CHRISTMAS IN SOUTH SUDAN AND SUDAN, 2011

The Referendum in January 2011 and the secession of South Sudan in July led to a different celebration of Christmas this year—on both sides of the north/south border.

In South Sudan, The Dean of All Saints Cathedral Rev. Fraser Yugu said that this year’s Christmas was far much different from other years with huge church attendance by Christian followers, including returnees from different countries. The celebrations were peaceful with no cases of violence registered.

Rev. Yugu said, “The celebration of this year was dedicated for prayers of South Sudan Unity by calling on all tribes to forgive one another, reconcile, and unite as one people of South Sudan.”

Both Archbishops of the Catholic Church and Episcopal Church in South Sudan, Paolino Lukudu Loro and Daniel Deng Bul, respectively also rallied their call for unity of the country. They decried the ongoing inter-tribal conflict in Jonglei, nepotism, tribalism, corruption and disunity.

Other religious leaders in their Christmas messages and Sunday preaching also called on the people of South Sudan to stop fighting, reconcile and develop love among the tribes, unite as one people and abstain from corrupt practices. Daniel Deng on Sunday urged the people of South Sudan to totally change and embrace peace. Victor George a Christian believer also commented that it was a good Christmas and Christians were hopeful that changes will come in the Country when the New Year begins.

In Sudan (north), much has changed, according to Bishop Ezekiel Kondo, and for the nation, since the holidays last year. Though, as bishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and the former chairman of the Sudanese Council of Churches, he is more in the minority than ever. South Sudan, with its large Christian population, became an independent nation over the summer, making for a Christmas of mixed feeling of joy and fear.

“There is an idea that Southern Sudanese have gone, therefore, the church has gone. That is not true,” Bishop Kondo said. “Sometimes, I am asked, ‘When will you go to South Sudan?’ ‘But I’m not from the south,’ I reply!” he said.

Bishop Kondo is from South Kordofan, a state dominated by ethnic Nuba, who are divided between Islam, Christianity and African traditional religions. Fighting erupted there last May between government forces and rebels allied with the party that now governs South Sudan. Thousands fled, including Archdeacon Hassan Sudan.

While concerns weigh heavily on the minds of many Sudanese Christian leaders, Bishop Kondo pointed out that Sudanese government officials had expressed a keenness to work with them. “The Ministry of Religious Guidance and Endowments have approached us to know what the timetable of services and celebrations are this Christmas, to come and congratulate, but to also make sure people celebrate peacefully,” he said. “I think this is a good gesture.”

“Despite the concerns, a Khartoum Christmas will go on this year. We won’t have turkey for dinner, but lamb, groundnuts, dates and baobab juice to drink,” said Nabil Bolis, an Episcopal teacher, with a smile.

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THE LEOPARD TREE, a Must-read Novel about African Children

The Leopard Tree

As an adventure novel, The Leopard Tree by Tim Merriman and Lisa Brochu, is full of suspense, twists and turns, and unexpected outcomes. But the three orphaned children—with various limitations—will steal your heart. Daudi struggles with HIV that he’s had since birth, unable to pay for medicine. Masozi lost his sight and a leg when he stepped on a land mine. Ramla is unable to speak because of the atrocites she witnessed. These children reflect the reality I’ve seen in several young people from a Kenyan refugee camp: traumatized, yet courageous, determined, and optimistic. Like the young people whose stories I’ve heard, these children make heroic efforts to let the world know of the plight of war-ravished and impoverished people, especially in Africa. The message comes through loud and clear: We can all do our part, in some way, to lessen the suffering of innocent children. Learn more at The Leopard Tree or order the book on Amazon.

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US Will Not Support War-mongering

Less than six months after South Sudan broke away from Sudan, an act that was the culmination of a peace accord to end decades of civil war, tensions between the neighbors are crystallizing into fears of direct confrontation.

President Salva Kiir

Speaking in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, President Kiir denounced the Sudanese government for threatening what he called a “military invasion” of South Sudan, and he rejected accusations by the Sudanese government that his country was arming Sudanese rebels as “utterly baseless and malicious.” Mr. Kiir has also accused the Sudanese government of bombing the South Sudanese area of Guffa in recent days, killing at least seven people and potentially moving the insurgencies on both sides of the border closer to an international conflict.

