FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Monday:  July 28, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in South Sudan (8)

Thursday
Apr192012

Preventing Full-Scale War between Sudan and South Sudan (PERSPECTIVE) 

(Video AlJazeera)

Brussels - Sudan and South Sudan are teetering on the brink of all-out war from which neither would benefit. Increasingly angry rhetoric, support for each other's rebels, poor command and control, and brinkmanship, risk escalating limited and contained conflict into a full-scale confrontation between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA).

Diplomatic pressure to cease hostilities and return to negotiations must be exerted on both governments by the region and the United Nations (UN) Security Council, as well as such partners as the US, China and key Gulf states. The immediate priority needs to be a ceasefire and security deal between North and South, as well as in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. But equally important, for the longer-term, are solutions to unresolved post-referendum issues, unimplemented provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) (that ended the civil war in 2005), and domestic reforms in both countries.

(PHOTO: Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir/Wikipedia) The most recent fighting between the SAF and SPLA arose amid a murky mix of armed actors and interests in the contested borderlands, including a variety of northern opposition forces and proxy militias. The exact cause is vigorously disputed, but the flare-up is the predictable outcome of negative trends: conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile; lack of agreement on transitional economic and financial arrangements between the two countries; Khartoum's seizure of Southern oil; South Sudan's decision to stop oil production; and sporadic cross-border attacks and bombings.

It occurs amid mutual recriminations: of Khartoum arming Southern rebels and the SPLA providing material support to its former brothers-in-arms now fighting for the Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as political support to members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) seeking to topple President Bashir.

In part to prevent the resupply of the SPLM-N, the SAF has also bombed refugee camps and towns in South Sudan and recently attacked Bentiu, the capital of Unity State. Complicating matters are divergent views within the capitals and hardliners seemingly working to undermine negotiated settlements, as demonstrated by the scuttling of the much anticipated North-South presidential summit on 3 April.

The end result is that, following renewed clashes, the SPLA has taken control of the disputed Heglig oil fields and stopped about half of Sudan's 115,000 barrels-per-day oil output. This has dealt a further blow to Khartoum's economy, already reeling from separation and the additional fall in revenue that resulted from Juba's decision in January to stop exporting oil through Sudan's pipelines. The beleaguered Khartoum regime, which is under pressure on political, economic, and multiple military fronts and increasingly concerned about the prospects of an Arab Spring uprising, cannot afford to sustain such losses.

RISKY STRATEGIES 

A game of "chicken" appears to be underway, in which both sides embark on risky strategies in the hope that the other will blink first. If neither does, the outcome will be disastrous for both.

(PHOTO: South Sudan President Salva Kiir/Wikipedia)Some suspect that President Kiir's tactics are intended to provoke a popular uprising in the North -- that he is gambling the attack on Heglig may be the proverbial straw that breaks the back of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). However, little thought seems to have been given to the consequences if President Bashir is removed from power. Unlike Egypt, Sudan lacks a single, legitimate institution that could manage a peaceful transfer of power.

Bashir, who became president following a 1989 military coup, and his close associates have fragmented the security services and rely on personal loyalty and increasingly expensive patronage to retain control. He and security hardliners continue to pursue divide and rule tactics to prevent the emergence of a unified counterweight to NCP dominance of the centre. Bashir's fall could trigger a wild scramble by multiple armed actors for control of Khartoum and other parts of the country that would be hard, if not impossible, to restrain.

Kiir and the SPLM are also dangerously exposed. With South Sudan's decision to stop oil production, 98 per cent of its governmental revenue has disappeared. Reserves and other stop-gap measures can only tide Juba over for some months, after which the SPLM would have to impose draconian budget cuts, including on the SPLA, which is a fractious force that includes many former foes. Khartoum has a long history of supporting its enemy's enemies. At relatively little cost it could continue to support Juba's opponents and compound domestic instability for a government already plagued by weak institutions, limited reach and increasingly untenable financial circumstances.

