalence results from an interplay of factors, including entrenched gender inequality, harmful gender norms, continued conflict and communal violence, and limits on the agency and decision-making of adolescent girls, all of which conspire to put them at risk.
In some instances, girls actively sought to mitigate the threat of forced marriage by engaging in small-scale livelihood activities such as collecting firewood or selling goods in the market, or showing their value to their family and community through educational performance and household labour.
Efforts to address the forced marriage of children
Putting an end to child forced marriage in South Sudan and other countries requires addressing all the drivers of this practice, such as poverty and food insecurity, limited access to resources, sustainable livelihoods and education, and lack of sexual and reproductive healthcare.
At the same time, humanitarian actors must work with the community to address the lack of awareness on the rights of girls and the legal frameworks in place to uphold them.
Waiting until another adolescent girl is on trial for murder is too late.
SOURCE: This story was first published by The Conversation, and the author would like to acknowledge the work of Hannah Jay, a senior research coordinator at the Monash University Gender, Peace & Security Centre, in writing this article.
The newspaper quotes Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau as saying:
Kenya knows its obligations in regards to corruption and money laundering, and is working closely with the international community on the same. However, we work with multilateral platforms and don’t take instructions from other sovereign states.”
The Trump administration’s actions follows the publication of a report in 2016, commissioned by actor George Clooney, which accuses South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, opposition leader Riek Machar, and top generals of making themselves rich while the country has struggled under a civil war of their making.
The report found that family members of President Kiir and Mr Machar reside in luxurious homes outside South Sudan, including homes in one particular upmarket neighbourhood of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
It also said that former army chief Paul Malong, whose salary was about $45,000 per year, has at least two villas in Uganda in addition to a $2m mansion in a gated community in Nairobi.
In March, the US imposed sanctions on 15 South Sudanese oil operators that it said were key sources of finance for the government.
During South Sudan’s dry season between December and May, members of the Dinka tribe move from the highlands to the lowlands close to the river Nile, where they set up extensive cattle camps, ensuring their animals are close to grazing land.
Photographer Stefanie Glinski visited a camp in Mingkaman, in Lakes state
The Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) has said it backs the freezing of bank accounts of the violators of the South Sudan ceasefire.
The Igad special envoy to South Sudan, Mr Ismail Wais, said the regional bloc was ready for the action as it continues to receive reports of ceasefire violations in the war-torn country.
“Such measures would be in line with and include any violations of the Cessation of Hostilities by any party.
“The penalties include the enactment of asset freezes, enactment of travel bans within the region and denial of the supply of arms and ammunition and any other material that could be used in war,” Mr Wais was quoted telling the UN Security Council meeting in New York Thursday.
He confirmed to the council that there have been violations of the agreement signed between the government and the rebels last December.
The special envoy said those found guilty after the verification from the monitoring agency, the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangement, Monitoring and Mechanism (CTSAMM), would be held accountable.
South Sudan Information minister Michael Makuei said the government was not opposed to the move, but questioned the criteria to be used to determine the offenders.
“Do those people whose bank accounts they want to freeze have them outside South Sudan or inside?” he posed.
South Sudan Foreign ministry spokesman Makol Mawien echoed similar sentiments, admitting that there were ceasefire violations in the country.
“It is true there are ceasefire violations but we in government are not responsible for that. If there is anyone in government who has violated the ceasefire, then let Igad freeze his or her account,” he said.
South Sudan’s elite is using the country’s oil wealth to get rich and terrorize civilians, according to documents reviewed in an ongoing investigation by The Sentry, an investigative initiative co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast.
Little has been known about the financial machinery that makes South Sudan’s continuing war possible, but documents obtained by The Sentry appear to shed new light on how the country’s main revenue source–oil–is used to fuel militias and ongoing atrocities, and how a small clique continues to get richer while the majority of South Sudanese suffer or flee their homeland because of the ongoing, devastating conflict.
The war in South Sudan, which has featured the use of child soldiers, rape as a weapon of war, and mass atrocities, has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and has left more than 4 million people displaced.
J.R. Mailey, Special Investigations Director at The Sentry, said: “South Sudan’s leaders should be using South Sudan’s natural resources to benefit the population–but the documents we have obtained indicate that they have used the country’s oil to buy weapons, fund deadly militias, and hire companies owned by political insiders to support military operations that have resulted in horrific atrocities and war crimes.”
