Sept 19, 2020 (Thessherald)–The Peace and Security Council of the African Union, at its 945th meeting on September 15, 2020 on the situation in South Sudan, opposed the planned withdrawal of UNMISS forces from protection of civilians sites across the country, expressing concern that the move could be a recipe for disaster.
“The Peace and Security Council notes with concern the planned withdrawal of UNMISS forces from Protection of Civilians (POCs), which may have an adverse impact on the safety and security of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); in this respect, encourages the UN Country Team and international humanitarian agencies to ensure that that effective mitigating measures are put into place and calls on the R-TGoNU and the UN to create conducive conditions for returnees,” said the AU in its statement.
However, the continental body commends the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for its protection to the civilian population in the country.
“[AU] welcomes the efforts deployed by the UNMISS in implementing its protection of civilian mandate; notes with concern the allegations of restrictions of access imposed on UNMISS and calls all parties to facilitate the work of UNMISS; strongly condemns reported deliberate targeting of humanitarian actors and calls on the Government of South Sudan, working closely with the CTSAMVM and the UNMISS, to investigate the reported killings and ensure that perpetrators of these heinous crimes are brought to justice.”
Last week, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, David Shearer, said preparations were underway to withdraw UN forces from protection of civilians sites, raising concerns about the safety of the civilian population.
South Sudan’s government and opposition groups are under increasing pressure from the international community to implement other pending provisions of the peace agreement before the IDPs are relocated to their homes.
July 28, 2020 (Thessherald)–On the 25th of July 2019, when we met the President of the Republic of South Sudan, I had so many unanswered questions. Till this day, these questions make me crazy.
The first toughest encounter was at the office. After greeting him with one Hand (Something he never expected maybe from a Small Guy) which I believe was the right thing to do, Mr. President in his speech/intervention lamented that, South Sudanese youth have adopted bad cultural Practices from the Neighboring countries. Most of these young men and women grew up in East Africa and they come home with all these different cultures. They need to learn our cultures and adjust to it. I still do not know who messed up the “said culture” the young or the old. If he meant the Nilotic culture of respecting the elders, he would have not handed his hands to me. He would have placed it on my face/head as a sign of pouring blessing upon the young ones or perhaps shower my head with some saliva. Let me end this here, as I do not want to go one-on-one with the President of the Republic.
Hours later, when the Presidential Press Unit shared the story on their Facebook page, something striking suffice. The members, I do not know if it was the norms, cropped my damn picture out and share only the then Minster of Youth, Culture and Sports, the AU Youth Envoy’s Picture. When I saw this, I said to myself, the ride for a conducive and welcoming environment in South Sudan is surely rough and still long. I said that because I knew the people behind the page were young people or semi-young people at least (those below 40 years in South Sudan). What they did was not from a big man. They were not paid or instructed to crop that picture I believed. I think thy just had a feeling that I was not part of the people in the room.
With that in mind, I think we should cease from calling the sunset generation in South Sudan as the sole contributors to the mess in our country. They had their part but the biggest shareholders now are we the youth. If we hear of our men or women (Activists) arrested, they are not arrested by a 50 years old or a 70 years old Minister in the sitting government, the young men are behind this. Some are directed, while most generate all these reports to look good in front of their big men. When you want to see a minister, governor or the commissioner of your area, the people who say Bany OR Kuar is making a phone call or meeting someone are your age mates not these old men. How this can be solved will come from all of us I guess.
Interestingly, as the photos were circulating on Social media with different interpretation of the looks from the President, I was receiving phone calls from very many young men in Juba. Most of the callers were congratulating me for meeting the president. I do not know why this had to be treated a success, Why congratulate a fella? Did I just land the managerial role of Nilepet? No!
Just a handshake with the President. Our leaders have become so rare that when you meet one, the others will look at you like someone who made it in life. They have created all these barriers to make themselves look so expensive in the eyes of the public even when we call them Public Servants. How do you serve the Public in offices? My cousin who was the second caller made my day. He said “Mubruk, your problems are now all settled. All your issues are now sorted. When should I come for my share? You should make me your driver after two weeks.” Is this because most people who meet the head of State ask for some support? Is it because of the “yellow Envelope” that is dubbed HANDSHAKE?
