Bishops say South Sudan faces decisive moment after conflict …

JUBA, South Sudan, Feb 2, 2014–The Catholic bishops of Sudan and South Sudan have said South Sudan is at a turning point, urging repentance and reconciliation after an outbreak of violence killed hundreds of people.

“We are convinced that we stand at a decisive moment in the history of South Sudan. Fundamental choices must be made about how we deal with our past and present history, about how we govern ourselves as a nation, about how state institutions serve the poor,” the bishops said in a joint apostolic exhortation Jan. 30.

“We must seize from the present crisis an opportunity to re-found our nation on democratic principles of dialogue, inclusion, and respect for diversity, God’s gift to humanity.”

The bishops proclaimed their “hope and expectation” that South Sudan will “rise above the crisis.”

“Let our nations be built not on foundations of sand but on strong foundations of truth, justice, reconciliation, diversity and peace, on the foundations of the Gospel values enshrined in Catholic Social Teaching.”

The exhortation, addressed to the people of both countries, was produced by the extraordinary plenary assembly of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference which met Jan. 21-31 in South Sudan’s capital of Juba. Signatories included Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako of the Sudanese capital Khartoum and Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba.

South Sudan won independence from its northern neighbor Sudan in 2011, years after the end of a bloody, decades-long civil war in 2005. In mid-December 2013, armed conflict broke out in South Sudan’s capital of Juba following a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar.

The violence has killed over 1,000 people and displaced over 500,000 more, the International Business Times reports. Some killings have reportedly been targeted based on ethnicity.

The bishops said they were “shocked” by the violence and that the region is in “crisis” and faces perhaps one of its gravest situations ever.

“Our vision of a liberated nation in which all people will be equal and live in peace appears to be shattered,” they said, comparing the violence to the murder of Abel by Cain.

They said that God will judge “harshly” those who murder, rape and loot the innocent, and judge “even more harshly” those who incite violence or fail to prevent it. At the same time, they added, Jesus came “not to condemn but to redeem.”

“We invite the prodigal son to return to the family, the lost sheep to the fold, the sinner to right behavior,” the bishops said. “We call for repentance and conversion of heart. Let those who have committed atrocities admit it honestly. Admission of guilt is a virtue, not a weakness.”

Describing Sudanese history as “an open wound that desperately needs healing,” the bishops called for a rejection of “negative narratives” that “poison” social relations.

“Let us end these vicious cycles by creating space where we can speak and work towards peaceful coexistence and reconciliation,” they said.

The bishops criticized growing tensions in South Sudan’s governing party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, saying these tensions played a “significant role” in the violence.

“Internal party disputes should not be allowed to destabilize the nation,” they said.

They called for better governance and for a rejection of the tendency to “personalize” political power and act against the community’s best interests. They said institutions should be staffed by people chosen for their “competency and professionalism.”

The bishops said that corruption and nepotism have helped destabilize South Sudan by preventing basic services from reaching people. This breeds “resentment and disillusionment towards the institutions of our state.”

They urged transparency and accountability in government as well as the rejection of “all recourse to violence.” They encouraged responsible journalism and the rejection of all incitement to violence, propaganda, speculations and rumors.

Military issues were also a subject of their exhortation. They said that the military should be non-political All armed groups should respect and protect civilians and prisoners of war. Hospitals, churches and other places of shelter should be respected. All conscription and recruitment of children should be rejected.

The bishops stressed the need for education to help students understand the “structures and dynamics” of society and to form them in “moral and ethical values.”

“Many of our leaders are churchgoers, but their behavior does not indicate a good moral life,” they said. “We need to form consciences and professional ethics.”

They voiced particular concern for the humanitarian crisis in the Diocese of Malakal in northeastern South Sudan. They appealed to all aid agencies to support vulnerable communities there and elsewhere in the two countries.

The bishops objected that churches had been excluded from the South Sudan peace talks held in Ethiopia. They also stressed the importance of prayer in this process.

“We call on the nation and all people of good will to continue to accompany the peace and reconciliation process with prayer and fasting,” the bishops said.