John Prendergast, Co-founder of The Sentry and Founding Director of the Enough Project, said: “Our investigation indicates that members of South Sudan’s ruling clique appear to be profiting from the war itself. In order to build the leverage needed for peace, the international community should target the assets of those responsible for continued violence and deny them from accessing the international banking system.
The long-term, ongoing investigation by The Sentry will continue to reveal and detail further findings in coming months.
The documents reviewed by The Sentry purport to describe how funds from South Sudan’s state oil company, Nile Petroleum Corporation (Nilepet), helped fund militias responsible for horrific acts of violence.
One key document, part of a collection of material provided to The Sentry by an anonymous source, appears to be an internal log kept by South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mining detailing security-related payments made by Nilepet. The document titled, “Security Expenses Summary from Nilepet as from March 2014 to Date” (“the Summary”) lists a total of 84 transactions spanning a 15-month period beginning in March 2014 and ending in June 2015.
Key Information Contained in the Documents:
More than $80 million was recorded as paid to South Sudanese politicians, military officials, government agencies, and companies owned by politicians and members of their families who were, according to the Summary, paid for services such as military transport and logistics to forces implicated in atrocities.
South Sudan’s petroleum ministry assisted in the provision of food, fuel, satellite phone airtime and money to a group of militias in Upper Nile state, according to the Summary. The militias are reportedly responsible for destroying villages and attacks against civilians, including a February 2016 attack against civilians at a U.N. site in Malakal that left dozens dead.
Interstate Airways, partially owned by South Sudan First Lady Mary Ayen Mayardit, reportedly received six payments beginning in April 2014 for army logistics and transportation of military hardware.
Nile Basin for Aviation, a little-known airline owned by family members of top military and government officials–including the wife of former military chief of staff Paul Malong and a nephew of then-petroleum minister and current Minister of Finance and Planning Stephen Dhieu Dau–is identified in the Summary as receiving payments from Nilepet in early 2015 for military logistics operations.
According to the Summary, Crown Auto Trade, a Toyota dealership with a majority owner–Obac William Olawo–who is a prominent South Sudanese businessman, received over $8 million in payments from Nilepet in 2014 alone for activities ranging from supplying vehicles to importing armored personnel carriers and transporting tanks and supplies. A report by Control Arms, a research and advocacy group, stated that the type of armored personnel carriers described in the Summary were “observed in different locations within South Sudan between May and December 2014, including in areas of Unity State where the conflict has been intense.” In an interview with The Sentry, Olawo denied that any of his companies have ever been involved in transporting troops, weapons, or equipment for the military. He said that the documents and reports suggesting as much may be confusing his company with “Sierra” an operation connected to Erik Prince, who he said is one of his business partners.
There are indeed two payments recorded in the Summary that mention Prince’s company, Frontier Services Group, in connection with “Project Sierra.” Two $16.4 million payments were recorded as paid in July and October 2014, labeled “Air Logistics & Support Services… (Project Sierra, Frontier Services Group).” Olawo described Sierra as an air cargo operation for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the National Security Service. In April 2016, The Intercept reported that FSG had attempted to provide attack aircraft to the Government of South Sudan in addition to other defense-related services. Representatives from FSG have previously denied doing business with South Sudan’s military but did not respond to questions about the payments described in the Nilepet security expenses summary.
The Summary also lists Golden Wings Aviation–another company owned by Olawo–alongside several other companies in connection with a $4,250,802 payment dated June 1, 2015, labeled “payment for army logistics operation.” The company is also mentioned by the U.N. Panel of Experts on South Sudan as having transported weapons to Unity state on several occasions during a period of particularly horrific violence in 2014 and 2015.
The Sentry recommends the following steps in order to expand financial pressure to hold companies and individuals to account:
Target the Networks Behind Violence: The United States, European Union, and others in the international community should investigate the top officials who have played a role in military operations that have resulted in atrocities and, where appropriate, impose network-focused sanctions on them, their business associates and facilitators, and the companies they own or control.