In a country of about 11 million people, if we all meet the big man one at a time, and ask for a car, or some money, how much would the country gain in building some public institutions? Our masses should know that for every 10 Dollar that our leaders hand to us in cash, they bill the national account 100,000 US Dollar or more against your name. That mean 10-20 primary schools will be pocketed in the name of Handshake. IS this not a lost to the Nation and the generation to come?
Lastly, around 8pm, when the TV crew, the great men at SSBC aired the story. My head was off the TV screen. I think the team behind the camera were not sure of how to politely tell someone that they are not needed in a press briefing. If they had an idea, they were not going to chop off my head in the interviews. But since they had no idea, they went ahead to do the hustle. When I was asked, why my head was not appearing, I told my guys, maybe I was too tall. Probably taller than “Mr. Long Body” the Presidential guard whose face never missed in all of his interviews. One of the TV News anchor happened to be my former schoolmate. When he saw me coming out from the presidential office, I saw some changes in his face. He asked me, one question (Why are you here and why the visit?) more than 3 times in a space of 5 minutes, meaning he lost concentration and had something disturbing him. Our last group photo with the President is nowhere to be seen till this day. Maybe we will have it one day.
All in all, the take away from this interaction to me were these;
The President was open and very honest in his response. He admitted a lot of things happening in the country and wanted solutions to the unrest. I do not know if it was the “AU tag” that the Envoy seem to have move with or something else.
When leaders chose to meet people selectively and make themselves rare in the public eye, they lose touch with the masses/realities. It is them who miss a lot and not the people. Public servants should meet their people regularly. That is why, I am thinking of “After 5 O’clock Stories/Dialogues with the Commissioner” in Mayom County so that people do not have to struggle lining up in the Slim Commissioner’s office with aim of shaking hands. It will be after 5 pm daily so that we do not waste time for service delivery in talks.
Much as we are saying the young people are the change, we should not stop there. Young people should as well change and adopt moral characters that are in line with the change they seek to see. It is not good to expect the gifts of Abel from our leaders/elders when we are offering Cain’s gifts. You are either Abel or Cain, you can’t be both. We should not be confirming Shakespeare’s observation, “I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, then be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.”
The journey to a beautiful South Sudan start with a well-nourished brain. If our minds are not properly fed, we will not
imagine beauty well. We might arrive at the destination we are looking for and not recognize it. As we shall be busy with taking town to the People. Let us support each other and be our “brothers’ / sisters’ keepers” always.
Simon Marot Touloung, is an active Youth Leader and Co-founder of the South Sudan Science Club (SSSC) whose main focus is environmental protection and Climate Change. He was a co-founder and Program Manager for African Youth Action Network –AYAN in Kiryandongo refugee settlement, Uganda.
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July 1, 2020 (Thessherald)–Before being an African Union Youth Volunteer attached to the Department of Trade and Industry as Mining Policy Officer. My journey goes back to 2012 – the first leg to Addis Ababa, the new flower and the headquarters of the African Union which is primarily established to spearhead Africa’s rapid integration and sustainable development by promoting unity, solidarity, cohesion, and cooperation among the people of Africa and developing a new partnership globally, all aimed at achieving Africa We Want – enshrined in the Agenda 2063, Africa’s owned Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next forty-three years from today. By then, I had no relatives or friends working for the African Union Commission (AUC) to approach to take me into this good looking building – just a walk inside the compound will satisfy my needs, but deep beneath, I wanted to explore what the African Union is doing for the future’s prosperous peaceful continent. It was on March, a month after the Heads of State and Government annual Summit (HoSG), where African Presidents converged in the city to discuss polices, burning agendas, treaties, and partnerships.
I once decided to go to the building to experience and learn about how to access the AU building – I went with less hope, thinking I will be prevented by the security guards, who always stand at the gates like UN protection personnel. Surprisingly, I found out, it was easy; I just used my blue ordinary passport, to enter the complex as a quest, by then the Access Code was not yet introduced and the China Building (new AU building) was just inaugurated. I visited the Mwalimu Nyerere Peace and Security Building, Nelson Mandela Conference Hall, and took a look at some historical iconic pictures – it was not a pleasing experience, I rushed out and collected my passport, and went home.
