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November 2014 - Posts

Darfur attacks: UN puts up a wall of silence over latest violence in Sudan

BY: SAM MASTERS

Aicha Elbasri thought the war was over. The conflict in Darfur was no more; now the process of rebuilding lives and relocating the millions of displaced could begin.

The person responsible for what some now call the largest single leak in United Nations history continues to realise she was very wrong. The conflict in the disputed region in Sudan continued with renewed intensity, only fewer people are prepared to talk about it openly.

In the past month, however, after the alleged mass rape of up to 200 villagers in Tabit, north Darfur, by those described as government soldiers – something the Sudanese army denies – violence against innocent men, women and children is again being discussed.

The UN/African Union force in the region, Unamid, has faced criticism for allegedly failing to investigate the latest attacks, and for stating that there was no evidence they had taken place at all.

Vocal protests continued on Tuesday in a number of countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Israel and Chad, over the supposed failure to investigate the attack properly.

It was not the first time the mission in Darfur had been accused of failing to investigate alleged crimes by government forces. Two years ago, a whistleblower disclosed allegations of failures to investigate adequately allegations of rape and murder. Hundreds of internal documents supported the allegations.

After some time and indecision, the claims triggered a New York investigation, the findings of which are yet to be disclosed.

The person who made the claims was Ms Elbasri, who worked with Unamid for eight months as the mission's spokesperson, after joining the UN in 2000 and working in Iraq, Jordan and New York. Speaking to The Independent on Sunday from Paris, she says she was drawn to Unamid in 2009 when based in Baghdad.

"I also read the Secretary-General's reports on Darfur, which made me believe that peace was on the way," she said. "The reports painted an overly sunny picture of Darfur. They spoke of the decline in violence, the massive return of refugees and the robustness of Unamid troops."

It soon became apparent that the conflict was far from finished. In fact, the violence was rife. In El Fasher, less than 30 miles from Tabit, she said she was told by colleagues after a number of clashes in north Darfur that the situation was "calm".

In fact, she claimed, she discovered that civilians in four villages had been attacked by Sudanese government forces on the suspicion that they supported insurgents. It was for the same reason, villagers said, that soldiers entered Tabit village on 31 October, allegedly beating its men and raping its women and children.

In one of a number of documents Ms Elbasri has disclosed, she said she was written to by a senior member of the mission and told that "information flow" was subjected to considerable manipulation in relation to the 2012 attacks.

"I had worked for the UN since 2000, and had never seen anything like this," Ms Elbasri said. "I had certainly witnessed lies, half-truths and culpable silence, but not in a systematic and organised manner."

After months of raising her concerns with her employers, she chose to blow the whistle and resigned in April last year. Eventually, New York demanded an investigation into the claims. In August, Unamid said it would co-operate fully with the investigation.

Two days before the Tabit attacks began, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the investigation had not found evidence to support allegations that Unamid intentionally sought to "cover up crimes against civilians and peacekeepers".

But Mr Ban said he was "deeply troubled" by the findings of the review which did, he admitted, find a "tendency to under-report unless absolutely certain of the facts".

The full report from the investigation is yet to be released to Security Council members or published.

"It is unprecedented that a review of the UN is still refusing to hand the entire report to the members of the Security Council and the International Criminal Court [ICC] without giving any reason," said Ms Elbasri.

The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir. He is accused of, and denies, genocide in Darfur.

On Thursday, it was reported that the Sudanese government had asked Unamid to close its human rights office in Khartoum for what was described by the state news agency as a "restoration of stability". Ms Elbasri said: "The Sudanese government has been claiming that its regular and irregular forces are angels, incapable of committing rape crimes that run against Islamic teachings."

Tensions between Unamid and Khartoum have increased since the Tabit attacks. The mission has yet to respond to requests for comment. But for Ms Elbasri, who thought the war in Darfur was over: "Nothing has changed."

The President just announced this

 

 THE WHITE HOUSE 

 

The President just announced this

Our immigration system has been broken for decades. That's why President Obama announced new steps tonight to address as much of the problem as he can using his executive authority, and why he'll continue to work with Congress to pass comprehensive reform.

Find out more about President Obama's plan -- then pass it on.

The President is taking new steps to fix our broken immigration system.His plan will crack down on illegal immigration, deport felons (not families), increase accountability, and streamline legal immigration.It's time for Republicans in Congress to act on a bipartisan bill that would build on the President's action.
 
The UNAMID internal report on mass rape in Tabit

What UNAMID really said about their investigation of mass sexual assaults on Tabit: The internal report on what investigators found

By Eric Reeves

On November 12, 2014 Agence France-Presse reported exclusively on the real findings of the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) investigation of mass sexual violence at Tabit town, North Darfur. This must be distinguished from the publicly released document of November 10 that concludes by saying of Tabit:
Village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area. The team also interviewed the local Sudanese Armed Forces Commander.

None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit on the day of that media report. The team neither found any evidence nor received any information regarding the media allegations during the period in question. (UNAMID press release, 10 November 2014)

Agence France-Presse did not release the entire document; it did, however, reach the appropriate conclusions: 
The report by the joint UN-AU mission in Darfur suggests that a visit by a team of monitors to the village of Tabit was carefully prepared by the Sudanese military to prevent witnesses from coming forward. During the team visit, there was a heavy presence of Sudanese soldiers who followed the monitors and recorded interviews with the villagers, according to the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) report obtained by AFP.

