United Nations: Indian peacekeepers are “taking robust measures to protect South Sudan refugees sheltered in a massive camp where 18 people have been killed and scores injured this week in fighting between ethnic groups — which has come under attack from the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), according to a source monitoring the situation from here.
The fighting started Wednesday between young people belonging to the Shilluk and Dinka tribes in the Malakal camp in South Sudan and SPLA members fired into the camp and also entered it attacking civilians, the Security Council said Friday in a press statement.
At that point, the source at the UN told IANS, “the Indian troops went in and even fired with their APCs (armored personnel carriers) and other things to get the situation under control.”
The SPLA, “although they would deny it, fired into the camp from the outside also” and the Indian peacekeepers “took robust measures externally to prevent any SPLA soldiers from harming these people and getting the situation under control,” the source added.
The internal security of the camp is the responsibility of the UN police forces, while the external protection is of the troops. The troops back up the police inside in emergencies.
The source said that SPLA members were able to get inside the camp as civilians “because they are Dinkas they can wear civvies.” It was also possible for them to bring in weapons through the Dinkas who live inside the camp and can go in and out, the source added.
There were no casualties among the peacekeepers, the source said. Out of the 2,273 Indian peacekeepers in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) about 550 are stationed in Malakal. Rwandan peacekeepers are also based there and operate alongside Indians.
Medecins Sans Frontiers, the Switzerland-headquartered international medical charity, said two of those killed were its staff members.
Amid rising tensions in South Sudan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to visit it next week, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced Friday. He added that Ban condemned the latest round of violence and expressed concern over “the rising inter-communal tensions between the Dinka and Shilluk which precipitated this incident.” (Arul Louis, IANS)
While India is fighting to stop the spread of Covid-19, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, on Thursday criticised the quarantine measures put in place in the country, saying they stigmatise people.
She “expressed regret at the measures that have the effect of stigmatising sections of society, including migrants, such as the practice in some states of stamping hands of those quarantined in their homes, reportedly to ensure that they stay home, and sticking notices outside the homes of people quarantined,” the statement said.
She added, “It is important to weigh such measures against the right to privacy and avoid measures that would unduly stigmatise people within the community, who may already be vulnerable due to their social status or other factors.” She has been silent on other places which use electronic monitoring of those under quarantine. Bachelet also had strong criticism for the impact of the lockdown on migrant workers.
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“She was distressed by the plight of millions of internal migrants affected by the sudden announcement of a lockdown,” according to a statement released by her office in Geneva.
The statement said, “Without the ability to sustain themselves in urban centres and in light of the almost complete shutdown of public transportation, hundreds of thousands of migrant men, women and children were forced to walk hundreds of kilometres trying to reach their villages and home states. Some have died making the journey.”
“Supreme Court of India’s subsequent instruction on March 31 to ensure that migrants are provided enough food, water, beds and supplies as well as psychosocial counselling in shelters that should be run by volunteers instead of security forces, and that they should be treated in a humane manner,” the statement said.
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It quoted her as saying, “The Supreme Court’s order and its implementation will go a long way to ensuring the safety and rights of these vulnerable migrants. Many of these people’s lives have been suddenly uprooted by the lockdown, placing them in very precarious situations.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric highlighted Bachelet’s statement at his daily briefing on Thursday.
In many homes around Jebel Boma County, dinner consists of bitter-tasting leaves that can be picked off the bushes outside. The leaves are neither filling nor nutritious, but in South Sudan’s Jebel Boma and Pochalla counties, there’s not much else to eat.
Through a combination of ruinous floods, a lack of decent roads and widespread insecurity, the two counties in the Upper Nile region, near the border with Ethiopia, have been effectively cut off from the rest of South Sudan and a reliable food supply.
This reporter visited the area during the last week of December and witnessed thousands of families who have no food and are surviving mainly on leaves or seeds distributed by aid agencies.
The governor of Boma state, David Yau Yau, told VOA’s South Sudan In Focus that he has been waiting to meet President Salva Kiir to discuss the dire humanitarian conditions in Boma state. Yau Yau says aid agencies should intervene to save lives of families who are starving.
‘’We knew the people are going to starve unless there are serious humanitarian interventions. We are opening our mouths more louder to be heard so that something is done for the people of Boma state. Otherwise, this looming starvation is imminent,” Yau Yau said during an interview in Juba.
The commissioner of Jebel Boma says if aid agencies wait too long to intervene, some people will die. Longony Alston says the floods that hit the area in September washed away crops and destroyed food storage for local farmers, exposing 58,000 families to starvation.
‘’All these 58,000 are suffering. In fact, some of the people went to Ethiopia during clashes [in 2013] and some of them came back [and] are facing this hunger in Jebel Boma,” he said.
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) released in September 2019 estimated 5.35 million people in South Sudan — more than half the population — are in a state of food insecurity.
The situation has been bad since the start of South Sudan’s civil war in December 2013. Fighting has died down since a September 2018 peace agreement but not stopped.
Kiir’s envoy to Boma state, Akot Lual Arech, said the situation in several parts of the state is exacerbated by intercommunal violence that prevents the aid agencies from delivering services.
‘’There [are] no roads in the area and accessibility is very difficult. The problem is not only in Kachipo and Jie areas. If you go to Maban or Nasir, you will feel bad. It is because of the war that is taking place now. War and development cannot go together,” he said.