Impose Sectoral Sanctions: The use of sanctions related to the oil sector should also expand beyond designations of key officials and their companies. Given the ubiquitous use of the U.S. dollar in the oil sector, such a measure could have a strong impact.
Banks and Financial Regulators Have a Key Role: Banks and financial regulators should step up efforts to halt the flow of illicit funds out of South Sudan. Banks found to be connected to be money laundering may incur heavy penalties and be subject to other law enforcement measures. The Sentry will continue to investigate these issues and raise appropriate findings to relevant authorities.
South Sudan’s Neighbors Must Escalate Financial Pressure, or Risk Damage to Their Own Financial Systems: Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda have been reluctant to enforce and escalate international political and financial pressures. There are numerous opportunities for the international community–including U.S. and European governments and financial institutions–to encourage South Sudan’s neighbors to increase pressure on those responsible for South Sudan’s civil war.
About THE SENTRY
The Sentry is composed of best-in-class financial forensic investigators, policy analysts, and regional experts who follow the dirty money and build investigative cases focusing on the corrupt transnational networks most responsible for Africa’s deadliest conflicts. By creating a significant financial cost to these kleptocrats through network sanctions, anti-money laundering measures, prosecutions, and other tools, The Sentry aims to disrupt the profit incentives for mass atrocities and oppression, and creates new leverage in support of peace efforts and African frontline human rights defenders. The Sentry’s partner, the Enough Project, undertakes high-level advocacy with policy-makers around the world as well as wide-reaching education campaigns by mobilizing students, faith-based groups, celebrities, and others. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is an initiative of Not On Our Watch (NOOW) and the Enough Project. The Sentry currently focuses its work in South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.
In less than two years, The Sentry has created hard-hitting reports and converted extensive research into a large volume of dossiers on individuals and entities connected to grand corruption, violence, or serious human rights abuses. The investigative team has turned those dossiers over to government regulatory and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and around the world, as well as to compliance officers at the world’s largest banks.
More than 300 children, 87 of them girls, were released by armed groups in South Sudan today, beginning a process that is expected to see at least 700 children freed in the coming weeks. It was the first release of children by any armed groups in South Sudan in more than year.
“This is a crucial step in achieving our ultimate goal of having all of the thousands of children still in the ranks of armed groups reunited with their families,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan. “It is the largest release of children in nearly three years and it is vital that negotiations continue so there are many more days like this.”
Some 215 children were released by the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM), which in 2016 signed a peace agreement with the Government and is now integrating its ranks into the national army. Additionally, 96 children were released from the ranks of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO). An upsurge of fighting in the region in July 2016 stalled the progress that had been made in securing the release of children associated with the forces, but this release is a positive step forward.
During the release ceremony, the children were formally disarmed and provided with civilian clothes. Medical screenings will be carried out, and children will receive counselling and psychosocial support as part of the reintegration programme, which is implemented by UNICEF and partners.
Those with relatives in the area will be reunited with their families, while others will be placed in interim care centres until their families can be traced. When children return home, their families will be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance to support their initial reintegration. The children will then be provided with vocational training aimed at improving household income and food security. Being able to support themselves economically can be a key factor in children becoming associated with armed groups. In addition to services related to livelihoods, UNICEF and partners will ensure the released children have access to age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centres.
“Not all children are forcibly recruited. Many joined armed groups because they feel they had no other option,” said Mdoe. “Our priority for this group – and for children across South Sudan – is to provide the support they need so they are able to see a more promising future.”
An estimated 19,000 children continue to serve in the ranks of armed forces and groups more than four years after conflict erupted in December 2013. UNICEF will continue to work with all parties to the conflict, as well as UNMISS, to secure the future release and reintegration of all children associated with armed groups through a meticulous process of negotiation, verification and registration.
Adequate funding for UNICEF’s release programme is essential. The UN Children’s Fund requires US$45 million in 2018 to support release, demobilization and reintegration efforts across the country.
KENYA and Uganda are aiding to prolong the four-year-old civil war in South Sudan by serving as conduits for arms to combatants, a United Nations official said on Monday.
“The responsibility to prevent atrocities is regional and international,” Adama Dieng, the UN special advisor for prevention of genocide, told VOA.
“It is true that large quantities of weapons and ammunition are flowing into South Sudan through Kenya and Uganda.”
