August 21st, 2014

Two Pronged Assault: South Sudan State Harasses Journalists in the Name of Fighting Rebels

Two Pronged Assault: South Sudan State Harasses Journalists in the Name of Fighting Rebels

South Sudan is currently being racked by fighting between various rebel groups and government forces. The conflict is fueled by the ethno-political tensions following the December 2013 power struggle between President Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar, with Kirr accusing Machar of orchestrating a coup. The Kiir vs. Machar debacle led to elements of the South Sudanese army to rebel and follow Machar. This political conflict has also propagated communal violence along ethnic lines, with the Dinka primarily supporting the government and most Nuer supporting the rebels. This ethnic division broadly reflects the tribal loyalties of the Kiir and Machar, and in turn leads to sporadic and decentralized acts of reciprocal communal violence by ragtag militias. These pressures on the government have, consequently, led to increasingly heavy-handed measures by the government to maintain control over the conflict’s narrative. Juba is using its security forces to harass news outlets, journalists, and activists who report on rebel activity and/or critique the government’s handling of the internal conflict, as well as human rights, and corruption.


Monday August 18th saw the latest in a string of incidents involving government forces and journalists as the National Security Service (NSS) shut down one of the main independent radio stations in the country: Bakhita Radio. Bakhita is run by the Roman Catholic Church and has invited the ire of the government by reporting on the renewed fighting between rebels and the government in Unity and Jonglei states.[i] Bakhita Radio’s director Albino Tokwaro, news editor Ocen David Nicholas, and two news readers were detained by security forces. Three of the four were later released, yet Ocen remains “in detention for balancing a news story.”[ii] Rights groups in the country are increasingly drawing attention to the government’s blatant disregard for constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and press, with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticizing the NSS for “creating a growing atmosphere of fear.”[iii]


The fear and coercion experienced by Bakhita Radio’s employees is shared by other activists and journalists around the country. On August 1st Deng Athuai, the chairperson of the civil society alliance was injured after he was shot by an unknown gunman. Lam Akol, leader of the 18 political parties at the peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia quickly condemned the incident, calling for an inquiry. Athuai has long been at the forefront of anti-corruption, democracy, and human rights struggles in South Sudan, and this is not the first time that he has been the target of violence. In 2012 he was allegedly kidnapped and tortured. He was subsequently found days later on the outskirts of Juba.[iv]


In addition to calls from Amnesty International and HRW on the government to stop shutting down newspapers, other radio stations have also been under assault.[v] The emphasis on radio is not surprising given the wide broadcast range of the medium, as well as its reach due to the low levels of literacy in the country. Alongside Bakhati Radio, faith based radio station Wëër Bei, based in the state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal was shut down from July 26th – 31st. The station was targeted by state caretaker governor Kuel Aguer Kuel, who according to freelance journalist and Wëër Bei volunteer Abraham Agoth, was unhappy with the station’s coverage of state security activities. Specifically, Agoth posits that Kuel’s actions were due to the fact that Wëër Bei aired an interview with a state parliament member claiming rebel attacks on villages in the north of the state. Moreover, Agoth has as of July 28th gone into hiding fearing arrest, following warnings not to cover rebel activity, as well as prior questioning by police over his reporting of shop owner protests.[vi]
Amnesty and HRW cite a March 31st 2014 UK government report noting that, “Information Minister Michael Makeui stated that journalists who interviewed opposition figures risked possible arrest or expulsion from the country. Self-censorship by journalists and media houses is now understood to be widespread.” Journalists in South Sudan echo this claim that the government is instituting a policy of harassment against balanced news reporting.[vii] A South Sudanese journalist, who wished to remain anonymous, angrily complained that the “frequency of targeted arrests is unbecoming […] and people should come out to tell the government that it has crossed the red line of rights.”[viii]


