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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

South Sudan government defends spending on cars for lawmakers

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Thursday defended a decision to facilitate its lawmakers with 40,000 U.S. dollars each to purchase state-of-the-art cars despite economic hardship caused by more than four years of violence.

President Salva Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told Xinhua that decision will help enhance the effectiveness of parliament since many MPs have been using commercial motorcycle taxis to go to work.

"This is to enhance the effectiveness of parliament by giving members a loan which will be paid within five years," Ateny said in Juba, adding that this is not strange since other governments have done the same.

Ateny said the expenditure on parliamentarians is from the South Sudan Treasury.

South Sudan’s parliament now has 440 members, a number expected to reach 550 when the warring parties finally conclude a peace agreement on Aug. 5 in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

"South Sudan is a sovereign country and you do not need to question the source of the money. It is South Sudan money," he said.

Several South Sudanese civil society members and locals have questioned the decision to award MPs exorbitant cash as the majority of people wallow in poverty amid UN agencies’ warning that about 7 million people need emergency food aid.

Marial Awou Yol, a lecturer of economics at University of Juba, said the loan would be costly as it will trigger demands for salary increase from other government employees, which the country cannot afford at this time.

And the lawmakers may not be able to repay the loans because of their low salaries, he added.

"How can somebody who gets a salary of 40 to 50 dollars per month pay a car loan of 40,000?" he asked.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

A 2015 peace agreement was shattered when the warring parties renewed fighting in July 2016 in the capital, forcing rebel leader Riek Machar to flee into exile.

The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.
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Outrage in South Sudan as legislators given loans for cars purchase

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese on Wednesday expressed concerns after it emerged that the government has granted legislators a loan worth 16 million U. S. dollars for purchase of new cars even when the country is battling hunger amid an economic crisis.

According to sources in the South Sudan Parliament, each lawmaker in the 400-seater assembly will receive about 40,000 dollars to buy a new car.

"Yes we have received the money for buying cars. You know we were supposed to get new cars every two years and this money has been overdue," said a lawmaker who asked to remain anonymous as he is not in the position to talk about the issue.

"The money we received is not enough because the average amount we are supposed to get to buy a car is supposed to be 65,000 dollars," he said.

Reports of the car loans have been making rounds on social media in recent days, with many South Sudanese criticizing their representatives of not being considerate of their electorates who continue to suffer the brunt of the country’s four-year-old conflict.

Civil society activist James Kolok said the country is surprised to learn that the government has got money to be loaned to lawmakers when it struggled to pay civil servants and deliver services since the nation descended into civil war in late 2013.

"It is not appropriate for the government to give this money at a time when a country is actually crying because of a number of challenges that everyone including the children can see," Jame said.

Women’s rights activist Susan Wasuk questioned how the government acquired the funds when they have been complaining of lack of money to run government affairs.

"I don’t know where this budget is coming from when people are going to the neighboring countries and civil servants have not got their salaries and MPs are already talking of money to buy cars," Wasuk said.

According to the World Bank, South Sudan is the most oil-dependent nation in the world, with oil accounting for almost the totality of exports and around 60 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

But after the young nation descended into civil war in late 2013, oil production declined from 350,000 in 2011 to fewer than 130,000 barrels per day in 2014 amid soaring inflation.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands and created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

Senior economist, Marial Awou Yol said the loan would be costly for the world’s youngest nation as it will trigger series of demands for salary increase from other government employees, which the country cannot afford at this time.

He added that the lawmakers may not be able to repay the loans because of their low salaries.

"One would wonder as to how they would pay this money back to the government because the salary of an MP is around 9,000 South Sudan Pounds (about 40 dollars). How can somebody who gets a salary of 40 to 50 dollars per month pay a car loan of 40,000?" he asked.

There was no immediate comment from the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Information, Paul Yoane Bonju.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

United Nations welcome initialing of partial accords on South Sudan

UNITED NATIONS South Sudan(Xinhua) -- The spokesman for the UN chief on Thursday hailed the initialing by some parties in Khartoum of the Agreement on Outstanding Issues of Governance as a "step forward in the peace process for South Sudan."

However, Stephane Dujarric said the initialing on Wednesday by some of the parties participating in the negotiations in the capital of Sudan still leaves other parties with "outstanding concerns that are yet to be resolved."

"The UN Mission in South Sudan will continue to monitor the ongoing discussions as all parties work towards a genuinely inclusive and enduring peace agreement," Dujarric said.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011 and civil war broke out two years later after President Salva Kiir Mayardi sacked Vice President Riek Machar. Fighting has continued since. More than 2.2 million people have been displaced because of the violence.
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Relief agencies evacuate 390 aid workers from South Sudan Maban region

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- At least 390 humanitarian workers have been successfully evacuated from South Sudan’s restive Maban region where two humanitarian workers were injured early this week due to violence, organizations said on Saturday.

