Conflict and mass displacement in Sudan add to South Sudan’s woes

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Updated 22 June 2023
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Conflict and mass displacement in Sudan add to South Sudan’s woes

Conflict and mass displacement in Sudan add to South Sudan’s woes
  • Protracted fighting piling pressure on already stretched resources, South Sudan’s top diplomat at UN tells Arab News
  • Akuei Bona Malwal claims authority of AU being undermined, African solutions to African crises ignored

NEW YORK CITY: Conflict and mass displacement in Sudan pose a threat to South Sudan’s limited humanitarian resources and brittle peace, Akuei Bona Malwal, the country’s permanent representative to the UN, has told Arab News.

Twelve years after gaining independence from its northern neighbor, South Sudan continues to face challenges of its own, with millions displaced to neighboring countries, including Sudan, to escape poverty and instability.




Akuei Bona Malwal, Sudan's permanent representative to the UN. (AN photo)

Now the violent power struggle in Sudan is forcing hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese living there to return en masse, alongside huge numbers of Sudanese and other nationalities, piling pressure on South Sudan’s already stretched humanitarian resources.

“There are two aspects to the humanitarian crisis,” Malwal told Arab News during a special interview in New York City.

“First, we have close to 2 million South Sudanese citizens who are in Sudan, and in Khartoum, in particular. They are now trying to come back to South Sudan. And this has taken people by surprise.




A violent power struggle in Sudan is forcing people, both locals and foreigners, to flee the country every day, piling pressure on neighbor South Sudan’s already stretched humanitarian resources. (AFP)

“Our authorities in the country don’t have the facilities to accommodate them quickly, and repatriate them to their villages. So, that is actually exhausting the meager facilities that we have.

“And then we also have the Sudanese taking refuge in our country (along with) other Africans and other nationalities who are coming to South Sudan because we have opened the door for people to come in to take refuge. So that’s also a burden on the government.”

Fighting in Sudan began on April 15 between the Sudanese Armed Forces, headed by Sudan’s de-facto leader Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by Al-Burhan’s deputy turned rival, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemetti.

The clashes have plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis, with up to 3,000 people killed, according to Sudan’s minister of health, and more than 1.8 million displaced within Sudan or across its borders, according to the UN. Many have fled to Egypt, Chad and South Sudan, which have issues of their own.

Fueled by intercommunal violence, crime, public health challenges, climate and economic shocks, and poor governance, poverty in South Sudan is ubiquitous. Now it being aggravated by conflict and insecurity.

About 70 percent of South Sudanese live below the poverty line. On the global human development index, South Sudan ranks last. On top of this, the country is also facing its worst flooding in years, and continues to face very high levels of food insecurity.




Sudanese refugees collect water from a tap at the Gorom Refugee near Juba, in South Sudan, on June 20, 2023. (REUTERS)

In 2023, around 10 million South Sudanese, or 76 percent of the population, will need humanitarian assistance in order to survive. And the number continues to increase.

South Sudan’s fragile stability is also in jeopardy. The country’s latest peace agreement was signed in 2018, leading to a delicate truce and the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity in 2020.

Although hostilities between the government and the main opposition have eased, the very logic of the power-sharing agreement has actually contributed to the continuing violence.

The US, which last year suspended its assistance for the peace process monitoring mechanisms, has accused South Sudan’s leadership of failing to live up to its end of the deal by showing “a lack of political will necessary to implement critical reforms.”

The UN Security Council recently voted to extend the arms embargo on South Sudan, citing the country’s failure to meet the benchmarks stipulated in the peace process, related to security arrangements and disarmament.

Malwal described the extension as “ill-intentioned” and “counterproductive,” and said it had been handled in “bad faith.”




Akuei Bona Malwal. (Supplied photo)

“The Americans are angry with the South Sudanese leadership,” he said. “They keep using this word that I don’t like: ‘We midwifed you.’ Meaning they helped us become independent, which is true.

“We are not denying that. But, then, how do I become sovereign now in order to subordinate my independence and my sovereignty to the US, because they have helped us to become independent?

“Simply because we disagree on security, that doesn’t mean we no longer should be friends or partners. We still want to work with the US.”