Mr Dieng said peace will be achieved in South Sudan only “if we have concerted regional and international efforts to leave no further options to the South Sudanese leaders to stop and start negotiating.”
“International partners have to start targeting the accomplices, intermediaries of the South Sudanese parties,” Mr Dieng said.
“Welcoming refugees who are victims of a conflict they are de facto facilitating is not good enough,” he added.
Uganda is hosting more than one million refugees from South Sudan, while Kenya’s Kakuma camp holds more than 100,000.
Mr Dieng did not indicate whether the governments of Kenya and Uganda are directly involved in arms trafficking to South Sudan. He also did not say whether the weapons are intended for the country’s military or rebel forces — or possibly both.
The UN panel of experts reported last November it had obtained documentary evidence of a cargo flight containing 31 tonnes of weapons that arrived in Entebbe, Uganda, in August.
Kampala-based Bosasy Logistics was listed as consignee for the shipment which was said to have originated in Bulgaria. The arms were to be transferred to South Sudan, according to unnamed sources cited by the UN experts.
Mr Dieng’s contention that Kenya and Uganda are fuelling the war in South Sudan follows a comment by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley last week that “it is past time for the leaders of Uganda and Kenya to get involved and put pressure on President Kiir”.
Kenya and Uganda “are key players in the success of a true peace process,” Ms Haley said in a speech to the UN Security Council.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also recently warned South Sudan’s neighbours against taking sides in the civil war.
While not naming Kenya or Uganda, the UN chief told an African Union gathering in Addis Ababa on January 27 that it is essential to ensure that “any contradictions that might exist among the neighbours of South Sudan are not translated into an influence in the internal situation of South Sudan.”
South Sudanese lobbies have spelt out four key issues that could be obstacles to the February peace talks.
The groups say that the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) should address the lack of a mechanism for monitoring ceasefires and armed groups that were left out of the cessation of hostilities agreement such as that led by Gen Peter Gatdet; the continued confinement of Dr Riek Machar in South Africa; the controversial 32 states; and the role of two key Igad members Uganda and Kenya, who are perceived to have taken sides.
Experts on South Sudan say that unless these key issues are addressed, the talks could be in jeopardy from the various interest groups.
Rev Paul Yugusuk, the Anglican archbishop in charge of the Equatoria Province, told The EastAfrican that the lack of serious monitoring mechanism is the biggest weakness to the peace process where warring parties violate a ceasefire comfortable in the knowledge that there would be no sanctions.
He said that the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, led by Festus Mogae, and the Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, have proved that they are incapable of holding the antagonists to account.
Since the cessation of hostilities agreement was signed in Addis Ababa on December 21, both the government of President Salva Kiir and the rebel Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) have traded accusations of the five violations that have occurred.
The second biggest issue concerns the interests of Uganda and Kenya, which are seen to be an obstacle to the final solution.
Uganda, having deployed troops on the side of President Kiir when the war started in 2013, civil society claim that Kampala is opposed to an arms embargo since it is the main supplier of weapons to government forces.
According to the chairman of the Senior Youth of South Sudan, Gabriel Dak, the issue of interests of some countries in the region has been an obstacle.
“Uganda has been part and parcel of the war. Although President Yoweri Museveni has tried to unite three SPLM factions, there is concern that Uganda’s support emboldens President Kiir to continue pursuing a military solution,” said Mr Dak.
Kenya — which is the rapporteur of the August 2015 peace agreement — is now being accused by the rebels of favouring President Kiir by allowing the abduction and deportation of SPLM-IO members who live in the country.
After facilitating the deportation of the former spokesman of Dr Machar, James Gatdet in 2016, Nairobi is now being accused of allowing the recent abduction and deportation of rebel appointed governor of Kapoeta State, Marko Lokidor Lochapio, who was abducted from Kakuma Refugee Camp.
According to the SPLM-IO deputy military spokesman, Col Gabriel Lam, Mr Lochapio was driven to Nadapal where he was handed over to South Sudan national security service.
The third challenge is the government’s opposition to the inclusion of the controversial 32 states in the Igad revitalisation programme with insiders saying it is an internal matter, while the regional body has identified it as source of fresh conflicts that are not related to the dispute between President Kiir and Dr Machar.