Khartoum and Juba need to exercise restraint and consider carefully the consequences of their actions. The decision to abandon negotiations and resort to increasingly bellicose posturing can only hurt both. Each government, with its own domestic challenges, may reap short-term political benefit from externalizing its problems, but there is no military solution, and both sides would suffer from all-out war. The destruction of oil infrastructure would have long-term economic consequences. Stability is necessary in both the North and the South for either to develop and prosper and, in turn, enjoy long-term stability.

(PHOTO: South Sudanese refugees at a camp in Unity State/UNHCR)DECADES OF MISTRUST

Decades of mutual distrust prevent either side from making good-will gestures and pursuing win-win negotiations. In such a febrile environment, the UN Security Council must reassert itself to preserve international peace and security. It should mobilize all possible leverage to bring the parties back to negotiations and agreement on the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), as well as encourage implementation of the border monitoring tasks outlined for the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) in Resolution 2024 (2011), particularly near Heglig and Jau.

The parties and UNISFA must operationalize the JBVMM to investigate and verify claims either side is undermining peace or violating existing and future agreements, including for the necessary withdrawal of SPLA forces from the Heglig area and cessation of SAF bombing of South Sudanese territory. The monitoring mechanism needs to be flexible with high mobility. Lessons should be drawn from previous monitoring missions in Sudan, during which building confidence among Sudanese parties and supporting mutually-agreed arrangements were at least as important as verifying and reporting on legal obligations.

UNIMPLEMENTED CPA PROVISIONS, POST REFERENDUM ISSUES

Fundamentally, the current conflict is rooted in the CPA's unimplemented provisions, such as the status of Abyei, the cancelled popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and disputed borders, as well as unresolved issues stemming from separation. While they have acknowledged their interdependence, the two countries must still reach detailed agreements on many divisive issues, such as the joint exploitation of oil, transitional financial arrangements, citizenship, security and trade. The time for posturing and brinkmanship is past; they must return to the table promptly and sustain the focus and commitment necessary to hammer out and implement deals. Otherwise, if these critical issues are allowed to fester, they will undermine any ceasefire or limited peace deal.

Absent the democratic transformation long overdue in Khartoum, Sudan remains unstable as power, resources and development continue to be overly concentrated in the centre. A "new South" has emerged in Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile that - along with Darfur, the East and other marginal areas - chafes under NCP domination. Because of historic ties, and despite South Sudan's separation, the North's centre-periphery wars continue to draw in Juba.

The call by the North's opposition parties for a national dialogue in the context of a wider constitutional review conference suggests a way forward. Such a conference should be seen as a more extensive national consultative process, to accommodate the stymied popular consultations in the transitional areas and the Darfur people-to-people dialogue.

Those latter two processes, if run separately, will not lead to political stability and lasting peace in the whole country.

A NEW UNIFIED INTERNATIONAL STRATEGY

With developments increasingly appearing to be spiraling out of control, a new strategy is needed to avert an even bigger crisis. As Crisis Group noted in its September 26, 2011 Conflict Alert, any solution must be comprehensive. The international community must focus not only on North-South issues or the situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, but also require the NCP to agree to an immediate, inclusive, national reform process. The first priority needs to be for a security deal that stops both the fighting between the North and the South, as well as Khartoum and the SRF, but for this to hold it must also be clearly linked to binding commitments to discuss and implement political reforms.

(PHOTO: Taken March 28, 2012 shows destruction in Sudan's southern oil centre of Heglig after South Sudanese troops & government forces clashed along the border, sparking international alarm/AFP)The UN - the Security Council - should exert pressure on the two presidents to meet and negotiate an immediate ceasefire. This should be based on the June 29, 2011 Agreement on Border Security and the Joint Political and Security Mechanism, as well as the February 10, 2012 Memorandum of Understanding on Non-Aggression and Cooperation. They also need to reach common ground on a security deal for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile based on the June 24, 2011 Framework Agreement, to be monitored by an enhanced JBVMM.

