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Republicans Admit Defeat On Health Care Bill: ‘Obamacare Is The Law Of The Land’


March 24, 20172

House Speaker Paul Ryan holds a news conference to announce that the Republican Party has decided not to vote on its health bill on Friday. “We were close,” he said, but the votes weren’t there to pass it.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

House Republicans scrapped a vote on their health care replacement plan on Friday after defections from both the right and center that made it clear the bill would not pass.

“Obamacare is the law of the land. It is going to remain the law of the land,” House Speaker Paul Ryan admitted shortly after he pulled the bill. “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future. I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to replace this law.”

Ryan may have admitted defeat, but President Trump chalked it up to a “learning experience.” Trump also tried to spin the setback as an opportunity for a potential “bipartisan” bill in the future.

“Both parties can get together … and have a better bill,” he said, adding, “Having bipartisan would be a big, big improvement.”

But Trump and Ryan both said health care is being put on the shelf for the time being. They’re moving on to tax reform.

The failure of the health care bill is a major setback for Trump’s leadership and Ryan’s ability to control his conference. That control was something that eluded his predecessor, John Boehner, and eventually led to Boehner’s ouster.

“The best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode,” Trump argued in the Oval Office. “It is exploding right now.”

Trump — who is the first president to enter office without any political or legislative experience — seemed to admit there was a bit of a learning curve.

“This was an interesting period of time,” Trump said. “We all learned a lot. We learned a lot about loyalty and we learned a lot about the vote-getting process. And we learned about very arcane rules in both the Senate and the House. Certainly, for me, it was a very interesting experience, but for me, it’ll be an experience that leads to an even better health care plan.”

Striking a more solemn tone, a dejected Ryan admitted that fulfilling the GOP’s pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act was tougher than expected.

“Moving from an opposition party to a governing party,” Ryan said, “comes with growing pains, and, well, we’re feeling those growing pains now.”

He added, “This is a setback — no two ways about it. … I will not sugarcoat this — this is a disappointing day for us.”

The way forward for Republicans on exactly how to replace Obamacare remains murky. And it’s not clear whether they will try again. Ryan had already delayed the bill a day to try to muster support. Trump had delivered an ultimatum to House Republicans — pass the GOP replacement, the American Health Care Act, or Obamacare will stand.

Ultimately, the votes never came together for a fractured GOP caucus, and Ryan traveled to the White House to tell Trump he was pulling the bill.

Democrats, meanwhile, were more than happy to take a victory lap in the GOP’s defeat. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose caucus was decimated in 2010 after the health care bill was passed, appeared flanked by Democratic leadership to gloat just a day after the seventh anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s pretty exciting for us,” the California Democrat said, beaming. “Yesterday the anniversary. Today is a victory for us.”

The inability of Republicans to reach consensus on a bill, given their control of the House, Senate and White House, badly hurts the GOP’s image as a party that can govern, and Ryan admitted as much on Friday.

The GOP has vowed repeatedly over the past eight years that it would repeal and replace Obamacare. The legislative stalemate endangers Trump’s and the GOP’s agenda and casts a cloud over the legislative path forward after an election waged almost entirely as the antithesis to a progressive agenda enacted by former President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor.

The risks were high for Trump on the bill. He has hyped a brand of someone able to strike the best deals. Being unable to get this through, after giving an ultimatum to congressional Republicans Thursday, raises questions about just how good a deal-maker he is and underscores his lack of legislative and policy experience upon entering the White House.

Vice President Pence, who canceled a trip out of Washington, had hoped to make one last sale in a meeting with the roughly 40-member, hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus, which had also refused to budge from its ideological objections to the bill.

In an attempt to win the caucus over, an amendment was added to the bill late Wednesday night, cutting essential health benefits, 10 types of medical care that insurance companies are required to cover. The Freedom Caucus wants to see premiums come down and believes cutting benefits is the way to do that.

But that also had an effect on moderates. For example, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., who represents a swing district in the D.C. suburbs, said she wouldn’t back the bill, joining more moderate Republicans who are top 2018 Democratic targets who don’t want to take a tough vote that might come back to bite them during the midterms.

Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, another centrist Republican, announced he wouldn’t support the bill either, saying in a statement that the GOP’s replacement plan was no better than Obamacare.