The fourth challenge is whether to allow Dr Machar to directly participate in the process.
“The main objective of the revitalisation process is to identify the problem and Dr Machar is one of the problems, so he should be allowed to part of the solution,” said Mr Dak.
In South Sudan, street photography is essentially illegal. It is another casualty of the civil war. Young, fit, twitchy soldiers are everywhere, ready to crack down on anyone who pulls out a camera. No reasons are ever given and no laws are on the books specifically banning photography, but security services across the country have arrested photographers and roughed them up for taking even the most innocent pictures, like a shot of women baking bread.
It wasn’t always like this, but in the four years since the war broke out , scattering millions of people and unleashing unspeakable horrors, the South Sudanese government has become incredibly suspicious. In a country that has ripped itself apart by internecine conflict, anyone can be the enemy.
Stepping off a plane in Juba, the capital, you feel this tight-shouldered tension immediately. Sara Hylton, a Canadian documentary photographer who came here on assignment in August, had anticipated the hostility. What surprised her was the city’s bold style.
Amid all the shot-up buildings, fear and danger, she was struck by the great pride many South Sudanese take in how they look. She saw women in bright print dresses and chunky brass jewelry; some wore purple hair extensions. Men sported bleached dreads and sharply cut suits. There was a fearless sense of style that the war had not managed to kill off.
It wasn’t easy for Ms. Hylton to capture it because she couldn’t take pictures in public. She had to work off the streets, in safe spaces, in people’s homes, their backyards, their tiny, tidy shops. Sometimes, Ms. Hylton found, the nicer the space, the sadder the experience. Many South Sudanese carry their trauma quietly, and those who were trying to will away all the brutality and destruction around them seemed the most vulnerable. They were emotionally exposed in a place where so many dreams have been crushed.
“The fashion industry is very young,” said Juana, a 24-year-old designer. “We don’t have something distinguishing us.” She believes that style is “not just clothes, it shows unity.” Sara Hylton for The New York T
Winnie, who runs a small boutique that sells dresses, purses and one or two paintings, seemed to be swimming upstream. The war has sunk Juba’s economy, and for the two hours Ms. Hylton spent in Winnie’s immaculate shop, where so much thought had been invested into every detail, not a single customer walked in.
“If I was living in this environment, I would have given up,” Ms. Hylton said. “That was the biggest surprise — that people here hadn’t given up, there was still so much hope.”
But there was also still so much sadness. It wasn’t always obvious, but it was there. As Ms. Hylton said: When you interview people, they often put on a brave face and tell you what you want to hear. But when you take out a camera and ask someone to stare into the lens, it’s different. An honesty is revealed. She especially felt this when making a portrait of Wokil, a comedian.
“His posture was very cool, he was trying to be very cool,” she said. “But you could tell he lived through some of the worst stuff.”
“Loss, I recognized loss,” she said. “It was in his gaze.”
Madite, a musician with the artist collective Anataban, poses for a portrait before a performance aimed at spreading the message of peace.
Sara Hylton for The New York Times
Just about everyone Ms. Hylton approached in Juba (she stayed away from soldiers) was willing to be photographed, including a group of young men playing basketball behind a primary school. If South Sudan has anything, it has height; the Dinka and the Nuer, South Sudan’s two largest ethnic groups, are considered among the tallest people on Earth. And basketball is
the sport here , maybe even a ticket out. The former N.B.A. player
Manute Bol , who died in 2010, grew up herding cattle in South Sudan and then made millions. Most of it he gave away, to South Sudanese rebels fighting for freedom.
For as long as anyone can remember, life in South Sudan has revolved around war. That’s as true today as ever. The endless military checkpoints across Juba and the marauding soldiers who prowl around every neighborhood make it impossible to go out at night.
So young South Sudanese have found a way to do what young people do the world over, just slightly differently. They pack into dark buildings during the bright, hot hours to groove to hip-hop and rap. These places are called “day clubs” (as opposed to nightclubs), and they allow Juba’s youth to hang out, meet strangers, dance, drink and forget for a moment what lies outside the club’s doors.
Crazy Fox , a popular dancehall artist, fled South Sudan for Uganda as a refugee. But after four years, he was “tired of running” and recently came home.