At night, I asked myself, did I learn something new from my visit today, the answer was a big ‘NO’, but shortly I found myself typing the official website of the African Union (www.au.int) to research more about the union’s activities and functions. I have learned about the AU organizational structures, goals, mission, and vision – I came across the green button written job seekers, for the qualified people who are willing to join the AU workforce. I checked to get the opportunities for vacancies (http://aucareers.org/), internships (http://au.int/en/internships), and volunteering(https://au.int/volunteer/african-union-youth-volunteer-corps).
I was a second-year university dropout (Al-Neelain University in Sudan) by then, just because of the hard-divorce that led Southern Sudan to exit and stand as a new nation of its own in 2011. Joining the AU wasn’t in my vocabulary by that time but I was eager to learn more of what the activities of the union are, I had read about the holistic progressive agenda 2063 in making (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.africanunion.agenda2063), yet, I did not know how to be part of it, by then. I have learned that there is a Youth Division under the Human Resources Sciences and Technology (HRST) department led by a commissioner, currently spearheaded by H.E. Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, the iron women who champions the youth inclusion and always provokes the African youth to be proactive generation. Her famous quote goes like, “If you think, you can’t make a change, you didn’t spend the night with a mosquito” – this is how she value our collective unwavering call for transformation and development of Africa We Want, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children to nurture prosperous Africa.
I took the initiative upon myself, to read more about African Youth Charter, AU development frameworks, and Pan Africanism – values that I am solemnly ready to share with a thousand of people across the continent – my top priority as an AUYVC. Talking about the African Union Youth Volunteer (AUYVC) program, allows young African professionals within and in the Diaspora to contribute their quota to the development of the continent. Ubuntu champions (Youth Volunteers) are trained and recruited to work in African Union Member States other than their own for 12 months – it is a competitive program for all the youth who are aspiring to join the African Union, with prior experience of volunteerism in any recognized organization for a minimum of one year, alongside a minimum of two years professional experience with an age bracket of 18 – 35, being a citizen of Africa residing anywhere in the world and willing to serve the African continent.
Folks, believe me, you don’t need an uncle to climb the ladders to reach the African union … your profession and passion will position you to where you want. I first applied to AUYVC program in 2014, but I did not succeed, again in 2016, and 2018 similar results. I broke the cycle of waiting for two years to apply, I filled the online application in June 2019, giving my experience in volunteering with UNHCR – Ethiopia, Jesuit Refugee Service, and Mining related experience. Yes, I was a refugee serving other refugees, and the little contributions I made in teaching languages and interpreting documents are valuable to me personally because I was serving humanity.
I was shortlisted in September to take pre-deployment training in December in Cairo-Egypt for two weeks where we deeply learned about Pan Africanism Ideology, Afro Centricity, black consciousness, African feminism, Liberating African culture, Land Sovereignty, Youth Development, Empowerment, Gender Mainstreaming a.k.a Gender-Box, Tubonge episodes, and our roles as AUYVCs. I initially missed my AU booked flight from Addis Ababa to Cairo – I had to get a new none refundable ticket from my pocket after alerting the training organizer about my delay. I took the following day’s night flight with Egypt-Air, the ticket was a bit expensive but I have to bear the cost. I made it to Cairo at 02:00 AM, no one at the airport to pick-me. Luckily, enough I know Arabic very well, and it was my fourth visit to Cairo, and my second to stay in the same hotel; I took an Uber taxi to drive me to Tolip Maadi INN Hotel.
We enjoyed our 12 days of engagement with professionals from the African Union and other trainers from Ecobrank and Center for Youth Development Services (C4YDS). After our graduation, I picked an invitation from the World Youth Forum 2019 in Sharm el Shiek, as a Speaker in the Role of Civil Society organizations in Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) in Africa – it was another fabulous experience interacting in an environment of 7000 participants across the world from all walks of life – a fascinating experience it was.
