November 16, 2020 (Thessherald)–The long-awaited moment for the people of Sudan has finally come as all the leaders of armed and unarmed opposition Groups under the Sudan Revolutionary Movements arrived in Khartoum to implement the Juba Peace Agreement.
The Chairperson of Mediation Committee Hon Tut Gatluak Manime reiterated the commitment of President Kiir to ensure that the peace Agreement is implemented by all the parties who are signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement.
The dawn of peace, stability and prosperity if the war-torn regions of Sudan has come to an end with the arrival of the leaders of the Sudanese opposition groups to come to Khartoum for the first time in Sudan following the signing of Juba Peace Agreement for the Republic of Sudan last month in Juba.
This move has given more hope and green light to the people who are affected by the conflict in the region of Darfur, Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan, Nuba Mountains, Eastern, Central and the entire part of Sudan to enjoy the dividend of peace following decades of brutal conflicts.
The parties to Juba attended a peace celebration at the Sudan Freedom square the drew thousands of people from all walks of lives rising burners carrying messages of peace and chanting peace has finally come to Sudan and applauding the tremendous efforts done by President Kiir and the Mediation Committee to resolve conflicts in Sudan peacefully.
The government delegation headed by the Vice President Hussien Adbalbegai Ayii and the Chairperson of Mediation Committee Hon. Tut Gatluak Manime pledged the stand and commitment of the government of South Sudan to work for the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement.
The Transitional Government of Sudan reiterated its commitment to work hand in hand with their brothers from the oppositions to move the country forward.
The next task is now for the oppositions leaders Sudan Revolutionary Movements to workout modalities with their parties to the Juba Peace Agreement in order to form a new Transitional Government where the opposition leaders would be part of to bring the country back to stability and prosperity.
October 24, 2020 (Thessherald)–Trinity alumnus Dr Peter Biar Ajak is the first South Sudanese national to be awarded a PhD from the University of Cambridge.
He receives his PhD officially at tomorrow’s ceremony, nine months after a global campaign saw his release from South Sudan’s Blue House prison, which echoed nightly with the screams of tortured prisoners during his 18-month incarceration.
Arrested in July 2018 on a series of charges including treason, insurgency, harbouring terrorists, espionage and insulting the president, Dr Ajak was released in January 2020.
Relatively, he got off lightly. Still, his liver and kidney function was compromised from having to drink salty, dirty water, his back was damaged from sleeping on the floor of a tiny cell, he had lost a quarter of his body weight, and needed psychological counselling. None of his belongings – laptop, phone, money or passport – were returned to him.
‘My oldest son was five when I was arrested,’ Peter says. ‘By the time I was released he was seven. My youngest son was one – he was three years old when I got out. I was a stranger to them and I had to re-establish relations with them.’
Dr Ajak is now living with his family in Washington DC where he is a Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. He received a humanitarian parole visa from the United States after he learnt of a hit squad he says was sent by the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to assassinate him in Nairobi in June 2020.
In addition to his PhD in Politics and International Studies from Cambridge, Dr Ajak has a BA from LaSalle University and a Master’s from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he was also a Public Service Fellow. He has held many senior positions in international organisations, including the World Bank, UNICEF and the International Growth Centre, as well as advising the Minister for National Security in the Office of the President of South Sudan.
But it is his civil society work, and childhood experience of Sudan’s civil strife, that fuels his zeal for democratic change in South Sudan. Peter was one of Sudan’s ‘lost boys’ displaced during the civil war between North and South, from which emerged South Sudan in 2011, the world’s newest nation. But not before 2.5 million people were killed and four million people displaced, with many children like Peter carried by their fathers to neighbouring Ethiopia.
Only recently has the conflict rekindled in 2013 between the President and his rival former Deputy President Riek Machar subsided, with the formation of a national unity government in February this year.
Dr Ajak has been active in grassroots communities across South Sudan for several decades. He founded the Center for Strategic Analyses and Research in the capital Juba and the South Sudan Wrestling Entertainment, which uses the indigenous sport to promote peace and reconciliation among different ethnic groups.
