Category Archives: Sudan

Hillary Clinton’s State Department Gave South Sudan’s Military a Pass for Its Child Soldiers

Nick Turse reports for The Intercept:

I met a few of them in the town of Pibor last year. These battle-tested veterans had just completed two or three years of military service. They told me about the rigors of a soldier’s life, about toting AK-47s, about the circumstances that led them to take up arms. In the United States, not one of these soldiers would have met the age requirements to enlist in the Army. None were older than 16.

Rebel forces in southern Sudan began using child soldiers long before seceding from Sudan in 2011. The United States, on the other hand, passed a law in 2008 that banned providing military assistance to nations that use child soldiers. The law was called the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, or CSPA, but after South Sudan’s independence, the White House issued annual waivers that kept aid flowing to the world’s newest nation despite its use of child soldiers. President Obama stated in 2012 that the waiver that year was in “the national interest of the United States.”

The president’s move was criticized by human rights activists and others. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska and the author of the CSPA, described the use of child soldiers as an “unthinkable practice.” The U.S. “must not be complicit in this practice,” he said. “The intent of the law is clear — the waiver authority should be used as a mechanism for reform, not as a way of continuing the status quo.” Because of the requirements of the law, the waivers were issued by the White House rather than the State Department, so Obama was the target of most of the criticism.

Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state when the first waivers were issued, was apparently never asked to comment on them, and the State Department never provided any explanations about its role. Clinton had spent years vowing to defend the rights of children worldwide — in 2012, she railed against “modern-day slavery” in the introduction to a State Department report on human trafficking that took aim at the “unlawful recruitment or use of children” by armed forces. Yet she does not appear to have publicly explained her role in allowing South Sudan and other countries to receive military support despite using children as combatants. In fact, the State Department played a central role in issuing the controversial waivers, according to two sources, including a former State Department official.



Obama In Africa: Interview with Horace Campbell

Democracy Now! recently spoke with Horace Campbell, professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He has written extensively on African politics. His new piece for CounterPunch is called “Obama in Kenya.” He is also the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya. (Democracy Now!)

Child landmine victims rise, overall casualties lowest since 1999

Anastasia Moloney reports for Reuters:

‘Afghanistan has the world’s highest number of children killed or wounded by landmines and other explosive remnants of war, followed by Colombia, according to a leading anti-landmine group.

In its annual Landmine Monitor report, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC) said the number of recorded casualties of mines and other explosive remnants of war has decreased to the lowest level since 1999, but child victims have risen.’


50,000 and not counting: South Sudan’s war dead

Peter Martell reports for AFP:

Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict[…] The International Crisis Group (ICG), a conflict think-tank, estimates at least 50,000 people have already died but it admits the true figure could even be double that. It also says the failure to count the dead is a scandal — both as a dishonour to the victims and as something that has kept the country’s suffering off the international radar.

“It’s shocking that in 2014, in a country with one of the largest UN peacekeeping missions in the world, tens of thousands of people can be killed and no one can even begin to confirm the death toll,” ICG researcher Casie Copeland told AFP.

“Surely more can be done to understand whether the figure is closer to 50,000 or 100,000?”

Instead, she argues, the South Sudanese are victims of a process of “appalling dehumanisation” — the result being a lack of “concerted action to end the war”.

“Counting the dead goes beyond understanding the scale of this devastating war, it honours those who have been lost and is a minimum form of respect to the tens of thousands of South Sudanese who have been killed.”‘


China, America, and a New Cold War in Africa?

Nick Turse writes for Tom Dispatch:

‘[…] While few outside South Sudan would ascribe to Makuei’s notion of a direct East-West proxy war here, his conspiracy theory should, at least, serve as a reminder that U.S. and Chinese interests are at play in this war-torn nation and across Africa as a whole — and that Africans are taking note.  Almost anywhere you look on the continent, you can now find evidence of both the American and the Chinese presence, although they take quite different forms.  The Chinese are pursuing a ruthlessly pragmatic economic power-projection strategy with an emphasis on targeted multilateral interventions in African conflicts.  U.S. policy, in contrast, appears both more muddled and more military-centric, with a heavy focus on counterterrorism efforts meant to bolster amorphous strategic interests.

For the last decade, China has used “soft power” — aid, trade, and infrastructure projects — to make major inroads on the continent.  In the process, it has set itself up as the dominant foreign player here.  The U.S., on the other hand, increasingly confronts Africa as a “battlefield” or “battleground” or “war” in the words of the men running its operations. In recent years, there has been a substantial surge in U.S.military activities of every sort, including the setting up of military outposts and bothdirect and proxy interventions. These two approaches have produced starkly contrasting results for the powers involved and the rising nations of the continent.  Which one triumphs may have profound implications for all parties in the years ahead. The differences are, perhaps, nowhere as stark as in the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.’


