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10 Facts About the Ethnic Violence in South Sudan
When South Sudan gained independence in July 2011, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan looked at its future and hoped, “God willing, this state will be stable and develop.” This statement came in reflection after the South Sudanese people had experienced over 20 years of guerrilla warfare with the North, in which nearly 1.5 million people died.

But thus far, independence has only served as a band-aid.

On December 15, 2013, conflict broke out between the country’s two most prominent tribes when President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka tribe, removed Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, from office and accused him of attempting a failed coup. Violence would continue among Kiir and Machar’s respective tribes until August 2015, when international pressure resulted in a ceasefire peace deal between the factions. But over the past year, tensions have escalated into greater ethnic violence, leading the U.N. to warn the international community of another Rwandan-like genocide.

Here are 10 facts about the ethnic violence in South Sudan:

  1. Since the beginning of the 2013 civil war to present day, 1.05 million have been displaced in surrounding nations. This is the largest group of people to flee their country in central Africa since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
  2. Ethnic violence has included hostile rhetoric, killings, and specified rapes on those of rival ethnic groups.
  3. According to the U.N., the majority of ethnic violence is instigated by the “Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the SPLA in Opposition, militias, and unidentified armed groups.”
  4. About 1.73 million have been displaced internally since the conflict began in December 2013.
  5. The Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda has now become the third largest refugee camp in the world as a result of the crisis in South Sudan. Today, nearly 530,000 refugees have sought safety here; 330,000 of this number fled to Bidi Bidi this year alone.
  6. Nearly 50,000 people have died directly or indirectly from the conflict.
  7. As a result of the ethnic violence, South Sudan is on the verge of famine. Projections estimate that roughly four million people to be in dire need of food and humanitarian assistance. This is over one-third of the population.
  8. The violence has not stayed within ethnic lines: relief operations and its workers have been included in the attacks. This consists of shootings, rapes, and, most grievously, the killings of at least 57 aid workers.
  9. In order to restore peace, the U.N. pressured Kiir to reinstate Machar as vice president. This occurred in April 2016, but he was once again ousted in July, heightening both tensions and conflict.
  10. Adam Dieng, who works for the UN to prevent genocide, recently visited and surveyed the state of South Sudan. In his assessment, he reported to the UN Security Council the likelihood of “an outright ethnic war” that could lead to a “potential for genocide”.

On November 19, 2016, the United Nations Security Council urgently called for proactive measures that would “promote reconciliation among the people” and prevent genocide. The United States has proposed an arms embargo on South Sudan, though this was opposed by Russia and China. While no response has yet been finalized, discussion for peace in South Sudan continues to grow—with the hope that a solution is soon to come.

Brenna Yowell

Photo: Flickr


For more than half a century, China has had interest in Africa- not just for the natural resources, but in aid to alleviate the continent’s poverty and living conditions.

China has helped with agriculture, health and education projects and solar energy. The country has also had a high interest in the continent’s natural resources, in particular, oil.

One of the countries that China purchases oil from is South Sudan, which outputs about 160,000 barrels a day- which before civil war in the country that began in December 2013, was producing one-third more than it is now.

War broke out in South Sudan when the political battle between the South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer, turned an ember into a flame. Once again, the once-liberated Sudanese were in an ethnic war.

China is not only a major aspect of the economy in South Sudan, it is also part of the United Nations Security Council and has voiced concern over the civil conflict between the ethnic groups. But if China has voiced a desire for ended conflict, why has the country’s largest arms manufacturer, China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco,) sold weapons of war to the country?

 

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Bloomberg reported that South Sudan has bought at least $1 billion in weapons and delivery systems since December 2013. Documents from a shipment that left China to South Sudan included “9,574 automatic rifles, 2,394 grenade launchers, four million bullets for automatic rifles, two million rounds of pistol ammunition, 319 machine guns, 660 pistols, 20,000 rounds of 40-millimeter anti-personnel grenades and 4,000 rounds of 40-millimeter “heat rockets.”