South Sudanese government officials have directly warned journalists not to cover various issues, yet they have also repeatedly feigned ignorance of events or simply denied that there are tensions between civil society and the government. These mixed messages have fueled an atmosphere of uncertainty and  fear among the country’s media, as the aim and scope of government action appears to vary on a case by case basis. For instance, government spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny – in contrast to accusations by local journalists and international organizations – denies claims of harassment, stating that everyone is allowed to express themselves and that there is no intimidation by the government of the media in South Sudan. In an amusing twist of fate, Ateny made these comments during an interview on Bakhati Radio, one week before security forces stormed the news outlet. When reached for comment following the raid on Bakhati Radio and of the arrest of Ocen et al, Ateny flatly stated he was not aware of such arrests, that Bakhati Radio had not informed him of these acts, and that the reporter’s question was the first he had heard about it.[ix]


[i]    “South Sudan: Security Agents Arrest Four Journalists, Shut Down Radio Station,”

[ii]   “South Sudan Security Shuts Down Key Radio Over Rebel Reports,”

[iii]  “South Sudan Security Shuts Down Key Radio Over Rebel Reports,”

[iv]  “South Sudan: Political Parties Condemn Shooting of Activist,”

[v]   “South Sudan: Security Agents Arrest Four Journalists, Shut Down Radio Station,”

[vi]  “Freelance Journalist in Hiding Over Reports on South Sudan,”

[vii] “Freedom of Expression in South Sudan: Does it Exist?”

[viii]       “South Sudan: Security Agents Arrest Four Journalists, Shut Down Radio Station,”

[ix]  “Freedom of Expression in South Sudan: Does it Exist?”

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June 23rd, 2014

Gendering Genocide: Rwanda and Sudan

By Karen Meyer

It is important to understand the unique harm and injustice subjected to women and girls throughout genocide, including in its aftermath. If women tend to be the victims and are seen as the vulnerable group, why are they subjected to such travesties? Rape is recognized as a weapon of war; however, it is apparent when violent conflict plagued Rwanda and Sudan rape was inescapable for thousands of women.

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda differed in its treatment of men and women, which was reflected in various phases. Adam Jones suggests that the perpetrators pursued certain genders at different stages of the 100 days they ravaged. It started with adult men who can be seen to be the most dangerous, then eventually targeting adolescents and elderly men. At this later stage, Tutsi women were being raped or victimized. This then led to children and newborns being murdered in order to kill off “tomorrow’s RPF soldiers.” Finally it led to the extermination of women and girls to cleanse all Tutsis from existence (Jones, 2009).

In Kigali, an anti-Tutsi and Hutu power newspaper named Kangura published the Hutu 10 Commandments.

The first commandment stated:

 1. Every Hutu should know that a Tutsi woman, whoever she is, works for the interest of her Tutsi ethnic group. As a result, we shall consider a traitor any Hutu who

  • marries a Tutsi woman
  • befriends a Tutsi woman
  • employs a Tutsi woman as a secretary or a concubine (Munyaneza, 1999, p. 37).

If you go to a community pool and look at its list of rules, the first rule is going to say “No diving in the shallow end” and by the 10th rule you have “No chewing gum” or some lesser rule to follow. The first rule is chosen with the utmost precaution and discipline to avoid a real consequence. So why did Kangura’s first rule target Tutsi women as its most important rule to consider?  It seems they may have been seen as the substantial threat, not the vulnerable group. Or possibly because the men would have been more merciful to women; therefore, this threat needed to be highlighted so the Hutu men were anything but sympathetic. The impact of this commandment may have ultimately contributed to the sexual violations that took place throughout the genocide.

In Rwanda’s aftermath, the first conviction of rape as a weapon of war was delivered as a crime of genocide in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) against Jean-Paul Akayesu. Akayesu was the mayor of the rural town of Taba who traded in his humanitarian efforts to stop crimes against his township in exchange for a military position, and participated in several acts of genocide. He was sentenced to life imprisonment as “an individual for genocide and international crimes of sexual violence.”

A decade after the Rwandan genocide, the Janjaweed militia in Sudan began killing off African males.  After disarming the men and adolescent boys, the militia was free to terrorize and rape the women and leave a tarnished and violated body in its midst. In addition to systematic rape of women, they were being used to terrorize and break down social structures. Rape was being used as a weapon of war and became a strategic tactic for the militia to deteriorate the communities while also simultaneously insulting the husband or man’s honor. Following the rape, the reputation of the man is tainted and the woman becomes “damaged goods.” The rape has permanently scarred the husband or male’s ego, with his role as the protector threatened. As a result, the woman is often abandoned from her family, home and society. It is more strategic to leave the women alive because it damages women’s livelihood and in turn destroys the entire community, family, and social structure.

