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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

UN urges South Sudan’s warring
parties to free 900 abducted civilians   

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Thursday called on South Sudan’s warring parties to release 900 civilians who were abducted between April and August.

A joint report by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Human Rights Office says abducted young men and boys were forced to be fighters or used as porters when fighting spiked in April in Western Equatoria region after months of relative calm.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a report that women and young girls who were abducted by opposition forces were paraded and lined up for commanders to choose as “wives.”

“Most of the abducted civilians are, as far as we know, still being held captive,” Bachelet said in a statement issued in Juba.

She called on the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in-Opposition (SPLA-IO )to immediately release the civilians, particularly children who are as young as 12.

According to the UN report, the rebel forces intensified attacks against villagers and targeted civilians following several months of relative calm in April, forcing 24,000 people to flee their homes.

It also said several civilians were injured when government forces of Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) launched offensives to remove SPLA-IO forces, as these operations failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

The report documented SPLA-IO attacks on at least 28 villages, a settlement of internally displaced persons and a refugee camp, in Gbudue and Tambura.

“Serious abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law occurred during these attacks, including unlawful killings, abduction, rape, sexual slavery, forced recruitment, and destruction of property,” says the UN.

The report calls on the government to hold perpetrators of abuses and violations detailed in the report to account.

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS David Shearer said the fighting intensified while warring parties were negotiating a new peace agreement, despite positive reconciliation efforts in the affected community at the time. 

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EARLIER REPORTS:

270,000 children risk starvation in South Sudan: aid agency

JUBASouth Sudan (Xinhua) -- At least 270,000 children in South Sudan are severely malnourished and face greater risk of starvation, with some 20,000 expected to die from extreme hunger before the end of year, aid group Save the Children warned on Thursday.

The aid agency said nearly half of South Sudan’s population is facing extreme hunger.

“Malnourished children have substantially reduced immune systems and are at least three times more likely to contract and die from diseases like cholera and pneumonia than healthy children,” said Deidre Keogh, Save the Children’s country director in South Sudan.

The new findings came barely a month after another report by three United Nations agencies and the government that the conflict, a biting economic crisis and insecurity in the past three months pushed 6.1 million South Sudanese into extreme hunger, and 36,000 others facing risk of famine.

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 that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 collapsed following renewed violence in the capital Juba in July 2016.

Save the Children said the recently signed revitalized peace agreement provides hope for millions of children if implemented effectively.

“To ensure South Sudan’s children are protected from a further decline into starvation, Save the Children calls for access to children in need to be guaranteed, humanitarian assistance to be enhanced and sustained,” Keogh said.

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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and South African
deputy president David Mabuza discuss South Sudan

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and visiting South African deputy president David Mabuza have urged support for the national dialogue in South Sudan to end years of fighting that has killed tens of thousands people and displaced millions of others.

A State House statement issued here on Wednesday said the two leaders noted that the developments in South Sudan have assumed a positive direction toward achieving national dialogue.

The two leaders met on Tuesday at State House Entebbe, where Mabuza took a special message to Museveni from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Uganda, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, hosts over 1 million South Sudan refugees.

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Sudanese president reiterates concern about peace process in South Sudan

KHARTOUM Sudan (Xinhua) -- Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday reiterated his country’s concern about the peace process in neighboring South Sudan.

Al-Bashir made the remarks in his address to the Foreign Ministry workers after the first meeting of the National Council for Foreign Polices at the ministry building.

“Sudan’s peace cannot be separated from the peace in the region. We believe the peace in South Sudan is the biggest step to achieve a lasting and comprehensive peace in Sudan,” he said.

The Sudanese president also announced the appointment of Jamal Al-Sheikh as his special envoy to South Sudan to follow up the implementation of the peace agreement in the world’s youngest country.

Earlier in the day, al-Bashir chaired the first meeting of the National Council for Foreign Polices to discuss issues including the ongoing efforts to complete South Sudan’s peace process and begin the peace process in the Central African Republic,  Sudan’s Foreign Minister Al-Dirdiri Mohamed Ahmed said in a statement.

