Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thousands Dead in Internecine Fighting in South Sudan

Thousands dead in inter-ethnic fighting in South Sudan

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

South Sudan has been riddled with violence ever since declaring its independence from Sudan. Fighting between the Murle and Lou Nuer tribes have left thousands dead, and humanitarian aid to the area has been hampered on account of its isolated location.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - The hostilities gathered momentum after an attack killed about 600 Lou Nuer in August. The Sudan Council of Churches launched a peace initiative that was meant to bring tribal leaders together in December to sign a peace agreement. The process broke down, and U.N. aerial patrols reported that at least 6,000 Lou Nuer youth were marching towards Pibor in December.

The Lou Nuer tribal army, called the White Army, in reference to the ash the fighters rub onto their bodies, the group issued statements publicizing its planned attack on Pibor and vowing to "wipe out the entire Murle tribe on the face of the earth."

According to the U.N., the violence has affected at least 120,000 people. Families have lost their homes and their cattle, which are the key to their livelihoods.

The U.N. has launched a huge emergency operation to bring food to those people, many of whom have been living in the bush for weeks, surviving off wild fruits. The U.N.'s World Food Program is using helicopters to deliver food to communities that are inaccessible by road in this isolated region.

Lise Grande, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, told reporters last week in Juba that the estimated number of people in need of aid had doubled and may rise even higher. The U.N. has a contingency plan for 180,000 people, she said.

The number of people killed remains a mystery. The county commissioner has estimated 3,000 people dead. The government quickly dismissed that figure. James Chacha, the Pibor county medical officer, told reporters that about 2,000 were killed.

Neither the government nor the U.N. has released figures of bodies counted so far by their investigators.

"We have also been doing recces (reconnaissance flights) over the areas to look at the numbers of tukuls (homes) burnt and so on but there is no credibility in the total figure here that would lead to a number that can give an indication," Hilde Johnson, the U.N. Secretary General's representative to South Sudan reported last week. "It is far too early."

"We are very worried about the medical needs of the people who are still in the bush," spokesman Karel Janssens says. "We hear from patients and our staff that there are still many wounded in the bush, but as long as we don't see their direct medical needs it is difficult to answer to that."

Whatever the final death toll, it will only add to the already 1,100 people the U.N. says were killed over the past year in fighting between the Murle and Lou Nuer.

Russia to pull helicopters from South Sudan

3:33pm EST

* President Medvedev decrees withdrawal after U.N. Sudan mission ends

* Africa envoy's spokeswoman says security concerns not involved

* U.N. diplomats say Russia's refusal to fly behind slow deployment

By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Russia will withdraw its helicopters and personnel servicing the United Nations peacekeeping force in South Sudan, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, a move that will cause problems for the stretched mission.

The move followed expressions of concern by Russian diplomats over security in South Sudan, including attacks on helicopters operated by Russia's military.

But Varvara Paal, spokeswoman for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's Africa envoy Mikhail Margelov, said the withdrawal had nothing to do with security.

"The Russian contingent of peacekeepers made a meaningful contribution to the process of the peaceful division of the state (Sudan), which ended in July of last year," Margelov said in a statement.

The U.N. Mission in Sudan, known as UNMIS, ended shortly after South Sudan became independent last July under a 2005 peace pact that ended decades of civil war, and the Russian contingent then worked with a new U.N. mission established in South Sudan.

The Russian departure comes as Africa's newest country grapples with tribal and rebel violence and a dispute with Sudan over oil revenues.

A Kremlin statement said an unspecified number of personnel and Mi-8MT helicopters would be withdrawn by April 1. Paal said there were four helicopters remaining after the withdrawal of another four in December.

Russia's U.N. mission said earlier this month that Moscow was alarmed by attacks on utility helicopters operated by the Russian military for UNMISS.

"Recently the situation in providing security to the Russian helicopter crews has been deteriorating," the mission said.

U.N. diplomats and officials told Reuters in New York that the main reason for the slow deployment of UNMISS troops to an area in South Sudan where clashes have taken place was Russia's refusal to fly its helicopters there.

"It is clear that the reason why Russia has (grounded) the helicopters is based on the threat and the risk the troops have faced," said Susana Malcorra, undersecretary-general of the U.N. Department of Field Support.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

January 24, 2012

South Sudan's Doomsday Machine


South Sudan was born as an independent nation on July 9, 2011, with good will and a bounty. Three hundred and fifty thousand barrels of oil per day provided the government with $1,000 per year for each of its 8 million citizens.

But the only pipeline to market runs through northern Sudan, giving the government in Khartoum control over South Sudan’s economic artery. And on independence day there was no agreement on the terms of pipeline use.

When Sudan was still one country, 50 percent of the revenue from southern oil went to the central treasury, comprising 40 percent of its budget. After July 9, Khartoum received nothing — not even a transit fee. International promises of debt relief and lifting economic sanctions, to fill a part of the budget gap, came to nothing. Continued negotiations — convened by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan, which is headed by former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and to which I am an adviser — have failed to resolve the issue.