To encourage reforms in Khartoum, a united international community, particularly the African Union (AU), Arab League and UN, should put pressure on the NCP to accept a free and unhindered national dialogue aimed at creating a national stabilization program that includes defined principles for establishing an inclusive constitutional arrangement accepted by all. A national reform agenda should include a program that accommodates all the people of Sudan and supports inclusive governance.

The NCP must make genuine efforts to end impunity in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and allow humanitarian agencies unhindered access, as well as support the efforts of the AU-UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and UNISFA to protect civilians.

If the NCP commits seriously to such a national reform agenda, regional actors and the wider international community should offer assistance.

Major players like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the Arab League, China, the US, EU and AU must recognize that reform is necessary for stability and requires their support. If the NCP accepts an inclusive reform process, for example, the U.S. should provide incentives under its normalization package to bolster that process. These could include easing debts, lifting economic sanctions and removing Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Meanwhile, North-South relations may also be improved by greater domestic stability in South Sudan.  Building institutions, extending service delivery, bolstering economic growth, and calming inter-communal tensions are among the priorities, and will be served in part by advancing promised political reforms. This includes an opening of political space inside and outside the SPLM, and an inclusive constitution-making process, that should be supported by partners and donors.

--- Editorial originally published by the International Crisis Group, HERE.

Thursday
Feb092012

South Sudan, Ethiopia Sign Oil Pipeline Deal 

(HN, 2/9/2012) -- South Sudan has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ethiopia allowing it to build an oil pipeline through Ethiopia to the port of Djibouti.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan’s information minister, said on Thursday than an unidentified Texas company could start working on a new pipeline in six months, the independent Sudan Tribune reports.

Land-locked South Sudan has been in a political dispute with Sudan’s government over oil transit fees – South Sudan gaining control over most of the region’s oil reserves in July, when it became an independent country, relying however, on export pipelines through Sudan.  

Last month, South Sudan accused Sudan of seizing more than $800 million worth of it oil from Port Sudan along the Red Sea.

Khartoum says it took the oil because the south would not pay transit fees on more than $30 per barrel.

In recent weeks, South Sudan has also discussed plans with Kenya to build oil pipelines to the coastal town of Lamu.

There has been much tension between Sudan and South Sudan, and leaders on both sides have said a return to war is possible.

The two countries have not been able to agree on how to demarcate their border or how to share oil revenue.

South Sudan said Wednesday it had completed the shutdown of 871 oil wells that were producing about 350,000 barrels per day. 

So far negotiations, hosted by the African Union, have failed to find a resolution to the oil row. 

- HUMNEWS Staff

Friday
Oct212011

Great Game in the Horn of Africa (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Paul Mutter

Child soldier in Uganda, photo courtesy of UNICEFThe United States announced this past week that it is deploying a 100-man mission to assist the Ugandan government in tracking down the remnants of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a force whose bloody conflict with the Ugandan military has devastated northern Uganda and its environs since 1987.

But why now, in 2011, is the U.S. government making this commitment to combat the LRA?

The humanitarian impulse is certainly present among policymakers, if for no other reason than humanitarianism scores political points in Washington. Multiple human rights groups have been supportive of the announcement. The Ugandan government and people certainly desire an end to this conflict. As undemocratic as the Ugandan government of Yoweri Museveni has proven, the state the LRA would establish—if we take stock of their rule over parts of northern Uganda—would almost certainly be an even more nightmarish place. Joseph Kony, the founder of the LRA who masquerades as a champion of his Acholi ethnic group and as a Christian mystic, has ordered the killing, maiming, and rape of tens of thousands of people across northern Uganda and neighboring countries. This “army” relies heavily on child soldiers and "concubines," young girls abducted from churches and schools to serve as servants and sex slaves.

Make no mistake: the LRA is an abominable threat to the Ugandan people—and to the people of Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic, countries the LRA moves in and out of seeking safe havens.