If China is part of the U.N. Security Council, which is responsible for international peace and security, and the “Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said he was ‘ready to directly engage’ the warring parties to end fighting” the question becomes why is China allowing Norinco to sell weapons to South Sudan which in turn fuels war? And is China’s involvement in the country actually helping its economy or hurting it socially?

– Kori Withers

Sources: Bloomberg, United Nations Security Council, The Guardian
Photo: BET

Israeli Aggression Representatives of Islamic countries declared they would ask the Security Council to condemn Israeli aggression in the West Bank. Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour, as well as the ambassadors from the League of Arab States, Senegal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran, requested the Security Council to take action against Israel. Since three Israeli teenagers, 16-year-olds Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach, were abducted on June 12 while hitchhiking at night from Gush Etzion, Israel has assembled hundreds of Palestinians trying to find the teenagers. When Frenkel’s mother heard the news, she was praying that he simply did something irresponsible or stupid and he would be home soon. “But I know my boy isn’t stupid, and he isn’t irresponsible.” Unfortunately, on June 20, the bodies of the missing Israeli teens were found near Hebron, and Israel has taken violent action to retaliate against the teens’ deaths. Jeffrey Feltman, U.N. Secretary for Political Affairs, stated the United Nations is alarmed by the increasing death toll that is a result of Israeli aggression in the West Bank. Feltman calls for “restraint in carrying out the security operations in strict compliance with international law” and for Israel to not punish Palestinians for crimes they have not individually committed. Sheikha Alya Bint Ahmed Bin Saif al Thani said Qatar was “joining in solidarity with Palestine in also deploring the acts of aggression committed by Israel, the occupying power, against the Palestinian people.” She continued to say, “They are grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.” She claims that Israeli aggression in the West Bank and the air strikes in Gaza are justifications for the Security Council to take action. She said her representatives would work with the representative of Jordan to “see what could be done.” “Instead of denouncing the boys’ abduction, the Arab states have the gall to stand before the international community and criticize Israel,” said Israel ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor. He argued that the Arab nations are oppressive and aggressive, and they have no business in accusing Israel of human rights violations. They kill innocent people around the world and they are committing human rights violations in Syria. He asked global leaders to imagine being in Israel’s position. “Imagine if it were your cities were under fire and your citizens under harms way. No nation should live under these conditions, and no nation should be asked to submit to terrorist groups. The only responsible course of action is to denounce terror groups and their supporters. And this is exactly what we should all be doing,” Prosor concluded. This situation has demonstrated how complicated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is. Most Israelis see the missing teenagers as harmless civilians abducted on a hitchhike home from school, and the Palestinians who were killed as having done something to deserve it. On the other hand, Palestinians claim that the suppression is unjust collective punishment against people living under illegal occupation. – Colleen Moore Sources: The New York Times, International Business Times, The Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, Worthy News, NDTV Photo: Israel Hayom

odessa_fire_ukraine_on_safety_council_watch
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s message was hard to miss last Friday as he strolled through the streets of Sevastopol on Victory Day.  To invade a sovereign state, call its defenders “fascists” and blame its government for the resulting turmoil is all in a day’s work for Putin.  The twisted political masterminding that has been Russia’s reaction to the crisis in Ukraine is perhaps Putin’s way of reminding the world that Russia is once more a major world power.

Having achieved the political gains he sought, Putin now calls for new dialogue to replace the violence.  Instances of pro-Ukrainian forces attacking pro-Russian, such as that in Mariupol on May 9, will be portrayed in the Russian media not as Ukrainians defending their land from foreign invaders, but as violent militants killing Russians who desire only to return to the motherland.  Putin can thus use the violence to rally support at home for his regime against the incorrigible Ukrainians.

As busy as the Security Council has found itself with the troubles of Nigeria, Syria and South Sudan, the 15 members have certainly not overlooked Russia’s aggression.  One of the first to speak at the emergency Council meeting called in the wake of Friday’s violence in Odessa – where 46 persons, most of whom were pro-Russian, died when the headquarters was set ablaze – was Russian Representative Vitaly Churkin.  It is hard to imagine that more than a few eyes did not roll at the Russians’ first complaint: Ukrainians are attacking Russians.  This would seem to be expected when invading another country.