Arech says aid agencies have abandoned several villages in Boma state. “They see the window that we are fighting each other. So they don’t really, they don’t care. They will do whatever they desire to do,” he said.
The local chiefs and residents of Jebel Boma County say it is the government of South Sudan that has forgotten them. Nakou Lokine, a traditional chief in Naoyapuru village, said there is no health center in his village.
“We have no hospital here in Boma and when someone gets sick here in Boma, then we have to wait until a plane comes from Juba. Then the patient is taken to Juba. You can even see the children with your eyes; they are really suffering from sickness,” he said through an interpreter.
Residents of Pachalla County on the border with Ethiopia are also experiencing serious food insecurity. This reporter visited Pochalla county headquarters in December and saw deserted residential areas.
Munira Abdalwab, the member of parliament representing Pochalla in the transitional national assembly in Juba, said there is a lack of government services in search of clean drinking water, health services, education and security, in addition to food.
Traders in both Pochalla and Boma County have run out of stock in their shops because of poor conditions on roads connecting the two counties with Ethiopia and Juba.
Patrick Ochum Gilo was once a successful businessman in Pochalla. He says the exchange rate of a dollar to South Sudan pounds shot up, and that prevented him from importing goods from Ethiopia.
‘’I used to bring [import] everything. I had soap, sugar and other basic commodities. I also run a restaurant that had all kinds of food. The problem started when U.S. dollar became scarce and we have to buy goods from Ethiopia, and the cost of transportation from Gambella [Ethiopia] is very high.’’
The scarcity is now affecting Boma National Park, a protected area in eastern South Sudan near the Ethiopian border. Armed civilians and military personnel in Boma and Pochalla depend on game meat from the park for food. Alston says he has found it difficult to arrest poachers, because there is no food in the markets and none has come from the World Food Program or other agencies. (VOA)
The past decade has seen a backlash against human rights on every front, especially the rights of women and LGBT communities, according to a top U.N. human rights official.
Andrew Gilmour, the outgoing assistant secretary-general for human rights, said the regression of the past 10 years hasn’t equaled the advances that began in the late 1970s — but it is serious, widespread and regrettable.
He pointed to “populist authoritarian nationalists” in North America, South America, Europe and Asia, who he said are taking aim at the most vulnerable groups of society, including Rohingya Muslims, Roma and Mexican migrants, as well as gays and women. He cited leaders who justify torture, the arrests and killing of journalists, the brutal repressions of demonstrations and “a whole closing of civil society space.”
“I never thought that we would start hearing the terms `concentration camps’ again,” Gilmour told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. “And yet, in two countries of the world there’s a real question.”
He didn’t name them but appeared to be referring to China’s internment camps in western Xinjiang province, where an estimated 1 million members of the country’s predominantly Muslim Uighur minority are being held; and detention centers on the United States’ southern border, where mostly Central American migrants are being held while waiting to apply for asylum. Both countries strongly deny that concentration camp-like conditions exist.
Gilmour is leaving the United Nations on December 31 after a 30-year career that has included posts in hot spots such as Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories and West Africa. Before taking up his current post in 2016, he served for four years as director of political, peacekeeping, humanitarian and human rights affairs in former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office.
Despite his dim view of the past decade, Gilmour — a Briton who previously worked in politics and journalism — said he didn’t want to appear “relentlessly negative.”
Not a straight line
“The progress of human rights is certainly not a linear progression, and we have seen that,” he said. “There was definite progression from the late ’70s until the early years of this century. And we’ve now seen very much the countertendency of the last few years.”
Gilmour said human rights were worse during the Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, “but there wasn’t a pushback as there is now.”
He pointed to the fact that in the past eight years or so, many countries have adopted laws designed to restrict the funding and activities of nongovernmental organizations, especially human rights NGOs.
And he alleged that powerful U.N. member states stop human rights officials from speaking in the Security Council, while China and some other members “go to extraordinary lengths to prevent human rights defenders [from] entering the [U.N.] building even, let alone participate in the meetings.”
In March 2018, for example, Russia used a procedural maneuver to block then-U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein from addressing a formal meeting of the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body, Gilmour said.
Zeid was able to deliver his hard-hitting speech soon afterward, but only at a hurriedly organized informal council meeting where he decried “mind-numbing crimes“ committed by all parties in Syria.
Gilmour also cited the United States’ refusal to authorize the council to hold a meeting on the human rights situation in North Korea, a move that effectively killed the idea.
Rights of women, gays
The rights of women and gays are also at stake, Gilmour said. He said nationalist authoritarian populist leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have made “derogatory comments” about both groups.
He said the U.S. is “aggressively pushing” back against women’s reproductive rights both at home and abroad. The result, he said, is that countries fearful of losing U.S. aid are cutting back their work on women’s rights.
Gilmour also pointed out a report issued in September that cited 48 countries for punishing human rights defenders who have cooperated with the U.N.
“I feel that we really need to do more — everybody … to defend those courageous defenders,” he said.
Gilmour said the U.N. should also stand up when it comes to major violations of international law and major violations of human rights, but “I have found it extremely difficult to do so in all circumstances.”
He said he was happy to hear that the new U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Kelly Craft, feels strongly about ensuring human rights.
“And I do hope that she will be gently and firmly held to that high standard,“ he said.
Gilmour said that after his departure from the U.N, he will take a fellowship at Oxford’s All Souls College, where he will focus on the importance of uniting human rights and environmental rights groups.
“The human rights impact of climate change — it’s going to be so monumental,” he said.