"The behavior and responses of interviewees indicated an environment of fear and intimidation," said the report on the Sunday visit. "Some of the sub-teams had to ask the military personnel to stop following them and also asked them to allow the conduction of interviews in some privacy," it added. The report quoted a villager in Tabit who said the soldiers had told the community "not to provide information to UNAMID" and that "reportedly a committee was formed to interact" with the fact-finding mission. (AFP, 12 November 2014 | http://news.yahoo.com/sudan-military-sought-intimidate-during-mass-rape-probe-200354793.html)

The document, in its entirety, has been leaked further and appears below. Khartoum is reportedly furious at the leak from within UNAMID and understandably so. The disparity between what was said publicly seemed to end the "Tabit issue" and obviate any further investigation; what is reported privately in the document below makes clear this is not so. The document should also give considerable pause to anyone who has credited the report commissioned by Ban Ki-moon that exonerates UNAMID’s cover-ups and failures to notify appropriate personnel of evidence of atrocity crimes. Even so the report found at least five instances in which UNAMID did not report or report adequately on such crimes. To which the Secretary General found it sufficient to issue a statement through his spokesman declaring:

A review, initiated by the Secretary-General, was conducted into recent allegations that the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) intentionally sought to cover up crimes against civilians and peacekeepers. The Review Team examined all the material related to 16 incidents, which were the basis of these allegations. It also interviewed former and current staff in UNAMID and at UN Headquarters. The Review Team did not find any evidence to support these allegations. (Statement attributable to the spokesman for the Secretary-General, 29 October 2014)

But in fact what was released shows that UNAMID, on a number of occasions, deliberately withheld critical information from the UN and UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. This recent UN report on UNAMID’s performance—coming in the waking of authoritative accusations of malfeasance, negligence, and mendacity by Aicha Elbasri, former UNAMID spokeswoman—has not been released publicly, but Colum Lynch of Foreign Policy has posted the text in connection with his current analysis of the findings; Lynch broke the original story in Foreign Policy in which Ms. Elbasri’s account of UNAMID’s deliberate under-reporting and non-reporting of serious crimes was presented in very considerable and persuasive detail.

The UNAMID press release concerning Tabit also does not comport well with what Radio Dabanga reported the following day:
A delegation of five members of the Coordination Committee of Refugees and Displaced Persons in Darfur had also visited the village: “We just returned from Tabit on Friday [November 7] with a delegation, after two days of investigation. There we met 60 women and girls, we looked into their eyes while they told us they were raped by soldiers from 8 pm [on Friday, October 31] until 5:00am [on Saturday, November 1]. (Radio Dabanga [Tabit] 11 November 2014; full text of this crucial dispatch appears at https://www.radiodabanga.org/node/83429)

More importantly, the public press release by UNAMID gives no sense of what investigators actually encountered at Tabit—that was clearly to have remained an internal matter. This in itself is merely an extension of the Mission’s reflexive defensiveness in the face of continuing failures to protect civilians or to investigate atrocity crimes targeting civilians.

Here is the internal UNAMID document in its entirety as I have received it today (20 November 2014):

African Union - United Nations UNAMID

Tabit Integrated Field Mission
09/11/2014

I. Introduction
On 3 November 2014, Radio Dabanga reported that “More than 200 women and girls were collectively raped in their village on Friday 31 October 2014 evening, reportedly by Sudanese soldiers belonging to a military garrison south of El Fasher in North Darfur. 80 of the victims were schoolgirls, 105 were unmarried girls. The other victims were married women. The residents of Tabit have not been able yet to transfer the wounded to other towns or medical centers.

The number of women allegedly raped in Tabit was quite high. Sexual violence in Darfur, since the start of conflict (2003), is a key issue. However, it can be said that since the early days of conflict, allegation of such massive rapes were not received. This allegation was a serious cause of concern for UNAMID as well as for international community because even during the intense fighting between GoS forces and SLA/MM and JEM in December 2010 and January 2011, such violations were not reported. The Rapid Support Force (RSF) activities in South and North Darfur created a lot of concerns and allegations of violations were raised. However, even during RSF actions, such heinous and massive allegations were not received.

These concerns led to a UNAMID verification attempt via Shangil Tobaya team-site on 4 November 2014. This verification field mission was denied access outside Tabit by GoS military on the pretext of not obtaining permission from GoS authorities.

On 05 November 2014, SN organized a joint visit to Zam Zam IDPs camp including HRS, RoL, Humanitarian Section, Child Protection Unit, CAS and UNPoL. The purpose of the visit was to verify the information received that there were new arrivals in the camp from Tabit area, following an alleged mass rape of about 200 girls which may have occurred in that area. The team interacted with the Omda of Tabit Mr. ADAM and the Chief of Omdas of Zam Zam Mr. ALI ISHAG. According to them, there is no new arrivals in the camp and the situation is normal.

UNAMID SN then intensified its engagement with GoS authorities in El-Fasher to gain access to Tabit via El-Fasher route. The access was achieved on 9 November 2014.

II. Particulars
Date: 9 November 2014?Coordinates of Tabit: (N 13018’00” E 25005’00”)

Distance: About 48/50 km (Vehicle speedometer reading, end and start: 77679 – 77622 = 57. The vehicle was used for moving inside the town; also came to town after departure to conduct interview with SAF commander).

Time: The field mission arrived in Tabit at 1316 hours, left at 1618 hours

Population: The number of population is not certain. Different estimates provided by different interlocutors. The maximum was about 7/8 thousands individuals.

Tribes: Not exact numbers or figures. But it was mentioned that Fur (Basinga), Tama and Tunjur are the main tribes.

III. Methodology of information collection

The UNAMID field mission was an integrated type; 18 representatives from different sections/units participated in the mission; most of the team was from Sector North with some from HQ.

Due to shortage of time, as well as the issue of GoS curfew after 1600 hours, the team was divided into sub-teams to facilitate wide reach and to obtain higher quantity of interviews. It was decided to seek out and conduct interviews with citizens, students, native administrators, females, persons present in Tabit market, students and other groups. It was also decided to attempt to trace the family, which was allegedly detained by SAF and also to meet with the SAF commander in the end of field interviews.

The interviews were conducted in group as well as isolation format. Attempts were made to conduct the interview in confidential setting but it was not always possible. The sub-teams introduced themselves and the explained the purpose and objective of the mission; consent were sought before the interviews and the interviewees were given time to ask question or pose comments.