But home for the South Sudanese is a place they themselves broke. South Sudan is the world’s newest country, having won its hard-fought independence from Sudan in 2011. Two years later, a political dispute between Dinka and Nuer leaders in Juba blew up into a full-scale military conflict between Dinka and Nuer across the country.
The war keeps spreading, engulfing other ethnic groups and new areas. It has killed more than 50,000 people, destroyed oil wells, farms, schools and hospitals, and sucked in countless children as child soldiers and then spat them out dead or mutilated. Many people fear what is ahead. It is etched in faces all across Juba.
Still, as death goes on, life goes on. Routine is a refuge, and many South Sudanese are trying to reclaim their lives. Ms. Hylton spent hours in barbershops and in salons where hair extensions hung on the walls like tools at a hardware shop.
“When you come to Galaxy salon, we can change you,” said the owner, Nadia Tushabe, with more than a touch of pride.
It may be hard to believe that a country where the per capita income is around three dollars a day, where three quarters of adults can’t read and a 15-year-old girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than she does of finishing primary school , has any fashion or beauty industry at all. But it beats on, fragilely, in packed little houses and tin-walled kiosks lit by a single bulb.
“We don’t have something distinguishing us,” said Juana, a fashion designer. Her patterns are intensely colorful, and she hopes fashion can bridge the poisonous divides between ethnic groups.
Akuja de Garang is, after the model Alex Wek, one of the best-known names in South Sudanese fashion. Large brass jewelry and black nail polish are her signatures. Before the war, she used to organize fashion shows.
“Culturally people take pride in how they look,” she said.
War or not, the South Sudanese are like anyone else.
They want to look good.
This article was first featured on New York Times, read the original here.
When South Sudan’s Yei region turned violent in the midst of the country’s civil war last year, a handful of U.N. and U.S. officials begged their leaders for help. Government soldiers were burning villages and slaughtering men, women and children, they warned.
Their pleas fell on deaf ears. The U.N. did not send peacekeeping troops to stay in Yei, and the U.S. continued to support South Sudan’s military, possibly in violation of U.S. law, according to an AP investigation based on dozens of internal documents and interviews.
Yei became the center of a nationwide campaign of what the U.N. calls “ethnic cleansing,” which has created the largest exodus of civilians in Africa since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. More than 1 million people have now fled to Uganda, mostly from the Yei region. And tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan have died.
Kate Almquist Knopf, director at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the U.S. Defense Department, compared the situation in South Sudan to Rwanda.
“The same thing is happening now in South Sudan,” she said. “It’s happening on Africa’s watch. It’s happening on America’s watch. It’s happening on the United Nations’ watch.”
The U.N. says it is still considering sending a permanent peacekeeping force to Yei if it gets more troops. The U.N. now has about 12,000 peacekeepers throughout South Sudan, but U.S. officials say it would take roughly 40,000 to secure the country.
“It’s all about what resources the mission has available,” said spokesman Daniel Dickinson.
The U.S. budgeted $30 million in aid to South Sudan’s military for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years and gave further $2 million in July for a military and security operations center. The assistance appears to violate a U.S. law prohibiting support to any unit that has committed a gross violation of human rights. South Sudanese soldiers are accused of gang-raping women and killing people, including civilians and a journalist. The government has denied “ethnic cleansing.”
A spokesperson for the State Department said military officials who received assistance “were vetted and not credibly implicated in the gross violation of human rights.”
However, the U.S. aid is a “red flag,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, who sponsored the law. “The South Sudanese security forces, like their rebel counterparts, are notorious for violating human rights without fear of being punished. We do not want the United States to be associated with such misconduct.”
South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has received more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid every year from the U.S. and the U.N. In 2013, civil war broke out. A peace deal brokered by the U.S. and the international community collapsed in July 2016.
That month, government troops rampaged through the town of Nyori in the Yei region, according to a former local official. Like others, he spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.
He ran into the bush to hide, and returned three days later to carnage.
“I witnessed with my own eyes, young children, they were slaughtered,” he said.
Rose Kiden fled when the soldiers swarmed her house. She said she came back to find her sister on the floor, after being raped by eight soldiers. Her husband was killed by government troops when he went to collect food.