The Women’s Media Center reported deliberate intentions to impregnate the Sudanese women and force “mixed” babies, which continues to threaten their bodies through the means of reproduction. “For instance, women have been raped in order to occupy ‘inferior’ wombs with ‘superior’ sperm, or forced to have abortions or sterilizations.” Tragically, Janjaweed babies born of the rapes rarely have a future and infanticide or abandonment is a common result.

For Sudanese women, the sexualized violence continued even after they were at the “safety” of refugee or internally displaced persons camps, as they were still preyed on by the militia. Rape continued to be a threat when the women left to collect basic survival needs such as food, water or wood.

The psychological damage that women face results in a lifetime of emotional torment. The male and female victims of both the Rwandan and Sudan genocides had different experiences and outcomes, with the majority of men being murdered and a greater number of women surviving brutal rapes. With women’s bodies becoming the new battlefield, it is sensible to agree with General Patrick Cammaert, a former Deputy Force Commander of United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) when he said that “it has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in contemporary conflicts” (Anderson, 2011, p. 35).


Anderson, L. (2011). The Defense Command and Staff College: Sexual Violence, the Armed Forces and Military Operations. Vol. 1, Issue 3. Norway: Norwegian Defense  University College.

Jones, A. (2009). Gender Inclusive: Essays in Violence, Men, and Feminist International Relations: Gender & Genocide in Rwanda. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

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March 30th, 2014

Notes from March 10 Townhall Meeting

Thank you to everyone that attended STAND’s townhall meeting on March 10. Please find below the notes from that meeting for everyone’s reference, compiled from all the directors.

If anyone has questions regarding these notes, please drop me a line at

Scott Fenwick
Executive Director

Organizational Update (Scott Fenwick)

  • New Campaigns Director, responsible for the Conflict-free Canada Initiative: Tayla Shirley, from the University of British Columbia chapter. Tayla will be leading STAND’s efforts on conflict-minerals.
  • New Deputy Chapters Directors: Naqia Shirazi (responsible for chapter outreach) and Adlai Salcedo (responsible for chapter strategy). More details are below.
  • New Deputy Advocacy Director: Charlotte Connolly.
  • We are in the midst of looking for a new Human resources Director, and the posting should be on the STAND website by early April.
  • Communications: new director, Justin Benko, who will be working on updates on the blog, and social media.
  • Although the main objective is currently seeing organizational stability and expanding chapter support, we are further up ahead in achieving this than at this point last year.

Advocacy and Policy (Scott, on behalf of Mieka Buckley-Pearson and Michelle Legassicke)

  • Adi Burton has been appointed as Deputy Director of Chapter Advocacy. She used to be co-president of the UBC chapter.
  • MP meetings on Parliament Hill, led by our Ottawa advocacy group (largely from Carleton University) are in progress.
  • We have had 3 MP meetings in the past 2 weeks (as of March 10), attended by 2 of our advocacy reps, with more MP meetings have been scheduled and are coming up this month
  • We have recruited a Deputy Advocacy Director, Charlotte Connolly – she is currently in Toronto and will be back in Ottawa early April, and will be assisting our Advocacy Director, Mieka Buckley-Pearson.
  • Policy is doing a review on our foreign policy recommendations to the Canadian government, as well as focusing on writing blog posts.

Chapters (Courtney Loftus)

Deputy Directors:

  • Adlai and Naqia, strategy and outreach, and will be working on projects Handbook
  • Handbook in the process of being created for new and transitioning clubs Projects.

Key messaging project:

  • The Chapter and Deputy Chapter Director will work together to create strong key messaging for STAND Chapters in order to create uniformity in the delivery of our messaging:
    • What is STAND?
    • What doe STAND do?
    • Where does STAND operate?
    • What are STAND’s policies?
    • “A World Without Genocide”
  • All messaging will be provided digitally and in the form of paper materials, sich as pamphlets, posters, and flyers. This will be a part of the Chapter Handbook as well, which is headed by the Chapter Director and will be completed in April 2014.  The successful completion of this project

Educational Seminars project:

  • Educational seminars will be coordinated by the Deputy Chapter Director (Outreach). These can be hosted by different people depending on the topic; it would be a forum for the policy director to explain to chapters about a specific policy, for the advocacy director to walk through chapter advocacy with the chapters, and for chapters to explain successful events to other members.
  • The goal is to open these seminars up to the public – like the public hangouts that journalists, etc. do, bringing in volunteers and interested members. They would also be optional.  Held mainly online, but could be held in-person with a STAND group and broadcast so that others could also participate.