And House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., also broke ranks with GOP leadership on Friday, announcing that he was a no vote. His reasoning: The current bill adds too many new costs and barriers, along with taking away benefits requirements.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer had maintained at his daily briefing that a vote was still slated for this afternoon. He said Trump had “left everything on the field” to try to woo Republican members, having contacted over 120 members. But his tone and tense were notable.

Spicer wouldn’t concede that the bill might fail, but he did admit that “at the end of the day, you can’t force somebody to do something.”

He added, “At the end of the day, this isn’t a dictatorship.”

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SPLA-IO LEADERSHIP OF THE EQUATORIA REGION IS NOT NEGOTIATING ANY PEACE AGREEMENT WITH SALVA KIIR’S AGENTS


By Lt. Col. Wayi Godwill Bizi

SPLA-IO Spokesperson of Equatoria Region,

South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, showing his skeptical face during peace talks in Addis Ababa. That agreement has now collapsed and the leaders continue to impose themselves amid an intense conflict that is now in its 4 years(Photo: file)

March 24, 2017, SPLA-IO leadership of the Equatoria region hereby dismiss as fabricated lie the report in circulation that leaders of armed opposition forces in Morobo area of Yei River State reached a peace agreement with Yei River State government brokered by Bishop Elias Taban Parangi of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Yei South Sudan.

It is a propaganda generated by Mr. David Lokonga Moses and the greatest religious ally of Mr. Kiir, Bishop Elias Taban with wishful thought of creating division among the gallant SPLA-IO revolutionaries in the area. Kiir’s criminal regime repeatedly tried to take control of SPLA-IO positions in this territory but all attempts were abortive. And they have resorted to such unfounded treacheries. SPLA-IO has maintained control of over 70% of Yei River State as indeed it is in other parts of the Equatoria region.

The other reason is to blindfold the South Sudanese people, the region, the outside world and indeed the donors of Elias Taban into believing that there are efforts going on to restore peace in Yei and the rest of the country.

The names mentioned in the report are nonexistent in the profiles and ranks of SPLA-IO. The conspirators of this dirty game collected disgruntled youth from somewhere else and lied to the public that they are leaders of armed opposition forces in the area. These conspirators are only capable of telling lies, not peace makers.

SPLA-IO in the region calls upon the people of South Sudan and the friends of South Sudan to disregard that report as unfortunate white lie of the failed regime of Kiir together with its closest ally Bishop Elias Taban.

The leadership also reminds Bishop Elias Taban to live up to his call to serve God but not to compromise his integrity and that of the Church he serves by entering into tricks of the Juba regime that is administering genocide, gang-rape of girls and women and pillage of civilians’ livelihoods across the country.

Hosni Mubarak walks free after six-year detention


Ex-president, recently acquitted for role in protester deaths during 2011 uprising, returns to his Cairo home.

Mubarak was acquitted on March 2 from charges related to the 2011 uprising [File: Reuters]

Six years after his ouster, Egypt’s ex-President Hosni Mubarak has been released from detention after being cleared of inciting the killings of hundreds of protesters in 2011.

Mubarak, 88, on Friday left a military hospital in Cairo’s southern suburb of Maadi where he had been held in custody and went to his home in the upscale Heliopolis district under heavy security.

His lawyer, Farid el-Deeb, told the Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm that he celebrated his release with breakfast his wife Suzanne and their two sons, Alaa and Gamal.

Mubarak was cleared for release earlier this month after the country’s highest appeals court acquitted him of any involvement in the deaths of nearly 900 Egyptians during the 25 January – 11 February 2011 uprising.

He had been sentenced to life in 2012 but an appeals court dismissed the charges two years later.

Timothy Kaldas, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, told Al Jazeera that it was unlikely “both now or any time in the foreseeable future that anyone will be prosecuted for the murders.

“Mubarak being in or out of prison doesn’t change the fact that the military the took control in Egypt in 1952 continues to rule Egypt today.

“[Mubarak’s] role in Egyptian politics is of limited consequence today, [but] there’s a real sense of injustice that while many revolutionaries are in prison – he has walked free.”

PHOTOS: Egypt Revolution – 18 days of people power

The ouster of Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 29 years, led to the country’s first free election but the winner, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, was overthrown in a military coup in 2013.