But we must not be blinded by the darkness of the LRA so much that we fail to see the tarnish that mars the U.S. and Ugandan governments’ joint interests in East Africa.

Why did Washington not intervene at any other point over the course of the LRA's horrendous, decades-long campaign in Northern Uganda, where civilians not caught in the sadistic sights of the LRA often found themselves in the crossfire between the terrorist army and the Ugandan military? George W. Bush sent advisers in 2008-9 to assist the Ugandan military in what is said to have been a botched capture operation, but why did it take five U.S. presidents to get to this stage—a stage in which the LRA has been, according to most reports, drastically weakened? What took Washington so long to finally accept this mandate, which human rights activists have been urging for years?

The Obama administration is not likely embracing a “Responsibility to Protect.” The sad answer is that only now, in the post-9/11 world, is there sufficient U.S. interest to risk getting "mired" in Africa. The unstated target of this 100-man deployment is, in fact, al-Qaeda.

AFRICOM and the Horn of Africa

The 100-strong force being sent to Uganda (ostensibly as advisers) will be overseen by AFRICOM, the new strategic command for Africa created by George W. Bush in 2007. AFRICOM provides billions of dollars worth of equipment to U.S. allies in Africa, as well as controversial training and intelligence-sharing programs, and even Special Forces deployments.

For AFRICOM, security imperatives intersect with economic ones. At AFRICOM's urging, for example, the U.S. military has designed war games involving the "fall" of Nigeria, the no. 5 source of U.S. oil imports, to insurgent forces. The United States has had a strategic interest since the 1990s in demonstrating its commitment to the security of Uganda, which has fought al-Shabab in Somalia and until recently bordered Sudan. Sudan, an Islamist pariah state and also an LRA supporter, is still on the radar for U.S. and Ugandan policymakers (especially with South Sudan's formation), but Somalia is the "new" looming terror threat, a "failed state" fought over by Islamist groups like al-Shabab and infiltrated by others. The United States asserts that a strong al-Qaeda presence there today has ill designs for the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Ethiopia, Kenya, and as we saw in 2010, Uganda.

The Ugandans did not pull out from Somalia following the 2010 Kampala bombings, though, and remain committed to maintaining a force there, something other U.S. allies in Africa have been reluctant to do. Those boots on the ground might go some way in firmly establishing a central Somalia government the United States and Uganda can live with. As Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute has said:

To the extent the United States has any interest in Somalia being stabilized, it has an interest in seeing the Ugandan government able to keep its own country together, and able to keep it its own forces partially deployed to Somalia in order to help with that country where there have been al-Qaida related groups in the past.

The United States is waging a drone war in Somalia. Although it is not on the scale of the campaigns in Pakistan or Yemen, this may soon change. But with "Black Hawk Down" never far removed from Washington’s memory, sending troops into Somalia will be a hard decision for U.S. officials to make. Furthermore, the United States is, once again after its brief dalliance with "provincial reconstruction teams," no longer as interested in nation building as in effecting regime change and targeted assassinations. Uganda helps the latter along nicely in Somalia and may one day make the former possible there in concert with AFRICOM.

For now and for the foreseeable future, the Ugandan forces in Somalia are working in line with U.S. interests (as are the Kenyans, who this very Monday entered Somalia in force and are fighting against al-Shahab).

A War for Oil?

There are also economic considerations, though these may be secondary to security concerns. Uganda is indeed hoping to exploit newly discovered oil and gas reserves, and the government has undertaken a hurried development campaign. But the United States is not well-placed at this time to pursue energy extraction opportunities there: the UK-registered Tullow Oil, joined by the French Total AS and the PRC's China National Offshore Oil Corporation, holds the best energy extraction hand in Uganda today. The U.S. government is, naturally, keeping an eye on the sector, and as The Economist notes, "several jealous Western governments and companies want to stall China’s advance into the Congo basin, with its vast reserves of minerals and timber."