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South Sudan rebels deny holding POWs, political detainees

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan’s main rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO), on Wednesday denied holding prisoners of war (POWs) and political detainees in its ranks, amid reports that the rebels are still holding some prisoners.

The government and several rebel groups on Sept. 12 signed a new power-sharing deal aimed at ending the conflict that has devastated the world’s youngest nation.

The pact demanded the parties to free all prisoners detained in relation to the conflict. South Sudan’s national security service early this month said it had freed at least 20 detainees following the signing of the peace agreement.

Lam Paul Gabriel, SPLA-IO deputy military spokesperson, said his group has no prisoners to free since all persons detained by the SPLA-IO were released early this year.

“We don’t have prisoners of war and political detainees. We were the first to release prisoners of war and political detainees when the cessation of hostilities agreement was signed last year, and we released all prisoners in January,” Gabriel told Xinhua by phone.

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 that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally. A peace deal signed in August 2015 collapsed in July 2016, following renewed violence in the capital, Juba. 

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South Sudan denies killing and maiming children during conflict

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The South Sudan government on Wednesday denied that its army killed and maimed children as alleged in a United Nations report that accuses the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and rebel groups of violations.

Information minister Michael Makuei Lueth said the figures on the atrocities committed on children mentioned in the latest report by Virginia Gamba, special representative of the UN secretary-general for children and armed conflict before the UN Security Council (UNSC), are concocted and not substantiated.

“If they can give us a copy of the (individual) names then we can act,” said Makuei in Juba. “These are reports that are written by people who have decided to take advantage of the plight of the people of South Sudan.”

The UN report, released on Monday, said over 9,200 children were victims of grave violations between October 2014 and June 2018.

“Grave violations against children were often interconnected: abduction took place for the purpose of recruitment; boys and girls recruited were killed or maimed or sexually abused,” said Gamba.

The report said children were also used to commit atrocities against civilians and other children, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence.

It also noted that over 5,700 children were verified as having been recruited and used and nearly 2,000 were abducted and more than 980 children were killed or maimed, both by government forces and armed groups.

It said that sexual violence, including against children, was used as a tactic of war and as a form of collective punishment.

More than 650 children were verified as being sexually abused during the reporting period, with 75 percent of the cases involving gruesome gang rapes, the report said, noting the actual numbers were likely higher due to under-reporting in fear of stigmatization.

“If they are genuine they should have sent it to us first before tabling it in the UN Security Council,” Makuei said. “Unfortunately, these are reports written in secrecy. They are confidential and these are people paid to write such reports.”

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013. The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

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UN envoy deplores South Sudanese children’s suffering shown in new report

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- The UN envoy for children and armed conflict on Monday deplored as dismaying the level of violence and brutality endured by children in South Sudan as shown in a new UN report.

According to the secretary-general’s report on children and armed conflict in South Sudan, over 9,200 children of the unrest-ridden country were verified by the United Nations as victims of grave violations in the nearly four years it covered (Oct. 2014 - June 2018).

“Grave violations against children were often interconnected: abduction took place for the purpose of recruitment, boys and girls recruited were killed or maimed or sexually abused,” said Virginia Gamba, special representative of the UN secretary-general for children and armed conflict.

“Many children were also used to commit atrocities against civilians and other children, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence,” she added.

Across the country, more than 5,700 children were verified as having been recruited and used. In addition, almost 2,000 were abducted and more than 980 children were killed or maimed, both by government forces and armed groups, the report said.

Moreover, sexual violence, including against children, was used as a tactic of war and as a form of collective punishment.

More than 650 children were verified as sexually abused during the reporting period, with 75 percent of the cases involving gruesome gang rapes, the report said, noting the actual numbers were likely to be higher due to underreporting in fear of stigmatization.

Efforts to protect children, such as the UN’s implementation of the Action Plan with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, was seriously disrupted by the outbreak of conflict during the reporting period, the report pointed out.

“It is urgent to address impunity for perpetrators and revise the existing Action Plan into a comprehensive one to end and prevent all grave violations against children,” Gamba said.

