ACTION ALERT: Urgent Update on South Sudan
January 11, 2014
Tiffany Easthom / Nonviolent Peaceforce & The Tiffany Easthom / Nonviolent Peaceforce & The Associated Press
First Person Account: "As I write this letter late at night from my tent in a camp for 20,000 internally displaced people in South Sudan, I am at a loss as to what other words to use other than URGENT and CRITICAL. We need your URGENT and CRITICAL donations to protect civilians as the country grapples with the impact of of civil war."
Urgent Update on South Sudan
Tiffany Easthom / Nonviolent Peaceforce
(January 9, 2014) -- Over the holiday season you have probably received many urgent appeals from organizations doing critical work. No matter how important, we can become desensitized to such words and fatigued by the appeals.
Yet, as I write this letter late at night from my tent in a camp for 20,000 internally displaced people in South Sudan, I am at a loss as to what other words to use other than URGENT and CRITICAL. We need your URGENT and CRITICAL donations to protect civilians as the country grapples with the impact of of civil war.
You, no doubt, are hearing with increasing intensity about the assault on so many civilians in South Sudan. I can say from my own observation, the number of people affected increases by the hour as they run for their lives.
Oddly, I experience a mix of frustration, fear, hope and determination. During the past four years, Nonviolent Peaceforce has placed the largest number of our peacekeepers in this country to keep peace and deter violence, working to support amazing communities in their struggle for a peaceful future. But now, a few political rivals -- competing for power and money -- have been able to exploit age-old divisions and bring the country back into the destruction of civil war.
WE CANNOT LET GO NOW
Some of the team and I are currently working out of in an internally displaced persons camp in the UN base in Juba where thousands of threatened people have sought refuge and the number grows everyday. We are providing around the clock support, conducting nighttime patrols, providing protection and responding to emergencies. We are protecting children and helping reunite them with their families.
Nonviolent Peaceforce is also working with the remaining UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations still in the country to implement a comprehensive humanitarian response. On New Year’s Day I traveled to the village of Minkoman, Lakes State as a member of an Integrated Rapid Needs Assessment team.
This team was organized by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to conduct the protection component of the assessment. In the coming days we are deploying emergency protection teams to Lakes State and to Unity State where collectively 120,000 people have fled the fighting. Our teams in the north, near the Sudan/South Sudan border have resumed operations as the migration season is upon us and a stable, peaceful migration has never been so important.
Many of you have brought Nonviolent Peaceforce to where we are today. WE NEED YOU NOW MORE THAN EVER! Please donate now to help keep us in South Sudan so we can increase our number of peacekeepers.
We are committed to staying and working with our brave partners on the ground to build peace over the long haul. I know that we are going in the right direction in protecting civilians and supporting those who do not want this war, who are seeking peaceful resolutions. Despite horrible set backs, we share an inevitable journey towards a nonviolent future. Thank you for helping to bring this dream to reality.
Tiffany Easthom is the Country Director for the NPF's South Sudan project. PS Please see Tiffany's interview on the CBC on January 4, 2014.
Nonviolent Peaceforce, 425 Oak Grove Street, Minneapolis, MN 55403. (612) 871-0005. Fax: (612) 871-0006.
South Sudan Retakes Oil Town from Rebels
JUBA, South Sudan (January 10, 2014) -- South Sudanese troops on Friday retook the capital of an oil-producing state from rebels loyal to the country's former vice president, a military spokesman said.
Government troops retook Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, after a 2 ½-hour battle, Col. Philip Aguer said.
Aguer said the forces loyal to the former vice president, Riek Machar, had "destroyed" the town. Rebels looted the bank, stole food and set the market on fire, Aguer said.
Doctors Without Borders, which is also known as MSF, said its facilities in Bentiu were also looted.
"It is unacceptable that one of the only humanitarian organizations still providing assistance to the population in Bentiu has been looted," MSF General Director Arjan Hehenkamp said.
The loss of Bentiu weakens Machar at the negotiating table in Ethiopia, where mediators are trying to defuse a political conflict that broke out Dec. 15 and descended into ethnic attacks and military battles.
Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have been displaced in the nearly monthlong conflict. The U.N. has said only that more than 1,000 people are believed to have been killed. But Casie Copeland, South Sudan analyst for the International Crisis Group, said Friday she believes nearly 10,000 have died.
Most of those killed, she said, are combatants who died in major battles: in the capital, Juba, and in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state. In all, fighting has been seen in 30 locations, said Copeland, who said her estimate is a compilation of figures from the U.N., aid workers, the internally displaced, government officials and combatants.
Aguer said troops will soon retake Bor, which rebels still control.
Talks in Ethiopia haven't made much progress. Machar's side insists that 11 political prisoners held by the government of President Salva Kiir must be released. The US has also called for the release of those prisoners so they can take part in the negotiations.
On Friday, the UN Security Council released a statement calling for Kiir's government to release the political detainees to promote the talks, and for both sides -- "Mr. Machar in particular" -- to declare a cease-fire and begin broader peace negotiations.
The Security Council also "strongly discouraged external intervention that would exacerbate the military and political tensions."
Uganda is an ally of Kiir's government and has sent in hundreds of troops and provided Sudanese government forces with military hardware and threatened deeper intervention if militants move on the capital, Juba.
Associated Press writer Peter James Spielmann contributed to this story from the United Nations.
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