On Jan. 20, South Sudan announced the dramatic step of shutting down oil production, with immediate effect. As oil money comprises 97 percent of the South’s budget, it seems a suicidal step. The rationale is that for the last month, Khartoum has been diverting the oil to its own refinery and filling three tankers.

A year ago, President Omar al-Bashir congratulated his southern counterpart, President Salva Kiir, on independence and promised a new and peaceable chapter in the troubled history of north-south relations. This quickly turned sour, particularly with the outbreak of war in two areas of northern Sudan — Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile — where about half of the population is loyal to the former rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, who are now the government in the South. Although the northern branch of the party supposedly split off, the South does not disguise its solidarity with its former comrades in arms.

Khartoum’s delegates to the just-concluding talks in Addis Ababa complain bitterly. “Why should we allow Southern oil to go free to market, when the money from its sales is used to arm rebels who want to destroy us?” They follow it up with a promise — we will reconcile our respective claims after we agree on a transit fee that matches a third of the budget gap.

The South counters, “Why do we allow our oil to be stolen and the money used to buy weapons to kill our comrades in arms? Khartoum has always wanted to control the South and its readiness to strangle us financially shows that they will never allow us to be truly free.” The Southern government in Juba has floated plans for a new pipeline through Kenya. Optimistically, this may cost $3 billion to $4 billion and take three years to build, but many Southern leaders would rather leave their oil in the ground than submit to Sudan’s coercion.

So South Sudan has set off its economic doomsday machine. The shutdown of wells is already beginning and within a week the oil companies will begin flushing the pipeline with water, so that the oil it contains doesn’t jam and turn into a 600-mile asphalt tube. After that, the best case would be six months’ work to reopen exports.

The South’s lead negotiator, Pagan Amum, said he was at peace with himself when he explained: “This is a matter of respect. We may be poor but we will be free.”

But South Sudan is a fragile state, as the recent interethnic killings in the Jonglei area show, and it will need massive foreign aid to compensate for the lost $650 million per month.

A northern general remarked, “The shutdown will hurt us but it will kill them.” But Sudan cannot be stable if its southern neighbor is in crisis.

Based on its principle that Sudan and South Sudan should be two viable states, at peace and mutually supportive, the African Union panel has proposed an agreement. This will keep the oil flowing, stop the unilateral diversion of southern oil by the north, and provide enough funds to cushion the economic crisis in the north. China — the main buyer of Sudanese oil — the United States and the United Nations have endorsed the African Union’s plan.

President Bashir and President Kiir are due to meet in Addis Ababa on Friday. This is the last chance, not only for the two to snatch a deal on oil, but also to stop an escalation into a wider north-south war. The two must step back from the brink.

Alex de Waal is the executive director of the World Peace Foundation.

South Sudan and Kenya sign memorandum on construction of oil pipeline

January 24, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan and Kenya have signed a memorandum of understanding on the building of a oil pipeline from South Sudan to the Kenyan port of Lamu.

South Sudan and Kenya sign MoU for construction of oil pipeline, Juba, Jan. 24, 2012 (ST)The agreement comes four days after South Sudan passed a resolution in cabinet to shut down the oil operations through the pipeline which passes through Sudan to its sea port of Port Sudan.

South Sudan accused Sudan of stealing its oil while Khartoum claimed it was confiscating the oil for unpaid fees; a claim Juba said was unfounded.

The South Sudanese government also passed another resolution seeking an alternative oil pipeline to another neighboring country.

A high level delegation from Kenya, led by the prime minister, Raila Odingo, arrived in Juba on Tuesday to negotiate the memorandum with their South Sudanese counterparts, which resulted in the signing ceremony at J-One Palace.

The Kenyan delegation also included its minister of foreign affairs, Moses Wetangula, minister of public service, Dalmas Otieno and minister of energy, Kiraitu Murungi, among others.

South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and vice president, Riek Machar, witnessed the signing ceremony. Minister of foreign affairs, Nhial Deng and several other ministers and ambassadors were also present.

The minister of petroleum and mining in South Sudan, Stephen Dhiew Dau, and the Kenyan minister of energy, Kiraitu Murungi, signed the memorandum on behalf of their respective governments.

The memorandum also provided for the installation of fibre optic connections between the neighbouring countries.

In a press statement after the signing ceremony, the two ministers explained that the memorandum laid a foundation for economic cooperation between the South Sudan and Kenya.

“The purpose of this memorandum of understanding is to develop and expand a framework of cooperation and partnership between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the Government of the Republic of Kenya on the principles of equality, mutual benefit, mutual understanding, respect and trust,” partly reads the memorandum’s text.

The memorandum explained that the two countries will negotiate transit fees for the oil pipeline which will be based on international practice.

Currently, many countries in the region pay less than US$1 per barrel as transit fees; Khartoum is asking for $32.20.


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