Tag: <span>South Sudan</span>

World Humanitarian Day Appeals

World Humanitarian Day: A Need for Common Actions.

Featured Image: Photo by Wylly Suhendra on Unsplash.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 19 August as “World Humanitarian Day” to pay tribute to aid workers in humanitarian service in difficult and often dangerous conditions.  19 August was designated in memory of the 19 August 2003 bombing of the UN office building in Baghdad, Iraq in which Sergio Vieira de Mello,  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and at the time Special Representative of the UN Secretary General was killed along with 21 UN staff members. Over 200 UN employees were injured. The exact circumstances of the attack are not known, and why USA and UN security around the building was not tighter is still not clear. A truck with explosives was able to dive next to the building and then blew itself up.

Sergio de Mellow had spent his UN career in humanitarian efforts, often with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and at other  times as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General. As an NGO representative to the UN in Geneva and active on human rights issues, I knew him during his short 2002-2003 tenure as High Commissioner for Human Rights. Many of us had high hopes that his dynamism, relative youth (he was 54) and wide experience in conflict resolution efforts would provide new possibilities for human rights efforts. His death along with the death of others who had been Geneva-based was a stark reminder of the risks that exist for all engaged in humanitarian and conflict resolution work.

Sergio de Mello
Brazilian diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Melo. By Wilson Dias/ABr, CC BY 3.0 BR <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Collateral Damage.

This year the risks and dangers are not just memories but are daily news. On 3 May 2016, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2286 calling for greater protection for health care institutions and personnel in light of recent attacks against hospitals and clinics in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Afghanistan.  These attacks on medical facilities are too frequent to be considered “collateral damage.” The attacks indicate a dangerous trend of non-compliance with world law by both State and non- State agents.  The protection of medical personnel and the  treatment of all the wounded − both allies and enemies − goes back to the start of humanitarian law.

The Association of World Citizens has stressed the need for accountability, including by investigation of alleged violations of the laws of war.  The grave violations by the Islamic State (ISIS) must be protested by as wide a coalition of concerned voices as possible. There is a real danger that as ISIS disintegrates and no longer controls as much territory, it will increase terrorist actions.

(Red Cross) Conventions.

The laws of war, now more often called humanitarian law, have two wings, one dealing with the treatment of medical personnel in armed conflict situations, the military wounded, prisoners of war, and the protection of civilians. This wing is represented by the Geneva (Red Cross) Conventions. The second wing, often called The Hague Conventions limit or ban outright the use of certain categories of weapons. These  efforts began at The Hague with the 1900 peace conferences and have continued even if the more recent limitations on land mines, cluster weapons and chemical weapons have been negotiated elsewhere.

The ban on the use of weapons are binding only on States which have ratified the convention. Thus the current use of USA-made cluster weapons in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is, in a narrow sense, legal as the USA, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have not signed the cluster weapon ban. The Association of World Citizens was one of the NGOs leading the campaign against cluster weapons. My position is that when a large number of States ratify a convention (which is the case for the cluster-weapons ban) then the convention becomes world law and so must be followed by all States and non-State actors even if they have not signed or ratified the convention. The same holds true for the use of land mines currently being widely used by ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The current situation concerning refugees and internally-displaced persons can also be considered as part of humanitarian law.  Thus those working with refugees and the displaced within their country are also to be honored by the World Humanitarian Day.  To prevent and alleviate human suffering, to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human person − these are the core values of humanitarian law.

There needs to be a wide public outcry in the defense of humanitarian law so that violations can be reduced. The time for action is now.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

1 2 12
Sudan Appeals

Sudan: Dangerous Regression.