Malwal believes the situation unfolding in Sudan has undermined the political process in his home country.

“Sudan being the current chair of IGAD, and the South Sudanese peace implementation is being monitored by IGAD, this has slowed things down,” he said, referring to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the eight-country African trade bloc headquartered in Djibouti.

“There are certain things that we are doing on our own. But it is always good to have a functioning regional organization that is actually verifying what we are doing, because certain (members) in the international arena do not think that we are faithfully implementing the peace process.”

Preventing further spillovers into the wider region means quickly resolving the crisis in Sudan. Malwal said his greatest fear is that the fighting will be prolonged, leading to further destruction and displacement.

“I grew up in Khartoum, and I went to school there,” he said. “It’s sad to see what is happening now. We thought Khartoum should be stable. It was moving forward, actually. And now it has gone back. And it’s very unfortunate. Sudan is an important country in the region and it should be stable as soon as possible.

“We knew there were some tensions. The signs were there. But we were hoping for a very smooth transition, because the two generals were actually together. They were allies. And we just didn’t know, in the last days before the eruption, why it had escalated to where it is. Nobody knows.

“That needs to be addressed quickly, because (the fighting) is unnecessary, really. The people of Sudan, and especially the citizens of Khartoum, and the city itself, shouldn’t be a battlefield.”

Multiple ceasefire agreements have been reached between the warring factions in Sudan, including what became known as the Jeddah Declaration — the outcome of negotiations led by Saudi Arabia and the US — who managed to bring the two generals to the negotiating table.

However, every truce to date has been violated.

Saudi Arabia and the US warned in a recent joint statement that “should the parties fail to observe the 24-hour ceasefire, facilitators will be compelled to consider adjourning the Jeddah talks.”




Representatives of the Sudanese Armed Forces and its rival Rapid Support Forces prepare to sign the Jeddah Declaration, witnessed by Saudi and US officials, during a ceremony in Jeddah on May 11, 2023. (Supplied)

Malwal echoed the African Union’s call to unify international peace efforts in order to avoid multiple overlapping initiatives, which could be a “complicating factor.”

“You don’t need to have so many forums for peace negotiations,” he said. “When the US and the Saudis managed to bring the generals to the negotiating table, everybody was waiting to see how they would fare, including the UN and IGAD.

“That’s why South Sudan President Salva Kiir has said let’s work behind the scenes while we wait and see what will happen from Jeddah.

“Now, maybe there is a need for the UN to come in and give IGAD instead the means to deal with the situation and see what happens. Maybe the situation needs a lower approach, rather than a high-profile approach.




This Oct. 3, 2020, photo, shows South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (C) with Sudan's Sovereign Council chairman Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Chad President Idriss Deby  during the signing of the South Sudan peace deal in Juba . (AFP)

“And that’s what I think IGAD would be best suited for, because Sudan is a member of IGAD. These are people who know the two generals very well. President Salva Kiir knows the two generals personally.

“He would bring in Kenya, who is a member of that mediation team. It’s a very important country in the region. Djibouti is a good friend of Sudan and a member of IGAD. So these are three countries that know these people.

“I think if they are empowered more to take the lead and to see what they could do, maybe there would be a way of rescuing the situation faster.”




A picture taken on June 16, 2023, shows a covered body across from a military armored vehicle on a street in the West Darfur state capital El Geneina, amid ongoing fighting between two generals in war-torn Sudan. (AFP)

However, Malwal believes the authority of the African Union has been routinely undermined.

“We’ve been dealing with certain members of the Security Council who are not listening,” he said. “They don’t respect — and I wouldn’t use that word if I didn’t know what I’m talking about  — the decision of the African Union vis-a-vis the issues that concerned African countries.

“You cannot say to the AU you’re a part of this process, and then, when the heads of African states say they are against sanctions on South Sudan and ask for the opportunity to deal with the issue of South Sudan or any other issue, you don’t say: ‘No, we have our own way of looking at it.’

“We have moral authority and we are imposing these because our way is the only way that’s going to resolve this issue. So, I don’t think the AU is being treated as an equally important organization when it comes to certain issues and, in particular, in South Sudan,” he said.

