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Slow implementation of peace agreement, lack of basic services impeding returns in opposition-controlled areas of Wau (22.02.2019)

Organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Civil Affairs Division, the forum in Ngo-dakala, an area under the opposition in Wau, brought together more than sixty participants.

JUBA, South Sudan, February 22, 2019 – Michael Wondi Issues impeding voluntary returns in opposition-controlled areas of Wau have been raised at a one-day round-table discussion that brought together the leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement in Opposition (SPLA/M-IO) in the area.

Organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Civil Affairs Division, the forum in Ngo-dakala, an area under the opposition in Wau, brought together more than sixty participants that included military, political, youth and women representatives.

“In fact, there are fears for our people in the POC [Protection of Civilians sites] to come out,” said Emilio Fada, Minister of Agriculture in Wau, stressing the need to form a joint- committee to engage the displaced persons.

“They see that a peace [agreement] was signed, [but] since September till now there is no implementation on the ground. They still feel that something may happen in the future,” concluded the minister.

“The solution is that the government should take their army back to the barracks, and the opposition [forces] also go to their barracks, and leave the civilians alone,” said Chief Musa Joseph of Ngisa area noting that disengagement of soldiers will allow citizens to return to their respective areas.

“We came to you here to assess challenges affecting voluntary returns,” said Justin Atit, UNMISS civil affairs officer in Wau, noting, “The peace agreement has been signed and the time has come for us to resolve challenges to allow people affected in the camps to return home.”

Mr. Atit noted that the discussion aimed at creating a conducive environment for safe and voluntary returns to the areas under the opposition in Wau

“Disaster has happened as you have seen: farms of the people have been burnt, no medicine, people are suffering,” said Anthony Fada, Opposition Governor in Wau, enumerating the challenges facing people affected by years of conflict.

Mr. Fada urged humanitarian partners to support the returnees with livelihood items as they prepare for the farming season.

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South Sudan: Recommendations of SPLM reunification committee (21.02.2019)

Outraged by renewed fighting and continuing human rights violations in South Sudan, UN Human Rights Experts urge all parties to stop conflict, end impunity and respect provisions of the revitalized peace agreement (20.02.2019)

NAIROBI/GENEVA (20 February 2019) – With thousands of people once again forced to flee their homes because of ongoing violence in South Sudan, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan urges the Government of South Sudan and all parties to the conflict to respect the cessation of hostilities and implement the revitalized peace agreement signed five months ago.

In its third report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Commission finds that continuing violence and human rights violations, including rape and sexual violence, may amount to war crimes.

Since its December 2017 update to the Human Rights Council on the magnitude of the crimes of rape and sexual violence perpetrated in South Sudan, the Commission notes the situation has markedly worsened, with documented cases showing a surge in rapes between November and December 2018, particularly in Northern Liech state.

“There is a confirmed pattern of how combatants attack villages, plunder homes, take women as sexual slaves and then set homes alight often with people in them,” commented Commission Chairperson Yasmin Sooka.

“Rapes, gang rapes, sexual mutilation, abductions and sexual slavery, as well as killings, have become commonplace in South Sudan. There is no doubt that these crimes are persistent because impunity is so entrenched that every kind of norm is broken,” she added.

UNICEF reports that 25 per cent of those targeted by sexual violence are children, including the rapes of girls as young as 7. Elderly and pregnant women have also been raped. The Commission also received reports of male victims of sexual violence. Sexual and gender-based violence against men and boys is even more underreported than that against women and girls as there is a greater level of stigma. even raping and killing the young and the elderly.

The Commission documented a case study on Leer, in Southern Unity state, where more than 8,000 young men were recruited to fight with the words: “you go and get cattle from Mayendit, also abduct and rape beautiful women you find here, loot their properties”. The men were also told that this was the perfect time to seek revenge for relatives they had lost in the conflict and that they would never have another such opportunity.

Noting that a lack of accountability for decades of violence during the struggle for independence helped to fuel the current conflict in South Sudan, the report stresses that sustainable peace requires a tangible and credible pursuit of accountability and justice that meets the needs of the many thousands of victims.

