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South Sudan president rejects opposition calls to step down

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has rejected demands by several groups that he should step down as a precondition for ending more than four years of civil war in the east African nation.

“The people who are fighting with us have very unreasonable conditions to make peace,” president Kirr said on Tuesday evening during an occasion to mourn the country’s fallen army chief, James Ajongo who died in Egypt last week.

“They want me to sign the agreement and then step down immediately. What is my incentive in bringing peace if it is peace that I will bring and then I step aside? Nobody can do it,” the South Sudanese leader said.

An alliance of eight opposition groups who are part of South Sudan’s peace negotiations early this month called for president Kiir to resign as part of the peace deal.

The groups also demanded that president Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar who now leads an opposition group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO), be excluded from the unity government.

But Kiir has dismissed the demands as being unreasonable.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The UN estimates about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under United Nations pressure led to the establishment of a transitional unity government in April 2016, which was shattered months later by renewed fighting in July.

The next round of peace talks spearheaded by the East African bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was scheduled to be convened in Ethiopia on April 26, but IGAD last week postponed the negotiations to a date yet to be announced.



Red Cross halts operations in northern South Sudan after gun attack

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Monday that it has suspended aid delivery in the northern South Sudanese region of Leer, following a gun attack on its compound.

The ICRC said in a statement that armed men fired shots at its base in Leer on the night of April 10, injuring one of its security guards in the leg.

The relief agency said it has halted distribution of much needed seeds and farming tools to an estimated 24,600 people due to safety concerns.

“We are shocked and disappointed by this attack, which is not only an attack on the ICRC, but also on the people we are here to assist,” said Francois Stamm, the ICRC’s head of delegation in South Sudan.

“Aid workers are not a target and attacks such as this only compound the suffering of the South Sudanese people,” he added.

Stamm said security conditions for humanitarian workers have deteriorated in recent weeks in the region, adding that the suspension of aid operations there would hamper efforts to fight worsening food insecurity.

“This attack has meant that 16,000 people have now been left without the supplies they need to plant their crops at a time when food security is worsening across the country,” said Stamm.

Leer was one of two areas where famine was officially declared in the world’s youngest nation last year, and it also remains a major flashpoint in the country’s nearly five-year-long civil war.

This was the second time in less than a year that the Red Cross suspended operations in parts of South Sudan.

In September last year, the ICRC briefly stopped operations after one of its drivers was shot dead during a road ambush in the former Western Equatoria State.

“We take this opportunity to remind all parties to the conflict that any attack on humanitarian aid workers is unacceptable and a violation of international humanitarian law,” Stamm stressed.

The UN has described South Sudan as one of the deadliest countries for the delivery of humanitarian aid. At least 90 aid workers have been killed and dozens captured by armed groups since the east African country slid into violence in December 2013.


UN mission probes sexual exploitation allegations in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said on Tuesday that it has launched investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation by a unit of Nepalese peacekeepers based in South Sudan.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a statement that four teenagers were caught on April 13 trying to enter its base in the central town of Aweil through the perimeter fence.

The UNMISS said it was alleged that one of the teenaged girls had been touched inappropriately by a member of the Nepalese contingent in exchange for money.

The UNMISS however denied earlier media allegations of rape, adding that the matter has been reported to the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), an independent body within the UN.

“The UNMISS deployed a Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Immediate Response Team (IRT) to Aweil to gather information and preserve evidence prior to the launch of an investigation by the troop-contributing country concerned,” said the UN mission.

It said it has notified the Nepalese government about the allegations and that Nepal is in the process of appointing a probe team.

“The UNMISS has a zero tolerance, no excuses and no second chances approach to sexual exploitation and abuse. It is committed to putting the victims’ rights and dignity first and ensuring that there is transparency and accountability for such actions,” the UNMISS said.

Last February, the UNMISS recalled a unit of 46 Ghanaian police officers from the northwestern town of Wau and confined them to their base in Juba following allegations that the blue helmets engaged in sexual activity with women under their protection in a UN Protection of Civilians (POC) site.

South Sudan government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth described the latest sexual accusations as disturbing and called for a review of the UNMISS mandate in the east African nation.

“The continuous abuse of our people by people who are supposed to protect them is serious and disturbing,” Makuei told Xinhua by phone. “We want the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) we signed with the UNMISS to be reviewed so that people who commit individual offenses can face the law in South Sudan.”


UN Security Council extends modified mandate of UNISFA

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Security Council on Monday extended until Oct. 15, 2018 a modification to the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

Unanimously adopting resolution 2412, the Council renewed the modifications set forth in resolution 2024 (2011) and paragraph 1 of resolution 2075 (2012), both relating to UNISFA’s support for a Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism.

By its terms, the Council decided the extension would be the final until the parties took action leading to progress on border demarcation.

The Council also decided to maintain UNISFA’s authorized troop ceiling of 4,791 until Oct. 15, 2018, and further that, as of that date, the ceiling would decrease to 4,250, unless the Council decided to extend the mandate modification.

UNISFA is a UN peacekeeping force in Abyei, which is contested between the Republic of Sudan and the newly independent Republic of South Sudan. UNISFA was approved on June 27, 2011 by the Council in resolution 1990 after a flareup in the South Kordofan conflict earlier in June 2011.



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