The United States issued a statement on Thursday condemning “in the strongest possible terms” what it called “negative developments” between the nations, particularly the airstrike by the Sudanese forces. “The provocative aerial bombardments near the border increase the potential of direct confrontation between Sudan and South Sudan,” the American statement said. Sudan has denied striking South Sudanese territory. Nevertheless, on Thursday afternoon an Antonov bomber dropped four bombs on the South Sudanese area of Yida, hitting a refugee camp of roughly 21,000 people, some of them northern Sudanese who had crossed the border since the rebellion in Sudan began.

President Salva Kiir and President Barak Obama

Last week, the Sudanese government lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations Security Council, arguing that South Sudan was trying to start a border war.

“We don’t have any intention to go to war again, but it is now up to the southern government to either strengthen its state without hostility, or to disturb us,” said a Sudanese government spokesman, Rabie A. Atti. “If they come to war, they will lose a lot.”

The United States, a close partner of South Sudan, had made strong overtures to the government in Sudan, saying that if it cooperated peacefully with South Sudan’s transition to independence, economic sanctions on the country could be lifted.

But last week, President Obama seemed to change his mind, calling for sanctions to be extended over what he called “hostile” actions on the part of the Sudanese government that posed an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to American foreign policy.

“They promised us a lot of things; nothing actually implemented,” said Mr. Atti, the Sudanese government spokesman. “It’s unfair.”

As for South Sudan, it is one of the least developed countries in the world. Furthermore, it faces a number of internal rebellions itself, particularly in provinces near the border, and it has accused the Sudanese government of backing militias there.

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OIL SITUATION STILL UNSOLVED

Oil Infrastructure in Port Sudan © Zeinab Mohammed Saleh

Khartoum and Juba have yet to reach an official agreement regarding the use of Sudan’s oil pipeline, the lifeblood for both economies. Negotiations may mark a new round of disputes.

Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Sudan’s oil wealth was divided evenly between north and south. After 9 July, when the south seceded, 75 percent of the revenues from the 500,000 barrel-per-day production went to the new nation, where the oil originates.

But since South Sudan is a landlocked country, it still relies on the north’s infrastructure to export its oil from Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Khartoum originally demanded a pipeline usage fee of $32 a barrel from Juba, which some promptly dubbed “daylight robbery” since the international fee is usually a fraction of that, around $0.25 a barrel. Pagan Amum, South Sudan’s Peace Minister, said he expects South Sudan to pay $0.41 a barrel, the amount Chad pays to Cameroon for transporting oil through its pipeline of roughly the same length.

South Sudan’s oil, given its waxy nature, requires special treatment at field processing facilities before shipment. Under a deal with Khartoum, the cost is estimated at ten to 20 dollars per barrel for the procedure, which includes water and gas extraction, then heating the oil to prevent it from hardening.

In recent years, Southern Sudanese were rarely visible in the region’s oil industry, according to a newly recruited employee at a major oil company. Northern workers now fear they may lose their jobs in the wake of the south’s secession, since most of the oil is now officially a resource of South Sudan.

“I’m glad we southerners finally have a chance to be part of this industry,” said one employee, “But it’s stressful not knowing how the situation will be affected, depending on the agreement that is finally reached.”

Shortly after the south’s independence in July, all South Sudanese residing in the north lost their jobs except for those working in the oil sector. This suggests an agreement on transit fees and wealth sharing is of direct interest to both countries’ economies.

South Sudanese have high expectations that their government will use the new nation’s oil wealth to build basic infrastructure, which is largely lacking. Continued delays on oil agreements with the north will likely mean setbacks for South Sudan’s development.

Others argue South Sudan would be better off ending its dependence on the north completely where oil is concerned.

Oil experts say a proposed 1,400-kilometre pipeline from South Sudan’s oil fields to the Kenyan coast at Lamu would cost around $1.5 billion and take years to complete
Nerves were rattled last month when Khartoum blocked an oil shipment from South Sudan in a dispute over customs fees. At the time, observers feared halting a cargo of 600,000 barrels of crude in Port Sudan would escalate tensions between the two countries.

