South Sudan conflict ‘threatens economic devastation’

south sudan cost of war

New report highlights the ongoing #costofwar for #SouthSudan

As South Sudan‘s war drags into the beginning of its second year, campaigners are warning of the economic risks of a prolonged conflict, hoping to press the region into action during the African Union meetings at the end of January after months of failed peace talks, the FT’s Katrina Manson writes:

According to a study by Frontier Economics, a UK-based consultancy, the war could cost $158bn over two decades, even if oil production comes back at full capacity 10 years from now. Humanitarians also say they need $1.8bn to reach more than 4m people in 2015 alone. Two million people have already fled the fighting, which has killed tens of thousands.

The authors reckon:

At a minimum, if fighting were to cease at the end of 2015, the country would lose nearly $22 billion in real GDP over a five-year period. But at its worst, if intense fighting were to occur over the next five years, South Sudan would lose $158 billion in real GDP growth – a staggering 1328% loss – over a 20-year period.

The report, published in association with the Centre for Peace and Development Studies at the University of Juba and the Center for Conflict Resolution in Uganda, models the cost of the war by attempting to calculate how far different conflict scenarios would deviate from otherwise positive growth prospects in the oil-exporting country of 12m people.

The aim of the report launched today, ahead of next week’s African Union Summit entitled, “South Sudan: the Cost of War,is to focus the minds of political leaders on the stakes of failing to bring immediate and lasting peace to South Sudan and present recommendations for swift action to speed an end to the protracted conflict.

Key findings

A central finding of the report is the urgent need for early action. The costs of conflict to South Sudan, its neighbours and the international community are very likely to accelerate the longer the war persists.

The price of not finding peace in South Sudan now could be $158bn over the next two decades. And if the fighting flares up again as many predict, South Sudan risks becoming a failed state or even being the epicentre of a full blown regional conflict dragging in its neighbours.  

South Sudan’s immediate neighbours have the most gain from peace being restored and they need to lead more concerted and decisive international action. Doing so could save them up to $53 billion if the conflict were resolved within one year.

If there was a concerted global effort to restore peace this year (rather than in 5 years’ time), the international community would have $30 billion to invest in rebuilding hospitals, schools and livelihoods – rather than for endless humanitarian aid and paying UN blue helmets to keep people alive.  

Key recommendations

Persisting with the current level of political engagement is not an option. Without a swift end to the fighting, South Sudan runs the risk of becoming a failed state and the epicentre of a full blown regional conflict. African states should take the lead to foster peace in South Sudan, including by: taking collective action against individuals who stand in the way of peace, insisting on an inclusive approach to peace negotiations and ensuring that the AU Commission of Inquiry Report on South Sudan is released at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa later this month to bring justice to the survivors of the conflict.

Sudan’s ‘teetering’ Bashir detains leading activist

SudanSudan’s Omar al-Bashir, a president who regularly locks up activists and censors journalists and is the only sitting head of state indicted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity will run in a general election next April that he is certain to win, with the main opposition parties likely to boycott a poll they see as unfree and unfair, The Guardian’s David Smith reports from Khartoum: 

When Blaise Compaoré, the president of Burkina Faso, recently made a similar attempt to extend his iron rule of 27 years, it was shattered by a popular revolt and scattered like blossom on the wind.

Yet although Bashir is teetering, the next act in Africa’s third biggest country is far from certain. He has grabbed economic lifelines from the likes of China, Iran and Qatar, and is said to increasingly rely on the intelligence and security service and the Janjaweed militia – who made their name terrorising Darfur – for his personal protection. For years he has honed the art of divide and rule to exploit ethnic tensions, while many of Sudan’s would-be leaders have gone into exile.

Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani, an adviser to Bashir until they fell out over the incident, confirms that there was panic at the heart of government, a dread that the Arab Spring movement had arrived in Sudan:

Atabani likens the president’s grip on the military and security apparatus, and the emasculation of his National Congress Party, to Vladimir Putin in Russia …

SUDAN MEDANIDr Amin Mekki Medani (far right), 72, a human rights lawyer and president of the Confederation of Sudanese Civil Society Organisations, said: “We really need a consensus on who would replace this government and that, I must admit, is not on the table at the moment.

“People do not want to go out and die like lambs. People would rather go out and die for the future of their children and grandchildren. They need some sort of security of vision – otherwise it’s just massacres.”

Medani was speaking before travelling to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia where he was among signatories of an agreement aimed at unifying opposition to Bashir. He was arrested on his return at around midnight on Saturday and is now being held by the National Intelligence and Security Service. RTWT

Sudanese activists are protesting the detention of Medani:

On the evening of 6 December 2014 at around midnight, a number of plain clothed security officials from the Sudan National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrived at the residence of Dr. Amin Mekki Medani and escorted him to an undisclosed location. No official warrant or reasoning behind this unlawful detention was provided. The whereabouts of Dr. Amin Meeki Medani are unknown to his family.           

