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February 15th, 2014

South Sudan Conflict: The present condition of International Foreign Aid (I)

By Bianca Larissa Taberna

This is part one of a two-part blog series on international foreign aid and the conflict in South Sudan. Part two, which will focus on Canadian assistance to the region, will publish Wednesday, February 19.

The recent developments in South Sudan exemplify the fragility that often comes with the state-building process. Disputes within the central ruling body, though conceivably minor at first, have the propensity to escalate and cause immense instability. This was the precise situation that occurred in South Sudan. Tension between ex-vice president Riek Machar and current president Salva Kiir have consequently manifested in open conflict between two warring factions of the country’s military. The conflict began mid-December and is ongoing. There exists a difference of opinion regarding how these series of events may be categorized. Due to the strong ethnic overtones, as well as the rising number of civilian casualties, some suggest that could in fact be the potential start of a civil war. As in any case of a nation ravaged by inner conflict, it is imperative to analyze the response of the international community. There are a number of key actors in the provision of foreign aid to South Sudan. The critical point of analysis is the actual efficiency of these actors’ efforts to aid the world’s latest nation-state in this time of conflict.

The United Nations has had a prominent role in the region since partition. The UN Security Council has an ongoing peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). It was established in July 2011, the same time that South Sudan became an independent nation. The mission’s mandate has outlined three vital goals: support for long-term state building, conflict prevention, and the overall establishment of strong justice systems. Presently, UNMISS is focused on assisting civilians affected by the conflict. UNMISS is providing refuge for 65,000 displaced civilians within its compounds. UN Police is also a prominent presence in these civilian bases to further ensure the security of the people. As the situation developed in mid-December, the Security Council agreed to increase the numbers of the mission to about 12,500 military personnel. UNMISS has asserted its neutrality regarding the ethnic component of the conflict; as the mandate states, the mission aims to protect all civilians. Though UNMISS seems to be a potent method in providing aid, the true effectiveness of the mission is often questioned. The head of UNMISS, Hilde Johnson, stated at a recent press conference in New York, “We are in desperate need for improved capacity and strength to implement the mandate. All peacekeepers are under instructions to use force when civilians are under threat.” Critics of the mission’s efforts highlight that it is truly lacking the resources necessary to protect the affected civilians and ultimately, are left unable to enact the mandated objectives. The latter part of Johnson’s statement is also a main source of discord – the peacekeepers’ use of force.  There has been public disapproval of the mission’s procedures, manifesting in organized protests against UNMISS. South Sudan Civil Society Alliance called for the ejection of Johnson as leader of the mission during a protest in early January. Though some drawbacks and contestable methods of peacekeeping are attached to the UNMISS, its efforts to stick to the mandate and protect civilians must be acknowledged. It is evident that the United Nations is continuing to provide aid for all those displaced and affected by the violence, and their work – though susceptible to criticism – should not be entirely denounced.

As countries with the definite capacity to provide foreign aid, the West should ideally be playing the largest role in assisting South Sudan. However, western nations have yet to play an active role in preventing the current outbreak of conflict. The actions of the United States suggest a minimized sense of involvement in diffusing the conflict. The U.S. was very quick to evacuate embassy staff in Juba and is currently questioning the continuation of aid to South Sudan. Washington has provided a sizeable amount of aid to the struggling nation – an estimated $600 million per year. However, Reuters reports that Washington is discussing whether or not the U.S. will remain a source of financial support for South Sudan. American officials are worried that the ethnic elements of the conflict could manifest in a civil war. The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce – evidently “infuriated” at the recent developments – has said, “It appears that the greatest threat to South Sudan post-independence is South Sudan itself” Despite the pessimistic outlook from chairman Royce, officials report that Obama’s administration is in fact pushing for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Posted in News Update by sfenwick
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February 15th, 2014

STAND UBC: Looking Forward

By Emily Hopkins

At UBC, we have lots of to look forward to.

This semester, we are excited to start putting on more events. Our campus is beginning to think more about Canadian mining, as some activists on campus are trying to have people think critically about a new institute being formed on campus called the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development. We want to engage the campus further, and foster this opportunity to speak on STAND’s mandated issues. On February 13, we hosted a discussion on ethical consumption and conflict minerals called “The Dark Side of Everyday Electronics,” after which we had our first “Conflict-Free Hour” ever! (Thanks to Laurier for the great idea!) We’re looking forward to the great discussion, and thrilled that this time we’ll have a perfect venue to carry those conversations forward in a fun and even more relaxed setting. In early March, we’ll be having a follow-up panel discussion on the question of Canadian accountability within our international extractive industries.