Conflict-free Canada Initiative (Tayla Shirley)

The Conflict-Free Canada Initiative (CFCI), a campaign of STAND Canada, aims to educate citizens about the ongoing crisis in eastern Congo and its relationship to mining practices. Through engagement with the Canadian public, civil society, industry and government, our campaign mobilizes Canadians to advocate for responsible mining practices in the African Great Lakes Region. We seek to build a nation-wide grassroots movement in demand of conflict-free products; to liaise with industry leaders committed to corporate social responsibility and conflict-free mining practices; and to engage decision-makers to create legislation that enforces accountability and transparency for Canadian companies that directly or indirectly use conflict minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten & gold).

Some of my goals for the position include:

  1. Engaging the chapters by providing the materials, information, campaign products and just general support through your campaign. I want to know what the chapters have been doing in regards to CFCI and make sure that we have to continuity across all the chapters. I’ve hired
  2. Updating the information  - I want to be able to provide the chapters with the most up to date information about conflict minerals and company policies which means I want to update the policy documents that we have. Keeping up to date with the CFCI page and providing links on what is happening with CFCI.
  3. Making more corporate contacts – This will be good for both National and getting support for this policy from within the industry and good for the chapters because it will hopefully give you some speakers you can call upon if necessary and again provide you with more information on what is happening with CFCI.

Fundraising (Kaleigh Norkum)

  • A first part of the new STAND membership regulations will be enacted later this spring, with the intentions of getting upcoming graduates from the individual STAND chapters before they leave school so that they can be added to our STAND alumni list. We’re Still going over the specifics of this.
  • There are plans to put our budgets, our expenses, everything up on the website for transparency.
  • Going to be sending out the volunteer description for the Deputy Fundraising Director soon.
  • UBC asked about different fundraising ideas, but also questioned whether creating a document would be wise because of low chapter participation.
    • Kaleigh had previously looked at making a manual on this for the chapters and now that it was raised by UBC she feels confident about starting one. Her goal is to have this done by September 2014.

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March 11th, 2014

Systemic violence in absence of government presence in South Sudan

By Esther Lee

Sudan still experiences rampant intercommunal and interethnic warfare despite the referendum in 2011 that seemingly united the country in claiming South Sudan’s independence from its Northern counterpart. Though internal conflict predates the division of the two Sudans, 2011 saw an alarming rise in armed groups and tribal clashes. This rise started in the contentious Abyei region between the borders of North and South Sudan. It then spread to neighbouring territories like the Jonglei state, where a lack of government-enforced security and unrestrained proliferation of weapons have aggravated community-based rivalries.

Violence precipitated by cattle raids and disputes over grazing rights have led to systematic clashes between the Murle and the Lou Nuers communities. These conflicts have attributed to the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians, an unaccounted number of casualties, and the interruption of humanitarian services by United Nations agencies and Médecins Sans Frontières.

Ongoing disputes for cattle have been the primary cause of seasonal intertribal violence. Accumulation of cattle and land act as subsistence resources where opportunities to produce for financially viable markets are scarce and institutionalized education or employment is absent. In the past, cyclical shortages have led to raids for looting and survival.

The absence of a government-maintained security infrastructure and the surge of small arms have transformed these seasonal clashes into systematic violence. Tribal militias operate with the means to completely debilitate communities. Cattle raids involve indiscriminate firing against civilians and retaliatory ambushes.

The 2012 increase in rebel militia activities against Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), such as the Murle insurrections led David Yau Yau, has further impaired the state of security for civilians of the Jonglei state. As of August 2012, Médecins Sans Frontières estimates that over 100,000 people have become displaced since 2011. With aid agencies unable to meet basic needs of the displaced, the population remains volatile.

