Category Archives: Sudan

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…

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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

As S. Sudan’s rainy season ends, more aid for the displaced – but more fighting

For the past six months, South Sudan’s rainy season brought misery to the nearly 2 million civilians displaced by the 10-month civil war. In crowded United Nations camps, tens of thousands lived ankle-deep in latrine overflow; and for those in the countryside, survival meant eating water lilies and drinking from rivers as the land transformed into marshy islands.

The rains are petering out, and should cease this month. But the change in weather hardly means respite: The end of the wet season means the start of the fighting season. Read more…

Photo: A rebel soldier patrols through a flooded area near the town of Bentiu, South Sudan on Sept. 20, 2014. Matthew Abbot/AP

In Kenya, islanders on heritage site count cost of $25 billion mega-project

Lamu Island on Kenya’s northeast coast was established some 700 years ago as part of a thriving Indian Ocean trade network that eventually stretched to Oman, India, Portugal, and China.

The mixing of those cultures produced the Swahili people and language, as well as an Islamic renaissance of architecture, poetry, and cuisine.

Lamu is regarded as the best preserved Swahili settlement in existence. The history, the remote white beaches, the carved wooden doorways, and the winding alleys, all make it a top Kenya tourist destination.

But change is coming – more drastic than any in Lamu’s history – that could irreversibly transform this ancient place. Read more…

Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

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…

In South Sudan, strife looms in few peaceful places left

A woman grinds millet, near two tanks, while children watch in Leer, Unity State, South Sudan July 15, 2014. Andreea Campeanu/REUTERS

 

As South Sudan‘s civil war drags into a seventh month, President Salva Kiir faces new political and military challenges in parts of the young nation that until now were spared violence.

Violence flared again this week in the lucrative and powerful oil-producing states in the east and north, where bitter fighting raged this winter and spring. The new tensions threaten to expand what already seems an intractable conflict.

With peace talks in Ethiopia postponed indefinitely amid new rebel demands over who should participate, rebel and government forces engaged this week near Bentiu, the capital of Unity State, despite two cease-fires.

Meanwhile, a debate in the national capital of Juba over federal vs. state powers in South Sudan reached such a boiling point that the International Crisis Group, a well-known advocacy NGO, called for an emergency UN Security Council session. Read more…

From Sudan to South Sudan, crusading editor refuses to stay quiet

Alfred Taban, editor of the Juba Monitor, in his office in Juba, South Sudan, July 8, 2014. Photo by Jason Patinkin

On Wednesday July 3 South Sudanese security forces confiscated the entire print run of South Sudan‘s leading independent English language daily newspaper, the Juba Monitor.

The reason? Its editor Alfred Taban defied an order not to report on local government demands to be given more authority.

But Mr. Taban, whose career in the inky journalistic trenches of both Sudan and South Sudan has spanned decades – was not fazed.

“It didn’t surprise me,” he says, leaning back in his office chair next to towering stacks of papers lit by the glow of a computer screen.  “I knew they would react negatively.”

Having endured years of harsh censorship in Khartoum under successive dictators, Taban, from the south, hoped that independence for South Sudan would bring change.

But three years later, Taban says the press climate in Juba the capital is nearly as bad as his years in Khartoum, in Sudan.

Taban’s story is similar to many South Sudanese who fought and labored for their country’s freedom, only to feel let down by leaders now embroiled in a bitter and ugly civil war.

“They are doing the same things they were doing in Khartoum,” he says of South Sudan’s current rulers, whose disagreements in December brought a brutal war that remains unresolved.   Read more…