Whatever potential Uganda holds—in and of itself and as a gateway to the DRC—China's much stronger economic position in Uganda and the UK's ties to its former colony do not leave the United States much economic leeway besides foreign aid allocations at this point. But what is clear is that Washington’s commercial prospects in Uganda in the coming years will depend on the security situation.

Emboldening Museveni

Perhaps the most pressing issue for Ugandans, however, is the extent to which U.S. assistance might not only stir up a renewed conflict in the region but also embolden Yoweri Museveni—once hailed as an upstanding member of "a new generation of African leaders"—to further crack down on opposition politicians in Uganda, which until 2005 was an officially one-party state.

As Wikileaks disclosures show, the United States holds few illusions about the undemocratic and corrupt tendencies of Museveni and his party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM). "It appears Ugandan security services spend the majority their time tracking opposition leaders and critics of the NRM," reported a 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kampala.

Museveni's participation in the Second Congolese War, in which Ugandan military forces and their Congolese allies were accused of trafficking "blood diamonds" and committing human rights abuses, also damaged his international image. His questionable domestic record on both human rights and corruption issues has further soured foreign lenders and leaders toward him. The presidential election held in Uganda earlier this year delivered Museveni another stellar victory, though it was marred by accusations of intimidation on the part of the security apparatus and ruling party, accusations that the U.S. Embassy found credible in previous elections.

Protests against Museveni's policies have frequently turned deadly thanks to the intervention of the state security apparatus, and just days after the U.S. deployment was announced, Ugandan security forces arrested 45 "Action 4 Change" activists, 15 of whom will be tried for treason. If convicted, they will be subject to a death sentence.

Action 4 Change is a coalition of opposition parties, community organizers, and rights groups who have undertaken a series of "walk to work" protests to demonstrate against food and fuel price increases. The Ugandan government asserts that Action 4 Change members are not nonviolent demonstrators but disgruntled electoral losers plotting the overthrow of the government. And Uganda Radio Network reports that a 500-man Coalition for Stable Uganda (CSU), led by an NRM member, has been formed "to counter activities of [the] Action for Change Coalition" because "there is no doubt in [the CSU's] minds that the opposition actions are well coordinated with backing from other forces bent [on] destabilizing Uganda, loot[ing] property, and caus[ing] deaths."

This landmark U.S. assistance to Uganda against the LRA, simply by putting boots on the grounds, surpasses any past offers of foreign or diplomatic aid from U.S. officials. But will Washington pressure Museveni to clean up corruption or scale back his crackdown on Action 4 Change? That's the sort of discussion that needs to be happening.

- Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus

Originally published by Institute for Policy Studies licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday
Aug172011

Celebrations Turn to Cautious Optimism in South Sudan (REPORT)

A welcome carpet at independence celebrations in Juba. CREDIT: Simon Ingram(HN, August 17, 2011) - As the smiles and celebrations fade from the tumultuous entry of South Sudan as Africa's newest state, concerns are rising about security issues and developmental issues.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan on 9 July, following a referendum in January when the overwhelming majority of southerners elected to become independent, six years after a landmark peace agreement ended decades of war between the north and the south.

But tensions with the North over border areas and resources, a chronic health crisis and the knock-on impact of the global economic crisis are all conspiring to make for a difficult birth of the nation.

South Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and almost half of the children in the country are malnourished.

Just today, South Sudan President Salva Kiir sacked his central bank governor and chief justice, about a month after the country launched a new currency. The currency has suffered a serious slide against the US dollar in recent weeks.

According to the UN, nearly 330,000 have returned to South Sudan since the end of October last year from Sudan, arriving by bus, train or river barge.

Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai wrote in South Africa's Mail & Guardian that the new government and international community must not abandon South Sudan as it takes its first steps as an independent nation.