The absence of decent security measures and the threat of militia ambushes have led civilians to adopt small arms. Weapons are widely accessible; there are no legislated controls for the sale (and resale) of small arms in unofficial markets through illegal trades. Government-led operations for disarmament have been accused of using coercion for the collection of weapons. Human rights reports suggest that — in contrast to what the government believes to be slanderous coverage — SPLA soldiers use violence to extract information regarding whereabouts of small arms. In rural areas where government-led programs are absent, proactive means for halting the illicit commodification of weapons also remain stagnant.

Soldiers’ coercive measures further contribute to the disenfranchisement of youth, many of whom believe that much-needed security can be provided through joining militia rebel groups. In a volatile environment where education and employment opportunities are extremely scarce, some youth feel that grievances will be better addressed in the somewhat secure lifestyle of a militia soldier rather than a refugee or victim.

Patterns of violence without localized, community-based authority have motivated youths of Murle and Lou Nuer tribes to mobilize independently to protect cattle and retribute violence. The 2013 anti-insurgency campaign against Yau Yau has also amplified SPLA-based incidents of arbitrary looting and sexualized violence targeting civilians, further fuelling the grievances of the youth demographic. In 2013, Nuer and Dinka White Army claimed that the rebel group had a reserve army of 30 000 well-armed youth from Jonglei, with the specific aim of combatting Yau Yau’s youth army.

Weapons acquired for protection have further encouraged violence within intercommunal conflicts and intensifed the magnitude of civilian injuries. Ironically, arms proliferation has also extended the scope of rebel militias, which accumulate previously civilian-owned weapons through village raids.

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February 19th, 2014

South Sudan Conflict: The present condition of Canadian Foreign Aid (II)

By Bianca Larissa Taberna

Bianca’s blog post from last week discussed international foreign aid to South Sudan. Today, Bianca discusses Canadian aid to the region and where it now plays in the Canadian government’s priorities.

Canada has a history of established diplomatic ties to South Sudan. It has been quite involved in South Sudan’s path to sustaining a viable democracy. However, just before the violence in Juba commenced Canada decided to decommission its only task force in Sudan. A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development stated that situations with Sudan and South Sudan will be handled by officials at the regional level. With the advent of the recent conflict, Canada has yet to re-institute the task force, but has provided support to external groups currently working in South Sudan. In late January, Canadian Red Cross members arrived in South Sudan to lend a hand to the International Committee of the Red Cross in highly affected areas. Similar to the actions of the United States, Canada has indicated plans to scale back their involvement in the  country.

CBC reports that the Canadian government has authorized the suspension of operations at its Foreign Affairs office located in Juba and advised Canadians to leave South Sudan. Furthermore, there has been discussion in Ottawa to reduce the provision of foreign aid to South Sudan, amidst the continuous increase of violence. There is an arguable trend of cutting back aid in the region, as the Globe and Mail has acquired a document in which the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) suggested discontinuing the aid in the Republic of the Sudan. The report states, “Sudan is not of strategic importance to Canada. It is recommended that Canada consider downgrading its development program, or exiting entirely All the while the same report also advises that aid should in fact continue. The CIDA’s report claims that the support for South Sudan must continue to avoid “future, more costly interventions”. This is problematic and puts into question Canada’s true diplomatic intent in the region. The report seems to propose that foreign aid only be provided at the benefit of the contributor, rather than the nation that needs support.

It is evident that the international community is very aware of South Sudan’s current circumstance. The possibility that the current violence could escalate into a civil war has been repeatedly acknowledged by the United Nations, the United States, and Canada. However, the hesitancy of countries such as Canada and the United States to continue providing foreign aid is the issue up for dispute. There would be severe consequences if aid was completely cut off at this point in time; the present situation remains highly unstable and removing resources in the country could set the conflict down a detrimental path. The foreign aid provided thus far has helped countless civilians affected by the conflict and support therefore must continue. The efforts of mainstream Western media to keep the public informed about the events in South Sudan, and the surrounding region, should also be commended. It is very important to ensure that the world is conscious of what is presently happening, and what could happen if a peaceful agreement is not established. History has surely taught the international community that indifference causes the greatest destruction.

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