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East African Force ready to deploy to South Sudan upon AU order| Coastweek

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- Refugees walk inside the Protection of Civilians site 3 of the United Nations Mission In South Sudan (UNMISS) in Juba, capital of South Sudan. The humanitarian situation in South Sudan has witnessed significant deterioration, including in areas that were once relatively stable. Since December 2013, over two million people have fled their homes. Some 1.6 million are displaced within South Sudan and more than 900,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries. XINHUA PHOTO - LI BAISHUN

East African Force ready to deploy to South Sudan upon AU order

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF), a regional rapid response force, said on Friday its troops are on standby and ready to deploy to South Sudan if the African Union gives the directive.

EASF Director Chanfi Issimail said the rapid-deployment force is well equipped and has the capacity to deploy to the troubled nation within 14 days following command which must be confirmed and endorsed by the AU leaders.

"EASF has a ready full operational capability force of 5,200 military, police and civilian personnel to fulfill its mandate of enhancing peace and security in the Eastern Africa region," Issimail said in Nairobi during a visit by Denmark’s ambassador to Kenya Mette Knudsen to sign the joint Danish-EASF project of engagement document.

The rapid deployment force is one of the five regional standby forces under the command of the African Union and draws its membership from ten member states from the Eastern Africa Region, namely Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

EASF is one of the five regional components of the African Standby Force established by the African Union for the purpose of containing conflicts and enhancing peace and security on the continent.

The EASF was established as a regional mechanism to provide capability for rapid deployment of forces to carry out preventive deployment, rapid intervention and peace enforcement.

South Sudan’s civil war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused former first vice president Riek Machar of plotting a coup, which opened ethnic divisions characterized by human rights violations.

Heavy fighting erupted again in July between forces loyal to President Kiir and his former deputy Machar, uprooting thousands of refugees who crossed into regional countries.

Knudsen and Issimail signed a document totaling 3 million U.S. dollars for the project that is designed to facilitate the standby force in achieving its ambition as a key player in the peace and security sector in the region through capacity building for the duration of the program that runs from 2015 to 2017.

Knudsen said the contribution is one element that can be used to support the clamor for peace in Africa.

"EASF is a useful tool and choice for the African Union in implementing peace in the region and a strong instrument that can be used to address stability in the region," the ambassador said.


United Nations team arrives in Juba to look into South Sudan violence

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- The Independent Special Investigation team appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to look into the violence in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, in July, and the response of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), arrived in Juba on Friday, a UN spokesman told reporters here.

The team, led by Major General (retired) Patrick Cammaert, will review reports of incidents of attacks on civilians and cases of sexual violence that occurred within or in the vicinity of the UN House Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites in Juba, the spokesman said.

"It will also determine whether UNMISS responded appropriately to prevent and stop these incidents and to protect civilians, within its resources and capabilities at the time," the spokesman said.

The team is also charged to review the UN Mission’s response to the July 11 attack on the Terrain Hotel, the spokesman said. "The team is expected to submit its report to the secretary-general within one month."

In August, the secretary-general announced the special investigation into allegations that UNMISS failed to respond properly to the attack on the hotel in Juba in July.

Meanwhile, Ban was also concerned about allegations that UNMISS did not respond appropriately to prevent this and other grave cases of sexual violence committed in Juba, according to the statement.

On July 10, South Sudanese Health Ministry confirmed 271 people were killed in the latest clashes between rival army factions outside the presidential palace in the capital Juba and there is renewed heavy fighting.

In a statement, the Health Ministry said those killed included 32 civilians, five police officers, 44 government troops and 190 soldiers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) led by Vice President Riek Machar.

South Sudan says facing cash crisis at its foreign embassies

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan said Friday it’s facing cash crisis at its foreign embassies stemming from salary delays as well risk eviction for failure to pay rents.

Philip Thon leek, Chairperson of Specialized Committee for Foreign Relations in transitional Parliament, told Xinhua in an interview in Juba that the government is making frantic efforts to rescue the diplomats who may be at risk of eviction due to rental dues.