Once the delayed payments were remitted, the situation was quickly diffused. But many Sudan watchers say this incident points up the urgency of resolving oil issues between Khartoum and its new neighbor. (Information for this article from sudanvotes.com)

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BASKETBALL EMERGES AS A NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUTH

In the new Republic of South Sudan, an exuberant re-embrace of the sport of basketball

Manute Bol in 1987

seems to be emerging. Manute Bol, Sudan’s pioneer, became an N.B.A. star a quarter-century ago. Since then, many talented players, some driven out of southern Sudan by the years of violence, have had solid collegiate careers in the United States. Now there’s a second wave of talent to be recruited, prospects perhaps no longer seen chiefly as curiosities.

The new recruits are versatile, freakishly athletic, and have a confidence for the game. Their hero is not Bol who died in June 2010; it is Luol Deng, a star with the Chicago Bulls. The N.B.A. has noticed.

“We are very much in tune with what’s going on in South Sudan,” said Amadou Fall, the vice president for development with N.B.A. Africa, the league’s outreach arm. “Southern Sudan does have an abundance of tall, well-talented players. We have to pay attention.”

Mangistu Deng, right—slam-dunk champion—and his teammates practice at least three times a week

Two years ago, Mangistu Deng (no relation to Luol) was any other third-world teenager, stuck in the usual miserable circumstances: unrivaled poverty, violence, and instability.

Now he has found a way out. Each day, Deng slips away from the daily chaos of the southern capital, Juba, to the sanctuary he has cultivated: Nimra Tilata, the hallowed basketball court near the Nile River. Now he is one of South Sudan’s top basketball prospects and the face of a new sporting generation. He has not always had a lot in this life, but he has a place to play.

“I was born in war,” he said. “So, I thought, when I grow up, I will be a soldier. But then basketball just came. “God gave me this talent. It was not my choice. I really appreciate it.”

The rekindled passion for the game has been fueled in part by the return of the Sudanese basketball Diaspora. Duany, who played Division I basketball at Eastern Illinois from 2004-6, is one who came back. “There are guys here with N.B.A.-caliber talent,” said Duany, who serves as a coach to many of the local boys. The obvious attributes endure. The Dinka and Nuer tribes of South Sudan are considered among the tallest people in the world.

“South Sudanese are tall, they run well for guys of their size, and they’re very skillful,” Duany said. “They’ve passed that requirement already.”
Now Duany is here to help them get to the next level. In south Sudan, one of the poorest places in the world, the chance to play basketball may be the chance of a lifetime. “I want to show my country I can do something,” Deng said.

Bol, a 7-foot-6 Dinka cattle herder, was the first to show what a Sudanese player could do on the world stage. He was the second African-born player to be drafted into the N.B.A., and for years, he was, if an incomplete player, a shot-blocking sensation. Bol, though, was not just a defender on the court. He used his N.B.A. salary to help bankroll the southern Sudanese liberation movement, which fought an insurgency against the north during the civil war.

But basketball’s long-term future here hangs on the quality and lasting nature of independence. Let’s hope more kids grow up to bounce a basketball instead of toting a gun.

(Based on an article by Josh Kron in NYTimes, Feb. 19, 2011)

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STREET CHILDREN A CHALLENGE FOR THE NEW STATE

RUMBEK –Among the social issues troubling Africa’s newest state, South Sudan’s street children pose a delicate but serious challenge to regional authorities. Roughly half of the children were orphaned during the civil war; the rest left home due to neglect, cruelty, including domestic violence, or other rights abuses.

Street Children in Rumbek

“I get my food from the garbage,” said Mabor, whose parents are deceased. “I have nobody to pay for my school fees. The results of war make me come to street.”

He sleeps on the steps of buildings in Rumbek’s Freedom Square or in abandoned market stalls, along with several other boys.

One of them, Santino Mapuor Angong, 15, explained that he left home because his father sent him away to tend cattle against his wishes.

“If my father stops telling me to go to the cattle camp, I will go home in order to resume school,” he said.

The fallout of Sudan’s 22-year civil war is visible in many of the faces of these youth, who struggle without parental guidance, love and support to prepare them for adulthood.

State authorities have identified and registered over 100 children living on the streets of Rumbek alone. Deng Kuok, Minister of Social Development, said their numbers are rising.