Army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has since waged a fierce crackdown on Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood with human rights groups claiming as many as 60,000 political prisoners currently languish in Egypt’s jails.

In contrast, Mubarak-era figures are slowly being cleared of charges and a series of laws curtailing political freedoms have raised fears among activists that the old leadership is regaining influence.

“As Hosni Mubarak goes free in Egypt, thousands of prisoners still languish in horrific prison conditions,” Harriet McCulloch, a deputy director at human rights organisation Reprieve, told Al Jazeera.

“Many face the death penalty on charges relating to protests, in mass trials that make a mockery of due process,” McCulloch added.

“Some were arrested as children – people like Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa, who has suffered terrible abuses in jail. The Sisi government must now show that Egypt’s justice system is worthy of the name and release Ibrahim, and the hundreds like him.”

A former air force chief and vice president, Mubarak became president after fighters who had infiltrated the army shot dead president Anwar Sadat during a military parade in 1981.

Mubarak, then vice president, was metres away from Sadat during the attack and was shot in the hand. He was sworn in as president eight days later.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

White World wants to colonies Africa again: This Year’s African Global Economic and Development Summit Had No Africans Present


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by DAMOLA DUROSOMO

March 25, 2017, The African Global Economic and Development (AGED) Summit took place this weekend at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The annual conference is intended to be an event where business leaders from Africa and the United States meet to discuss economic strategies. This year’s turnout was noticeably different, however, as there were no Africans in attendance at the meeting.

Whereas in previous years, around 40 percent of delegates were denied visas, this year, no visas were granted in the days leading up to the summit says Mary Flowers, chair of the committee. According to Flowers, “around 100 guests, from 12 different countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and South Africa, were unable to attend.”

“I have to say that most of us feel it’s a discrimination issue with the African nations, we experience it over and over and over, and the people being rejected are legitimate business people with ties to the continent,” says Flowers. People on the ground where given interviews that lasted only two minutes and were asked random, unrelated questions such as how old their children were. There seems to have been no real plan to grant visas in the first place, as people were denied immediately after completing interviews, Flowers told OkayAfrica.

When questioned about the sweeping rejection of African visitors, The State Department responded that they could not comment on individual cases, reports Indy 100.

Though it’s unsettling that a meeting focused on the economic affairs of the continent could occur without any African representatives present, it’s certainly not the first time that something like this has happened—which is perhaps what’s most alarming.

U.S. warns South Sudan government against ‘deliberate starvation tactics’


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By Michelle Nichols | UNITED NATIONS
March 24, 2017, The United States warned South Sudan’s government on Thursday that preventing humanitarian aid workers from reaching parts of the war-torn state that are suffering famine could “amount to deliberate starvation tactics.”

A civil war erupted in 2013 when President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, fired his deputy, Riek Machar, a Nuer, who has fled and is now in South Africa. The United Nations says at least one-quarter of South Sudanese have been displaced.

The United Nations has declared a famine in some parts of South Sudan, where nearly half the population – some 5.5 million people – face food shortages. But the country recently hiked work permit fees a hundredfold for foreign aid workers, to $10,000.

“The famine is not a result of drought, it is the result of leaders more interested in political power and personal gain than in stopping violence and allowing humanitarian access,” Deputy U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison told the Security Council.

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“The government’s continued unconscionable impediments to humanitarians seeking access to famine-stricken populations may amount to deliberate starvation tactics,” she said.

Russian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Petr Illichev disagreed, saying the famine was “linked not just to problems with security, but also with inclement weather conditions.”

The Security Council said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned about the actions of all parties to the conflict that are perpetuating the humanitarian crisis.” However, the language was toned down from a draft that said the crisis was “the result of the actions of all parties to the conflict.”

South Sudan Deputy Ambassador Joseph Mourn Majak Ngor Malok rejected accusations that the government was to blame for the famine, saying “it will spare no efforts to help address the situation and calls upon the international community to assist in addressing this urgent matter.”

Sison’s remarks give the first indication of how President Donald Trump’s administration views the crisis in South Sudan.

The previous administrations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama were heavily involved in the birth of South Sudan, which signed a peace accord with Sudan in 2005 and gained independence in 2011.