Saharan remains may be evidence of first race war, 13,000 years ago

David Keys reports for The Independent:

‘Scientists are investigating what may be the oldest identified race war 13,000 years after it raged on the fringes of the Sahara. French scientists working in collaboration with the British Museum have been examining dozens of skeletons, a majority of whom appear to have been killed by archers using flint-tipped arrows. The bones – from Jebel Sahaba on the east bank of the Nile in northern Sudan – are from victims of the world’s oldest known relatively large-scale human armed conflict.

Over the past two years anthropologists from Bordeaux University have discovered literally dozens of previously undetected arrow impact marks and flint arrow head fragments on and around the bones of the victims. This is in addition to many arrow heads and impact marks already found embedded in some of the bones during an earlier examination of the skeletons back in the 1960s. The remains – the contents of an entire early cemetery – were found in 1964 by the prominent American archaeologist, Fred Wendorf, but, until the current investigations, had  never been examined using more modern, 21 century, technology.’


South Sudan “most fragile state” in world

From BBC News:

Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict‘The world’s newest country, South Sudan, has topped the list of fragile states in this year’s index released by a leading US-based research institute. Chronic instability, fractured leadership and growing ethnic conflict made it the most fragile state, The Fund for Peace said.

The top six countries on the index are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Afghanistan was listed as the seventh most fragile state followed by Yemen, Haiti and Pakistan. Syria is 15th. The institute has been compiling the index for the past 10 years after analysing social, economic and political indicators.

The “most improved” nations in 2014 were Iran, Serbia, Zimbabwe and Cuba, which have all had frosty relations with the US, it said on its website. In contrast, the US and France were among countries where the situation had worsened the most because of “political and economic malaise”. South Sudan replaced Somalia at the top of the index – a position it had occupied since 2008.’


Global refugee figures highest since WW2, UN says

Imogen Foulkes reports for BBC News:

Graphic‘The number of people living as refugees from war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, for the first time since World War Two, the UN says. The overall figure of 51.2 million is six million higher than the year before,a report by the UN refugee agency says. Antonio Guterres, head of the UNHCR, told the BBC the rise was a “dramatic challenge” for aid organisations.

Conflicts in Syria, central Africa and South Sudan fuelled the sharp increase. “Conflicts are multiplying, more and more,” Mr Guterres said. “And at the same time old conflicts seem never to die.” Of particular concern are the estimated 6.3 million people who have been refugees for years, sometimes even decades.’


Report: Millions driven from homes by civic violence

Robert Evans reports for Reuters:

‘A record 33.3 million people around the world were internally displaced by conflict in their countries at the end of last year, 16 percent or 4.5 million up on 2012, an international report said on Wednesday. The report by the Norwegian Refugee Council said nearly two thirds of the global total were in just five countries – Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan.

Syria, with at least 6,5 million driven from their homes in three years of fighting between government forces and insurgents and foreign fighters backing them, took over first place ahead of Colombia, suffering from decades of guerrilla wars. The Middle Eastern country accounted for 43 per cent – 3.5 million – of all the new internally displaced people (IDPs) around the globe in 2013, a total of 8.2 million, according to the report presented at a Geneva news briefing.’


‘Piles and piles’ of bodies in South Sudan slaughter

From AP:

A grab made from a video released by the United Nations shows Lanzer looking at corpses in Bentiu.The townsfolk believed the mosque was safe. They crammed inside as rebel forces in South Sudan took control of the town from government troops. But it wasn’t safe. Robbers grabbed their cash and mobile phones. Then gunmen came and opened fire on everyone, young and old. The U.N. says hundreds of civilians were killed in the massacre last week in Bentiu, the capital of South Sudan’s oil-producing Unity state, a tragic reflection of longstanding ethnic hostilities in the world’s newest country.

“Piles and piles” of bodies were left behind after the shootings, said Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. aid official in South Sudan. Many were in the mosque. Others were in the hospital. Still more littered the streets. The violence appears to have been incited in part by calls on the radio for revenge attacks, including rapes. The attack, which targeted members of certain ethnic groups, was a disturbing echo of what happened two decades ago in another country in eastern Africa. Rwanda is marking the 20th anniversary this month of a genocide that killed an estimated 1 million people and also saw orders to kill broadcast over the radio.



Will Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam dry the Nile in Egypt?

Emmanuel Igunza reports for BBC News:

Ethiopia's Tekeze Hydropower project.

Photo: Business Wire

…The concern in Egypt is about the potential threat to its dominance over the Nile.

Egypt fears Ethiopia’s dam will restrict the flow of this strategic waterway – the main source of water in a country where rainfall is scarce.

The row started in 2011, and Egypt has been worried ever since that its annual quota of the Nile water might be reduced.

This conflict comes at a time when different parts of Egypt are already suffering from a shortage of water. In the northern Nile Delta, the agricultural heart of Egypt, a lot of farmers are waiting with a heavy heart to see if they will be able to cultivate their land next summer.


