Mission to South Sudan 2014
Amnesty International has sent a human research mission to South Sudan to investigate human rights violations, and report on the conditions of Internally Displaced People.
Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada, reports back directly from South Sudan, July 2014.
<< Follow Alex: #SouthSudan
Background to the mission:
Blog from South Sudan:
‘It starts right here’ – the road ahead for South Sudan
So many moments stay with me. During the course of this recent mission in South Sudan people recounted unimaginable suffering and acute fear; they showed tremendous strength and unflagging resilience; and they shared both deep despair and determined hope.
Many of the moments were unexpected.
We spent a morning at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) site on the grounds of a private school in Juba, where close to 5,000 people are sheltered. More than one million people have been internally displaced in South Sudan over the course of the past seven months as violence and massive human rights violations swept through the capital Juba and Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states. There was considerable displacement within Juba itself. Approximately 30,000 IDPs are living in sites on two UN peacekeeping bases there. The others have had to find places to live throughout the city.
Some have turned to friends, close family and distant relatives. Many have settled into sites that have sprung up relatively spontaneously across the city. That is the case for the women, men and children who have taken shelter on the grounds of Mahad School. The school’s owner, faced with the desperate needs of so many people with nowhere to go, did not hesitate to allow them to stay. For how long, no one knows.
What Canada can do for crisis-gripped South Sudan?
“There is nothing to celebrate; because you are not independent if you are not free” — that was the understandable response when I asked Peter Koang recently what he felt about upcoming third anniversary, on July 9, of the independence of South Sudan, the world’s newest nation. Peter has been living in an overcrowded site for internally displaced persons on a corner of UN peacekeeping base in Juba, South Sudan for seven months.
He does not feel free or independent. Because the site is still prone to harassment and attacks from hostile outside forces, the UN keeps the gate closed and locked. And because of fear, most of the residents of the camp, including Peter, never dare venture out. The sad irony is that a site offered up by the UN for protection to civilians fleeing massacres in December 2013 has, for many, become a virtual prison camp.
It was the right decision to open the gates to women, men and children escaping a terrifying wave of ethnic and political violence in the capital, Juba, and other UN bases around the country. But seven months on, the “protection of civilians” sites on UN bases are but one of the many grave challenges amid a staggering human rights and humanitarian crisis that has betrayed the exhilaration and hope that accompanied independence just three years ago.
An "Amnesty moment" in South Sudan
July 7, 2014
Greeting to Amnesty International supporters, from Juba, South Sudan!
As our human rights mission gets underway, I thought I’d share an uplifting "Amnesty moment" amidst two long, hot days of interviews in IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps here in Juba; with more to come.
These IDP camps are actually within United Nations peacekeeping bases. The two in Juba hold around 30,000 people. Nationwide, UN soldiers are sheltering about 100,000 people. It was an unprecedented decision back in December when people were fleeing widespread massacres. Whereas UN bases have usually been a no-go zone for people fleeing atrocities, this time the UN Mission here made an unparalleled decision to open the gates. It saved thousands of lives at the time, no doubt.
But now it is a full blown human rights and humanitarian crisis. The sites are surrounded by hostile communities; so the UN keeps them firmly locked up. That, and the fact that people are terrified to go outside, means that they have become virtual prison camps. Many of the sites have also become death traps as cholera and other diseases have taken hold.
I spent time yesterday afternoon with a 57 year old man who has seen it all. Yet, he is everything you imagine in the quintessential African elder. Every phrase was full of majesty and wisdom.
Truth and debate fall victim to ‘national security’ rhetoric amid South Sudan’s crisis
July 2, 2014
Juba, South Sudan
“Stop publishing articles on federalism” - that is the warning media outlets in South Sudan received in late June, through phone calls and visits from government security officers.
The National Security Service had decided that it was a threat to “national security” to discuss federalism – an approach to governance embraced by states around the world and already a feature of the interim South Sudanese Constitution. There was no written decree to back up their ominous warning.
The Juba Monitor’s unswerving Editor-in-Chief, Alfred Taban, was outraged. So he decried the move in a forceful editorial on 1 July. He announced that his paper would not comply with a demand that he considered to be unconstitutional, an assault on freedom of expression and, ultimately, an impediment to national security itself.
And national security responded. The next day all copies of the popular daily newspaper were seized in the early hours of the morning, keeping it out of readers’ hands. It wasn’t the first time that has happened to Alfred Taban and the Juba Monitor.
The Juba Monitor is not the only media outlet under siege.