Beside access issue, significant challenges were faced on the ground during verification exercise. The SAF personnel were present in sizable numbers – in uniform and civil clothing – in Tabit. They followed the sub-teams during the verification exercise. Some of the sub-teams reported the interviews being captured on recording devices (mobile phone) by the SAF members. The behavior and responses of interviewees indicated an environment of fear and intimidation. Some of the sub-teams had to ask the military personnel to stop following them and also asked them to allow the conduction of interviews in some privacy.

The integrated mission was launched suddenly. A short debriefing was done but the lack of time to properly organize created logistical and substantive challenges. The format or types of interviewing tools were not finalized. An agreed set of questions were not developed and deployed. Each sub-team had to rely on their own previous experience and expertise to find the information required.

The issue of GoS curfew after 1600 hours on the movement of UNAMID convoys also limited the time available at the verification site.

IV. Consolidated Assessment
The sub-teams attempted verification in different parts of Tabit town. A consolidated assessment of the situation, issues and events are as follows:

Security
• The overall security situation was observed to be okay.
• The area is under robust control of GoS military forces.

Environment during mission
• During the verification exercise, there were a high number of military personnel, in civil clothing and in uniform present in the Tabit village.
• The sub-teams also observed a small number of adult population (male and females) available in the town. It was informed that a lot of people go out to farms in the morning but compared to the SAF personnel numbers present, the low number of town people was quite conspicuous.
• The public was shy to openly discuss the allegation of mass rape in Tabit. An environment of fear and silence prevailed. A number of interviewees refused to interact or responded that they were unaware of the incident.
• One of the professional (teacher) in Tabit informed UNAMID that SAF had previously informed community not to provide information to UNAMID forthcoming field mission. Reportedly a committee was formed to interact with UNAMID field mission.
• The military personnel attempted to follow each sub-team and to remain present during interviews. There were complaints of recording and picture taking of the sub-teams during interviews by military personnel.
• One sub-team observed that local population consider SAF to be the lesser evil as compared to SLA forces. The improved economic conditions in Tabit (good fertile land, Qatar developmental projects, etc.) may also influence locals not cooperate frankly with UNAMID field mission. ?

Mass rape 
Most of the persons interviewed denied the allegation of mass rape. However, one sub- team was informed about 15 illegitimate pregnancies in the town.?The incident of an affair between a local girl and a military solider was widely reported with some discrepancies.

The disappearance of SAF soldier was also widely reported.?The detention and interrogation by SAF of the family of the girl including the girl was generally reported. Though there are important discrepancies about the number of people detained as well as the length and location of this detention.

V. Recommendations
Integrated Field Mission

• In the future to avoid delays in the reaching areas that need verification, UNAMID flight as means of transport is highly recommended to ensure timely protection of civilians.
• Delay of UNAMID fact finding mission to Tabit is due to the late government permission for UNAMID to access the area a trend that resulted in disappearing of material evidence. Thus, it is highly recommended that UNAMID should be able to move freely and as soon as possible to the affected areas without hindrance from the government authorities as SOFA stated.

[The document as I received it was a text with numbers indicating footnotes; there were no footnotes, however, and so the numbers have been removed. Nothing else in format or content has been altered in any way—ER.]

Appendix One: Below are the five instances cited in the publicly released report on UNAMID commissioned by Ban Ki-moon after serious allegations of failures to report on atrocity crimes. Ban Ki-moon in reaching his preposterous conclusion ("The Review Team did not find any evidence to support these allegations") evidently sees a distinction between "covering up" and deliberately "not reporting." UN-speak at its worst…

[1] Tawilla (North Darfur): UNAMID failed to share with DPKO a copy of the verification report on the attacks, rapes and looting at four villages in Tawilla by pro-Government forces. As a consequence and while the initial incident was brought to the attention of the Security Council, the verified findings were neither brought to the attention of Council members nor included in the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council. [all emphases have been added—ER]

[2] Kushina (North Darfur): In reporting an aggressive overflight by two Government attack helicopters, UNAMID did not report to UNHQ the verbal threat by the Government to bomb/attack the convoy from the air or mention that it was carrying an arms expert from the Panel of Experts on the Sudan. Full disclosure of the incident only came to the knowledge of the Security Council through an incident report from the Panel of Experts.

[3] Hashaba (North Darfur): There was reasonable evidence, including as reported internally within UNAMID, that members of the Border Guards were involved in this attack and went on to commit crimes and human rights abuses. This was not reported by UNAMID to UNHQ nor was there ever a public statement issued condemning the criminal action.

[4] Sigili (North Darfur): UNAMID chose not to report to UNHQ the threat by PDF members to identify and kill Zaghawas travelling in a UNAMID convoy carrying two Zaghawa villagers. The patrol returned to base only after the PDF searched the UN vehicles and began aggressive questioning of Sudanese national staff of UNAMID. The Mission reported the patrol as being aborted due to time lost at a check point, making it unable to fulfill its mission.

[5] Muhajeria Team Sit (South Darfur): There was considerable evidence and reason to believe that the fatal attack on this Team Site was carried out by pro-Government forces. A military investigation, the report of an integrated mission and the report by the Panel of Experts on the Sudan all confirm this. Although there were two attacks that night, only the second and fatal attack was ever reported publicly. DPKO described the attackers as “unidentified assailants” due to lack of certainty in the identity and affiliation of the assailants. The Government agreed to investigate, but after more than a year justice has still not been done.

Bullying Darfur

By Namaa Al-Mahdi

November 13, 2014 - “We broke their backs in Abu Karshola, I doubt they have recovered since,” said a prominent Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) member about their counter attack on the Sudanese Revolutionary Forces’ occupation (SRF) of Abu Karshola in May 2013. He added: “We lured them in, without any resistance into Abu Karshola, once they were stationed, we attacked!”.