We are also looking forward to the future of STAND UBC, and are excited to have a few more younger members getting involved! Our team is primarily made up of people who have been with STAND for over three years. It’s amazing how much dedication the group has; the number of returning members is a testament to how much we believe in the work we do, and how close we have become to each other. That said, it’s important that we leave the club in good hands when we finally graduate. Though we have success in keeping enthusiastic and thoughtful people involved with the club, we’ve had difficulty recruiting new people to the club. Hopefully, these new members are a sign of more to come! Our “Conflict Free Hour” is another chance for us to recruit, but we’ll have to find more ways to gather interest in the near future.

Wish us luck!

Emily Hopkins is UBC chapter Co-president

Posted in Chapter News by sfenwick
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February 4th, 2014

STAND Laurier: Fall in Review

As the winter semester begins, we are looking back on the year so far and learning how we can improve our impact at Laurier.

Our chapter has been fortunate to be part of a coalition at Laurier that works to combine the initiatives of social justice groups to make a greater impact on the student community. One of the events we had the opportunity to be a part of was the Smile Epidemic, which was a fun and interactive way to attract students to learn more about STAND.

Another event we found was successful was our “Conflict Free Hour” in which we went an hour without using electronics that may contain harmful conflict minerals from the Congo. It was an hour of both education and fun. We spent time teaching those in attendance about conflict minerals and the Conflict Free Campus Initiative, and for the remainder we played board games and enjoyed each other’s company. We are hoping to have another Conflict Free Hour in the winter term.

Our main goal moving forward is to continue to increase student involvement in STAND and our initiatives as well as further educate the Laurier community. With more collaborative events with the other social justice clubs coming up and our own events in the works, we can’t wait to see what the winter has in store.

Posted in Chapter News by sfenwick
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December 22nd, 2013

A Message from the Executive Director on the Violence in South Sudan

My fellow advocates,

Over the past week, South Sudan has edged closer to civil war following an alleged coup attempt. The resulting violence along ethnic lines has left many civilians injured or killed.

As an anti-genocide organization, STAND Canada deplores the violence against unarmed civilians – especially if it is along ethnic lines. The murder of civilians over the past week is unacceptable. Furthermore, STAND Canada deplores the attack on the UN compound in Akobo, where UN peacekeepers and civilians who sought shelter were attacked. We strongly urge that both sides refrain from attacking UN compounds throughout the country.

The protection of civilians is the highest priority, and STAND calls for a return to a peaceful dialogue in South Sudan. Although the Canadian government has appealed for calm in South Sudan, it can help achieve this through working with its counterparts on the ground. In the early 2000s, Canada successfully worked with many partners to bring Sudan’s brutal 22-year civil war between the north and the south to a negotiated, peaceful end. We still have a role to play.

For some context on what led to this past week’s violence, I encourage you to read Bianca Taberna’s article on the STAND website about last month’s scrapping of major structures within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). This was a precursor to today’s situation. Although this article was written prior to the alleged coup attempt, an update has been added at its end.

For further updates on the situation in Sudan, please follow our page on Facebook at http://facebook.com/standcanada and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/STANDCanada. We will be posting updates from various news outlets whenever possible.

Sincerely,

Scott Fenwick
Executive Director
STAND Canada

Posted in News Update, Operational Updates by sfenwick
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December 18th, 2013

South Sudan’s SPLM: Dissolution of Party Structures

by Bianca Taberna

It is a common notion that an entity is greater as a whole than a sum of its parts. This holds especially true for a government and its linkage of institutions. These institutions are put in place to ensure that government operations are organized on various state levels and that implemented policies remain effective. When such structures exist alongside a ruling political party, there is a greater sense of state responsibility. There are more channels through which citizens can have their voices heard. Political structures also have separate responsibilities to ensure a higher degree of productivity while still allowing for cohesion. Without these political institutions, it is difficult to perceive a government’s actions as legitimate.

This is a predicament that the citizens of South Sudan are facing upon the recent dissolution of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party’s institutions. On November 15, Salva Kiir Mayardit announced that he dissolved all of the ruling party’s political structures, including its highest executive branches: the Political Bureau (PB) and the National Liberation Council (NLC).

