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South Sudan court convicts four Kenyans over theft

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan’s apex court has convicted four Kenyans to nine years imprisonment and acquitted six nationals in the long-running trial of 16 suspects accused of stealing 14 million U.S. dollars in the president’s office in 2015.

Supreme Court Deputy Chief Justice Judge John Gatwech Lul delivered the judgment on Monday after accused lawyers in April appealed the High Court’s June 2016 ruling which sentenced the four to life imprisonment.

The convicted Kenyans had been working for a local IT company owned by South Sudanese Agou Wuoi, who got sentenced to 14 years in prison after the court found him guilty of masterminding the theft.

Agou prior to his conviction had worked in President Salva Kiir’s office and his company was by then contracted to supply the latter’s office with stationery services, but later on accused some of his associates of malice and intrigue after being axed from work.

The court despite acquitting the six South Sudanese, sentenced other four nationals including Agou, and demanded they refund about 5 million U.S. dollars in form of compensation for public money lost.

The leading defense lawyer for the suspects Kiir Chol Deng welcomed the decision for acquitting the six, but disagreed with the verdict for sentencing the ten.

“I agree with the Supreme Court order to acquit the six suspects. I disagree with the supreme court in its decision to sentence the ten suspects,” he said.

Deng disclosed one of their options is to apply to the Supreme Court to review its decision, or go to the constitutional court.

He added he will also consider going to the East African court of justice or request president Kiir to pardon the suspects.

The Kenyan government at one time was forced to engage their South Sudanese counterparts after relatives of the four accused Kenyans, including human rights groups protested their trial and life imprisonment sentence initially handed out by the court.



High poverty levels fuel rising crime in South Sudan

By Denis Elamu JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The rising levels of crime involving armed robbery, house break in and petty theft in South Sudan’s capital Juba and along major highways is driven by high levels of poverty and laxity within the law enforcement agencies, experts said on Sunday.

Since the renewed clashes in Juba last year, there has been increasing levels of crime hugely driven by worsening economic crisis amid hyper inflation, leaving most civil servants, law enforcement agencies without salaries for the past four months.

Edmund Yakani, the executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) which has been monitoring crime, blamed the worsening economic situation which has led to high prices of food and social services for the high crime.

“From June 2017 the incidences of armed robbery during night hours have increased by 5 percent in comparison to the period from December to March. Breaking into NGOs office by armed robberies has increased from one incident per month during December 2016 to 2-3 incidences per month from June 2017,” Yakani said.

He blamed some rogue officers from the security forces for being accomplices in the crime wave that has forced some humanitarian organizations to reconsider operations in certain areas.

“Areas of high incidences of robberies became areas of low interest for NGOs to operate in. For example the recent decision of International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) for closing operations in Western Equatoria was due to the killing of their staff (driver) in Amadi state area of Kotobi,” he said.

However, SPLA spokesman Brigadier Lul Ruai Koang told Xinhua that they were acting on errant soldiers who have been involved in robberies.

“It is not a new story. It happened some three weeks back, when a ring of organized crime was discovered led by a Lt. Colonel. He was arrested along with his colleagues,” Koang said.

The army spokesman added that they have since beefed up joint security patrols involving the police and SPLA around hotspot areas to curb crime.

South Sudan police (SSNP) spokesman Justine Buolo disclosed that some criminals in army uniforms have been masquerading as soldiers.

“Robbery cases are at times complicated, because when you investigate them, you find that the perpetrators are not registered in the armed forces,” he said.

Buolo added that on the contrary the cases of robbery have reduced since August compared to previous months, though he conceded that they registered a recent case of armed robbery in Gudele suburb.

Jacob Chol, professor of comparative politics at Juba University, said that most civil servants and law enforcement organs such as the police and organized forces have not received their salaries in the last five months which has led to laxity in enforcing the rule of law.