Wrote Maathai: "A priority for the government and the international community must be, as promised, to serve the interests of a population devastated by decades of civil war. And as the slow and painful process of development begins, leaders must also help to navigate the new-found role of statehood. It is a role that will come under increasing strain as the threat of a new war escalates along the still-contested border with the north."

South Sudan President Salva Kiir delivers a speech at independence celebrations. CREDIT: Simon IngramThe UN says it is doing what it can to assist returnees. Since the end of July, some 7,200 returnees have received 15-day food rations, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update. Shortages of non-food items, such as mosquito nets, have eased with the arrival of additional supplies, it added.

Aid agencies are rehabilitating latrines and supporting vaccination for some 3,000 new returnees who have arrives at the Juba river port on transit to Eastern and Western Equatoria states. Food, water and health services are also being supplied in Juba before those returning continue their journey to their areas of origin.

Reports of interference with relief efforts continue to be received in Warrab state, the UN says. Soldiers have forced UN and NGO vehicles to stop, often at gunpoint, and give lifts to armed and uniformed men on at least five occasions over the past week.

Writes Maathai: "We should share in the new hopes and dreams of the population of South Sudan as the people revel in the freedom to guide their own path. But as images of celebratory smiles and tears of joy fade from the television screens, let us not forget about the brewing crisis that threatens this hard-won independence.

"It is up to South Sudan's leaders and other heads of state in the region to ensure that these hopes and dreams do not fall into despair and further bloodshed."

- HUMNEWS staff, UN

Saturday
Jul092011

South Sudan: New Countries, Old Problems (PERSPECTIVE)

Even before today's independence celebrations, the GOSS had established offices in key African capitals, such as Addis Ababa. CREDIT: HUMNEWS

By Louise Arbour

South Sudan’s independence on Saturday will in some sense mark the welcome end of one of the most devastating conflicts of recent times. When decades of hostilities between North and South concluded with the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, several million people had already died as a result of the civil war, and millions more had lost their homes. As a culmination of that peace deal, independence would seem to be the last chapter of the story.

It is, however, anything but.

Saturday’s formal separation may have been an inevitable and even necessary step, but these two states will be tied together for many years to come. Trying to work through outstanding disagreements, many of them already violent, will require difficult negotiations, political savvy, and carefully considered international engagement to ensure both North and South develop into peaceful and stable states.

At this point, the signs do not look particularly good. Both sides have violated the 2005 agreement, and escalating tensions have sparked conflict in critical border areas. In May, Khartoum’s forces launched an attack on the contested town of Abyei.

Even more worrisome, there is wide-scale fighting between Northern and Southern forces in the border state of Southern Kordofan. Reportedly some 360,000 people have been displaced over the past six months, more than half in the last month.

The North, in particular the ruling National Congress Party (N.C.P.), is moving boldly both to assert control over Northern territory and to improve its negotiating position vis-à-vis the South on the post-independence arrangements. Of these, probably the most important to the North concerns oil revenue sharing, since Khartoum will lose a majority share of its primary income source, the petroleum being found predominantly in the South.

In any case, revenue sharing, border demarcation, the status of southern military units from northern regions, as well as future arrangements on citizenship and natural resource management will likely remain points of contention for years to come, and could trigger large-scale violence.

While both North and South will have to work closely together on these issues to avoid renewed war, each also faces extremely difficult internal challenges. In Khartoum, the ruling party’s rank and file are increasingly discontent. Despite austerity measures, the government is confronting a serious budget deficit and spiraling inflation, and it is not able to pay all salaries. The N.C.P.’s security-dominated policies are alienating huge swaths of Sudanese.

Northern opposition parties and rebel groups (from Darfur and elsewhere) are trying to position themselves for post-July, but they are weakened by the decision of some of them to enter into unilateral negotiations with the N.C.P. Unless the opposition forces present a much more unified front, it is quite likely that the N.C.P. will continue to stymie attempts to bring about badly needed government reforms.