Indeed on the day of the SRF occupation, South Kordofan’s civilian population fled to nearby Al-Rahad in North Kordofan, social media sources reported mass deployment of SRF forces to Abu Karshola, namely the Justice and Equality Movement Army, Sudanese Liberation Movement and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement – North forces who set up camp inside the town and who came under direct attack from a North Korofan battalion.

Escalating the conflict

Escalated fighting between the government and rebel groups started with the Sudanese Revolutionary Forces’ attack of Um Rwaba, North Kordofan. The attack on the 27th of April 2013 was reported to be the biggest of its kind against the government and the first of this scale in a centrally located town. Historic military tactics claim that an occupation of the North Kordofan city of Al-Obeid automatically makes Khartoum within reach.

SRF forces which moved from Um Rwaba might have stormed Abu Karshola without much resistance. According to unpublished eye witness reports, an estimated 15,000 people were displaced and took shelter in schools in the nearby towns of Al-Rahad in North Korofan. Eye witness reports from residents of Abu Karshola claim that the SRF have turned their homes and the town into the largest ever rebel military compound. This compound was soon under attack by the Sudanese government which might have led to the statement made by the SAF officer, claiming to have broken the SRF’s back.

Leaked minutes of a critical August 2014 meeting of senior military, security and National Congress party officials clearly displays the government of Sudan’s tendency to use all the dirty tricks available to achieve their objectives. One such trick to weaken the SRF might have been the division of Darfur.

The division of Sudan’s western region of Darfur in 2011 from one state to five which have separate governance and administrative units, allowed the government of Sudan to provide prominent government based jobs to would be armed rebels, three of the five most prominent Sudanese Armed Forces are Darfur based.

The move, which claimed to empower the people of Darfur, might have created an alternative to armed rebellion for those seeking social status and prominence within their societies.

People’s polarisation , which from the start of the conflict was restricted to Arab and African tribes living in the region, has since the division of Darfur become polarisation within a single tribal group, for example Darfuri El-Tigani Al-Sisi joining the ranks of the government of Sudan whilst his fellow tribesmen within the SLM are fighting against the government. According to insiders, at some instances, polarisation occurred within the same family, even within a household where brothers or sisters would be divided between armed rebellion and government.

Government of Sudan military action, the use of government militia, the rapid deployment forces, segmenting Darfur as well as the breakout of conflict in SRF supporting South Sudan has effectively led to the weakening of an already fragile civil rebel army. A weakened SRF would presumably be at a weaker positon at any proposed negotiations with the National Congress Party led government of the Sudan.

Despite all these efforts to weaken the rebels’ resistance, over the top counter attacks continue into what has now accumulated into a senseless campaign of violence.

Senseless violence

The ongoing campaign of coordinated atrocities against the people of Darfur committed by the government of Sudan seems to serve no clear purpose.

A press statement released on the 5th of November by the UNAMID in Darfur reported mass sexual violence, the rape of 200 women by the Sudanese Armed Force. Reports of a terror campaign leading to mass displacement, abductions and arrests carried out by the government of the Sudan’s forces against citizens in Kass Camp, South Darfur. The reports on the 7th of November 2014 by Darfur based radio service, Radio Dabanga, stated that security services arrested six people from South Darfur’s Kass Camp accusing them of collaborating with the armed rebel movements. Over the past few weeks, 33 people were taken into government detention, according to camp leaders. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

Reports by Radio Dabanga said that the Sudanese Air Forces’ bombing of Darfur’s Jebel Marra led to the killing of livestock and displaced villagers.

Recent assaults aimed at Darfuri students also seem senseless. On the 26th of October, online sources reported assaults and insults by the government affiliated University of Wadi El Neel staff against Darfuri students in Atbara, Naher El Neel State. According to online sources and a report by Human Rights Watch , on the 5th and 6th of October government security forces, forcibly evicted about 70 female students from the Zahra dormitory complex in Khartoum, beating and arresting many students.

There is clearly an escalation of violence, intimidation and harassment against Darfurians. It could possibly be an attempt to cause mass displacement in mineral and oil rich regions to allow the government to exploit these regions unchecked and undeterred by local demands for a share of the wealth. Most probably, it is an attempt to break the morale of both the opposition parties and the SRF prior to the upcoming meeting with government dialogue bodies th set on the 12th–22nd of November, to ensure they agree to a deal with the government to avoid further atrocities from happening.

The road to an African brokered fragile peace

On the 1st of November, Sudan Tribune published news of Chad’s foreign minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat’s meetings with Rebel Groups Sudan Liberation Movement Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) Sudan Liberation Movement- Abdel-Wahid El-Nour (SLM-AW) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). On the news, the official statement was that the meeting came about as part of a peace initiative by the Chadian government; online-sources claim that the deal was brokered by the Sudanese government’s official liaison officer with Darfur Rebel Groups and businessman Siddig Wada.

A repeat of the fragile peace deal signed in January 2005 between the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army and the Government of Sudan in Nairobi is on the cards. The 2005 peace deal not only provided the National Congress Party with international legitimacy, but it paved the way for them to rule Sudan and distribute the country’s resources as they wish for the five-year interim period and a further five years following the 2010 election.

The recent discoveries of Darfur based oil fields in Blocks 6 and 17 might be the main driver behind the government of Sudan’s renewed appetite for peace deals with Sudanese Rebels. Prior to the discovery of oil a string of peace agreements and deals with Sudanese rebels often fell through, many within the rebel groups have said clearly that the government is not and has not been serious in upholding agreements with them and that agreements have fallen through as a result of lack of political will on the government’s side.

Sudanese politicians’ appetite for Sudan’s wealth is well documented, NGO director Rashida Abdul Mutalib said: “Governance in the Sudan is a get rich route for politicians.” Transparency international has ranked the Sudan’s government and non-government, financial and not for profit institutions 174 out of 177 countries in the world corruption index 2013 .

The European Council clearly stated their terms and conditions on Sudan are way forward, insisting on inclusive comprehensive peace.