I was notified for a deployment offer in January 2020, and it took six months to be recruited at the Department of Trade and Industry of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, not because of Coronavirus Disease (COVID – 19) but the normal AU bureaucracy in recruitments. Talking of Coronavirus that forced the authorities around the world to implement measures to lock down countries and their cities to a varying degree including closing borders, shutting schools and workplaces, and limiting large gatherings. The virus affected the operation of the African Union too, the union introduced working from home as a new reality to stop the spread of the virus at crowded busy working place, and on May 2020, the first virtual onboarding for youth volunteers was introduced as well – many of my colleagues in the 10th / Nile batch were deployed. I developed an interest to resume too, giving the reality of South Sudan, a country that has been known by violence and conflicts; everyone envy and pity us because of lack of permanent peace and stability. Deep in my heart, it is still a country of million hopes – The Land of Great Abundance and Eden of Diversity – sooner we will attain lasting peace.
One thing, I want to expose about my country, is the lack of internet connectivity that is unaffordable and the service is away more expensive in comparison with other African countries. Internet Service providers for basic broadband charged an individuals with $800’ installation and $300 monthly fee – the data services providers (MTN and Zain) offers service that you have to struggle to connect with a Zoom meeting – it only works best at Night. Despite these, I am hustling to get connected and get my work done timely, at any cost – I accepted the challenge of the decade and the digitally divided world. I started my virtual engagement smoothly, other challenges are related to when you login for a serious meeting, when you need to be in a quiet place with a stable connection and to avoid crowds even your cousin who might show-off with his muscles at the background – thinking you are talking to your girl-friend or chatting with friends. Tell them, I have a serious business meeting at the designated time, and I will prefer to be alone for more concentration and focus on the outcomes of the meetings. Done, this is how I managed my new life on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Bluejeans, and Cisco Webex Teams while maintaining the practices of data security; the new reality imposed upon us by the COVID 19.
I presented this article to young Africans who want to learn about the AU-YVC program. Who aspires to make a change in this continent under any circumstance. Remember, the truth is that you can contribute to “Africa We Want” even if you are not officially part of the African Union; it is our task as the next generation to take volunteerisms to mean more values and improvement to our communities across the continent. Hence, if you got an opportunity to join the union, trust the process; you will ultimately be there to mark your contribution to the prosperous, peaceful, and integrated Africa we all want.
About the author,
The author is an African Union Youth Volunteer assigned to the Departmental of Trade and Industry as Mining Policy Officer. Is reachable via NhialJ@africa-union.org
June 27, 2020 (Thessherald)–The continental body, the African Union has held a virtual meeting regarding the ongoing negotiations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, scheduled to be filled within the next two weeks.
“The Extraordinary Meeting of the Bureau of the African Union Assembly was held virtually yesterday on June 26, 2020 on the ongoing negotiations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt with regards to the first filling and annual operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam,” according to a statement issued by the office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister.
“The meeting was convened by South African President and African Union Chair, Cyril Ramaphosa, with the participation of Heads of State of Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt and members of the Assembly Bureau, The leaders underscored that the Nile and the GERD are African issues that must be given African solutions.”
The Prime Minister’s Office pointed out that the virtual meeting of the AU was crucial and charts the way forward for a final agreement between the three disputing countries.
“The Heads of State of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt provided a statement on the status of the negotiations. The meeting set directions on the way forward, Accordingly, the three countries have agreed to conclude the negotiation and try to reach an agreement within the next two weeks.”
Ethiopia is scheduled to begin filling the GERD within the next two weeks, during which the remaining construction work will continue. It is in this period, that the three countries have agreed to reach a final agreement on few pending matters.
“The meeting also resolved to notify the United Nations Security Council that the African Union is seized of the matter, It also instructed the African Union and members of the Bureau to provide technical support for the negotiations and urged Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt to cease unnecessary media escalation.”
May 24, 2020 (Thessherald)–On Saturday, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat welcomed and commended the Tripartite Agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia.
“The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat welcomes the recent developments related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and commends the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Republic of Sudan for agreeing to resume technical level engagements through their Water Ministers to resolve outstanding differences and reach an amicable solution,” the statement said.
In a statement, the African Union called on the three countries to build on the recent developments in order to find a durable solution to the dispute.
“The Chairperson further encourages the tripartite to pursue their engagements in good faith, guided by principles of cooperation, common understanding and transparency, as stipulated in the 2015 Declaration of Principles on the GERD.”
The African Union renewed its commitment to support the Tripartite in their quest for a diplomatic and peaceful solution.
“The AU Commission stands ready to assist all parties in finding a peaceful resolution and achieving a mutually beneficial agreement.”