"The diplomats have been going without salaries for about five months, and some of them are being threatened to be dragged to court for failing to pay rents by their landlords," Leek said.

In March, Juba said it will downsize the number of staff in its embassies across the world in order to cut costs due to economic slump stemming from a two-year civil war.

The move comes amid unconfirmed reports that some of the foreign missions have been served with eviction orders for not paying rent while some staff have not been paid for months due to economic crisis.

"Our diplomats don’t get their salaries regularly because scarcity of hard currency has disadvantaged them from paying their house rents abroad," Leek stressed.

The lawmaker explained that the situation has been exacerbated by the current economic crisis that has made foreign currencies to be very scarce, coupled with the large number of diplomats deployed in foreign missions abroad.

Since South Sudan gained its independence from Khartoum in 2011, the world youngest nation has so far opened 32 missions worldwide.

Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Mawien Makol told Xinhua that the delays are due to economic crisis, coupled with recent fighting that forced former first vice president Riek Machar to flee the country.

"We have some economic problems at the moment, but we are trying our best, and also to reduce the number of officials in some of those embassies," Makol said.


UN expert decries high illiteracy rates in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world as only 15 percent women and 40 percent men of the country’s 12 million population are able to read or write, a UNESCO expert said on Friday.

Dr. Awol Endris Adem, UNESCO South Sudan Education Specialist, said data from the country’s 2008 census shows alarming indicators of illiteracy rates and that those figures could have worsened following eruption of civil war in 2013.

"When we consider the 27 percent aggregate number of the 2008 South Sudan census, it means literacy level is 15 percent for women and 40 percent for men. Because of this, South Sudan very unfortunately is considered to be lowest in the world in terms of literacy," Adem told Xinhua in Juba.

He said the country’s problems spanned from protracted conflicts, lack of investment in education infrastructure, and under funding of the education system, adding that the December 2013 conflict inflicted a heavy toll on South Sudan’s education sector.

"The December 2013 civil war has aggravated the situation even more because resources that should have gone into education, health and other services might have been channeled into the conflict," Adem said.

"So all these combined have resulted in a kind of very decimal literacy and other education indicators for South Sudan," he added.

South Sudan’s education indicators remain among the worst in the world. Official data from the ministry of education shows annual allocation to education stood at 7 percent for 2013-2014.

A report by UN children’s agency (UNICEF) released early this month said South Sudan is the second country in the world after Liberia with the highest proportion of out-of-school children.

Adem said collective efforts involving government, civil society organizations and the private sector need to be put in place to reduce the high illiteracy rates in the world’s youngest nation.

"We should work together and work much harder than now.

"We should create opportunities for South Sudanese youth and adults to enroll into literacy classes and the South Sudanese must lead the drive to teach their fellow citizens.

"It is a collective responsibility, and UNESCO shall remain a partner in this all the way," he said.

South Sudan seeks to improve trade ties with Ethiopia

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan is seeking avenues to bolster trade ties with Ethiopia through reopening of trade corridors and construction of new roads linking the two countries, an official said.

Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, South Sudan’s Petroleum Minister told reporters at Juba International Airport before his departure late Thursday for Ethiopia that that a high level delegation dispatched by South Sudan President Salva Kiir to Ethiopia will discuss issues to do with trade, infrastructure development and regional security.

"Ethiopia is a strategic neighbor and we want to make sure that while we are implementing the agreement, we also make sure that trade between South Sudan and Ethiopia is booming," Gatkuoth said.

Gatkuoth said the team led by the country’s first vice President Taban Deng Gai , will meet Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and other government officials for negotiations on border demarcation and regional security.

"We would like to make sure that the region is peaceful and all our neighbors are having good relations with us.

"So we will be normalizing relations with all the neighbors," Gatkuoth said.

South Sudan share a long border with its eastern neighbor Ethiopia, but trade between the countries have been affected by South Sudan’s civil war which started in December 2013 which concentrated in the Northeastern region bordering Sudan and Ethiopia.

A deadly raid which left over 200 killed in Ethiopia’s Gambella region in April by armed South Sudanese further caused tense relations between the two countries.


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