Negotiations with Darfur rebels are to start without Sudan Liberation Movement- Abdel-Wahid El-Nour (SLM-AW), on the 22nd of November. Negotiations with their SRF partners SPLM-N are scheduled for the 12th of November; there is no news regarding negotiations with their Paris Accord partners the Umma National Party.

According to Bashir , the Paris Declaration which has received wide support from Sudanese opposition parties and groups is unconstitutional. The National Intelligence and Security Services have threatened to legally charge the Umma National Party’s leader Imam Al-Sadig Al-Mahdi with crimes against the State of Sudan.

The government is clearly trying to bully Darfur into accepting its terms and conditions and to facilitate for another five years in office. If this fails, they have an excuse to play victim and blame the rebels and the opposition for lack of political will. Either way, they think they might win!

Statement Release on Dr. Majak D’Agoot’s Visit to the United States of America

By: Gabrial Pager Ajang

Introduction:

Since 2001, members of South Sudanese Diaspora in the Western Hemisphere have been building cordial relationships with the United States Government and its public. As a result, Dr. John Garang de Mabior started to receive generous receptions from the U.S government, schools and think tanks. 

The members of the South Sudanese Diaspora continued to raise awareness for the conflict in the then Sudan until CPA was achieved and the nation of South Sudan became independent. The relationship that the United States had developed with South Sudan during the war, CPA and post-independence period was a huge asset for South Sudan in helping it take off and become a fast growing African economy. 

Unfortunately, these dreams evaporated as prospect of John Garang’s developmental state programs were left in oblivion due to misgovernment and false-start. This was all the more exacerbated by the uncertainty that the current senseless war has brought. 

The country has now plummeted into deep crisis and is on a freefall! Therefore, warring parties must prioritize peace and immediate termination of the conflict in order for this divided nation to reconcile again and live in peace and harmony. 

The coming to the U.S. of Dr. D’Agoot has rekindled a dying flicker of hope for a viable and mutually respecting relationships between the U.S and South Sudan and a possibility of restoring peace to South Sudan, if more efforts are deployed.  

Dr. D’ Agoot presented programs and initiatives of strategic insights and solution scenarios to South Sudan conflict in meetings with some members of U.S Congress (South Sudan Caucus and Congressional, who in March 2014, wrote a letter to President Obama about South Sudan crisis); The U.S Department of State Department – Office of the Special Envoy; think tanks, such as, The United States Institute for Peace (USIP), Center for Strategic, and International Studies (CSIS), George Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, and Woodrow Wilson Center; schools, such as, The George Bush Institute of Policy Analysis at Texas A&M University, National Defense University, and University of Florida; Human Rights groups; and Press and Media.

In these meetings, Dr. D’ Agoot elaborated that the country did not just drift to war but came as a result of collective failures of the SPLM leadership manage political risks. 

He said that given country’s colonial legacy, it did not inherit any viable institutions at the independence and post-CPA SPLM perpetrated sectarianism and patrimonial system which failed to deliver security, development and social services, build peace or build a nation. In the absence of unifying external enemy that Khartoum was, and given lack of transformational leadership, the lid on age-old tribal animosities and conflicting nationalisms was removed, and it resulted into these dire consequences, he added. 

Dr. D’Agoot urged South Sudanese to rise above their bitterness parochialism and unite in order to secure a prosperous future for the country. He called for peace and peace now! Dr. D’ Agoot is very optimistic that South Sudanese people will overcome this major drift and the crisis that it has borne – and, together united in search of destiny will emerge stronger. 

He told the South Sudanese Diaspora while paraphrasing Massimo d’Aziglo that “what we have achieved by bullets (war) and ballots (referendum) is a country called South Sudan; what has however remained to be achieved by consent and compromise is the nation of South Sudanese.”  He further illustrated that many deeply divided societies in Iraq, Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia and even Sudan, have achieved statehood before, but that did not automatically translate into nationhood. 

In other word, he implicated sectarianism. He urged South Sudanese that we must take pride in our diversities and work our way out to achieve ultimate South Sudanese citizenry with unified sentiment, new narrative and purpose. 

Dr. D’ Agoot On the Root Causes of the South Sudan Civil War:

Dr. D’Agoot described that since 1983, violence has not relented in South Sudan even though warring factions had concluded a number reconciliation pacts which did not have clear impact on the grassroots’ peace. Because of focus on the referendum, genuine reconciliation and healing based on justice and accountability did not take place. 

He narrated that whilst the violence is South Sudan was stoked by the current civil war as a political factor, it also has its origins in historical, cultural, social, and economic factors. The 15 December 2013 incident only acted as a trigger but it was not the only single cause to the crisis. If the conflict was not complex and multi-dimensional, nothing would explain its spread outside Juba, upward trend in ethnic mobilization and atrocious acts that followed the outbreak of conflict and which were clearly a prelude to genocide.  

Dr. D’ Agoot gave riveting accounts of the SPLM internal rivalries since its first split in July 1983 which led to internal bloody conflict with an unacceptable human costs and  civilian devastation in eastern Upper Nile and Jonglei. In the subsequent years, the SPLM also experienced series of arrests of its top cadres, defections and also disappearances while in detention. 

In the wake of the 1991 split, the political contestations within the SPLM resulted in a ‘degenerate war’ when forces allied to Nasir Faction carried out a mass slaughter of civilians in Bor. Even though reconciliation of the factions was achieved in 1988 and 2002, justice was not served. He also alluded to near-cataclysm of November 2004 at Yei when Cdr. Salva Kiir Mayardit almost split from the SPLM. He lauded Dr. Garang leadership dexterity in the Rumbek meeting that resolved the crisis by creating a thaw in frosty relationships and ultimately reconciling the differences – an attribute which helped the country sailed on a rough wave to the CPA. 

Dr. D’Agoot stated that the current conflict started immediately after the death of the father of the Nation – Dr. John Dr. Garang de Mabior on July 30, 2005. As General Salva Kiir Mayardit and Dr. Riek Machar assumed the mantle of leadership, it became abundantly clear that the SPLM party was suffering from acute malady of internal divisions along the lines of previous splits or near-splits. 