Africa Union urges united stand against ICC trials

From AP:

The African Union urged its members to “speak with one voice” to prevent criminal proceedings at the International Criminal court against sitting presidents, according to a statement Saturday.

The 54-nation organization said it was disappointed that a request to the U.N. Security Council to defer the trials of Kenya’s leaders “has not yielded the positive result expected.” The African Union also has sought the deferral of criminal proceedings against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with genocide in Darfur.

Only Botswana has opposed the stand taken by the African Union, made in a statement received Saturday after a summit in Ethiopia attended by 34 leaders.


South Sudan Faces Uphill Struggle for a Longer-Term Peace

White Army soldiers in LankienFrom Time:

The temporary truce signed on Thursday by South Sudanese politicians may have halted hostilities that, according to United Nations and humanitarian estimates, have resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 people – and displaced half a million more –since fighting began in December, but a sustainable peace remains far off, diplomats and experts say. “The country can fall apart; it’s sort of half unglued now. Even if there’s a ceasefire, who knows if that’s going to stick as it doesn’t resolve any the underlining problems,” said Tom McDonald, who worked on Sudan issues as U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe during the Clinton presidency. “A lot is at stake because we have invested time and diplomatic capital and lots of money there to stand up this country.”

Two and a half years ago, the world celebrated the birth of the new nation in the hope that dividing Sudan would end the violence in the war-torn country. The U.S. poured billions of dollars into helping build South Sudan’s government and ministries. So how, in such a short amount of time and with so much support from the international community, could things fall apart?


South Sudan fighting spreads after ‘coup attempt’

From BBC News:

Fighting is spreading in parts of South Sudan after a reported coup attempt in the capital, Juba, at the weekend.

Violence has erupted in the flashpoint town of Bor, capital of eastern Jonglei state, and in Torit, capital of Eastern Equatoria.

President Salva Kiir has accused ex-vice-president Riek Machar of staging the coup – a claim he denies.

The UN called for political dialogue to end a crisis that has left hundreds dead and sparked fears of a civil war.

On Wednesday, Mr Kiir said he was willing to enter into talks with Mr Machar but that he did not know what the result would be.


Sudan’s Bashir empowers old army ally, tightens grip

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir addresses a crowd in North Khartoum

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir addresses a crowd in North Khartoum, June 8, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

From Reuters:

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s appointment of an old military ally as his deputy may shield one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers from risks at home and abroad.

In a government shake-up, Bashir named Lieutenant General Bakri Hassan Saleh – a confidant who helped him stage his 1989 coup and crush many rebellions – as first vice president, replacing veteran politician Ali Osman Taha.

By positioning Saleh one step away from his own job, Bashir may be crafting a strategy to avoid being handed over to the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide if he keeps his promise to step down in 2015.

The reshuffle announced on Sunday by Bashir underscores the diminishing role of Islamists such as Taha as the president turns to more trusted allies in the military, an organization important to his survival in a country with a history of coups.


Israeli crowd cheers as Africans called “slaves”

From Electronic Intifada:

An Israeli high court decision on 16 September striking down legislation authorizing the indefinite incarceration of asylum-seekers from Africa brought hundreds of residents of Tel Aviv into the streets in protest the following day.

Blocking the intersection at the entrance to the Hatikvah market in south Tel Aviv to traffic for an hour and a half, Jewish Israelis decried the court ruling, which mandates that the 2,000 Africans jailed in Israel on the basis of the invalidated law must be released within ninety days.

In the last several years, south Tel Aviv has become home to approximately 30,000 non-Jewish African nationals, most of whom entered the country by walking across Israel’s desert border with Egypt.

Israelis opposed to their presence accuse them of migrating to Israel solely to earn more money than they could hope to in their home countries, while advocates for the Africans claim that most of them have fled dictatorial regimes and ethnic cleansing campaigns.


Bashir faces challenges after Sudan unrest


Africa desert helps breed radicals, from Al Shabab to Boko Haram to Mr. Marlboro

The SahelFrom CS Monitor:

Africa’s Sahel belt is a 600-mile-wide semiarid zone stretching from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east. The vast, seemingly ungovernable terrain has become a sanctuary for Islamist militants.

After the Arab Spring, and then at the end of Muammar Qaddafi’s dictatorship, many hoped for an end to terror in the Sahel.

Instead, weapons spilling out of Libya and ongoing military efforts to drive Al Qaeda-linked groups from places like Mali and Nigeria have hardened Islamist fighters here. This in turn has increased the risk of violence across the region.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called the area “Sahelistan,” likening it to remote areas in Afghanistan where US troops struggled for years to pin down the Taliban.

[…] The Sahel groups are reportedly small but their influence is felt where they are based, in Guinea, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Niger, Mauritania, Somalia, and Sudan. The worry in the West is that extremists will use the Sahel to launch terror attacks overseas.