Tag Archives: war

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

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Should South Sudan really hold an election this year?

South Sudan‘s government has announced that it will hold elections in June. But a hasty vote in this young and fragile nation – already mired in civil war – could cause more instability. Read more…

Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, left, shakes hands with rebel leader and former vice president Riek Machar, right, after signing an agreement at the end of talks in Arusha, Tanzania. (AP)

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…

East Africa’s elegant antelope on the verge of bowing out

 

Antelope conservationist Abdullahi Ali, left, and an assistant, track radio collared hirola using a radio receiver at sunset near Masalani, Ijara District in northeastern Kenya. Jason Patinkin

Africa’s most endangered large mammal species isn’t the majestic mountain gorilla or the stately black rhino.

It’s the hirola, pronounced “hee-ROH-la,” a tawny brown antelope with spiraled, curved horns and a long, skinny snout whose facial markings make it look like it wears eyeglasses.

With just over 400 individual creatures living in a small section of northeastern Kenya, the hirola is not only more threatened than Africa’s most famous species, it is also the world’s most endangered antelope species.

But outside the narrow strip of sandy, thorny wilderness along Kenya’s volatile border with Somalia, few know the hirola exist at all – or of the need to conserve them.  Read more…

Young men and guns: Why South Sudan’s war flamed so fast and brightly

Rebels sit in the now-emptied hospital in Malakal, South Sudan, in February. Photo by Ilya Gridneff/AP

Juba, South Sudan — Gabriel Mabior left South Sudan’s army for the same reason he joined it: he wanted an education.

Mr. Mabior signed up to be a child soldier in 1987 after being assured that a pledge to fight would give him a seat in school.

But like thousands of other boys, he was quickly yanked out of school and ended up fighting for years for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army against the government of Sudan.

Mabior, now a soft-spoken and thoughtful businessman with a proclivity for button-down shirts, feels proud of his contribution to the liberation struggle that led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011. Freedom allowed him to earn a university degree, he says, which is why he chose to fight in the first place – and achieving a degree was unlikely under the old Sudan regime in Khartoum.

But Mabior, who lives in the capitol Juba, is now frustrated that South Sudanese are fighting again instead of pursuing what he describes as the fruits of liberation and peace, like study and individual growth.

“What are you fighting for?” the former child soldier asks. “This is the time for young people to live. This is the time for peace. This is the time for education.”  Read more…

Forgotten among the forgotten: Foreign refugees in South Sudan’s civil strife

At this camp in Juba, more than 10,000 people are sheltering, including hundreds of Eritreans who are afraid to go back to their country. Photo by Jason Patinkin

Juba, South Sudan — Two years ago when Peter moved here from nearby Eritrea, things looked pretty good: South Sudan was a new country getting international help. The city of Bor, where Peter opened a general store, was along a major corridor of emerging oil wealth and prosperity.

South Sudan was in fact a refuge, politically and religiously freer and less repressive than Eritrea. Peter, who will not give his real name for fear of reprisal, could escape what has become Eritrea’s notorious forced conscription policy, where the government is grabbing men up to the age of 50 for indefinite Army service. Plus, getting across the South Sudan border was not too difficult.

But now he finds himself caught in South Sudan’s brutal civil strife. A slight man with a short, shaggy Afro, he is living in a refugee camp of 10,000 people in the capitol of Juba. And at this point he just wants to leave this place and find some safer haven.  Read more…