Eventually three loose centers of power emerged – namely, the Yei Faction, The Nasir Nasir and the Torit Faction – with the Yei Group calling the shots, he clarified.

Dr. D’Agoot told the diaspora that in 2008, South Sudan escaped another near-catastrophe when the SPLM Convention was almost rocked by power struggle – prompting three eminent South Sudanese elders and statesmen – namely, Uncle Abel Alier, Gen. Joseph Lagu and Gen. Andrew Makur Thou – to intervene to defuse the situation when the SPLM hierarchy was kept intact. 

This became part of the broader consensus building framework that brought the SPLM election victory of 2010 and the overwhelming vote for independence at the referendum in 2011. He clarified that the rule of the thumb is that compromise than rigidity worked then and can still work in the future. 

This fragile equilibrium was maintained until when president Kiir ratcheted the tensions through his ‘Nuclear Option which he called Tsunami’ and ineptly calculated plot to destroy the SPLM and hand over its power to his newfound friends and allies including the NCP converts and hire-guns. 

Dr. D’ Agoot stated that what finally happened was not that the country just drifted to war, or the crisis struck as thunderbolt from the clear blue sky. The crisis was precipitated and midwifed by the risky acts of its leaders – especially the SPLM leaders and its chief executive officer, and the vice chairman. This war could have been averted had the SPLM leaders acted responsibly by promoting internal dialogue and democratic debate; or heeded to the advice graciously given by the South Sudanese religious leaders, ANC, AUHIP, and the USG.

Dr. D’ Agoot On the Juba Attempted Coup Narrative:

Dr. D’Agoot explained that what transpired on 15 December 2013 was a mutiny within the Presidential Guard/Tiger Division even though it was deliberately mischaracterized by the Juba Government as a coup d’état to justify clampdown on peaceful dissent. A coup d’état could have targeted the Palace, key public installations, Radio and Television, the Airport, Juba Bridge, Communication Centers, the Central Bank, or even some key ministers and personnel in the government, he highlighted. If indeed they were part of an alleged coup, they could have physically participated in the fighting bringing along with them many of their supporters who have now died or are still fighting in defense of President Kiir.

He asserted that the composition of the presidential guard division was partially responsible for the crisis. Because it was formed from two ethnicities; Dinka and Nuer with overt allegiances to the president and former vice president, this unit was always volatile flashpoints because the majority of this unit came from Warrap and Unity States.  Given the lack of professionalism in the SPLA and disproportionate inclination of the elements of the presidential guard unit to partisan and political influence, it goes without saying that Kiir and Machar quarrels could have a ripple effect in the security sector.

Dr. D’Agoot narrated that, on 6 December 2013, they organized a press conference to address the issues of reforms in the party after the chairman had resorted to use state instruments of power to emasculate opponents and suppressing debate. 

He explained that a huge legion of SPLM cadres including those still in the government – notably Nhial Deng, Mayom Akec and Deng Athorbei – came out openly to advocate for reforms and democratic transformation of the Party and the country. He stressed that 6 December Press Conference was a nonviolent political action which convened legally and dispersed peacefully. In a similar vein, those representing an opposing view, gathered in the same venue to outline their response which was equally bellicose and critical of the group. 

Dr. D’Agoot described how he and his colleagues (SPLM Leaders – Former Political Detainees) were picked up in their houses on 16 December 2013 and whisked away by the security agents to detention cells. Following their unjust detention on trumped up charges, they were put through a botched court process on trumped up charges of treason, violence, insurgency, murder, insulting the president, etc., he explained. 

He stressed that even though they were subjected to undeserving treatment by their government; they are not bitter and have forgiven their jailers. “We consider our ordeal as a fleabite (which is not a killer) and the plight of our country as snakebite (which is a real killer and which requires an urgent treatment), he humbly said. 

He stressed that although majority of his colleagues are veterans of war of liberation, they are opposed to violence but will pursue nonviolent methods of struggle against the Juba Government to effect change and reforms in the management of public affairs – for in this ongoing war there are no glories to make. He added that he and Pa’gan Amum had chosen to remain inside the country but were forced into exile by the Government to join the rest of their exiled colleagues. He suggested that there is a dire need to charter new course for justice, accountability and reconciliation in order to possibly restore stability and peace in our country.

Dr. D’Agoot asserted that crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed in South Sudan by both the government and the SPLM (IO). He also pointed out that the SPLM leaders collectively must first accept the responsibility for grave social and economic injustice to people of South Sudan in the loss of vision of the SPLM. He stated that thousands have been killed; hundreds of thousands displaced and almost half the population is at the brink of starvation.

On Human Rights abuses, Dr. D’Agoot scorned the futility of lame excuse often provided by President Kiir and his associates that the killings of Nuer civilians in Juba and subsequently attack of the Nuer IDPs in Bor happened because of the so-called attempted coup or atrocities committed by the ‘White Army’ when they took control of Bor. 

He argued that when Sudan was one country, many coup attempts took place in Khartoum and there were no targeted killings based on ethnicity and region. Granted that there was a coup attempt by Nuer officers; would it justify a wanton killing of innocent civilians because of ethnicity? He exclaimed! He further described as unacceptable the illogical justification and victim posture advanced by the rebel leadership to justify actions of their fighters in Akobo, Bor, Malakal and Bentiu as retribution provoked by atrocities committed in Juba. He said that South Sudan was already on a dangerous road, and this war was exacerbated by susceptible situation for conflict.

Dr. D’ Agoot asserted tha the tendency to encourage reprisals on the basis of ‘Coalitional Guilt’ because President Kiir or Dr. Machar happened to be from this or that tribe and that all those linked to them by tribe or ancestry are culprits by extension is a heinous crime of the first order, he added.  He applauded the AU for constituting the Abosanjo Commission of Inquiry of war crimes in South Sudan. He also saluted the UNMISS for preventing genocide and ethnic cleansing in South Sudan. He then called on the warring parties to end hostilities and US Government to take stern action against perpetrators of violence in the country.

