Category Archives: Diplomacy

With peace talks dead, S. Sudan’s president emerges defiant

In a defiant and much-anticipated speech on Wednesday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir laid out his plans to end his country’s 15-month civil war — but they have little to do with reconciling and reaching a political settlement. Read more…

Photo by Jok Solomun/Reuters

Slow Response Follows Forced Conscription of Hundreds of Child Soldiers in South Sudan

Despite accusations of war crimes and pledges by the various sides of South Sudan’s year-long civil war to stop using child soldiers and to release those they have recruited, forced recruitment continues unabated. Hundreds of boys were abducted by government troops in the village of Wau Shilluk two weeks ago in one of the worst cases yet reported. Read more…

Photo by Jason Patinkin, child soldiers at a demobilization ceremony in Pibor, South Sudan February 19, 2015

Why UN peacekeepers have failed to protect the people of Darfur

Sudanese soldiers allegedly raped 221 women and girls in a retaliatory attack in Darfur last fall, one of the worst atrocities to occur in the troubled region in recent years, according to a report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch.

The report says that beginning on Oct. 30, hundreds of soldiers looted homes and beat and raped civilians in Tabit, a town of 7,000 people, in an attack that lasted 36 hours. HRW says the soldiers’ actions were tantamount to war crimes.

The report, which catalogs the attack and the Sudanese Amy’s attempt at a cover-up, indicates escalating violence and highlights the failure of United Nations peacekeepers to protect civilians in war-ravaged Darfur.  Read more…

In S. Sudan, churches struggle to keep role as trusted peacemakers

Wearing an immaculate white cassock, Catholic Bishop Paride Taban strides through the mud and tents of the Jebel displaced persons camp in South Sudan’s capital Juba on a recent Sunday.

The camp is hardly sacred ground: thousands of ethnic Nuer live here under United Nations peacekeeper protection in fear of Dinka soldiers outside. But Bishop Taban is here to conduct mass anyway.

“The church is to be with the suffering people, wherever in the world,” the 78-year-old bishop says. Read more…

Photo: Catholic Archbishop Bishop Paride Taban leads mass on November 9 in an airplane hangar at the UN’s Jebel displaced person’s camp outside Juba where thousands of ethnic Nuer have taken shelter from the war. By Jason Patinkin

Kenya’s President Kenyatta is summoned to world criminal court: Will he go?

Photo: Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York September 24, 2014. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

A summons by the International Criminal Court to Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta is forcing a standoff between the symbol of international justice – and the prerogatives of a sitting president whose decision on compliance could damage his country’s foreign relations. Read more…

Is this South Sudan’s last chance for peace before famine?

People walk through the mud in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp inside the United Nations base in Malakal, South Sudan, July 25, 2014. Andreea Campeanu/REUTERS

With a season of unplanted crops in South Sudan and the United Nations declaring the food security crisis here “the worst in the world,” time is running out to prevent the death by starvation of as many as 50,000 people, analysts say, caught in what is now a seven month civil war.

Diplomats in the neighboring Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa today aim to restart negotiations to get government and rebel forces in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, to stop fighting – even as analysts worry the proliferation of militia groups has put much of the fighting beyond the control of political leaders.

More than 10,000 people have died and 1.5 million are displaced since deep animosity between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar broke into violence last December.

Farmers missed the planting season this spring due to fighting and aid groups are now struggling to reach hungry people, many of whom are caught in out-of-the-way places.

Aid agencies warn of famine before the end of the year if nothing is done to avert it. But already every day children are dying from malnutrition. Relief teams, unable to transport food by road due to rain, mud, and insecurity, have resorted to helicoptering supplies to people trapped by fighting in remote areas.

Humanitarian aid workers here say feeding programs must scale up to reach 3.9 million people in coming months or 230,000 children are in danger of acute malnutrition. They also warn that with South Sudan’s appeal for aid now running short a billion dollars, some life-saving programs will run out of funds by the end of September.  Read more…

UN refugees in S. Sudan face perfect storm of woe as war drags on

UN refugees in South Sudan carry goods through a waste canal in Bentiu camp, July 13. Photo by Jason Patinkin

When war broke out in South Sudan last December, the United Nations opened its bases to civilians fleeing the violence. That policy has saved tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives, and today more than 100,000 people shelter under peacekeepers’ protection.

But the UN bases are not meant to house large populations for long periods of time – and seven months later, the camps are proving untenable.

This situation is most dire in Bentiu, the capital of oil-producing Unity State, where more than 40,000 people shelter in the UN base in appalling conditions.

In Bentiu, three children under age 5 die every two days from preventable diseases, and more than 250 people have perished since May. Fights break out frequently in the cramped, politically charged quarters. Rains, lack of funds, and insecurity mean aid agencies can’t get supplies in fast enough. The camp is so poorly supplied that civilians must venture outside to forage for firewood, vegetables, or water, risking rape, abduction, and murder by waiting soldiers and mercenaries tied to different ethnic groups. Even the fortified base itself has come under their fire.

But with the war showing no signs of stopping, and UN peacekeepers delayed, civilians have no other option for safe haven in South Sudan.

“My children are sick, we’re living in the flooded area, there are mosquitoes, we are sleeping with no bed, the smell is awful,” says a mother of six named Angelina, whose 1-year-old daughter recently recovered from malnutrition and malaria.  “But if there is no peace, I can’t go out.”  Read more…