“We do acknowledge the efforts of the Government to hold some perpetrators accountable for gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law, such as the trial and conviction of SPLA soldiers in the Terrain Hotel case,” stated Commissioner Andrew Clapham. “However, we also have to note that pervasive impunity remains the norm,” he added.

The Commission has long been concerned about the lack of progress in establishing the Transitional Justice mechanisms, particularly the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, the Commission for Truth Reconciliation and Healing, and the Compensation and Reparation Authority, which were adopted in the 2015 Peace Agreement. It notes that the Revitalized Agreement has reaffirmed the importance of these institutions to build sustainable peace. It fully expects that concerted efforts will be made by the Revitalized Government, the African Union and Regional Governments to ensure these bodies are set up and contribute to the consolidation of peace in South Sudan.

The Commission has also looked at the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). From January 2018 to 2019, seven such cases involving 18 alleged UNMISS perpetrators were registered in the UN Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Database. These cases were swiftly investigated by the UN mission, resulting in the repatriation of peacekeepers implicated in sexual activity with women in one of the Protection of Civilians sites. The Commission has further recommended that the current database, which only reflects incidents involving UN Peacekeepers, should be expanded to include personnel of implementing partners.

The Commission also notes a link between the conflict and the political economy of South Sudan, where even before independence, there were concerns about the misappropriation of natural resources, particularly oil. The oil producing areas of the country have become increasingly militarized by Government forces, including by the National Security Services, which have expanded their involvement in the oil sector. The state-owned Nilepet oil company’s operations have been characterized by a total lack of transparency and independent oversight, allegedly diverting oil revenues into the coffers of elites in the government. Furthermore, oil revenues, and income from other natural resources such as illegal teak logging, have continued to fund the war, enabling its continuation and the resulting human rights violations.  The Commission notes South Sudanese activists have urged the Commission and the AU to ensure that the mandate of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan incorporates such crimes.

The Commission underlines that in implementing the Transitional Justice agenda in South Sudan, victims and vulnerable communities, especially women and those internally displaced and refugees, are core stakeholders who must be included in the design and implementation of such mechanisms. The Commissions welcomes the provision in the Revitalized Peace Agreement that women must make up 35 per cent of participants at all levels in the Transitional Government institutions, including the Transitional Justice mechanisms, and urges all parties to respect and implement this important provision.

The Commission also calls on the region and wider international community to invest, politically and materially, in these Transitional Justice mechanisms, essential for building sustainable peace, as well as supporting the people of South Sudan in rebuilding all aspects of national life, especially the rule of law.

The Mandate of the Commission includes the collection and preservation of evidence. The Commission has continued to document violations, build dossiers on perpetrators, collect evidence and preserve it for future accountability processes. In this report, the Commission details three cases studies in which the incidents and events have been extensively documented taking account of those who allegedly have command responsibility for the crimes. The names of these alleged perpetrators are contained in a confidential dossier which will be handed over to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. The acts described as war crimes in our report are also human rights crimes under the Torture Convention and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances – both monitored in Geneva. All states parties to those instruments are obliged to prosecute or extradite persons found on their territory suspected of such crimes.

“The evidence we have collected and preserved will be available to the prosecutor of the future Hybrid Court and other transitional justice mechanisms,” noted third Commission member stated Barney Afako, “This evidence may be used beyond South Sudanese bodies – it may be available on request to regional and state parties for future prosecutions.”

South Sudan’s challenges are immense, says the Commission, given the protracted conflict, its ethnic dimensions and deep divisions; the inability of the population to access the economy; the lack of financial capacity and capable organisational and human resources; and what is perceived to be a dysfunctional and predatory elite system of government.

“With sustained political will and effective leadership,” concludes Commission Chair Yasmin Sooka, “The transitional justice framework and mechanisms can help to bring accountability, reconciliation and healing as South Sudanese deal with the past and secure their future stability and prosperity.”

South Sudan: Ministry of Water Resources & Irrigation letter to President Salva Kiir (18.02.2019)

Local EU Statement on violations of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan in Yei River and Amadi States (19.02.2019)

UNHCR South Sudan Operational Update (18.02.2019)

UNHCR provides business management support to over 100 refugee women in Upper Nile.