“I wouldn’t characterize South Sudan as their top priority by any means, but I think it is positive and constructive… that they are planning to carry on being the lead in the Security Council,” said a senior U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Africans delegates were denied visas to attend a trade meeting of the African Global Economic and Development Summit by the U.S. government


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By Fred Obera on March 21, 2017 — Africans delegates were denied visas to attend a trade meeting of the African Global Economic and Development Summit by the U.S. government. The countries affected included Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Guinea. This year’s meeting was quite peculiar as there were no Africans in attendance.
African delegates were denied visas to attend a trade meeting of the African Global Economic and Development Summit at the University of Southern California. The summit brings participants from African countries to meet business leaders, government officials and other stakeholders and interest groups in the United States.

The visa denial has been heavily criticised, seen as the latest episode by U.S. president Donald Trump administration.

The two day’s summit, which started on March 16th to 18th 2017 was meant to promote bi and multilateral foreign direct investment, international trade, cultural exchange and tourism with the 54 individual countries in Africa and it was the first time that the event went on without Africans.

Voice of America reported that most of the delegates denied visas include government officials, prominent business leaders and young entrepreneurs from Africa and the organizers termed the move as purely discrimination against Africa.
The advert banner on the home web page for the African Global Economic and Development Summit. Photo: http://www.agedsummit.com
“I have to say that most of us feel it’s a discrimination issue with the African nations. We experience it over and over and over, and the people being rejected are legitimate business people with ties to the continent,” Mary Flowers, who chairs the African Global Economic and Development Summit, told the VoA.

Read: What do Trumps phone calls African leaders mean to trade and security

According to Flowers sentiments, this year was the worst summit in terms of attendance since African delegates were denied visas to attend their own meeting in the U.S., given that usually 40 percent normally get rejected in previous meetings but this year it was 100 percent denial, and the affected included the summit’s key speakers and panelists.

Reports said that the delegates who were denied visas were called to the U.S. embassy interviews a day before the event despite having applied several weeks or even months ahead of their traveling dates. The countries affected included Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Guinea.

The effects of Trump executive orders

Since taking office, President Trump has looked to fulfill some of his pre-election campaign promises to the American people by using the 27 executive orders.

Read: Here’s how Donald Trump will deal with migrants and extremists

The most recent one was the executive order on border and immigration enforcement in January 2017. The order suspended the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia for 90 days, stopping all refugees from entering the country for 120 days.

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UN: Taban Deng Gai advice South Sudan govt to starve counties where Machar hails as part of cleansing program


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BY AGENCIES ON MARCH 21, 2017ANALYSIS, LOCAL NEWS

Young men carry an elderly woman on a makeshift stretcher as they cross a swamp in Hunger stricken Unity State.

By Jason Patinkin

The declaration of famine in two counties of South Sudan last month led to immediate pledges of aid. Grave editorials called on Western governments to prioritize relief efforts to the needy, despite the shortcomings of the government and the ongoing civil war.

But a singular focus on sending more food may miss the mark. That’s because in South Sudan’s famine zone, more people die from bullets than starvation.

The famine was declared for Mayendit and Leer counties of southern Unity State, an area populated by various clans of the Nuer ethnic group. These clans are politically loyal to Riek Machar, who leads South Sudan’s main rebel group, the SPLA-IO, and hails from Leer.

According to a February survey that food security experts analysed as part of the data used to declare famine, 4.1 in 10,000 people died per day across Mayendit county. That’s above the famine threshold of two hunger-related deaths per 10,000 people, which itself is about 10 times the average global death rate.

But 73 percent of those deaths in Mayendit were from conflict, not starvation. That means more than two people per 10,000 died per day – the same catastrophic, out of control death rate of a famine – but the immediate cause was because they had been shot.

Other surveys tell a similar story. In Leer, there’s no recent available mortality data, but a survey from February 2016 found that of the more than three people dying per 10,000 per day there, 57 percent were from conflict rather than starvation.

A third study released in December 2016 by REACH, a USAID-funded group, found conflict the leading cause of mortality in Leer and Mayendit, accounting for 49 percent of total deaths.

That means the war in southern Unity is so bad that even amid a famine, violent deaths still outpace starvation deaths.

To be clear, the high rate of conflict deaths does not mean Leer and Mayendit counties are not experiencing famine.