Dr. D’ Agoot On Corruption and His Role in the GRSS:

Dr. D’Agoot made it clear that he had served as a Deputy Director General for Sudan National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) for five year and half (March 2006 – July 2011); and later as Deputy Minister for Defense for the Republic of South Sudan for one year and half (September 2011 – July 2013). 

He was appointed as a deputy defense minister at the height of crisis between Sudan and South Sudan when oil was shut down and austerity measures introduced. 

The kind of cash that saturated the government departments of the GoSS was not even there given the resource drought caused by the oil shutdown. 

We simply managed all the national security and defense challenges, including the border war on a shoe-string budget. However, while in the National Security he said he was well-salaried and had earned good fortune like any other Spy Chief in the world! Dr. D’Agoot said that he made declaration of assets when he came to serve in the GRSS and during his time in the Ministry of Defense, he squeezed the paymasters and recovered SSP79M (Seventy Nine Million South Sudanese Pounds) which he returned to the Ministry of Finance. He made it clear that he has never been implicated in corruption.

Dr. D’ Agoot On Prospects for Lasting Peace in South Sudan:

Dr. D’Agoot emphasized that ‘Giving War a Chance’ to take its course is not the route to go. South Sudan is fragile and might rot in the process before that the war is ripe for settlement. The only option available is to ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and generate necessary ripening effect to pressure the parties to compromise, he said. “We call for an immediate termination of the conflict”; he stressed.

He also alluded to the need to ensure unimpeded access to the provision of humanitarian aid to the vulnerable population – further suggesting that any attempts to use food as a weapon of war must be met with vehement opposition that it deserves including the use of sanctions and prosecution for crimes against humanity. 

He also described the IGAD Protocol of August 2013 as contentious given the roadblocks and choke points that are inherent to it. In order to achieve peace, a careful bypass must designed around those roadblocks such as leadership architecture, eligibility or non-eligibility of the leaders of the warring parties in the next election, the issue of power sharing quotas and the President veto on the appointment of the Prime Minister. 

He also urged the United States government to remain seized with the peace process and to ensure that the people of South Sudan achieve peace and stability the soonest possible. 

He also asked South Sudanese communities in Diaspora to work together to destroy tribal fragmentations and create ‘South Sudanese’ eliminate hate speech in the cyberspace. 

He suggested that justice and accountability are critical for the attainment of the lasting peace in the country. He said that South Sudan is a country that has precariously positioned itself at the crossroads and this nation must emerge from this conflict and set itself on a path towards sustainable peace. 

He urged South Sudanese people that there is a need to strategize ways of promoting peace, accountability and reconciliation to ensure healing. 

He is optimistic that the inquiry into the war crimes being conducted by the AU Special Commission under the former President of Nigeria, General Olusegun Matthew Obasanjo, will release its findings soon. He hopes that, eventually, justice will be served in South Sudan and normalcy will return.

Dr. D’Agoot said that his group (the G-10) considers the issue of security sector transformation in the postwar period as the wicked problem of the entire peacemaking that might offset the peace; and called on the U.S. Government to redouble its commitment to help South Sudan out of this trap. 

On the Arusha Intra-SPLM Dialogue, he maintained that in the absence of alternative national platforms, SPLM fragmentation – as we have seen – comes with dangers that impact negatively on national unity and stability of the country with far reaching consequences on society harmony. 

In conclusion, It is important to point out that the audience that attended Dr. Majak D’Agoot’s meetings was diverse and engaging. It brought supporters of the Government, SPLM-IO, SPLM, FD, and others. 

They also came from different states and ethnicities of South Sudan. Given this medley of backgrounds, interests and expectations were diverse and these were manifest in the questions asked. It is common knowledge that some people came to Dr. D’Agoot’s events with the expectations that he will go viral and bitter against the government that detained him and his colleagues and caused them a great deal of vilifications. Others came to understand clearly where he and his colleagues really stand on the current crisis facing the country and to hear from the Horse’s Mouth their alternative narrative of 15 December 2013 incident. 

Others came to justify the claim by the government that they took part in plotting a coup d’état while other had come to argue why they took a middle course and did not join either President Kiir or Dr. Machar. Overall, the tour has achieved its desired outcomes and the organizing team would like to seize this opportunity to thank all who listened to him for their interest and the time they have invested to interact with him at various social and political levels. Finally, he said that “may God bless our Country South Sudan.” 

This Statement Release was Prepared and Signed by Dr.Majak D’ Agoot USA Tour Committee in the following States: Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Texas, Missouri and Washington DC (USA).

How did rape become a weapon of war?

By Laura Smith-Spark 

Women's bodies have become part of the terrain of conflict, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

Rape and sexual abuse are not just a by-product of war but are used as a deliberate military strategy, it says.

The opportunistic rape and pillage of previous centuries has been replaced in modern conflict by rape used as an orchestrated combat tool.

And while Amnesty cites ongoing conflicts in Colombia, Iraq, Sudan, Chechnya, Nepal and Afghanistan, the use of rape as a weapon of war goes back much further.

Spoils of war?

From the systematic rape of women in Bosnia, to an estimated 200,000 women raped during the battle for Bangladeshi independence in 1971, to Japanese rapes during the 1937 occupation of Nanking - the past century offers too many examples.

So what motivates armed forces, whether state-backed troops or irregular militia, to attack civilian women and children?

Gita Sahgal, of Amnesty International, told the BBC News website it was a mistake to think such assaults were primarily about the age-old "spoils of war", or sexual gratification.

Rape is often used in ethnic conflicts as a way for attackers to perpetuate their social control and redraw ethnic boundaries, she said.

"Women are seen as the reproducers and carers of the community," she said.