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At least 17 civilians killed in fresh fighting in South Sudan’s Yei

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- At least 17 civilians have been killed and several others injured in clashes between two rebel factions in South Sudan’s border town of Yei in the southwest of the country, the police said on Tuesday.

Police spokesman Daniel Justine said the latest fighting between the main rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In-Opposition (SPLA-IO) and National Salvation Front (NAS) in the border town of Yei has also caused mass displacement of civilians into the bushes in the area.

“We regret the loss of lives of our people at a time when the country is in full gear of peace implementation, it is very painful,” Justine told Xinhua in Juba.

He said local authorities and national government are supporting the displaced population with food assistance, saying the army has been told to be on high alert to protect the lives of civilians in the area.

Lam Paul Gabriel, SPLA-IO deputy military spokesman, blamed NAS forces loyal to General Thomas Cirilo Swaka for attacking their base in Minyori and Logo in Yei area respectively.

“On Monday, the forces of the National Salvation Front attacked our position in Yei killing five civilians and injured dozens of others,” Lam said in a statement.

“This is a direct declaration of war by the forces of General Cirilo against the signed revitalized agreement since he refused to sign it in September,” he added.

Lam also accused the government troops based in Mboro, Wau State in the western part of the country of constant offences against his faction in Ngisa, Tado, and Ngoku since the beginning of this month, an allegation denied by a South Sudan’s army spokesperson.

“These attacks have been premeditated and planned by commanders of the regime in Juba to widen their territory and deny any establishment of cantonment sites in the area,” he stressed.

The fighting comes after President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar inked in September the revitalized peace deal mediated by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an east African bloc.

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South Sudan seeks to transform agriculture to help beat hunger by 2030

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan said Tuesday it will seek to adopt modern technology to transform its agriculture to beat hunger by 2030.

Onyoti Adigo Nyikuac, minister of agriculture and food security, said the government is ready to support the agriculture sector by investing in irrigation to move away from rain-fed agriculture that risks food insecurity due to climate change.

“This conflict has severely affected our agricultural sector despite our country being endowed with fertile land, adequate rainfall and water,” Onyoti said in Juba on the occasion of the World Food Day. “Our policy needs to change from rain-fed agriculture to irrigation. We need to provide support for farmers to move from subsistence to commercial farming.”

A recent Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report about levels of food insecurity indicates that more than half the population of South Sudan, or 6.1 million people, face severe food shortages as hunger continues to plague the country.

Nyikuac thanked World Food Program and UNICEF for helping South Sudan, but discourged “supplying a person with free food all the time.”

“We accept (that) for the small children, disabled, elderly people but not people like (able-bodied) us,” he said. “We have to cooperate in order to give food for work.”

“We have to discourage free food because it makes our people lazy,” Nyikuac said.

Oil and mining have dominated South Sudan’s economy in terms of revenue, contributing to 98 percent of the budget since the country’s independence in 2011.

South Sudan experienced famine conditions in early 2017 before humanitarian agencies embarked on massive efforts to help millions in need. UN agencies warn that hunger remains in some parts of the country due to intermittent fighting between government troops and rebels despite the signing of a fresh peace deal in late August.

Simon Cammelbeek, WFP deputy country director, said although food security has improved slightly with the harvest in September, continuing conflict and economic collapse have destroyed lives and livelihoods, leaving millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance to survive.

“We are distributing life-saving emergency food supplies, providing food in return for work to construct and rehabilitate community assets, school meals, and special products for the prevention and treatment of malnutrition in children and pregnant and nursing women,” he said.

The WFP is also buying grains directly from small-holder farmers through a network of aggregation centers. The practise allows farmers to market their crops and get paid for it, hence promptly generating much needed income while stimulating future production, Cammelbeek said.

For South Sudan to fight hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, Cammelbeek said, it is imperative to accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and restore people’s livelihoods.

“We welcome the latest peace deal and hope... that it will result in actual changes on the ground,” he said.

“After five years of civil war and decades of fighting before independence, the people of South Sudan, especially the displaced and refugees, need peace to be able to return home and rebuild their lives,” Cammelbeek said.

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