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 18, 2019 –  UNHCR and partners roll out ‘back to school’ campaign in Unity: A back to school campaign took place in Ajuong Thok and Pamir refugee camps in coordination with the Ministry of Education, CRA, and partner Lutheran World Foundation (LWF), and UNHCR and refugee community. The campaign reinforced the use of proof of registration to facilitate enrolment process and correct age per respective grade as well as the role of parents and care givers in ensuring children of school going age are enrolled and stay in school.

UNHCR and partners coach refugees on sustainable business management in Upper Nile:  UNHCR and partners ACTED and Relief International (RI) provided business coaching on sustainable business management to 131 refugee entrepreneurs (90 women, 41 men) in Doro, Yusuf Batil, Kaya, and Gendrassa refugee camps. The entrepreneurs, who were previously trained on business idea generation, business plan development, and business establishment achieved total sales of 9,265,015 South Sudanese Pounds, and a total profit of 2,939,500 South Sudanese Pounds.

UNHCR distributes non-food items to inmates in Jonglei: On 24 January, UNHCR team distributed protection based non-food items (NFIs) to 215 inmates (215 men, 10 women) at Bor Central Prison and Model Police Station. The items distributed include mosquito nets, washing soap, and sanitary kits (washing soap, bucket, underwear, and sanitary cloth). The intervention was aimed at improving the living conditions of inmates who lacked basic items following a joint visit by humanitarian actors to Bor state prison.

UNHCR and partners launch ‘one stop-shops’ for access to service in Malakal: On 22 January 2019, UNHCR and partners Humanitarian Development Consortium (HDC) and Danish Refugee Council (DRC) launched a ‘one-stop shops’ in Malakal POC and Malakal Town. The objective of this innovative project is to make referrals more efficient as beneficiaries can access the following services in one location: general protection, legal aid/Housing Land Property, child protection, as well as Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) for general complaints.

UNHCR provides business management support to over 100 refugee women in Upper Nile: In Gendrassa and Kaya refugee camps, UNHCR and partner ACTED provided business management support to 110 refugee women involved in economic enterprises including tailoring, catering, bakery and handicraft. The female entrepreneurs continue to receive training on financial literacy and were able to earn a total cash income of 131,975 South Sudanese Pounds.

South Sudan: Brutal sexual violence persists in northern Unity region – UN report (15.02.2019)

The actual level of sexual violence is likely to be considerably higher than the number of cases recorded.

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 15, 2019 – A UN report released Friday highlights persistently high levels of sexual violence in South Sudan’s northern Unity region, with at least 134 women and girls raped, and 41 having suffered other forms of sexual and physical violence just between September and December 2018.

Among the survivors, some were as young as eight. The actual level of sexual violence is likely to be considerably higher than the number of cases recorded.

The report by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) warns that although attacks against civilians have decreased significantly since the peace agreement was signed on 12 September 2018, endemic conflict-related sexual violence continues in northern Unity. The sexual violence was committed in a context of “pervasive impunity, which contributed to the normalization of violence against women and girls,” the report notes.

Almost 90 percent of the women and girls were raped by more than one perpetrator and often over several hours. Pregnant women and nursing mothers were also victims of sexual violence. In one incident alone on 17 December, in the village of Lang in Koch county, five women were gang-raped, four of whom were pregnant, including one who was nearly nine months pregnant.

Survivors of sexual violence described being brutally beaten by perpetrators with rifle butts, sticks, small firearms and cable wires, if they attempted to resist their assailants or after they were raped. The ruthlessness of the attackers appears to be a consistent feature of the sexual violence documented, the report states. The report also indicates that the perpetrators had a certain level of premeditation. One survivor told how she and her friends were raped on three separate occasions. With each attack, the number of assailants increased significantly.

Most of the attacks are reported to have been carried out by youth militia groups and elements of the pro-Taban Deng Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO (TD)) as well as South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF). In a few cases, attacks were perpetrated by members of pro-Riek Machar Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO (RM).

The investigation found that multiple factors had contributed to the upsurge in sexual violence in the area, including large numbers of fighters on “standby” mode, awaiting implementation of security arrangements under the peace deal; the presence of many armed youth militia; and a lack of accountability for past sexual violence at the individual and command level.