“If these children grow up in the street,” he added, “it will be a threat to the government and the community at large.” The government has divided the registered children into groups of orphans, who will be sent to school, and those who authorities are trying to send home to their parents. In 22 cases, the children’s fathers were said to be alive.  Authorities have begun providing food to the street children, but Kuok acknowledged that one meal a day is “inadequate.”

Born during a war that claimed the lives of many of their parents or siblings, some live dangerously close to fighters for whom the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 has little meaning.

An official from the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said homeless children in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei States are especially vulnerable because of their proximity to ongoing clashes between rebel militias and the army. Yasmin Haque told reporters the government should prioritize education to reduce the number of children in the streets and limit their exposure to violence.

Upper Nile State is reported to have the largest number of street children in South Sudan.
A study carried out last year found 1,500 street children in Juba, and about the same number in areas outside the capital. About eight out of ten are boys, the study found, with ages ranging from four to 18. The majority cited lack of parental care as the main reason for leaving home.

In a recent radio interview, Agnes Kwaje Lasuba, South Sudan’s Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, said three centres for street children would be built in the communities of Torit, Malakal and Wau.

From article by Benjamin Majok Mon | in Society | 31.07.2011

 

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REFUGEES POUR INTO PANRIENG

Beny Ngor Chol

Note: This is an article that Beny Ngor Chol (of Courageous Journey) posted on his FaceBook page. Beny is from Panrieng, so this is very personal to him.

Over 5,000 Refugees from South Kordofan Arrive in Panrieng, Unity State for Settlement

By Bonifacio Taban Kuich

August 5, 2011 (BENTIU) – Over 5,000 refugees have arrived in South Sudan’s Unity State, according to the UN and other organizations. They were displaced by fighting last month between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the north Sudan state of South Kordofan in June.

The SPLA say the fighting erupted after the SAF attempted to disarm them in the run up to South Sudan’s independence on July 9. During the North-South civil war disenfranchised groups from the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan joined the Southern-based SPLA in the war against Khartoum.

Residents gather outside the UNMIS sector headquarters after fleeing fighting in Kadugli

Since South Sudan became independent, Khartoum has demanded that SPLA members from North Sudan move to South Sudan, disarm or integrate into SAF. Khartoum says that the fighting, which began in Kadugali on July 5 was triggered by an SPLA attack on a police station.

Around 70,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the fighting. Most are thought to have moved north but some, like the 5,113 who entered Unity State, moved southward into newly independent South Sudan.

On Thursday Unity State officials witnessed the Situation in Panrieng County where many of the refugees had arrived. A joint committee consisting of international NGOs and the Unity State government has agreed to offer immediate permanent settlement to refugees from South Kordofan in Panrieng County.

The commissioner of Panrieng, Miabek Lang Bilkuei, and the Abdul Elbagi Ali of Elbouram, across the border in South Kordofan, have indicated that Yida would be an appropriate place to resettle refugees coming from South Kordofan.

Bilkuei added that it is the task of state government and his county to allocate a good land for these refugees settling in the state. Hussein Algumballa, a representative of the Nuba refugees, urged international NGOs to provide humanitarian assistance. Algumballa briefed the United Nations agencies and Unity State government officials during their visits to Parieng on the solutions for the refugees, who he said were suffering in Yida.

He said that the situation of refugees in Yida is becoming worse every day since they had travelled for 13 days to escape the violence in South Kordofan. David Mulbah United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) protection officer based in Unity State said that the best allocation of refugees must be a minimum of 50 kilometers away from the border of the two countries. He said that poor roads in the area would be a major issue for settlers in Panrieng County.

The Unity State deputy governor, William Dawut Riak, joined both UN agencies and the state officials in pledging to find a good environment for the settlement of refugees.
Riak said: “The first thing is that we don’t want the refugees to be settled along the border as we already noticed what happened in Jaw and the South Kordofan. We need to put the refugees in good places and also to have good education, health services and other services. We should not to depend on relief alone but get involved in agricultural activities”.

He added that he will forward the case to both the state and national governments to find an amicable solution in order to come up with a policy as soon as possible for the settlement of refugees in Unity State. He added that it would not be up to the international community alone to carry out task. Riak said his government would join hands with development partners to find better solutions.

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