A famine requires, among other factors, that a population experiences two deaths per 10,000 people per day that are “related to hunger”. A violent death can also be “related to hunger” if, for instance, a hungry person ventures into an unsafe area in search of food and is shot, something that has been the case in southern Unity.

But the opposite is even more true. Southern Unity is a lush floodplain, full of fish and arable land. No one would die from hunger there if there wasn’t conflict. The war has prevented people from planting, harvesting, fishing, and trading. Just as importantly, the conflict prevents relief workers from bringing enough food aid to reach hungry people.

“With active conflict in these places, it is very difficult for humanitarian assistance to be felt, because even when the food is distributed, sometimes it can be taken away [by armed groups],” explained Barack Kinanga, a food security expert with the International Rescue Committee.

The hunger facing people in southern Unity is not just a byproduct of the war, but the goal, many analysts suggest. Across the country, 5.8 millionpeople are in need of food aid and more than 2.3 million – one in every five people in South Sudan – have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the conflict.

While SPLA-IO rebels have launched attacks (including on civilians), and thrown up barriers to aid, the death by violence and hunger in southern Unity is primarily the result of three scorched-earth campaigns waged by the government army (the SPLA), and its militia allies.

Draining the sea

The first campaign, led by the Justice and Equality Movement, a militia from Sudan’s Darfur region that has fought for South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, took place in January 2014.

JEM stormed south from the Unity capital Bentiu and razed Leer, sending civilians and aid workers running for their lives. By the time aid groups returned in May 2014, children were already dying of malnutrition, though no famine was declared.

The next two campaigns were far more devastating. For seven months, beginning in late April 2015, SPLA-backed militia from the Bul and later Jaggey clans of the Nuer wreaked havoc across southern Unity.

Besides mass murder and sexual slavery, the militia torched villages, stole or destroyed grain and crops, looted cattle on an industrial scale, wrecked water points, shelled river ports to disrupt trade in foodstuffs, and either stole or blocked aid deliveries.

The goal was to annihilate the rebels’ support base by creating an “empty area” in central and southern Unity, according to a United Nations Panel of Experts report.

“SPLA armed forces were intent on rendering communal life unviable and prohibiting any return to normalcy following the violence,” the group said.

Nearly 8,000 people died by violence or drowning in the swamps while fleeing attacks in the 2015 campaign, according to a UN mortality study released early last year.

By the end of 2015, some 70,000 people had fled the affected region, mostly to government areas where aid workers were allowed to deliver food. Forty thousand people left behind were classified by the IPC to be in “famine conditions”.

The most recent campaign, from July 2016 and continuing into 2017, finally pushed Mayendit and Leer counties into what the UN and the government now officially describe as a famine.

These attacks were carried out by SPLA-backed militia loyal to Taban Deng Gai, who hails from the Jikany Nuer clan in northeastern Unity state. Since the collapse of a peace and power-sharing deal with rebel leader Machar in 2016 and the return to civil war, the international community has recognized Taban, as he is popularly known, as the First Vice President.

The 2016-2017 campaign appears to have been just as brutal as the one of 2015, including rape, murder, and destruction of villages.

“A whole village would disappear,” said one aid worker, who visited repeatedly in 2016 but IRIN is keeping anonymous for safety reasons. “In your next visit, you’d find just piles of ash.”

As in 2015, soldiers targeted civilians and their livelihoods by stealing cattle, blocking aid, and destroying crops during fighting, which the REACH study said was the largest cause of food insecurity in the state. Destitute people have turned to gathering wild fruits, leaves, and fish to survive, but soldiers block access to even these emergency food sources.

“We found a case [in government-controlled southern Mayendit], the men with guns are basically disallowing anyone from accessing fishing areas,” the aid worker said.

“Pushed and pushed and pushed”

Throughout the chaos, aid groups have undertaken what at times was the largest single-country aid effort on Earth.

In 2014, they started dropping food from planes, which hadn’t been done anywhere since the war in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

That wasn’t enough, so they started “Rapid Response Missions”, where aid workers were helicoptered in to remote areas for one to two weeks at a time, quickly assessed needs, and distributed as much as food and medicine as possible before dropping into the next place. Those missions hadn’t been done anywhere, ever.