Given the destruction of livelihoods, forced displacement and food insecurity after years of civil war, many women and girls have to travel long distances through high-risk areas in search of food, water and firewood, the report states. The report notes a feeling of resignation amongst survivors, and a sense of normalization surrounding the risk of being subjected to sexual violence.

“We women do not have a choice,” one 30-year-old survivor from Koch County said. “There is no alternative for us. If we go by the main road, we are raped. If we go by the bush, we are raped. I was raped among others in the same area repeatedly on three different occasions. We avoided the road because we heard horrible stories that women and girls are grabbed while passing through and are raped, but the same happened to us. There is no escape – we are all raped.”

“The volatility of the situation in South Sudan combined with the lack of accountability for violations and abuses committed throughout Unity, likely leads armed actors to believe that they can get away with rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

“Sadly, we have continued to receive reports of rape and gang rape in northern Unity since the beginning of this year.”

“I urge the Government of South Sudan to take adequate measures – including those laid out in the peace agreement – to protect women and girls, to promptly and thoroughly investigate all allegations of sexual violence and to hold the perpetrators accountable through fair trials,” Bachelet added.

The High Commissioner also called on the authorities to ensure that humanitarian organizations can conduct their work without fear of reprisals and with unobstructed access to victims.

Upon receiving initial reports of the increase in reported cases of sexual violence, UNMISS immediately engaged with political leaders and security services. The Mission also increased peacekeeping patrols and cleared foliage from roads to make it more difficult for attackers to conceal their presence. UNMISS has been operating a mobile court in hotspots, such as Bentiu and Malakal, to help address the issue of impunity, and intends to work with local judicial authorities to support such mobile courts in prosecuting crimes more widely across the country.

South Sudan: Manyang-Ngok community hopes two new boreholes will end feud over water Access (14.02.2019)

JUBA, South Sudan, February 14, 2019 -A borehole construction project has been launched in Manyang-Ngok county in Tonj, hoping to bring an end to conflicts arising from water access, thanks to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which has broken ground to drill two water points in the remote villages of Akot Madut and Atoong, located more than 40kms from the Tonj area capital.

Some youth members and a women representative welcomed the initiative, while asking for more support.

 “I am giving you ‘thank you’,” said Maker Mayual, unable to contain his excitement. “Water is life. This is great, thanks to UN and the community of Manyang-Ngok. I thank them, and I thank God for bringing UNMISS and water,” he said, concluding his stream of gratitude.

Another resident, Ajak Akot, thanked UNMISS for providing water, but took the opportunity to raise other matters of concern, especially those affecting women.

“Now the distance walked in search of water is solved, but women dying during giving birth is not yet over,” she noted.

Absence of clean drinking water has often resulted in confrontations between the communities of Akot Madut and Atoong villages in Chuei-chok.

The forty-thousand-dollar ($40,000) project will hopefully reduce that, while also significantly reducing the risks of violence against women and girls who will no longer have to walk long distances in search of clean water.

The project will be implemented by the Community Initiative for Development Agency – CIDA, whose Executive Director, Gabriel Pap Nyok, asked community members to remain peaceful and support the drilling process.

“In the implementation process, especially the last stage, really needs our commitment,” he said. “That commitment should not only be from UNMISS and CIDA, but from you, too, [as the benefitting community]. We committed ourselves during the designing of the proposal that we would maintain the stability in the area so that the drilling can go on without disruption,” he noted.

UNMISS head of Kuajok field office Anastasie Nyirigira said that while serving to diminish water-related conflicts, the project would also ensure that all internally displaced persons in the area have a chance to access clean drinking water.

“The project is intended to create a conducive environment for peaceful coexistence between the host community, returnees and the IDPs [internally displaced persons] from Manyang-Ngok centre, who fled to Buot in Chuei-Chok,” she said.

“The project will also enhance gender protection which is the area government’s priority,” she added, referring to the reduced necessity for women to walk long distances in search of clean water.

Tonj Governor Mathew Mathiang Magoordit thanked UNMISS and CIDA for their partnership and assistance to the community of Manyang-Ngok county. He vowed to cooperate with UNMISS during his tenure as governor.

“I am happy and grateful to UNMISS,” he said, noting, “You have helped the community by providing water and my state administration will fully cooperate with you. I’m committed to work with UNMISS so that stability is secure.”