French Representative Gérard Araud spared no feelings in his response, going so far as to refer to the pro-Russian groups as “thugs terrorizing Ukraine.”  Both the United Kingdom and United States joined France in her condemnation of the Russians and praise for the Ukrainian government’s restraint – although this restraint likely stems from Ukraine’s limited military capabilities.  The delegate of Lithuania turned the discussion towards the hypocrisy of a Russia that will complain of Ukrainian conflict and remain indifferent to al-Assad’s regime’s attacks on its own people.  Finally, the Representative of Ukraine offered, on behalf of Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, that those who surrender soon will be granted amnesty.

The very next day, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe hostages were finally released in Slovyansk after having been held for a little over a week.  Yet, even as the Secretary General shared his approval with their freedom, he warned of growing tensions and the prolonged chaos.  Even if the Russians withdrew tomorrow, having made their point, the Ukrainian people would have years of reconciliation ahead.  For now, the world awaits the May 25 presidential elections, which will undoubtedly further change the situation.

– Erica Lignell

Sources: New York Times 1, New York Times 2, The Economist, UN 1, UN 2

nuclear_testing_in_north_korea
North Korea, a state that has a notorious reputation for its secretive, alarming and militaristic demeanor, is at it again. After momentarily stepping down after having alarmed the international community with threats of nuclear testing in February 2013, the regime has once again avowed its intent to initiate an onslaught of nuclear testing despite ongoing suspicion that the state is erecting a nuclear arsenal.

According to a local North Korean newspaper, the state is simply taking protective measures against potential threats to its independence waged by the U.S. and neighboring South Korea. North Korea‘s decision to revitalize its nuclear testing programs is another method in which the state has demonstrated its military competence in order to establish itself as a global militaristic threat and power.

This wager comes fresh off of the United Nations‘ sanctions against North Korea for launching a set of short-range missiles in March, eerily chosen to occur on the fourth anniversary of the sinking of a South Korean ship. According to the Security Council, the regime’s decision to launch the short-range missiles violated significant UN agreements. According to the South Korean defense ministry’s spokesperson, Kim Min-seok, “This missile is capable of hitting not only most of Japan but also Russia and China.” Therefore, the missiles also pose a grave threat towards the well-being of residents in neighboring states — a threat that has not been taken lightly.

Despite North Korea’s recalcitrance, South Korea’s foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, issued a message to the state warning that the sheer economic cost of maintaining an effective nuclear testing program may in fact endanger the longevity of the state. While the economic cost of nuclear-building is in itself an obstacle for North Korea, Yun also avows that South Korea and its alliances in the Security Council will further aggravate the regime’s ability to conduct nuclear testing. For instance, Yun affirmed that “South Korea, together with its partners in the Security Council, will make the cost of having these nuclear weapons very very high, very very heavy, so that could backfire to the regime — the survival of the regime.”

Furthermore, the foreign minister threatened that if North Korea continues to defy present and future sanctions, the regime would have to face substantial retribution from the UN. Therefore, not only will the regime’s nuclear testing program come as a direct economic threat to its government and people, it is also fraught with the potential to break the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — an international agreement that strives to maintain nuclear peace. It is especially alarming that North Korea has already withdrawn from this crucial peace-keeping treaty, indicating its resistance to upholding its once-alleged commitment to the diplomatic use of nuclear technology.

However, Yun’s intentions are not only aimed at halting North Korea’s nuclear testing wagers, but also to facilitate the reunification of Korea,  a process which the foreign minister recognizes as arduous and delicate. The notion here is that the reunification of North and South Korea will help stabilize Asia and engender a long unseen sense of trust among the Asian nations. It is presumed that global peace is unattainable without first having attained global trust.

Furthermore, the foreign minister elaborates: “The geopolitical plate of the region is going through what I would call tectonic shifts. We are witnessing a rising China, a resurgent Japan, an assertive Russia and an anachronistic North Korea which is simultaneously pursuing nuclear weapons and economic development.” Therefore, in order for any cohesion to be established among these changing nations, the development of trust is imperative.

– Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: ABC News, BBC, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

humanitarian_aid_access
The United Nations Security Council came together for the first time regarding humanitarian aid access in Syria. A resolution passed by the UNSC on February 24 mandates that both the Syrian government and opposition must allow for aid convoys to get through to civilians throughout the country.

This resolution comes after at least one year of Security Council contemplation on the topic of increased humanitarian aid access in Syria; there were also months of subsequent talks on the subject. A non-binding statement released on October 2, 2013 urged improved access to aid, but to little avail.

Though some criticize the resolution for a failure to threaten sanctions if for some reason the parties do not meet the terms, unanimous approval was attained by removing the clause that previously referenced sanctions. Russia and China vetoed three similar resolutions in the past yet voted in favor this time around.

U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia backed his approval, stating that “many Russian considerations were borne in mind and as a result the document took on a balanced nature.” Likewise, China expressed its concern for the situation in Syria and emphasized the necessity to carry out the resolution accordingly.

Russia’s compliance is considered extremely important, as proper implementation of the resolution will likely present some difficulties. By using its leverage over the Syrian government, Russia can be an exceptional asset to the document’s success.

In addition to demanding access for aid convoys across borders, the resolution denounces barrel bombs and requires a cessation of sieges countrywide. The resolution was drafted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg and its unanimous approval is considered a “moment of hope” for the Syrian people by Lithuanian U.N. Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite.

At present, the UNSC has taken on five resolutions as a result of the conflict in Syria. In addition to the aid access resolution, a resolution was adopted in 2013 regarding the eradication of chemical weapons in the country; 2012 saw three resolutions for a U.N. observer mission to Syria.

While unanimous approval in the Security Council on any matter is exciting, some find the necessity for this particular resolution disheartening. According to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, humanitarian aid access should not need to be negotiated.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: BBC, Reuters
Photo: Ebru News

War_Women_Rape
Dating as far back as the Japanese occupation of Nanking in 1937, rape as a weapon of war has been prevalent in conflicts throughout the 1990s and continues to be used today.

A common misconception is that rape is simply a by-product of war. Sexual violence is certainly occurring in every conflict around the world but its role has evolved from an unfortunate effect of war to a tactic used to humiliate and control entire populations.

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution (UN Resolution 1820) in 2008 defining the use of sexual violence as a war tactic and calling for an end to impunity for those who perpetrate such acts. This resolution came too late for many, including the over 20,000 Muslim women and girls raped in Bosnia during the Bosnian War as well as the estimated 200,000 women and girls raped during the fight for Bangladeshi independence in 1971.

Sexual violence has become a common element of 21st century war. To be able to combat its prevalence, we must first understand the methods and reasoning behind its use.

Perpetrators utilize sexual violence in conflict situations for many different reasons. Rape can be used as a method of ethnic cleansing, as was seen in the Bosnian War. Serbian fighters raped Muslim women to produce Serbian offspring and thereby “cleanse” the population. During the Sudanese War, however, the Janjaweed militia typically used rape as a scare tactic to humiliate, intimidate, and punish the non-Muslim women and communities. Currently in Colombia rival groups are using rape and murder as part of a punitive code to strengthen control in specific regions.

Not only is rape considered the most invasive of war crimes, it has long-lasting consequences for entire communities and countries. Sexual violence during conflicts has contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in multiple regions. In addition, mass rape has produced a new generation of young adults that are growing up with only one parent or as orphans because their mother was killed during the conflict. This has long-lasting ramifications for countries that will only be seen in the coming decades as this generation reaches working and reproductive age.

It appears that the use of rape as a war strategy will continue to be employed in conflicts across the globe as long as the culture of impunity surrounding this crime persists. Although the United Nations made sexual violence an official war crime in 2008, the International Court of Justice has yet to find efficient means to indict and prosecute the many thousands of people guilty of this heinous crime.

– Sarah C. Morris 

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, United Nations
Photo: The Wip