When government militia started killing civilians who attended the rapid response missions and stealing their food, aid groups covertly handed out “emergency relief kits” – small packages of high-energy biscuits, fishing hooks, water purification tablets, and other lifesavers – by helicopter or canoe to families hiding in the bush.

This was a far cry from meeting the needs of people on the ground, but aid groups continued trying to reach them. Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Committee of the Red Cross kept coming back, even though soldiers looted or destroyed their compounds in Leer four times, including last July.

None of these efforts stopped the violence itself. Even the declaration of famine, the loudest alarm bell the aid world can ring, hasn’t resulted in a ceasefire. Just days after the announcement, aid workers were forced to evacuate Mayendit yet again.

“We’ve pushed and pushed and pushed,” said World Food Programme spokeswoman Challiss McDonough. “But humanitarian assistance can only do so much on its own. It cannot end a conflict.”

For that, the international community needs to mobilise political action.

“This is a conflict-driven famine,” said Nicholas Haan of Singularity University, who led the development of the IPCand is on its independent Emergency Review Committee, which assessed the famine data for South Sudan.

“In addition to stop-gap humanitarian assistance, there needs to be extreme, extraordinary measures to tamp down the conflict in the area, whatever that looks like.”

Identifying the problem

For now, most commentators – besides activists George Clooney and John Prendergast – blame South Sudan’s “man-made” famine on fighting between “armed groups”, rather than plainly accusing the government.

There are few journalists and researchers operating in the country, so most information comes from the UN mission, called UNMISS, and aid groups.

UNMISS often avoids commenting on incidents of violence. Aid groups, despite having by far the best network of contacts on both sides of the conflict, are also largely silent – even when they are the targets of violence – in the name of “neutrality”.

The effect of this institutional silence and aversion to naming culprits is a wider illusion that atrocities aren’t happening, or if they are, that all sides are equally culpable.

“One of the biggest lessons from southern Unity was that we, as a humanitarian community, needed to come together and be more vocal and honest about what we were seeing,” said one senior aid official, who worked closely on the response but spoke anonymously over career concerns.

“We had overwhelming anecdotal evidence to suggest that ethnic cleansing was under way [in 2015], but we were blocked by senior UN leadership from being able to say that,” the source added.

The silence held even when relief workers themselves were attacked. UNMISS said nothing when men believed to have been from South Sudan’s National Security Service beat up the mission’s deputy humanitarian coordinator at her home in Juba in July 2015. Later that year, MSF would not comment when three staff were killed, though they announced the incident to their employees.

IRIN interviewed two other aid officials who worked closely on southern Unity. Both agreed with the assessment that aid groups operated under a culture of silence.

They said this phenomenon increased followed the arrival of a new UN humanitarian coordinator in the middle of 2015, Eugene Owusu, who replaced Toby Lanzer after his expulsion by the government.

One of the officials said the wariness to speak out was “policy” from Owusu’s office, noting that internal pressure was required to drive any public statement. All three officials said public silence was not an effective strategy at gaining access to southern Unity, even though the need to preserve access was the justification for remaining silent.

“Access was often used as an excuse not to speak out on human rights violations, [but]we already didn’t have access for most of 2015 so we didn’t have that much to lose,” said the first official.

“There has to be a point at which we say, ‘you know what, now speaking out about what we’re seeing and the massacres we’re hearing about is more important than maintaining our relationship with the government’. It seemed like the UN never hit that point where they were comfortable making that shift, and NGOs fell in line.”

What’s next?

One possible measure to slow down the violence is an arms embargo.

The 2015 campaign, which lasted through the wet season, depended heavily on armoured and amphibious vehicles. Even today, fresh bullets continue to flow into southern Unity, including a reported transfer of ammunition from the SPLA to a militia in the area last month. But an embargo is unlikely to get past Russian and Chinese objections at the UN Security Council, even if it could garner enough regional support.

Another possible way to stop the attacks on civilians might be foreign military intervention. Already, UNMISS has a Chapter Seven mandate to protect civilians with lethal force when necessary and to facilitate humanitarian aid.

But UNMISS has weak command and control and a general unwillingness to engage. Although it established a base in Leer in November 2015, the town has only become more violent, militarised, and unsafe for aid workers and civilians alike.