 


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Israel puts Golan, Nevatim, Dimona, Eilat residents on impact standby

Israel puts Golan, Nevatim, Dimona, Eilat residents on impact standby
  • Israel has a nuclear reactor on the outskirts of Dimona

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military put the northern part of the occupied Golan Heights as well as Nevatim, Dimona and Eilat on standby for possible impact from Iranian drone launches early on Sunday, instructing residents to stay close to bomb shelters.
The Golan was captured from Syria in a 1967 war. Nevatim is the site of an Israeli air base. Israel has a nuclear reactor on the outskirts of Dimona. Eilat is Israel’s southern Red Sea port, which has come under repeated attack by Yemen’s Houthis.

 


US shoots down Iranian drone aircraft bound for Israel — US officials

US shoots down Iranian drone aircraft bound for Israel — US officials
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US shoots down Iranian drone aircraft bound for Israel — US officials

US shoots down Iranian drone aircraft bound for Israel — US officials

WASHINGTON: The US military has shot down Iranian drone aircraft headed toward Israel on Saturday, three US officials said, without disclosing how many drones were shot down or the precise locations.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said it launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel in an attack that may trigger a major escalation between the regional archenemies.


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Updated 6 min 54 sec ago
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Iran’s UN mission: attack on Israel is a conflict between Iran and Israel

Iran’s UN mission: attack on Israel is a conflict between Iran and Israel
  • ” Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus

DUBAI: The United States must stay away from the conflict between Iran and Israel, Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on social media platform X on Sunday, warning Tehran’s response would be more severe if Israel retaliates.
” ... Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus. The matter can be deemed concluded,” the mission said on X.
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23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded in Turkiye cable car

23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded  in Turkiye cable car
Updated 58 min 19 sec ago
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23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded in Turkiye cable car

23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded  in Turkiye cable car
  • The stranded people had been stuck on the Tunektepe cable car, just outside the Mediterranean city of Antalya, since 5:30 p.m. on Friday
  • The cable car carries tourists from Konyaalti beach to a restaurant and viewing platform at the summit of the 618-meter Tunektepe peak

ISTANBUL: The last of 174 people stranded in cable cars high above a mountain in southern Turkiye were brought to safety Saturday, nearly 23 hours after one pod hit a pole and burst open, killing one person and injuring seven when they plummeted to the rocks below.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced the successful completion of the rescue operation on X Saturday afternoon.
A total of 607 search and rescue personnel and 10 helicopters were involved, including teams from Turkiye’s emergency response agency, AFAD, the Coast Guard, firefighting teams and mountain rescue teams from different parts of Turkiye, officials said. Helicopters with night-vision capabilities had continued rescuing people throughout the night.
The stranded people had been stuck on the Tunektepe cable car, just outside the Mediterranean city of Antalya, since 5:30 p.m. on Friday, when the accident occurred.
Istanbul resident Hatice Polat and her family were rescued seven hours into the ordeal. Speaking to the Anadolu agency, she said the power went out and the pod flipped four or five times.
“The night was awful, we were very scared. There were children with us, they passed out,” she said. “It was torture being up there for seven hours. It is swaying every second, you’re constantly in fear. ... It was very traumatic, I don’t know how we’ll get over this trauma.”
State-run Anadolu Agency identified the deceased as a 54-year-old Turkish man. Those injured included two children and were six Turkish citizens and one Kyrgyz national. They were all rescued by Coast Guard helicopters soon after the crash and sent for treatment. Images in Turkish media showed the battered car swaying from dislodged cables on the side of the rocky mountain as medics tended the wounded.
Yerlikaya also announced that 13 people rescued from other cars were also taken to hospitals for checkups.
Friday was the final day of a three-day public holiday in Turkiye marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which sees families flock to coastal resorts.
The cable car carries tourists from Konyaalti beach to a restaurant and viewing platform at the summit of the 618-meter (2,010-foot) Tunektepe peak. It is run by Antalya Metropolitan Municipality. The cable car line was completed in 2017 and receives a major inspection around the beginning of the year, as well as routine inspections throughout the year.
Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation. An expert commission including mechanical and electrical engineers and health and safety experts was assigned to determine the cause of the incident.


Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised

Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised
Updated 14 April 2024
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Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised

Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised
  • “Wing of Zion,” Israel’s version of US “Air Force One,” airborne
  • Israeli army spokesman said would take several hours for drones to arrive

JERUSALEM: Iran launched drones toward Israel late Saturday, the Israeli military announced, and Iran’s state-run media reported that dozens had been fired.
The Israeli army’s spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said it would take several hours for the aircraft to arrive and that the country was prepared. Iran had been threatening to attack Israel since an airstrike last week killed two Iranian generals in Syria. Israel has not commented on that attack, but Iran accused it of being behind it.
Israeli aviation authorities said they were closing the country’s airspace to all flights as of 12:30 a.m. local time (5:30 p.m. EDT).
The drone attack late Saturday marked the first time Iran had ever launched a full-scale military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In a statement carried by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard acknowledged launching “dozens of drones and missiles toward the occupied territories and positions of the Zionist regime.” The statement did not elaborate.
The White House said it would provide unspecified support for Israel’s defense against the ongoing attack. “The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
President Joe Biden was set to convene a principals meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the unfolding attack, the White House said. Biden had cut short a weekend trip to his beach house in Delaware to return to the White House and monitor the situation.
Earlier Saturday, the Israeli military said it was canceling school and limiting public gatherings to no more than 1,000 people as a precaution.
Hagari said Israel is “prepared and ready” with defensive and offensive actions. He also said there was “tight” cooperation with the US and other partners in the region.
The head of the US Central Command, Gen. Erik Kurilla, has been in Israel in recent days to coordinate with Israel about the Iranian threats.
Israel has a number of layers of air defense capable of intercepting everything from long-range missiles to UAV’s and short-range rockets. Hagari said Israel has an “excellent air defense system” but stressed it is not 100 percent effective and urged the public to listen to safety announcements.
For days, Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have threatened to “slap” Israel for its Syria strike.
Iran has largely avoided directly attacking Israel, despite its targeted killings of nuclear scientists and sabotage campaigns on Iran’s atomic sites. Iran has targeted Israeli or Jewish-linked sites through proxy forces.
Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip has inflamed decade-old tensions in the Middle East, and any new attack threatens to escalate that conflict into a wider regional war.
Flight-tracking data showed the airspace over Jordan empty, while few flights continued on their north-south routes over Iraq. A sole Middle East Airlines flight from Dubai to Beirut remained airborne over Syria.
Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported heavy Israeli airstrikes and shelling on multiple locations in south Lebanon following the launch of drones from Iran. The Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has been clashing with Israeli forces in the border area for more than six months.
Earlier Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.
Iran’s state-run IRNA said a special forces unit of the Guard’s navy carried out the attack on the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime.
Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC. Geneva-based MSC acknowledged the seizure and said 25 crew members were on the ship.
“We are working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure their wellbeing, and safe return of the vessel,” MSC said.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the crew was made up of Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian and Estonian nationals and urged Iran to release them and the vessel.
IRNA said the Guard would take the vessel into Iranian territorial waters.
A Middle East defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, provided video of the attack to The Associated Press in which Iranian commandos are seen rappelling onto a stack of containers on the vessel’s deck.
The video corresponded with known details of the MSC Aries. The commandos rappelled from what appeared to be a Soviet-era Mil Mi-17 helicopter, which both the Guard and the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen have used before to raid ships.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on nations to list the Guard as a terrorist organization. Iran “is a criminal regime that supports Hamas’ crimes and is now conducting a pirate operation in violation of international law,” Katz said.
The US, Israel’s main backer, has stood by the country despite growing concerns over Israel’s war on Gaza killing more than 33,600 Palestinians and wounding over 76,200 more. Israel’s war began after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw some 250 others taken hostage.
The Pentagon said Saturday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Israeli counterpart “to discuss urgent regional threats ... and made clear that Israel could count on full US support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies.” National security adviser Jake Sullivan also spoke with his counterpart to reinforce Washington’s “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”