Thousands fleeing new violence in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria State (12.02.2019)

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 12, 2019 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is seeing a surge in refugee arrivals from South Sudan in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Over the past few days thousands of desperate people have been crossing the border to escape fighting and violence against civilians.

It’s estimated that 5,000 refugees have arrived in several border villages near the town of Ingbokolo, in north-east DRC’s Ituri province, according to local village chiefs. There are reports that an additional 8,000 people are displaced inside South Sudan, on the outskirts of the town of Yei.

People are fleeing clashes that started on January 19 between the army and one of the rebel groups, the National Salvation Front (NAS). This is in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria State that borders DRC and Uganda. The clashes are blocking humanitarian access to the affected areas.

In DRC, those fleeing the violence arrived by foot over the weekend. Most are women, children and the elderly. They arrived exhausted, hungry and thirsty. Among them are people suffering malaria or other illnesses. Many have suffering from trauma from having witnessed violent incidents, including armed men reportedly murdering and raping civilians and looting villages.

UNHCR staff in DRC’s Ituri province say that desperate people are seeking shelter in churches, schools and abandoned houses, or sleeping in the open. This is a remote area and border villages have almost no infrastructure or health centres. New arrivals are surviving thanks to food that is being shared with them by local villagers.

The areas in which refugees have arrived are difficult to reach, with roads and bridges badly damaged and in a state of disrepair. The Congolese authorities are encouraging people to move away from the volatile border area and move further inland, where they can get better help.

UNHCR has sent additional staff to Ituri to register refugees and support their possible relocation. However, we need funds to set up shelters and provide assistance including food, water and medical services in the nearest refugee settlement, Biringi. Biringi is located further south and has an existing population of over 6,000 South Sudanese refugees.

The conflict in South Sudan has created over 2.2 million refugees since 2013. UNHCR repeats its call for all parties to the conflict to take all possible action to ensure the safety of civilians and their freedom of movement, and to guarantee safe routes for civilians to leave conflict areas.

More than 3,000 children released from armed groups in South Sudan since conflict began, but thousands more continue to be used (12.02.2019)

Tuesday’s release took place in the south-west town of Yambio where the children had formerly been associated with the South Sudan National Liberation Movement, which signed a peace agreement with the government in 2016.

NEW YORK, United States of America, February 12, 2019 – One hundred and nineteen children were released by an armed group in South Sudan Tuesday, bringing the total number of those freed since the conflict began to more than 3,100. Forty-eight girls were among the group, with the youngest child being 10-years-old.

“Every child no longer with an armed group represents a childhood restored and a future regained,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, who visited South Sudan in January last year. “More and more children are being freed from armed groups and armed forces in South Sudan, and while this is an encouraging development, there is a long way to go before all of the more than 19,000 children still in their ranks are returned to their families.”

Since February 2018, more than 1,000 children have been released by various armed Groups.

Tuesday’s release took place in the south-west town of Yambio where the children had formerly been associated with the South Sudan National Liberation Movement, which signed a peace agreement with the government in 2016.

During the process, each child was registered and provided with a certificate stating they were no longer affiliated with the group. They then met with social workers, health workers and education specialists to assess their immediate needs. They were also provided with a reintegration package including clothes, shoes, and other basic commodities. As with other groups, each child is provided with three years of reintegration support to assist their return to civilian life and prevent re-recruitment. For each released child assisted, one vulnerable child and their family from the host community is also supported to foster acceptance and promote a more sustainable reintegration.

“This year marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which requires governments to meet the basic needs of children and to help them reach their full potential,” said Fore. “Five months after the signing of a peace agreement, UNICEF calls on all parties to South Sudan’s conflict to recommit themselves to upholding these rights and to ensuring that children are never soldiers.”

The release coincided with International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers. While exact data on the number of children used and recruited into armed conflict are difficult to confirm because of the unlawful nature of child recruitment, UNICEF estimates that tens of thousands of boys and girls under the age of 18 are used in conflicts worldwide. Many have been taken by force, while others join due to economic or social pressure. Children who are displaced or living in poverty are even more vulnerable to recruitment. Children are recruited or used for various functions by armed forces and groups, including as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers and spies, or they are subjected to sexual exploitation.

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