Dr Ajak’s PhD examines the factors contributing to South Sudan’s current situation.
‘I realized we never really had any consensus on the kind of society that we want to create. We didn’t build a consensus on the ideas of the state. That can’t be done through a militarized approach. It has to be done through people discussing and sharing ideas, disagreeing but finding common ground because that is how you build countries and societies.’
That is what he set out to do with South Sudan Young Leaders Forum under the hashtag #NxGenSouthSudan – where half the population is under 18.
‘Before I was arrested I was on a tour of all states in South Sudan meeting with young people and trying to build consensus among them about how we avoid being used as pawns in this conflict, we stand up and try to mobilize ourselves to bring about a better future for our people,’ Dr Ajak said.
‘Short-term arrests’ – around 40 in 2017 – were nothing out of the ordinary for a man who was well-known at both the grassroots and national government levels. Peter’s father and father-in-law are senior figures in government and the military; he acknowledges he had a certain level of protection
But in 2018 things would turn out differently. Before returning to Cambridge for his viva, Dr Ajak took part in a panel discussion on Kenyan television, where he called for ‘a generational exit.’
It was nothing he had not said before. ‘Leaders in South Sudan are typically in their 70s. That is not a time of life to run a country. They have created this disastrous system that has no exit, no retirement, no pensions; as a result they are just there for salaries,’ he said.
Their generation, who liberated South Sudan, are to blame for the crisis in the country, they have lost their vision and they are no longer able to tell each other the truth. The President has amassed so much power that no-one is able to tell him the truth and he is surrounded by sycophants. It is an absolutely disastrous situation for our people.
South Sudan’s first democratic elections were scheduled for 2015. But the renewal of conflict enabled the President to postpone them to 2018, then to 2021 – and then again – to 2022.
Dr Ajak thinks the warm welcome he received from civilian and military leaders alike during his work in 2018 began to threaten the government of President Kiir.
After his arrest in July 2018 he ended up in the Blue House – in a pitch-black cell so small he couldn’t stretch out. For 24 hours he was left alone. Then he was allowed out – for 5 minutes a day. He had to choose whether to wash, use the toilet, brush his teeth, queue for food, or get some fresh air. ‘There is no way you could do all those things in five minutes,’ Dr Ajak said.
Until his wife and father-in-law were allowed to bring him some clothes, a toothbrush and a mattress, he slept on the floor with nothing but the clothes he was detained in. He was one of the lucky ones, in Blue House terms, though.
Almost every day from 10pm to 5am you hear people screaming being tortured. You hear them say “bring a knife, bring a hammer, bring a nail.” There are prisoners in that condition for years.
There is also what they call midnight pick up. Once or twice a week soldiers will come at night. They have an individual they are targeting. They come with tasers and the person is knocked out and covered with blankets. They drive them 40 minutes outside of Juba where they are hacked to death and then sprayed with gas and their bodies burnt to ashes.
No surprise then that some prisoners led a revolt, disarmed the guards and took over the prison in October 2018. Dr Ajak was not involved. But when the rebel leader refused to stand down despite the authorities threatening to storm the prison, Peter’s civil society leadership – and self-preservation instinct – came to the fore. He mediated between the prison rebels and the authorities – outside were massed ranks of soldiers and tanks from the President’s guard – and succeeded in defusing the rebellion.
But the consequences were grim. Prisons were stripped of their clothes, guards took away the few things they had and they were confined to their cells 24/7. ‘From that moment I didn’t see any family member until February. The lights in my cell were constantly on for two weeks and then it was total darkness for two weeks,’ Dr Ajak said..
His only reading material was a pocket bible smuggled in by an empathetic guard. ‘Initially I was extremely bitter at what happened because I felt like I had risked my life to resolve this crisis and I was lucky that God stood with me and the situation ended without anyone being killed,’ he said.