Attendees at the bishops’ plenary assembly included bishops of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa. The assembly also welcomed Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, the new papal nuncio to South Sudan. (CNA)

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Bishops say South Sudan faces decisive moment after conflict …

S Sudan rebels report attacks by government forces – Herald Online

JUBA, South Sudan — A brigadier speaking for rebels in South Sudan said Sunday that government troops have attacked their positions, actively violating a cease-fire in what he called a deliberate attempt to sabotage imminent peace talks.

Brig. Lul Ruai Koang told The Associated Press that rebel commanders in South Sudan report that government forces and allied militias attacked northern Leer town and surrounding villages in Unity state Saturday, killing an unknown number of people and destroying property. The rebels’ defensive positions in Upper Nile state also came under attack Saturday, he said.

South Sudan military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said he was unaware of fresh clashes.

Koang said Saturday’s attacks “are clear indications that (President Salva) Kiir’s government is not interested in peace but prepared for war.”

It was consistent with a “trend of government destruction and carnage” that had intensified before the signing on Jan. 23 of a cease-fire agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he said.

It was impossible to verify the allegations from Koang, who is based in Nairobi, capital of neighboring Kenya.

In the run-up to the truce, South Sudanese troops fighting alongside soldiers from Uganda retook key towns from the rebels, to ensure a stronger negotiating position.

Leer is the town where Doctors Without Borders reported Friday that a hospital was hastily evacuated, with 240 people including medical staff and patients fleeing into the bush fearful for their lives following “reports that fighting was approaching.”

The Catholic Church’s administrator in Juba, Roko Taban, said they have had no contact with Leer for several days since priests and nuns there had fled. “We’ve not been able to reach them despite trying for some days, the network is not good but we also don’t know where they’ve gone exactly,” he said.

Thousands of people across Unity state are hiding in the bush amid heightened insecurity, according to Doctors Without Borders, which said there are no more patients at its hospital in Leer.

Leer is also the hometown of Riek Machar, the fired former vice president who is commanding the rebellion.

The United Nations says both sides have committed gross violations of human rights during the conflict that began mid-December with entire army battalions defecting to the rebels made up of mainly Nuer fighters loyal to Machar. Government troops are mostly from the president’s Dinka tribe, the largest in South Sudan.

More than 1,000 people are estimated to have been killed and 800,000 have been forced from their homes, including 123,000 who have fled to neighboring countries.

The government insists the violence was sparked by a failed Dec. 15 coup attempt by soldiers loyal to Machar. Machar, who is in hiding, denies the allegation and says Kiir is a dictator who should be removed from power.

In what was seen as a conciliatory move last week, seven of 11 leaders detained for alleged treason were freed on Wednesday and flown to Kenya. The U.S. is urging South Sudan’s government to free the remaining detainees, all allies of Machar.

Tigist Hailu, a spokeswoman for the regional bloc mediating the peace talks, said a 14-member team traveled to South Sudan on Saturday to try to put in place a monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the cease-fire.

The second round of talks is expected to start later this month.

Meseret reported from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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S Sudan rebels report attacks by government forces – Herald Online

Africa leaders tackle C.Africa, S.Sudan conflict | Capital News

The South Sudan army taking charge of security/FILE

ADDIS ABABA, Jan 31 – Africa’s leaders met Friday for the final day of a summit dominated by conflict in South Sudan and Central African Republic, with the continental bloc drumming up support for a peacekeeping mission on the ground. Officially focused on agriculture and food security, the 54-member continental bloc has spent much of the time bogged down yet again trying to resolve conflict in member states.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, at the summit’s opening on Thursday, called for “urgent solutions to rescue these two sisterly countries from falling into the abyss”, as he gave his final speech as AU chair.

“Failure to do so will have serious implications for peace and security in the region,” he added.

AU Peace and Security Council chief Smail Chergui spoke Friday of the need to bolster support to CAR, with a pledging conference due Saturday following the closure of the official AU summit.