Featured Image: South Sudan’s presidential guard await the arrival of foreign dignitaries invited to participate in the country’s official independence celebrations in the capital city of Juba. By Steve Evans, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

As of Monday morning, 25 October 2021, the Prime Minister of Sudan, Abdalla Handok and certain civilian members of the Transitional Sovereignty Council (as the government was called) have been put under arrest, and the military have retaken control.  General Abdel-Fattah al-Burham who heads the military faction has said that a “technocratic administration” will be put into place until July 2023 when elections will be held. Currently, there are protests by civilians on the streets of the major cities, but the impact of these protests in uncertain.  The situation can evolve in unpredictable ways.

the Prime Minister of Sudan, Abdalla Handok

the Prime Minister of Sudan, Abdalla Handok.  I was honored to meet @SudanPMHamdok, the first Sudanese leader to visit Washington in 34 years. As Sudan undergoes a historic political transition, I look forward to supporting Hamdok’s ambitious reform agenda and greater freedom for the Sudanese people. By Office of Senator Chris Coons, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, 18th Summit of Non-Aligned Movement gets underway in Baкu. By President.az, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Armed Conflict in Darfur.

In April 2019, persistent street protests led to the end of the government of General Omar Al-Bachir who had been in power since 1989.  He had faced a long-running civil war with the south of Sudan, as well as armed conflict, largely tribal based, in Darfur.  The economy of the country was in bad shape.  Part of the anti Al-Bachir movement had economic motivations.  However, there was also a wish for a less authoritarian government, and  the term “democracy” was often used.

A military government first replaced Al-Bachir.  However, during the protests that led to his departure and arrest, professional groups and trade unions became increasingly active.  They demanded a share in the government of the country.  Thus a fairly unique administration was set up comprised of an evenly divided civilian and military component.  It is most of the civilian component that is now under arrest.

General Omar al-Bashir

Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, listens to a speech during the opening of the 20th session of The New Partnership for Africa’s Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 31, 2009, By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The civilian-military joint administration was not able to deal with the difficult economic situation.  To end the civil war which had divided north and south Sudan, a referendum created a separate state, South Sudan.  However, economic issues, especially the production and sale of oil was not worked out.  As a result, economic conditions remained very difficult.  There were even street protests demanding a return to military rule.

Other Middle East governments, in particular Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt opposed the “winds of change” in Sudan. It is unknown what role these countries may have played in the October coup.  It is certain that Sudanese military leaders had regular contact with the military in these Middle East countries.

The current situation in Sudan is one of regression for democratic and popular currents, a situation which must be watched closely and support given, if possible, to democratic currents.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

1 2 12

Darfur Appeals

Continuing Instability in the Darfur Conflicts.

12 Mar 2021 – Despite the removal after 30 years of power of the Sudanese military dictator Omar Al-Bashir and his subsequent arrest; stability has not returned to Darfur; where fighting began in 2003. Although the Darfur conflict has faded from the headlines; it continues producing many refugees, internally-displaced persons, unused farmland, and political unrest.  The joint African Union-United Nations force (MINAUD); has not been able to produce peace.  Peacekeeping forces need a peace to keep;  and during the past 13 years there have been lulls in fighting; but no peace to keep.

The Darfur conflict of western Sudan; is a textbook example of how programmed escalation of violence can get out of control. Neither the insurgencies nor the government-backed forces; have been able to carry out good faith negotiations; or deal with the fundamental issue of how to get cattle farmers and settled agriculturalists to live together; in a relatively cooperative way.

South Sudan.

Darfur (the home of the Fur);  was always marginal to the politics of modern Sudan and to the two phases of the North-South civil war;  which took place from 1954-1972 and from 1982-2005; ultimately leading to the creation of a separate State, South Sudan.  Darfur;  about the size of France; had been an independent Sultanate; loosely related to the Ottoman Empire.  It was on a major trade route from West Africa to Egypt; and so populations from what is now northern Nigeria, Niger, Mali; and Chad joined the older ethnic groups of the area: the Fur, Masalit, the Zaghawa, and the Birgit.

However; Nomads from Libya also moved south into Darfur.  As the population density was low; a style of life with mutual interaction between pastoral herdsmen and settled agriculturalists; with some livestock developed. Increasingly, however; there was ever-greater competition for water and forage; made scarce by environmental degradation and the spread of the desert.

A “Marriage” was Desirable.