From October 2018 to March 2019 I did not brush my teeth, I didn’t shower. The cell was barely opened. I had diarrhea, malaria – there was no medical attention at all. When I become ill they worsened the conditions, reduced the food ratio; sometimes they would put in sand on purpose so that you couldn’t eat the food.
Dr Ajak was charged with new offences including disturbing the peace – apparently related to an interview with Voice of America from the prison roof during the rebellion about the dire conditions and inhumane treatment of prisoners.
In the end, he was sentenced to two years but backdated to the first day of his detention. He was transferred to a prison in Juba where the conditions were better, he received medical treatment and could stay outside until 8pm. Dr Ajak recalls: ‘It was the first time in 13 months that I had seen the stars and the moon. And I was blown away by how beautiful they were after such a long time. All these things we just take for granted.’
Reflecting on his experience in jail, the government’s intention was clear. It was as if they had read the sorts of academic papers on economic signaling he was familiar with, says Dr Ajak, only half joking.
Given my connections inside and outside the country and the fact that they were arbitrarily detaining me for so long and the way they were treating me inside prison it was basically to send a message, ‘If we can do this to Peter, what about you? If you don’t have the same level of connections we will execute you.
I think they were effective at that because after my detention they have managed to silence any sort of dissenting voices – people became worried and afraid for their lives.
Campaigns in America and the UK for his release probably prevented anything worse happening to Peter in prison than the inhumane conditions he endured (try as they might for these to lead to death by ‘natural causes’). But the combination of domestic and international support made the regime jittery, he says. ‘They said to me there is all this noise being made by your friends outside, your friends from Cambridge, from the US. If that continues this is going to complicate your situation. You have to find a way of telling them to stop doing what they are doing.’
It was an absurd request to a man in solitary confinement, without a phone or access to a lawyer. Double-edged though such international support could be, overall those voices were beneficial, says Dr Ajak.
It uplifted my spirits and encouraged me to endure what I was going through. I forgot about getting out and it became about the struggle itself and making sure I didn’t let these people down. Together we become part of a bigger struggle.
When I got out of prison I shed tears when I learned about the Cambridge Amnesty student chapter locking themselves up in cages for days so they could highlight what I was going through. That was really something touching.
His zeal is undiminished by his experience in prison and he regrets nothing. ‘Either you accept tyranny or you resist and when you resist there are these kind of consequences,’ he says.
Exile to America is in some ways ‘a blessing in disguise’. The UN is on his doorstep and with 95% of the Sudanese diaspora in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Dr Ajak is planning a global campaign to force the President of South Sudan to hold democratic elections in 2022.
He also wishes to enlist the support of the three nations who helped South Sudan gain independence: the US, UK and Norway. ‘These three countries combined have spent massive amounts of money in South Sudan. And in the end for what? To create another African country that is failed, that doesn’t adhere to any democratic norms, that doesn’t respect human rights, that is massively corrupt?’
In some ways, Dr Ajak is continuing in the footsteps of his forefathers. His grandfather was killed during Sudan’s first civil war and his great grandfather fought the British colonial authorities and was a political prisoner for four years in the 1920s. ‘There is this legacy, something that I could not shy away from,’ he says.
I am a grateful to my ancestors, and for my experience as a child growing up in the war. It has been beneficial because it taught me to persevere and to endure.
October 24, 2020 (Thessherald)–The United Kingdom has announced a pledge of £8 million as part of its commitment to build resilience and minimize the effects of famine in South Sudan.
This comes as the British diplomat, James Duddridge, visited South Sudan last week to see first-hand the civilian population severely affected by the reccuring floods in different parts of the country.
“Minister for Africa commits £8m to mitigate famine in South Sudan James Duddridge’s visit to South Sudan shows how the UK is helping protect the vulnerable, prevent famine across Africa and act as a force for good in the world,” the British government announced.
Adding that, “The UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, travelled to South Sudan this week (20 to 22 October) where he committed £8 million to help the victims of flooding, reduce extreme hunger and help mitigate the ongoing risk of famine in the country.”