The unfolding humanitarian disaster in CAR, where the more than 5,000-strong AU force is deployed alongside 1,600 French soldiers, is a key talking point for the leaders, with soldiers underfunded and in dire need of extra support.

Chergui said the force had done a “noble job” but despite increasing demands on AU troops, he insisted that they would not — for now at least — rehat into a UN peacekeeping mission.

However, diplomats suggested that even when the full 6,000-strong force is deployed, it may struggle to secure vast areas outside CAR’s capital Bangui, hinting at a possible future need to increase troop numbers.

“Our hearts go to the people of the Central African Republic and South Sudan who face devastating conflicts in their countries and especially to women and children who’ve become the victims,” AU commission chief Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma said as the summit opened.

CAR descended into chaos 10 months ago after rebels overthrew the government, sparking violence between the Christian majority and Muslim minority that has uprooted a million people out of a population of 4.6 million.

“The important thing is to be able to meet the expectations of the people… so that they can have at least by the end of 2015 elections and a return to the constitutional order,” Chergui told reporters Friday.

Ceasefire monitors ‘critical’

Talks on South Sudan took place on the sidelines of the main AU summit, as East African leaders met to bolster peace efforts following the fragile ceasefire they brokered last week.

Both UN special envoy Haile Menkerios and US special envoy Donald Booth said it was “critical” monitoring teams be put swiftly in place to report on any violations, including by foreign forces.

Teams must be “provided with the necessary political and logistical support as well as unfettered access,” Haile said.

Both government and rebels accused each other of violating the deal but insist they are committed to ending a bloodshed in which thousands have been killed and more than 800,000 forced from their homes.

Leaders have also focused on “Agenda 2063″, a 50-year roadmap for the AU that has been a major preoccupation for Dlamini-Zuma.

Written as a message to a hypothetical friend in 2063, Dlamini-Zuma spoke of a “grand reality” where a new Confederation of African States has replaced the AU.

She described Kinshasa as having eclipsed Paris and Milan as fashion capital of the world, and Accra as upstaging Brussels as the home of gourmet chocolate.

The one-year rotating chair of the AU also passed from Ethiopia to Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who became the north African country’s president in 2009 after leading two coups in four years.

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Africa leaders tackle C.Africa, S.Sudan conflict | Capital News

What is happening in South Sudan? – Opinion – This Is Africa

Things in the Central African Republic are also horrendous, almost beyond contemplation. But what's weird about South Sudan was that it was recently basking in a Western spotlight, an example of how a shining new nation could be created with the backing of democracy's golden crusaders, the US. The mood music was loud, and full of hope, progress, dynamism. Yet when things started to go seriously wrong, things went quiet – the news coming out of the country 

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What is happening in South Sudan? – Opinion – This Is Africa

LOCAL CELEBRITY | Rural ReAction Reloaded

On the day we had food from South Sudan, Music, Drama play (that illustrated why the Lizards always hides underneath rocks) I was often told stories of the animals and the how they came to be…Story telling is a very 

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LOCAL CELEBRITY | Rural ReAction Reloaded

President: Ugandan Soldiers Killed Fighting in South Sudan · Global …

Ugandan troops are fighting alongside South Sudan's President Salva Kiir's troops in the ongoing conflict between government and rebel forces, in what Uganda says is an attempt to protect its many citizens doing business in 

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President: Ugandan Soldiers Killed Fighting in South Sudan · Global …

Pictures of the Day: South Sudan and Elsewhere

Before he even heard it, Vincent Rosenblatt felt the carioca funk music pumping out from the favelas near his home, rattling his windows and stirring his resolve to photograph the favela dance scene.. Read more » 

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Pictures of the Day: South Sudan and Elsewhere

Letter to Sudan and AU: Secret land grab deal with TPLF (campaign …

Ethiopian people and Sudanese people lived in harmony for millennia, they live together sharing common values prior and post colonial era. Most of us still remember the music of late Said Khalifa, Mohamed Wardi and others 

Letter to Sudan and AU: Secret land grab deal with TPLF (campaign …