“There is laxity for (police) them to enforce the rule of law the way they used to do it five years ago. This indicates that even if there are criminals in the neighborhood, it is unlikely when you call 999 and police will come and rescue you because they don’t have that will, energy, motivation and sometimes they don’t have fuel,” he observed.

Chol also revealed that the prevailing level of crimes are divided into small scale crimes where young people break side mirrors of cars, and high level crimes involving use of guns.

“There are no economic activities in the country and therefore a lot of youth are not getting jobs and the best way now they feel like to earn their living is just to steal. So, all these are being factored in because of poverty, it has reached a very high level in South Sudan,” Chol explained.

He said that South Sudanese have lost hope, because the peace agreement that was signed in 2015 between the warring parties to end more than three years of conflict is being implemented slowly than expected and there seems to be no economic recovery.

“A lot of people have lost their hope and have just gone the way of becoming criminal to make ends meet,” he said.


At least 25 killed in fresh clashes in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- Fresh clashes between government forces and rebels on Monday have killed at least 25 people in northern South Sudan, officials said Tuesday.

Information Minister in Northern Liech State Lam Tungwar said rebels aligned to the country’s former deputy president attacked Nhialdiu town in the early hours of Monday, leaving at least 25 people dead.

“We lost 19 people during the fighting in Nhialdiu Payam and an additional six people died later. Among the dead were three women, six police officers and an old man,” Tungwar told Xinhua by phone.

South Sudan has been embroiled in more than three years of conflict that has taken a devastating toll on the people of the country.

A peace pact signed in Addis Ababa in 2015 under intense international pressure was shattered again following renewed violence between government and opposition troops in the capital Juba in July 2016.

The conflict has since spread to other regions, resulting in the displacement of at least 3.5 million people, ethnic polarization and tribal violence that has killed tens of thousands of people.


UN ramps up response to flood crises in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The UN World Health Organization (WHO) said it has teamed up South Sudan’s health ministry and other partners to scale up emergency response to counties affected by the heavy rainfall and subsequent flood.

The UN health agency said Tuesday it has delivered lifesaving medical supplies to the communities affected in Aweil West and Aweil North Counties of former Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, and Maban County of former Upper Nile State.

“Building the capacity of partners, increasing human resource and medical supplies are vital in such acute emergencies since it increases access to quality health care services to the affected population,” said Evans Liyosi, WHO Representative to South Sudan.

WHO will continue to strengthen its humanitarian support in coordination with the Ministry of Health and partners to save the lives of the vulnerable community,” Liyosi said.

WHO said the lifesaving health supplies will benefit 10,000 people living in areas deeply affected by the heavy rainfall in parts Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile States of South Sudan for the next three months.


South Sudan plans major reforms in mining industry

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan’s ministry of mining said Thursday it would embark on sweeping reforms in the mining industry to ensure sustainable exploitation of natural resources and enhance environmental protection.

Gabriel Thokuj Deng, Minister of Mining, said most large and small scale mining companies operating in the East African nation are not complying with the laws of the country, as such the government finds it difficult to control and regulate their activities.

Speaking during a three-day workshop on extractive industry sustainability in the capital, Juba, Thokuj said the government seeks to amend the Mining Act 2012 to enable it have greater control over the activities of mining companies.

He said the reforms are important in diversifying the economy of the oil-dependent nation through harnessing and supporting the extractive industry.

“You (miners) comply with the laws; you are our brothers and our friend. You don’t comply, I don’t want to use the word kick out, but you are not part of us and we will revoke your license. Actually I’m quick to do this according to the laws,” Thokuj said.

He added that the current government policy of allocating 2,500 Square kilometers of land as concession agreement to investors for mining purposes would be abolished and a new policy that encourages competition and quality would be developed.