According to Duddridge, thrhumanitarian assistance will go a long way towards supporting flood-hit communities and providing them with vital food and medicine.
“This support will help the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to provide food assistance, nutrition support, shelter, and water, sanitation and hygiene support.”
“This will help some of the most vulnerable in areas where nearly a million people have been affected by flooding and conflict, leaving them on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe. The announcement was made during a visit to Pibor and Bor to see first-hand how UK aid is providing vital assistance to people facing flooding, conflict and severe hunger.”
Speaking to the press after meeting the South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir Mayardit and other Vice Presidents, James Duddridge, UK Minister for Africa, Duddridge reaffirmed that, “the UK stands with the people of South Sudan and is helping save lives.”
“We will provide vital food and support to thousands of people on the brink of hunger, following devastating flooding and conflict.”
Duddridge underlined that restoring peace and stability is the only solution to addressing these challenges facing the country
“However, aid is not a long-term solution. The Government of South Sudan must commit more resources to ending conflict, bringing peace and stability and providing basic services including health and education to its people.”
For his part, WFP Country Director in South Sudan, Matthew Hollingworth, commended the funding committed by the UK.
“Conflict, extreme flooding and increases in violence mean South Sudan is facing humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of households are skipping meals. This new UK funding to tackle food insecurity will help alleviate some of this suffering. However, other donors must urgently step up efforts, while the Government of South Sudan must continue to ensure access to those in need.”
Oct 23, 2020 (Thessherald)–Aid agencies are reported to have ordered immediate evacuations of their essential employees as the youth demanding Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) in NGO jobs threaten to attack NGOs in Renk County, Upper Nile State.
“An emergency evacuation is reported in Renk County, Upper Nile region where international and National NGOs are relocating their staff to safe areas and be prepared for immediate evacuation,” according to a reliable source.
This is not the first time the youth have decried employment discrimination in the Upper Nile region.
In 2018, aid agencies suspended and scaled down most of their services after a group of young people from the Maban community staged violent protests that turned into widespread looting of humanitarian assets in Maban County.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs strongly condemned the attack on humanitarian workers.
Alain Noudehou, humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, cautioned that violence against humanitarian workers is “categorically unacceptable” and must stop.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure the members of the Relief International team receive the assistance and support they need at this difficult time.”
Oct 23, 2020 (Thessherald)–South Sudan’s National Traffic Police Services has announced the introduction of a new generation of license plates and urged vehicle owners to register their vehicles in a timely manner.
“All the government institutions are requested to bring their vehicles to traffic police GHQS for registration and the change of old number plate with SSG number plate for the sake of unifying database system in our country,” the Directorate of Traffic Police announced earlier this week.
The Directorate of Traffic Police restricts unnecessary movement of government vehicles after official working hours.
“All the government vehicles should not move after the official working hours, unless there is permit for free movement from Ministry concern with stated reasons.”
The government instructs local and international NGOs to bring their vehicles urgently for number plate registrations.
“All NGOs both national and international are requested to bring their vehicles for registration at the traffic police GHQS. 4. No Motorcycle (BodaBoda) should carry more than one person apart from rider.”
The Traffic Police warn motorists against using fragment of cloth to conceal their number plates.
“No vehicle should move on the road while number plate is covered with cloth, this is a violation of traffic rules & regulations.”
“Any vehicle using one number plate either front or behind shall be consider a criminal act and should be detain and taken to court immediately. 7. Any private vehicle with door open to left side is not allow to be used for carrying passengers or for public transport.”
“Any vehicle (bus, Noah etc) with door open to road side is strictly prohibited to be used for public transport.”
Oct 16, 2020 (Thessherald)–The South Sudanese government is seeking to inject $250 million into the financial market to improve the country’s failing economy.
Dr. David Nailo Mayo, the Chairperson of the Finance Committee in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly said that the approved loan will significantly reduce the current economic downturn.
