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South Sudan rebels deny recruiting Ugandan youths

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan’s main rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in-Opposition (SPLA-IO), on Wednesday denied allegations that the group is recruiting Ugandan youth into its ranks.

Ugandan media reported on Tuesday that security operatives have arrested a preacher in the northern district of Lira for allegedly conscripting Ugandan youth into the South Sudanese rebel movement that is fighting to topple the government of President Salva Kiir.

Lam Paul Gabriel, SPLA-IO deputy military spokesperson, said in a statement that the rebel group does not enroll foreign fighters into its ranks.

Gabriel argued that the suspect identified as Pastor Jorom Opio is not in the SPLA-IO ranks or files, adding that the group value Uganda’s role in hosting South Sudanese refugees and for supporting the latest peace efforts aimed at ending the ongoing civil war.

“SPLA-IO does not recruit foreigners nor does it operate abroad. The South Sudanese who joined the SPLA-IO do so voluntarily to bring about reforms to South Sudan. This requires personal sacrifice,” Gabriel said.

South Sudan has been embroiled in more than four years of conflict that has taken a devastating toll on the people, creating one of the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under UN pressure led to the establishment of a transitional unity government in April, but was shattered by renewed fighting in July 2016.



South Sudan women demand greater participation in peace revival process

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese women were on Tuesday encouraged to push for more representation to influence the upcoming third round of peace revival talks in Ethiopia.

Deputy information minister Lily Albino said women have borne the brunt of the war in the country and should actively participate and be heard during resumption of the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) mid-March mediated by the regional bloc IGAD in Ethiopia.

“Women are demanding 50-percent representation at the high-level revitalization Forum from the previous 25 percent under the 2015 peace agreement,” she said during the opening of the training for women on peace by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

She added that they are also demanding 35-percent representation at the national dialogue conference.

According to UNMISS spokesperson Francesca Mold, the event will enable the over 150 participants to learn about the ongoing peace process and discuss ways to advance it.

Participants are expected to include women lawmakers from the Transitional Legislative Assembly (TLA), women academics and leaders from civil society as well as representatives of UNMISS’ Gender Unit.

UNMISS said proposals from the conference are expected to inform the position of women in the ongoing peace process.

“I hope that women will be able to take their position and express that position in one unified voice so that they will able to have solid outcome in this High-Level Revitalization Forum by engaging closely with government, civil society and mediators,” said Kasumi Nishigaya, UNMISS Chief of Section and Gender Advisor.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting mostly between Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighboring countries.


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