“One of the laws that is coming will ensure no more 2,500 km2, we will reduce them so that it is manageable and no chaos. Let us not be driven again by selfishness and greed,” he added

According to the UN Environment Program (UNEP), more than 90 percent of South Sudan’s population depend on natural resources, but the agency has repeatedly warned that lack national of environmental legislations and policies threatens the survival of the country’s abundant natural resources.

Asrad Khan, UNEP Country Manager in South Sudan, said the extractive industry is important for development of the war-torn country because it can help in diversifying the economy if harnessed, but unfortunately the country’s resources are being threatened by human-induced pressure.

He urged the people to use their resources wisely and sustainably both for the present and the future.

Khan pledged UNEP’s commitment to continue to engage with the extractive industry to help in pollution reduction, leveraging innovation and emerging technology to support the sector’s contribution to sustainable development and peace building.

“Unfortunately, the natural resources and environment in South Sudan are increasingly under pressure as you know that in some parts of the country, environmental degradation and depletion is taking place and the country is facing a number of environmental challenges from pollution of water bodies, pollution of land and soil, wastes, loss of biodiversity, deforestation and most importantly climate change,” Khan said.


Ugandan president meets U.S. envoy over South Sudan crisis

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has told the United States envoy to the UN that he is making efforts to help end fighting in neighboring South Sudan that has forced over 1.6 million people to flee the country.

Museveni, according to a State House statement issued here on Tuesday, said as a mediator, he is trying to bring together the warring factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) together.

“The President said there was need to unite the various factions of the SPLM and that he was mediating talks to unite the SPLM as the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn works on the wider unity of the other parties,” the State House statement said.

Museveni was meeting Ambassador Nikki Haley on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly in New York.

Since fighting broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, Uganda hosts more than one million South Sudan refugees, according to figures by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The east African country says it needs more international support to be able to cater for the increasing number of refugees from South Sudan. 


Chinese hospital wins popularity in conflict-torn South Sudan

By Denis Elamu JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- Located a stone throw away from South Sudan’s Juba airport is the China Friendship Hospital, one of the remaining three medical complexes in operation after the renewed clash last July.

Many South Sudanese have chosen to visit the private hospital manned by Chinese medical experts, South Sudanese and some experienced doctors from the East African region for both non-communicable diseases and complex medical cases.

According to Ma Ning, the director of the hospital, they handle mostly typhoid and malaria cases, but he also takes pride in having conducted in September the first eye operation in South Sudan.

He added that during the violence in 2016, they treated for free many bullet wound cases involving soldiers and civilians caught up in the fighting between government troops (SPLA) and rebels allied to former First Vice President Riek Machar.

“Every month we also get some emergency cases of people without money which we treat,” he said of the hospital’s social responsibility plan.

“Every year we provide consultancy, medical checkup like scanning and laboratory tests together with treatment at a subsidized price,” he added.

Apart from Chinese doctors, the hospital also employs South Sudanese medical practitioners who are not working on fulltime basis, besides an Eritrean and two Ugandans working full time.

Ma disclosed that the hospital has increasingly gained the public trust leading to many people suffering trauma and broken fractures coming to the hospital.

“In Juba many hospitals close early, but we work 24 hours,” he said.

Ning said the hospital, despite treating financially-stable people working in humanitarian organizations, oil companies and private companies, is basically a local hospital serving South Sudanese.

John Ladu, 24, a resident of Tomping suburb near the hospital, said he is very happy with the Chinese hospital as it is friendly and not very expensive.

Ning said now they receive patients from as far as Rumbek town in northern Lakes state and Wau located northwest of the capital.

Ma disclosed that one of the challenges they face is the scarcity of medicine in South Sudan, which forces them to import from nearby Uganda.

He also said there are few eye doctors, orthopedic surgeons in South Sudan and yet the demand remains high.

The China Friendship Hospital was built in 2011 after South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. The first branch located at Tomping area opened in March 2012 before other branches opened up.

South Sudan is mired in the ongoing violence since the outbreak in December 2013, which forced many foreign businesses to close.

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