But even as the violence near Yei spread, Kiden said, U.N. vehicles drove by without stopping.
“They didn’t do anything,” she said. “They just passed.”
When U.N. officials visited Yei in September 2016, they were horrified by stories of women gang-raped and a baby hacked with a machete.
“If the security situation is not rapidly stabilized, the protection crisis in Yei will swiftly become a multi-faceted humanitarian crisis,” said a U.N. report from Sept. 15 obtained by AP to the top U.N. leader in South Sudan at the time, Ellen Loj.
After nearly two months, the U.N. started sending small, temporary patrols to the Yei region, but the violence merely continued after they left. On Nov. 11, special advisor Adama Dieng warned about “the potential for genocide.”
That month, the U.N. decided not to send a permanent force to Yei. When asked why at her farewell press conference on Nov. 28, Loj said the U.N. did not as yet have enough troops.
“South Sudan is a big country and we cannot have a soldier behind each and every South Sudanese,” she said.
During another U.N. visit in February this year, a community leader from the Yei area said he had begged for peacekeepers three times in the past few weeks.
“We need imminent protection before it’s too late,” he said, according to an internal report. “If we get killed because we told you the truth today so be it.”
Hours later the U.N. left.
The U.S. also struggled to respond to the crisis in South Sudan, according to documents and interviews. In July 2016, the South Sudanese military fired dozens of bullets into two U.S. embassy vehicles.
Still, the U.S. continued to believe it could fix South Sudan’s military. In September, President Barack Obama sought a “long-term military to military relationship” with South Sudan and allowed military training and education, according to a letter to Congress obtained by AP.
“Once again in South Sudan, we have shown a pattern of having bad analysis, either ignoring the symptoms of the problem entirely, not seeing them, or analyzing them in the wrong way,” said Cameron Hudson, the director of African affairs at the National Security Council in the Bush administration.
The U.S. also got approval from the U.N. Security Council for 4,000 extra U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan, but failed to get the South Sudan government to accept them.
In the fall, a dissent cable drafted within the State Department argued that U.S. support for the peace deal and failure to act was fueling violence.
“The risks of famine, continued mass atrocities, and genocide are among the highest in the world,” the draft cable said. The risks of not changing U.S. policy, it continued, “are immediate and unacceptably high.” The draft was never finalized because it did not gain enough support, and senior officials said pulling out of the peace deal would have created even more violence.
Today, more than 18,000 homes have been destroyed in the Yei region. Hundreds of people have died, and many more have fled.
A pastor from the Yei area at a refugee camp in Uganda said he felt abandoned by the U.N. and the world.
“They could have protected people’s lives,” he said. “They could have saved us from coming to this camp.”
In the dusty, baking emptiness of Leer in South Sudan, bags of British food aid fall from the sky to relieve the hunger below.
It is here in the north of the country that the United Nations has declared a famine. It is here that the fighting between government and rebel forces has driven so many into hunger and homelessness. And it is here that UK aid is being carefully targeted from the air.
To watch these bags of cereal and pulses and food substitutes pour from the bellies of ageing Russian transport planes that have been hired by the aid agencies is to witness an absolute good. For without it, more people in this war-ravaged, hunger-stricken country in central Africa would starve to death.
I watched the Ilyushin planes lumber slowly into view alongside Priti Patel, the International Development Secretary, who had travelled many hours to see what impact the money she had authorised was having on the ground.
Despite the controversy over her £13bn aid budget, Ms Patel insisted that Britain’s humanitarian spending gave it influence in the world.
First the planes practise a low pass over the drop zone, marked by a large white cross. They make another wide circuit to let nearby villages know an aid delivery is on its way. And then, at around 300 metres above the ground, they begin to drop their cargoes.
Each plane can carry about 30 metric tonnes of aid, about 600 sacks. They make three passes, dropping 200 sacks each time. These are not parachute-born crates, just individual bags hurtling towards the ground. Like some dreadful game of pass-the-parcel, each sack is bagged seven times to stop it exploding on impact.
To watch this, to see the gleam of hope in the eyes of those waiting below, is a moving experience. For many of them, without this aid, they would be forced to live off what nuts, leaves and water lilies they can forage, none of which provides adequate nutrition.