Eight months ago, there was talk of sending an additional 4,000-strong UN Regional Protection Force drawn from neighbouring countries. But the RPF would only deploy to the capital Juba, and faced with government resistance, there has been no real progress on that or any other military option.

Political solutions are also in short supply.

“The international community has few options, and the state knows this,” said Carol Berger, a Canadian anthropologist who has worked in South Sudan for many years.

“The unimplemented peace agreement, talk of a national dialogue, of forming a hybrid court to try those alleged to have committed atrocities — all of these supposed solutions have only provided the state with a cover as it continues its war,” she told IRIN.

It’s a grim outlook, but if the world continues sending food without stopping bullets, it’s a likely scenario for years to come.

13 people die from hunger in Northern Bahr al Ghazal


img_1105AWEIL (21 Mar.)

Northern Bahr al Ghazal’s Commissioner for Relief and Rehabilitation, Deng Kuel, says at least 13 people have died from hunger in the area between 8 to 11 March.

The figure for the grater Northern Bahr al Ghazal and Raja is the first official death toll announced after South Sudan’s government and UN agencies announced famine in parts of the country in February.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on Monday, Kuel said more than 10,000 people fled their homes due to the Raja events last year. He added that other people fled from Aweil due to hunger.

The official pointed out that the displaced families are currently living under trees in Aru Maring and Awuda areas, saying they are eating leaves to stay alive, amid absence of humanitarian organizations in the area.

He called on international NGOs to help the needy people as soon as possible.

Photo:Northern Bahr al Ghazal’s (Retrieved from Google Maps)

A former oil worker in Pakistan Describes South Sudan “A Lawless Land Without a Government”


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March 21, 2017 – For the last two days, news about South Sudan have spread across the Pakistani Capital, Islamabad, after Pakistani petroleum engineers’ lives became at risk in South Sudan’s main oilfield, Palouch.

At least one Pakistani citizen, Ayaz Hussain Jamali, and two Indian oil workers were kidnapped in Palouch oil fields by anti-government forces within this month.

The insecurity in South Sudan’s oil fields has sent strong signals to Pakistan and India, leaving citizens of those countries Googling to find out more information about this unknown country and safety of their citizens who have unknowingly landed in what is now a war zone.

One Pakistani citizen, who has been to South Sudan was interviewed yesterday on the news in Islamabad about South Sudan and here is what he had to say:

“There are no roads in South Sudan. There is only one road (one) out of the capital. There has been a civil war with the north for two decades and no one respects the rules of war. Five million in South Sudan do not know where their next meal will come from.” Said the Pakistani citizen.

“In this lawless land there is no government to talk to. Only America is feeding them. Maybe Pakistan would like to help us with food distribution. Everyone knows that South Sudan is not a safe place to work in. The people are isolated in a war zone. Militias are looting the food banks. You may think [South] Sudan is a Muslim country. Maybe the family is confused. Sudan is a Muslim country, but South Sudan is not a Muslim country. The Jamali family probably believes it is. The bad news is that South Sudan is a killing field where human life means nothing.” He continued.

This description is a no news to South Sudanese themselves but to Jamali and other Pakistani families, who have relatives in South Sudan, could be heart wrenching.

Ayaz Hussein Jamali and his brother Bahar Jamali have worked in this risky oil fields since 2014, however, on Sunday, March 19th, Ayaz felt into rebels’ ambush and was taken to unknown destination leaving his brother and other foreign oil workers worried of their safety.

The foreign oil workers, who have undermined anti-government forces’ warnings, are being accused of having taken part in South Sudan’s conflict by exploiting oil and other resources in favour of one party – the government.

South Sudan conflict which is now in its forth year began in 2013 with no signs that it could end any time soon.

The rebels control vast areas in both Upper Nile and Equatoria regions, the two richest regions that harbours oil, minerals and routes to East Africa, which is considered to be the bread basket of South Sudan.

Government attempts to secure the oil fields and main routes throughout the country have failed so far.

Despite a peace agreement that has now collapsed, defections continued almost every month for the last three and half years, and fighting between warring factions led by President Salva Kiir and his former Deputy, Dr. Riek Machar, continue to intensify.

The government has launched many offensives at the beginning of this year, hoping to capture more territories from the rebels, however, fighting has only displaced more citizens from areas that were relatively peaceful with very little progress.

AP

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