France and England left Darfur as a buffer zone between the French colonial holdings — what is now Chad — and the Anglo-Egyptian controlled Sudan.  French-English rivalry in West Africa had nearly led earlier to a war;  and so a desert buffer was of more use than its low agricultural and livestock production would provide to either European colonial power.  It was only in 1916,  during the First World War; when French-English colonial; rivalry paled in front of the common German enemy; that the English annexed Darfur to the Sudan; without asking anyone in Darfur or Sudan;  if such a ‘marriage’ was desirable.

Thus, Darfur continued its existence; as an environmentally fragile area of Sudan.  It was marginal in economics; but was largely self-sufficient.  Once Sudan was granted its independence in 1956; Darfur became politically as well as economically marginal.  Darfur’s people have received less education, less healthcare, less development assistance; and fewer government posts than any other region.  Southerners were given government and administrative posts; in the hope of diminishing the violent North-South divide.

Share the Wealth and Administrative Reform.

There was no such incentive to ‘share the wealth’ with Darfur.  Its political weight was even lessened; when Darfur in a 1995 ‘administrative reform’ was divided into three provinces: Northern Darfur, Western Darfur, and Southern Darfur.  Some areas that were historically part of Darfur; were added to Northern and Western Bahr El-Ghazal.  The division of Darfur did not lead to better local government; or to additional services from the central government.  It must be added that Darfur’s political leadership had a special skill in supporting national political leaders; just as the national leaders were about to lose power — first Al Sadig al Mahdi and then Hassan al-Turabi.

The Black Book.

In 2000; Darfur’s political leadership had met to draw up a Black Book; which detailed the region’s systematic under-representation in national government; since independence. The Black Book marked the start of a rapprochement between the Islamist and the more secular radicals of Darfur; which took form three years later with the rise of the more secular Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Islamist-leaning Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

However;  at the level of the central government; the Black Book led to no steps to increase the political and economic position of Darfur.  This lack of reaction convinced some in Darfur; that only violent action would bring recognition and compromise as the North-South civil war had done.

Little Red Book.

The two Darfur groups, SLA and JEM; started to structure themselves, gather weapons and men. The idea was to strike in a spectacular way; which would lead the government to take notice and to start power and wealth-sharing negotiations.  Not having read the “Little Red Book” of Mao; they did not envisage a long drawn out conflict of the countryside against the towns of Darfur.

By February 2003; the two groups were prepared to act;  and in one night attacked and destroyed many of Sudan’s military planes based at El Fasher.  The Sudan military lost in one night more planes than it had in 20 years of war against the South.

The Evildoers on Horseback.

However; the central government’s ‘security elite’ — battle hardened from its fight against the South starting in 1982;  and knowing that the regular army was over-extended and tired of fighting— decided to use against the Darfur insurgents; techniques which had been used with some success against the South: to arm and to give free reign to militias and other irregular forces.

Thus; the government armed and directed existing armed groups in Darfur — popular defense forces and existing tribal militias.  The government also started putting together a fluid and shadowy group; now called the Janjaweed (“the evildoers on horseback”).  To the extent that the makeup of the Janjaweed is known; it seems to be a collection of bandits of Chadians; who had used Darfur as a safe haven for the long-lasting insurgencies in Chad;  some from Libya’s Islamic Forces; which had once been under the control of the Libyan government; but left wandering when Libyan policy changed.

The SLA or The JEM.

The Sudanese central government gave these groups guns, uniforms, equipment and indications where to attack; but no regular pay. Thus; these militias had to pay themselves by looting homes, crops, livestock, by taking slaves and raping women and girls.  Village after village was destroyed; on the pretext that some in the village supported either the SLA or the JEM; crops were burned, water wells filled with sand.  As many people as possible fled to Chad; or to areas thought safer within Darfur.

Darfur represents a classic case of how violence gets out of control; and goes beyond the aims for which it was first used.   There have been splits within both the SLA and the JEM; mostly on tribal lines, making negotiations all the more difficult.  Darfur is also a classic example that U.N. military forces do not create stable civil societies. There is yet much to be done; and there are very few positive signs of necessary action.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

1 2 29