Southern leaders meanwhile have to switch gears from the solidarity of the liberation struggle to the more mundane, though more divisive, tasks of running a democratic country. The signs are not encouraging. The new draft transitional constitution includes several red flags, including an amendment giving the president power to dismiss democratically elected governors as he pleases.

The leading party in the South, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (S.P.L.M.), has to open up political space — both inside and outside the party — to lay the foundations for a more inclusive multiparty landscape.

The international community also has an important role. Realizing that localized conflict in the new border zone will likely continue or even escalate if left to fester, it has to carry on acting as an impartial mediator, fact-checker and arbitrator, all the while dealing with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

To deal with Southern Kordofan, external actors need to get leaders back to the negotiating table with sufficient political will to contain the violence, including a cease-fire and new security arrangements for the transitional states. The initiative undertaken by the African Union’s High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan, led by Thabo Mbeki, is a good first step. It helped lead to an agreement on Abyei, which is a welcome deescalation, but the international community can only preserve the status quo — both Khartoum and Juba need to make the hard decisions and compromises necessary for peaceful coexistence.

Southern independence will also mean that the international community must recalibrate its relationship with the S.P.L.M. and avoid the tendency to overlook its abuses and constrictions of political space.

If there is a single message for all parties it is surely “inclusion.” The leaders of North and South need to understand the broad spectrum of peoples and interests in their new polities and work hard to bring them in under their respective new roofs. And the international community must sustain its involvement and support to ensure that both North and South develop into peaceful and viable states.

Louise Arbour is president of the International Crisis Group.

Also read our article about how Ethiopia and other neighbouring states are eyeing tempting business opportunities in South Sudan

Friday
Jul012011

Ethiopia Eyes Tempting Business Opportunities in South Sudan (REPORT)

A sign in the central business district of Addis Abba directs people to the South Sudan office. CREDIT: M. Bociurkiw/HUMNEWSFrom a HUM Correspondent in Addis Ababa 

Even before the January 2011 referendum confirming the birth of Africa's newest nation, business people in the region were already salivating at the tantalizing opportunities to bring South Sudan into the 20th century - and the global economy.

 

Outside the oil sector, there is little infrastructure in Southern Sudan. There is already some foreign investment in the beverage sector and Ethiopia has two banks active there.

The sense of excitement is palpable in Addis Ababa's five-star hotels. Earlier this week, representatives from South Sudan could be seen meeting with local businessmen in the bustling Sheraton Hotel.

One European businessman in Addis Ababa said that opportunities are especially ripe in the banking and telecommunications sectors. "Basically they need everything," he said in the lobby of a hotel in Ethiopia's capital.

Ethiopia's large water and construction firms also stand to benefit. "We are ready to execute as many projects as offered," says Awash Welday, chief of Ethiopia's Awash Welday Water Works and General Contractor.

Aside from Ethiopia, Kenyan and South African firms are also eyeing developments closely. Kenya Commercial Bank is reported to have plans to double the number of branches in Southern Sudan. Kenya East African Breweries also has a presence, as does SABMiller plc of the United Kingdom.

South Sudan is due to officially become an independent state on July 9, making it the world's newest country.

The new opportunities are important for Ethiopia as its strives to become a major economy on the horn of Africa. The country of 80 million people became landlocked after its former northern region, Eritreria, declared its independence in 1993.

On the diplomatic front, Ethiopia is already deeply entrenched in South Sudan: it is sending a 4,200-strong peace-keeping force on behalf of the UN to the disputed Abyei region, which sits astride the two halves of Sudan.

A new Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777 at Addis Ababa International Airport. The flag carrier already serves two destinations in Southern Sudan. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWSGiven Ethiopia's strategic location next to Sudan - coupled with the entrepreneurial spirit of its domestic and returnee Diaspora workforce - the country stands to benefit enormously from business opportunities in South Sudan. Emblematic of its importance is the existence of a Government of South Sudan liaison office situated in the Central Business District.