Dr. Amin is the President of the Confederation of Sudanese Civil Society organizations and had recently returned from Addis Ababa. His arrest comes as part of a government campaign against the Sudan Call signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on 3 December by the Sudanese Revolutionary Front – SRF  (Minni Arko Minnawi), the National Umma Party (Sadig Al-Mahdi), the National Consensus Forces – (NCF) (Farouk Abu-Eissa) and Sudanese Civil Society Initiative (represented by Dr. Amn Mekki Medani). RTWT

From Sudan to South Sudan, dissident editor won’t be silenced

sudan taban 2On Wednesday July 3 South Sudanese security forces confiscated the entire print run of South Sudan‘s leading independent English language daily newspaper, the Juba Monitor. The reason? Its editor Alfred Taban defied an order not to report on local government demands to be given more authority, Jason Patinkin reports for the Christian Science Monitor:

“It didn’t surprise me,” he says, leaning back in his office chair next to towering stacks of papers lit by the glow of a computer screen.  ”I knew they would react negatively.”

Having endured years of harsh censorship in Khartoum under successive dictators, Taban, from the south, hoped that independence for South Sudan would bring change. But three years later, Taban says the press climate in Juba the capital is nearly as bad as his years in Khartoum, in Sudan.

Taban first moved to Khartoum in 1976 to attend university, then became the BBC’s correspondent in 1981, and until 2007. But it was in 2000 when he began his most important and dangerous work, as he calls it – starting the Khartoum Monitor in order to report on the civil war for readers in the rebellious south.

“Taban’s tenacity earned him a 2006 meeting in the Oval Office (above, left) with President George Bush where he received a National Endowment for Democracy award,” Patinkin adds:

But Taban’s biggest problem is the ruling government’s attitude about press freedom, especially given the civil war. He’s been detained four times since 2011. He and other editors receive calls from the government not to report on topics like corruption.  The confiscation of the July 3 paper was the third such incident this year, and came a day after South Sudan’s press minister pledged to uphold press freedom.


Uncivil society: Sudan revives notorious militias

The Sudanese government has reconstituted the janjaweed, notorious militias that terrorized the restive Darfur region for years, making them an official, uniformed force that has recently burned down huts and attacked civilians, according to a new report prepared by the Enough Project, an activist group that aims to prevent genocide, Jeffrey Gettleman reports for the New York Times:

The report, which will be released publicly this week, includes satellite imagery of hundreds of burned down huts, describing the growing crisis as a replay of the conflict in Darfur that exploded in 2003, when militias laid waste to villages of certain ethnic groups. But what is different this time, the report’s authors say, is that the government’s role in fomenting the violence is hardly secret, with the culprits wearing state-issued uniforms, complete with little Sudanese flags, and even bragging about their exploits on Facebook.

“The Sudanese government has abandoned the fig leaf that the janjaweed don’t operate under their command and control,” said the Enough Project, a nonprofit group based in Washington. “After spending years trying to distance themselves from these forces of terror, the regime is not even bothering to deny their association with these war criminals anymore.”

The revival of the militias would appear to be the latest case of authoritarian rulers forming and mobilizing uncivil society groups or militarized NGOs for political ends. 

Sudan’s many internal conflicts often overlap and intertwine, Gettleman reports:

A possible reason Darfur is heating up again is that the leading Darfurian rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, has been roped into the emerging civil war in South Sudan, helping the South Sudanese government. The Justice and Equality rebels are considered Darfur’s most capable fighting force. Their absence has created a sudden opening for government-sponsored militiamen to operate virtually unopposed.

According to the Enough Project, which interviewed Darfurian advocacy groups and tracked various commanders on social media sites, the new militias are led by army officers and known janjaweed figures. Janjaweed is a term used by Darfurians for the government-backed militias widely believed to be responsible for atrocities that prompted the International Criminal Court to charge Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, with genocide.

Critics of the Sudanese government say it is once again trying to suppress insurgencies by deputizing local proxies who operate with impunity and end up being impossible to rein in. In recent briefings, Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the United Nations, and Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court prosecutor, singled out the Rapid Support Forces as a new menace. Last week, Ms. Bensouda called them “the newest iteration of the janjaweed.”


Reporting from Sudan’s hidden frontline

There is a war being fought in Sudan, and it’s happening almost out of sight, writes Edirin Oputu. In 2011, South Sudan became the world’s newest country as part of a peace deal to end decades of civil war. But just north of the border, in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, the Nuba felt left behind. A group of black African ethnic groups, they had fought on the southern side of the civil war and had little in common with their Arab neighbors. Ahmed Haroun—who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes—was elected governor of South Kordofan amid claims of vote rigging. Fighting broke out in the Nuba Mountains soon after.

American Ryan Boyette had travelled to Nuba with an aid agency in 2003 and settled there. His wife is Nuban. When the war broke out and agencies pulled out their staff, Boyette decided to stay. Foreign journalists were finding it increasingly difficult to get to Nuba, so Boyette founded Nuba Reports, a not-for-profit news outlet manned by Sudanese reporters [and funded by the National Endowment for Democracy], that covers the worsening humanitarian crisis.

The Columbia Journalism Review spoke to Boyette about Nuba Reports’ work documenting a conflict that is in danger of being forgotten.

What inspired Nuba Reports?

What inspired it was what brought me to Sudan originally in 2003. I had read an article about fighting that was taking place in Sudan and I was quite frustrated that I had never even heard of the fighting before I had read that article, and it had been going on for 20 years at the time. When this war started, in June 2011, I remembered that that was the reason that I came to Sudan in the first place, because I saw a huge gap in information on Sudan getting out into the international community – See more here.