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.

 


Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan

Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan
Updated 9 sec ago
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Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan

Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan
  • Netanyahu wants Israel to retain security control over Palestinian areas and make reconstruction dependent on demilitarization
  • Abbas charged that the plan confirmed the Israeli government’s intentions to recolonize the Gaza Strip

CAIRO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stressed “categorical Palestinian rejection” of the principles announced in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s so-called post-war plan for Gaza.

Netanyahu wants Israel to retain security control over Palestinian areas and make reconstruction dependent on demilitarization.

His plan, which brings together a range of well-established Israeli positions, underlines Netanyahu’s resistance to the creation of a Palestinian state which he sees as a security threat.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit has received a written message from Abbas which calls for a global conference to adopt a comprehensive peace plan with international guarantees and a timeline for implementation of the ending of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Abbas has called on the league to support Palestine in obtaining full membership of the UN.

The message urged countries that have not yet recognized Palestine to do so.

Aboul Gheit received Ambassador Muhannad Al-Aklouk, representative of Palestine to the bloc, at the headquarters of the general secretariat, and Al-Aklouk had brought a message from Abbas.

Jamal Rushdi, a spokesperson for the Arab League chief, said that the president’s message included a categorical Palestinian rejection of the principles announced by the Israeli prime minister for the so-called “day after of the war.”

The message included a warning of the danger of those principles — especially the denial of the existence of the Palestinian people, and insisting on imposing Israeli sovereignty on the land extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

Abbas charged that the plan confirmed the Israeli government’s intentions to recolonize the Gaza Strip and perpetuate the occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem through plans to build thousands of settlement units.

Rushdi said that the message warned that the goal of the Israeli government was not only to undermine the chances of peace based on the two-state solution, but also to intensify ethnic cleansing and displacement of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

The president’s message included the affirmation that the Gaza Strip is an integral part of the State of Palestine.

The Palestinian Authority is ready to assume the responsibilities of governance in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, and is prepared to work toward establishing security and peace, as well as stability, in the region within the framework of a comprehensive peace plan.

The message called on the Arab League’s chief to continue working for a ceasefire; the provision of humanitarian aid; the return of displaced people to their homes in the north; the prevention of their displacement; and a halt to Israel’s expansionist plans and practices in the Gaza Strip.

Aboul Gheit confirmed to Al-Aklouk that he would continue to work to achieve all the goals highlighted in the president’s message — most notably an immediate ceasefire, working to bring aid in urgently and sustainably, and standing with full force against the displacement plan.

Aboul Gheit stressed that stopping the war remained a fundamental priority for the Arab League and its member states.

He reiterated that the Palestinians, Arabs, and the world always rejected the displacement plan.

Aboul Gheit pointed out that addressing the humanitarian catastrophe caused by Israeli aggression could not be achieved in isolation from a settlement aiming at the emergence of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

He emphasized that the Palestinians were capable of governing themselves.

Aboul Gheit added that the continuation of the occupation was no longer possible and that the two-state solution remained the only formula capable of achieving security, peace, and stability between Palestinians and Israelis in the region and the world.


Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan
Updated 29 February 2024
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Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan
  • Al Aqsa, Israel’s third-holiest shrine, is a focus of Palestinian statehood hopes
  • Israeli controls on access have often stoked political friction, especially during Ramadan

JERUSALEM: Israel is reviewing possible curbs on access to Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem over the upcoming Ramadan fasting month, a government spokesperson said after media reports that the far-right minister for police might be overruled on the issue.
Al Aqsa, Israel’s third-holiest shrine, is a focus of Palestinian statehood hopes. The site is also revered by Jews as vestige of their two ancient temples. Israeli controls on access have often stoked political friction, especially during Ramadan.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said last week there would be a quota for members of Israel’s 18 percent Muslim minority who wish to take part in peace prayers at Al Aqsa.
That would compound the clampdown Israel has already placed on Palestinians since the Hamas’ cross-border rampage from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, codenamed “Al Aqsa Flood,” which triggered the ongoing Gaza war.
But Israel’s top-rated Channel 12 TV reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would overrule Ben-Gvir.
“The specific issue of prayer on the Temple Mount, in Al Aqsa, is currently still under discussion by the cabinet,” government spokesperson Avi Hyman said in a briefing on Thursday.
He added that a final decision would take security and public health, as well as the freedom of worship, into account.
A Ben-Gvir spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. On Wednesday, Ben-Gvir posted on X that any attempt to override his authority would amount to a “capitulation to terror,” and urged Netanyahu to deny the Channel 12 report.


Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq

Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq
Updated 29 February 2024
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Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq

Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq
  • Two YBS fighters were in their vehicle in the Sinjar area when the drone strike hit them

MOSUL, Iraq: A Turkish drone strike in northern Iraq on Thursday killed two fighters from the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Iraqi security sources said.
Two YBS fighters were in their vehicle in the Sinjar area when the drone strike hit them, two security sources told Reuters.
There has been a long-running Turkish campaign in Iraq and Syria against militants of the PKK, YBS and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which are all regarded as terrorist groups by Ankara.


Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
Updated 29 February 2024
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Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called voting a religious duty
  • Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda
DUBAI: Iran holds a parliamentary election on Friday seen as a test of the clerical establishment’s popularity at a time of growing dissent over an array of political, social and economic crises.
The vote will be the first formal gauge of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiralled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Critics from inside and outside the ruling elite, including politicians and former lawmakers, say the legitimacy of Iran’s theocratic system could be at stake due to economic struggles and a lack of electoral options for a mostly young population chafing at political and social restrictions.
Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called voting a religious duty. He accused the country’s “enemies” — a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel — of trying to create despair among Iranian voters.
The commander of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said on Wednesday that “each vote is like a missile launched at the enemy’s heart.”
But Iranians still have painful memories of the handling of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent state crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.
Economic hardships pose another challenge. Many analysts say that millions have lost hope that Iran’s ruling clerics can resolve an economic crisis fomented by a combination of US sanctions, mismanagement and corruption.
While establishment supporters will likely vote for hard-line candidates, widespread public anger at worsening living standards and pervasive graft may keep many Iranians at home.
Prices for basic goods like bread, meat, dairy and rice have skyrocketed in past months. The official inflation rate stands at about 40 percent. Analysts and insiders put it at over 50 percent.
The US 2018 withdrawal from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers, and its reimposition of sanctions, have hit Iran’s economy hard. Efforts to revive the pact have failed.
Reformists shun ‘meaningless’ vote
Iranian activists and opposition groups are distributing the Twitter hashtags #VOTENoVote widely on social media, arguing that a high turnout will legitimize the Islamic Republic.
With heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out of Friday’s race and reformists calling it an “unfree and unfair election,” the vote will pit hard-liners and low-key conservatives against each other, all proclaiming loyalty to Iran’s Islamic revolutionary ideals.
The interior ministry said 15,200 candidates will run for the 290-seat parliament, with a vetting body called the Guardian Council approving 75 percent of initially registered hopefuls.
The unelected Guardian Council, made up of six clerics and six legal experts generally within Khamenei’s orbit, has the authority to scrutinize laws and election candidates.
Ballots will mostly be counted manually, so the final result may not be announced for three days, although partial results may appear sooner.
On the same day, Iranians also vote for the Assembly of Experts, which appoints and can dismiss the supreme leader. The 88-member clerical body rarely intervenes directly in policy but is expected to help choose the 84-year-old Khamenei’s successor.
Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda. These are determined by Khamenei who holds the utmost authority in the country’s unique dual system of clerical and republican rule.
Polling has projected turnover of about 41 percent, while former lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi said on Monday that surveys showed the participation could be as low as 27 percent, significantly lower than 42 percent in a 2020 parliamentary vote.
Discredited after years of failed attempts at widening political and social freedoms, the pro-reform opposition suffered further unpopularity in 2022 when protesters scorned its mantra of gradual change.
The Reform Front coalition has said it will not take part in the “meaningless” election but has not boycotted the vote.

Israel strikes kill Hezbollah fighter near Syria-Lebanon border: monitor

Israel strikes kill Hezbollah fighter near Syria-Lebanon border: monitor
Updated 29 February 2024
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Israel strikes kill Hezbollah fighter near Syria-Lebanon border: monitor

Israel strikes kill Hezbollah fighter near Syria-Lebanon border: monitor
  • Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria

Beirut: Israel killed a Hezbollah fighter in a strike on Syria, close to the Lebanese border, also hitting near Damascus Thursday, a war monitor said, hours after similar attacks.
Hezbollah holds sway over Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria, as well as some regions on the other side of the border including Qusayr, the target of Thursday’s strike.
“An Israeli drone strike on a truck killed a Hezbollah fighter in the Qusayr area near the Syrian-Lebanese border,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
At the same time, Israeli strikes targeted Syrian air defense and radar sites near Damascus, said the Britain-based monitor with a network of sources inside Syria.
An AFP correspondent in Damascus heard faraway explosions.
Syrian state media did not report the strikes.
Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups have been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces following the eruption of civil war.
Since Syria’s war began in 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes against its northern neighbor, primarily targeting pro-Iran forces, among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Syrian army.
But the strikes have multiplied during the almost five-month-old war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
On Wednesday evening, Israel struck near Damascus, killing two Syrian pro-Hezbollah fighters, the Observatory had said.
Last week, an Israeli strike on a truck in Syria near the Lebanese border killed two Hezbollah members, also according to the Observatory.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria.
Syria’s war has claimed the lives of more than half a million people and displaced millions since it broke out in March 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.