“UK aid is providing a much-needed lifeline to people who have been persecuted, driven off their homes, forced to flee,” Ms Patel told me. “The aid that we are providing right now is the difference between life and death.”
Yet the problem is this. Each plane contains food enough for only 2,000 people a month. The cost of the planes is astronomic and there are only seven in the region that the World Food Programme can operate.
There is a scarcity of available food aid because there are so many other droughts in the region. Each drop has to be negotiated with local community leaders and armed groups, whose permission is needed to ensure that any fighting is put on hold. The hungry will come only if they feel safe.
The distribution centre on the ground – a temporary, pop-up affair – can exist only for a few days before the security risks become again too great.
Any food drop in a government-held area has to be matched by one in territory held by the rebels. The amount of aid has to be roughly equal in size to avoid accusations that the aid agencies are taking sides.
In other words, this aid that falls from the sky may help people who are the hardest to reach in a severe humanitarian crisis. But it is expensive, complicated and, as aid workers repeatedly told me, not nearly enough.
There are three road corridors into South Sudan along which aid can travel by truck. And this can be more efficient. One truck alone can carry as much as a Russian transport plane.
Yet trucks have deal with checkpoints, fighting and simple banditry. And soon they will lose the roads when the rains come and render much of the country impassable. So there is, aid workers say, a race against time to build up aid dumps before the weather closes in.
Such is the reality of delivering British and other aid in the north. To the south, in the capital, Juba, the UK is funding much of South Sudan’s only children’s hospital – its medicines, its water tanks, its solar panels. Here doctors are seeing rising numbers of children with acute malnutrition. And inevitably they need more resources, above all more space.
On the day we visited, in one ward alone, there were 43 children sharing 21 beds. I spoke to Rhoda, a 50-year-old woman who had brought in her granddaughter 10 days previously. Cecilia, only 18 months old, arrived severely malnourished. Her mother had died and Rhoda had no milk to feed her. But, she told me, Cecilia’s fever and diarrhoea had abated after a few days of milk and porridge.
Further south, the problem is one of refugees. More than a million South Sudanese have fled the country to escape the fighting. We travelled to northern Uganda where on average 2,000 people are pouring over the border each day. Last week there was one 24-hour period when no fewer than 7,000 refugees came across.
Uganda – unusually – welcomes refugees and gives them a plot of land with shelter and access to services. Here millions of pounds of UK aid is being spent to provide some of the basic infrastructure. Yet here again the scale of the crisis outweighs the humanitarian response. Last August there was next to nothing at the main refugee settlement at Bidibidi. Now, it is the largest such settlement in the world, home to more than 270,000 people.
Clearly, the scale of the humanitarian challenge is huge and growing. But the aid agencies report that the United Nation emergency response for South Sudan is hugely underfunded, with some international donors showing reluctance to stump up the cash. So this is a crisis that many expect to get worse before it gets better.
After nearly three years of devastating civil conflict, South Sudanese artists have come together to try and get the country thinking and talking about peace, by launching a public art project in the capital, Juba.
The walls of schools, bakeries, cultural centres and shipping containers have been re-purposed as concrete canvases for the artists:
It has been organised by the Ana Taban collective (which in the Arabic means “I am tired”), taking its name from a parallel pro-peace movement in Syria.
An online campaign #SaveTheLastTrain by South Sudanese poet Akol Miyen, inspired this artwork:
“This is the last train because our chances as a nation our running out,” the group says.
The artworks highlight the suffering of children in the civil war. “In the end they are the ones who will have to pick up the pieces and stitch the fabric of South Sudan back together,” the group says.
He was talking about the money that the US could give to South Sudan more funding if the peace agreement signed last year to end the country’s civil war is implemented.
If they choose not to do that, then we, who have been the largest donor in the world to the government of South Sudan, will have to rethink what we are doing because we are not [going to] work with the government that is not willing to work with itself and with its own people.”
The peace process has hit a problem following clashes in the capital, Juba, last month.
SInce then, Riek Machar, who led rebel forces in the civil war has left the country and has been sacked as First Vice President.
Mr Kerry said one aspect of the peace process that needs to be implemented is the creation of a court to try those suspected of committing crimes during the civil war, which began in December 2013.