"Therefore if one group wants to control another they often do it by impregnating women of the other community because they see it as a way of destroying the opposing community."

A report by Medecins Sans Frontieres says it first came across rape as a weapon in the 1990s.

"In Bosnia systematic rape was used as part of the strategy of ethnic cleansing," it said.

"Women were raped so they could give birth to a Serbian baby."

The same tactic was used in a "very strategic attack" by state-backed Pakistani troops during the fight for Bangladesh's independence in 1971, Ms Sahgal said.

"They were saying 'we will make you breed Punjabi children'," she said, with the aim of weakening the integrity of the opposing ethnic group.

Amnesty this year accused the pro-government Janjaweed militias in Sudan's Darfur region of using mass rape in order to punish, humiliate and control non-Arab groups.

Such attacks cause women and children to flee their homes, lead to fragmentation of communities and bring the risk of infection with HIV/Aids.

Sexual violence is also used to destabilise communities and sow terror, Amnesty says in its Lives Blown Apart report.

In Colombia, rival groups rape, mutilate and kill women and girls in order to impose "punitive codes of conduct on entire towns and villages", so strengthening their control.

Act with impunity

The strategic use of rape in war is not a new phenomenon but only recently has it begun to be documented, chiefly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia and Sudan, said Ms Sahgal.

And even after conflicts are resolved, few countries seem willing to tackle what is often seen as a crime against individual women rather than a strategy of war.

In many nations the collapse of the rule of law leaves them unable to deal with allegations of rape, while in others women feel too exposed to stigma to accuse their attackers.

International courts have tackled some cases in Bosnia, where Muslim women were forced into sexual slavery in the town of Foca in the 1990s, and in Rwanda, but the vast majority of perpetrators act with impunity.

Representatives of the 200,000 "comfort women" forcibly drafted into military sexual slavery by Japan from 1928 until the end of World War II are still fighting for restitution.

Far from colluding, women from Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and East Timor were "severely coerced" into prostitution, says Ms Sahgal.

And whether a woman is raped at gunpoint or trafficked into sexual slavery by an occupying force, the sexual abuse will shape not just her own but her community's future for years to come.

"Survivors face emotional torment, psychological damage, physical injuries, disease, social ostracism and many other consequences that can devastate their lives," says Amnesty.

"Women's lives and their bodies have been the unacknowledged casualties of war for too long."

Postcard of peace and forgiveness from ‘Small London’

By Rev. Bernard Oliya Suwa, PhD

They flew in from the four corners of our vast land to the “Small London” – a humble but buzzing township in Yei River County, in South Sudan. The township sits on both sides of a dusty track road from the South Sudan capital Juba, to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). More than half of South Sudan’s ethnic groups were represented at this mission – an audacious mission to touch and reshape an invisible phenomenon that has been summarily charged, tried, and found guilty of nourishing decades of war, hatred, and death in our motherland.

Like any other South Sudanese, I was weighed down by deep skepticism and anxiety –afraid that it would prove to be a catastrophic mistake to gather people from different tribes who, not too long ago, had been baying for each other’s blood. I was wrong! As only He can do, God rebuked me for my lack of trust and faith His divine ability to bring trust amongst His children whenever it’s threatened, and faith in Him whenever it is wavering.

From the Heavens where our Lord God, the Almighty father watches over us, the magical red rays of the great tropical African sun pieced through the clouds to my West. Its mysterious power and beauty intermittently stole my concentration as I wrote this piece. As I turned to the Eastern side, I could see a diverse group of our participants from different tribes playing volleyball in total peace and freedom – united by the promise of peace, healing, and reconciliation in our beloved motherland. Just by looking at them, I saw distinct features that are common among people from Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Warrap, Lakes, Unity, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal states and Abyei Area Administration – all ready to search for peace together, learn together, play together, and dine together. Perhaps most touching of all was the fact that one after the other, as brothers and sisters, they shared horrendous personal testimonies from the recent conflict together – and they cried together.

If ever there was evidence of God’s ability to triumph over man-made evil, then this was it! Convinced by this sacred belief, quietly, I prayed to God to bring healing and reconciliation amongst us who had gathered in Yei. I prayed too, that the spirit of sisterhood, of brotherhood, of forgiveness, and of reconciliation that was so powerfully displayed in Yei, be carried by angels and spread across the length and breadth of our traumatized land.

I quietly monitored the body language of our participants over the last four weeks, and it gives me tremendous joy to be able to tell every man, every woman, every girl, and every boy that in the midst of all the pain and suffering visited upon us by the recent conflict, our Lord God has mercifully preserved our capacity to forgive each other. In other words, He has preserved that which makes us human – and that is our humanity!

While in Yei, we had taken a bold step towards peace together. We sat together and listened to each other’s painful stories. We opened dialogue with each other. And we proved to ourselves, and to all our brothers and sisters across South Sudan, that although we are from different tribes, we are in fact one nation – all children of God, made in the image of God. If God loves us all, then why should we hate each other? If God can forgive us for our gross transgressions against Him, then why can’t we forgive each other?

I am convinced too, that without the poisonous ethnic chalice that we are being forced to drink every day and night, all the people of South Sudan would have been ready to listen to each other, and to dialogue with each other in order to find homegrown solutions to the fundamental issues that have brought war and destruction on our blessed land.

Through this article, I present myself before you as a humble and ordinary South Sudanese. My voice is not any louder than yours – but I am using it to call for peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation amongst ourselves. Use your voice. Stand up in the name of God almighty and denounce the forces that want to divide us, and set us against each other. Let peace and freedom reign supreme in our motherland – because you are worth it!

Let me end by thanking PACT South Sudan, Norwegian Church Aid, Catholic Relief Service, and Mission Aviation Fellowship whose generous support has enabled us to embark on this long “journey of listening and dialogue”.

Dr. Bernard Oliya Suwa is the Secretary General of the Committee for National Healing, Peace, and Reconciliation. Email: bosuwa@gmail.com