These structures were initially implemented to strengthen the operation of the political party. Kiir’s decision to get rid of them surprised many, considering the impending national election scheduled for 2015. Kiir explained that his decision resulted from the SPLM’s national convention, originally scheduled for last May, being delayed. At the convention, elections for leadership positions within the party were supposed to be held to continue party operations. Kiir has stated that he plans on reappointing a new secretariat. In addition, he will establish a new committee, whose purpose will be to form congresses for each of South Sudan’s states. The basis of Kiir’s decision is definitely questionable. His justification for dissolving such essential parts of the political party is far too simplistic, and prompts a consideration of the underlying reasons for his actions. It should also be acknowledged that the dissolution of the SPLM structures was not a collective decision by the entire party. A number of senior members of the Political Bureau were not even included in the announcement of the party dissolution. These members included SPLM’s first deputy chairman and former vice-president, Riek Machar Teny, who has been very vocal of his contention with Kiir. The rift between the two manifested earlier this year when Kiir dismissed Machar as vice-president. Machar has even announced plans of his own to run for SPLM chairmanship in the upcoming election. He provided a statement to the Sudan Tribune, in which he maintained that there is no provision in the party’s current constitution that gives Kiir the power to dissolve the structures.  According to Machar, Kiir’s decision is unconstitutional and goes beyond the scope of his power. He adds that Kiir’s action has created a “paralysis in the party.”

In defence of the dissolution, the SPLM secretary for external affairs, Suzan Jambo, attests that Kiir has in fact acted in compliance with the party’s constitution, referring specifically to chapter X (25) sections (d), (e), (f) and (g). Machar contests this, standing firmly by his opinion and maintaining that the sections cited simply dictate the role of a chairperson but does not explicate the authority to dissolve party structures.

In late November, Machar announced that he plans to hold a press conference that will inform the nation of the SPLM’s future. He has also provided a statement to the Sudan Tribune that advances quite substantial claims. Machar informed the online news source that the press conference will reveal that resolutions have been passed against Kiir’s actions. Furthermore, it is reported that the leadership consultative meeting has in fact denounced Kiir’s decision as a violation of the party’s constitution. Details on other motions passed during the meeting regarding Kiir’s actions have been scheduled for discussion during the press conference. As of now, Machar has yet to confirm a date or location for the event.

However, amidst all this internal party discord and uncertainty about the future of SPLM’s institutions, a meeting date for members of the dissolved NLC has been confirmed for December 9th 2013. The meeting was announced via South Sudan TV, by second deputy chairperson for the party, James Wani Igga. The confirmation of this meeting seems promising. The present back and forth between party members in the media only intensifies the complexity of the situation and increases the ambiguity of SPLM’s future plans in the eyes of the public. This NLC meeting will provide the opportunity for senior members to discuss the dissolution – whether it was constitutional or not – and provide a degree of reassurance to citizens that the SPLM still somewhat cohesive. To effectively gage the ramifications of the dissolved structures, a comprehensive perspective must be applied. The circumstances in which these decisions were implemented are evidently controversial. It’s apparent that the possible contingencies of Kiir’s actions, and his justifications for them, are worrisome. Though Kiir plans to form a new secretariat, he has yet to address establishing new structures to supersede the dissolved institutions. The PB and the NLC were highly critical to the overall structure of the party. It should also be noted that the dissolution was implemented a month after Canada decommissioned the Sudan Task Force. Lacking the physical presence in the region definitely hinders Canada’ ability to aid South Sudan in what may escalate into a party division.

Despite the personal bias that may be imbedded within Marchar’s claims against Kiir, his assessment of what the dissolution has done to the SPLM is accurate – it has essentially paralyzed the ruling political party. Without these structures, the checks and balances that legitimize and adequately diffuse power within a political system are fundamentally gone.

Addendum

Members of South Sudan’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) finally met on December 14th, 2013 aiming to discuss the recent changes to the political party’s fundamental structure.

Although the meeting’s first day was initially promising, a number of the Political Bureau’s senior members, including SPLM chairman Riek Machar, refused to return on the 15th, alleging that the meeting’s nature was highly undemocratic.

Military violence started Sunday night on December 15th at a former Joint Integrated Unit Camp, in the country’s capital of Juba. Those who initiated the shooting are members of the Presidential Guard associated with Machar.

On Monday, President Salva Kiir held a press conference in which he addressed the conflict, stating that “a group of soldiers allied to the former vice-president Dr Riek Machar and his group” were responsible for the attack.

In the same press conference Kiir declared a 6 pm to 6 am curfew in Juba.

In his first interview with the Sudan Tribune since the violent breakout, Machar has denied any involvement with an attempt to seize government control. He stated:

There was no coup. What took place in Juba was a misunderstanding between presidential guards within their division. It was not a coup attempt. I have no connection with or knowledge of any coup attempt.

As of December 17th, ten former government and SPLM officials have been arrested including former Finance Minister Kosti Manibe, former Justice Minister John Luk Jok, and former Interior Minister Gier Chuang Aluong. Their individual connection to the outbreak of violence in Juba has yet to be reported. A warrant of arrest has also been put out for Machar.

Posted in The Scholar by sfenwick
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