Last month, the Council of Ministers issued a resolution approving a $ 250 million financial loan from the African Export-Import Bank in the hope of stabilizing the ailing economy.
According to the government official, the requested loans will go a long way towards paying salaries of civil servants who have gone for months without receiving their monthly wages.
While announcing the approval of the budget, the South Sudanese official, David Nailo Mayo confirmed that the loan will be disbursed once the request reaches the African Export-Import Bank also known as Afreximbank.
South Sudan, despite the significant reduction in the intensity of armed conflicts, remains in the grip of an economic depression as a result of the sharp drop in oil prices, corruption and now the current global pandemic.
Oct 14, 2020 (Thessherald)–South Sudan’s Minister of Information and government spokesperson, Michael Makuei Lueth, is on the edge of being fired after announcing an unapproved proposal to the public, according to an official in the Presidency.
Last week, the Minister of Information Michael Makuei announced that the Council of Ministers, after long-hours of deliberations, had approved a change of the old currency, a move that triggered a nationwide uproar.
On Wednesday, South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir and the Council of Ministers held an Extraordinary Cabinet meeting in Juba and backtracked on the alleged change of the national currency.
“South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit called for an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers to discuss the current Economic Crisis in the Country with particular focus on the hyperinflation rate in the market due to the announcement made by the Minister of Information and Communication, Michael Makuei Lueth mentioning a change of country’s Currency after the meeting of the previous Friday Cabinet meeting,” the Office of the President said this evening.
“President Salva Kiir and some members of the cabinet mentioned that, the change of the country’s currency was brought up in the discussion of previous cabinet meetings as one of the proposed ideas to be subjected for study and discussions as one of the long-term economic measures but it was not agreed and passed by the council that time.”
Office of the President
“President Salva Kiir made assurance in the cabinet meeting that the government did not and has not agreed to change the currency of the country, but instead it was a suggestion, a proposed idea to be studied by the economists.”
October 13, 2020 (Thessherald)–Peace talks aimed at reaching an agreement between the SSOMA and the coalition government ended in deadlock on Monday as the Parties disagreed on a number of issues.
Since last week, R-TGoNU representatives and members of the South Sudan Movements Alliance had been engaged in peace talks under the mediation of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Italy.
“The South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) would like to inform its members, supporters, the people of South Sudan, and the International Community that SSOMA and the R-TGoNU resumed the Rome Peace Process under the auspices of the Community of SANT’EGIDIO that commenced on the 9th – 12th October, 2020 in Rome, Italy,” the statement issued by the alliance partly reads.
The talks between the warring parties centered on the parties ’commitment to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoA) .
“This round of peace talks focused on recommitment of SSOMA and R-TGoNU to CoHA, participation in the CTSMVM, and negotiation on Declaration of Principles to guide upcoming talks to address the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan,” said the opposition alliance in a press release.
“After extensive four (4) days of cordial and productive discussion and deliberations, the parties agreed on recommitment to CoHA and participation in CTSAMVM as well as the Framework for the Declaration of Principles.”
“The parties initialed the CoHA Recommitment document and the agreed points of the proposed Declaration Principles pending the discussion of the remaining points in the next round of talks that will take place on the 30th November 2020.”
The opposition alliance commends the Sant’Egidio community for mediating the peace talks.
“We thank the Community of SANT’EGIDIO for hosting the talks and we assure our supporters and the people of South Sudan that SSOMA is committed to the Rome Peace Process under the auspices of the Community of Sant’Egidio to achieve just and sustainable peace in South Sudan.”
October 13, 2020 (Thessherald)–At least 6 Traffic Police officers have been involved in a deadly car accident after being run over by a reckless and speeding motorist along the Customs – Jebel market in the capital, Juba.
According to a number of eyewitnesses at the scene, the six officers were fatally wounded when a Land Cruiser pickup they were traveling in overturned.
The details of the accident are still sketchy, check back in a few minutes for more updates on this story.