Among the flagship businesses in Ethiopia aggressively moving ahead to establish a presence in South Sudan is flag carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, which already flies to the capital Juba, and as of June 17, to the Upper Nile region town of Malakal.

Ethiopia, the size of France and Spain combined, has undergone a major transformation in the last decade. It is the fifth-biggest economy in Africa - after South Africa, Nigeria, Angola and Sudan - climbing up from 10th in 2003. By 2023, its GDP purchasing power will hit about $500 billion - making it the third-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Ernst and Young. Agriculture contributes 45 percent of the GDP and more than three years ago a modern commodities exchange was opened to revolutionize trading.

Friday
May272011

Thousands Fleeing Conflict in Sudan's Disputed Abyei Region (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN May 27, 2011) - Thousands of people are fleeing the conflict in the disputed Abyei region between north and south Sudan, prompting aid agencies to rush support to neighbouring areas and triggering a harsh condemnation by the UN's human rights chief.

As the security situation in the area continues to be volatile, the UN and other agencies are providing trucks, essential non-food relief items, fuel and medicines to support humanitarian operations. However continued violence has forced some mission back.

Northern troops, aircraft and tanks overran the border town of Abyei on Saturday, sending 40,000 residents fleeing and drawing condemnation from the international community, saying the action is a threat to peace between north and south.

The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, today called on both sides of the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and respect international human rights and humanitarian law. “I condemn the recent attacks and counter-attacks in the Abyei region by both sides – this is certainly no way to advance the peaceful coexistence of North and South Sudan,” she said.

“I am particularly alarmed by the shelling of civilian areas in Abyei by the SAF, as well as reports of aerial bombardment in other locations such as Todacch, Tajalei and in the vicinity of the River Kiir bridge. I urge all parties to explore a negotiated solution to the Abyei crisis and to avoid a descent into further conflict and chaos.”

Elisabeth Byrs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said at a press briefing today in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS that it was also possible – but not confirmed – that UN offices and stocks in Abyei have been looted. 

Reports suggest that tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) have poured into Southern Sudan's Warrap, Unity and Northern Bahr El Ghazal states, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Many are in need of food and water and, with the recent heavy rains, may be vulnerable to water-borne diseases and respiratory tract infections. 

IOM says it has registered four truck loads of IDPs who arrived in Turalei in Warrap State on May 25th.  A further 1,000 IDPs arrived yesterday, May 26th , in Wunrok, south of Turalei. 

IOM, which has registered some 6,500 IDPs in the past two days, has also provided transport for 138 IDPs who were walking towards Gogrial West, south west of Wunrok.

IOM is also distributing 1,000 kits containing non-food relief items, including plastic sheeting, jerry cans, mosquito nets, soap, blankets, sleeping mats and cooking utensils in Mayen Abun, and Turalei in Warrap State. It is also helping to construct emergency latrines.

Tracking and assessing the displaced population has been difficult because many people are still on the move or are hiding in the bush.  The continued heavy rainfall has made some roads impassable and this has impeded access to areas where IDPs may be sheltering.

Also in the works for longer term assistance, which will include providing trucks to humanitarian organisations, coordinating the distribution of non-food relief items, procuring equipment to treat and distribute clean water, and organising the return of IDPs back to Abyei, once the crisis is over.  

- HUMNEWS staff, UN

Saturday
Jan152011

(EXCLUSIVE REPORT) As Landmark Secession Referendum Ends in Southern Sudan, Sudanese Diaspora in the U.S. Await the Outcome After Voting For Independence 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsfree video player

(HN, Jan. 15, 2010) – On Saturday, January 14, 2011 a group of Sudanese ex-patriates living in the Southern United States, travelled to Nashville, Tennessee to vote for the possible secession of South Sudan from Sudan.  HUMNEWS was along for the bus ride which ultimately led to South Sudan being voted into existence - creating the world's 238th nation territory. 

--- Max Ramming was along for the ride and here is his natural sound video piece, in the words and voices of those who experienced the event.