The South Sudan NGO Forum said increased attacks have forced aid agencies to suspend services except for life-saving and critical activities to communities around Maban where violence erupted on July 23 after a peaceful protest by local youth turned violent, leading to looting, burning of humanitarian premises and damage to aid vehicles.

"The increase in attacks on aid workers’ is wrong, unwarranted and we are extremely disappointed," Pius Ojara, Director of South Sudan NGO Forum said in a statement issued in Juba.

Ojara termed the violence against humanitarian actors, including the most recent attack in Maban as unacceptable, saying it reduces aid workers’ capacity to implement essential services and activities, leaving the most vulnerable people in South Sudan at greater risk of hunger and disease.

"Such senseless attacks hamper efforts by aid agencies and their staff who are working tirelessly in a challenging environment to help the most vulnerable people in need of life-saving assistance," he said.

In Maban, there was forceful entry into UNHCR and 14 other compounds by approximately 2,000 youth that resulted into looting, arson, destruction of vehicles, structures and other humanitarian assets and lifesaving supplies including medicines.

UNHCR said South Sudan hosts nearly 300,000 refugees, mostly from Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. Over 144,000 of those refugees live in four camps in Maban County.

According to Ojara, while there was no loss of life, aid workers have been traumatized by the Maban attacks, saying services will continue in the four refugee camps hosting 141,548 Sudanese refugees.

The NGO Forum called for local authorities to investigate the incident and ensure that organizers and perpetrators are identified and are held accountable for the unacceptable attacks.

The NGO Forum also called for assurance from government for protection of humanitarian workers, assets and supplies in Maban.

South Sudan’s conflict that has now entered its fifth year erupted in 2013 after forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar engaged in combat.

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

Millions of South Sudan’s civilians have sought refuge in neighboring countries as the conflict rages on despite attempts by international players to end it.
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Medical charity halts activities in South Sudan town after attack

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- International medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Tuesday it has suspended majority of its activities in South Sudan’s Maban area after a violent attack on aid workers and facilities on Monday.

MSF head of mission in South Sudan Samuel Theodore also condemned the brutal attack and called for the respect and protection of humanitarian workers and health facilities.

"Despite the attack to our facilities, our team on the ground will keep ensuring life-saving treatment to patients suffering from the most critical medical conditions," said Theodore in a statement issued in Juba.

"However, as the safety of healthcare personnel and facilities cannot be guaranteed, we have no other choice but to suspend the rest of our activities, which will leave 88,000 people with limited access to much-needed medical services," he added.

A group of unidentified armed men on Monday broke into MSF office and compound, looting the organization and staff’s properties, burning down a tent full of equipment and destroying most of the vehicles and communication devices.

Theodore confirmed that no MSF staff were injured during the attack, which happened after a peaceful protest by local youth in Maban county turned violent.

According to the medical charity, the MSF team is now safe and the organization is currently monitoring the situation.

Theodore said the attack has forced MSF to suspend the majority of its medical support to the host communities and the refugee population in Maban area, where the organization operates a primary and secondary healthcare hospital in Doro refugee camp and ensures primary healthcare consultations in Bunj State Hospital.

According to the UN, thousands of humanitarians are providing aid to millions of people in South Sudan affected by war, hunger and disease in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
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South Sudan peace monitors decry increased attacks on aid workers

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan peace monitors on Thursday decried increased attacks on humanitarian workers and called on authorities to investigate the latest attacks at the Maban camp in northern Upper Nile in which aid workers were injured.

The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) also expressed its outrage and strongly condemned the attack on humanitarian workers and the destruction of facilities and equipment at the Maban camp.

"Attacks on aid workers who diligently offer their services to alleviate the suffering of people of South Sudan, are deeply regrettable and indeed a violation of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access signed in December 2017," the peace monitors said in a joint statement.

Relief agencies have said the current wave of attacks on its workers including civilians Maban County which has no military or police presence, is symptomatic of the brutal violence that has characterized the conflict in South Sudan since December 2013.

Maban County is home to a major aid operation providing life-saving relief to over thousands of refugees and local communities

The peace monitors said the latest attack at Maban camp is one of the many other attacks that targeted aid workers in the country in the recent past, including killings of personnel.

"JMEC calls on the authorities to carry out an independent investigation into the attack and to hold those responsible to account," it said.

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

The conflict has displaced some 4 million people internally and externally, with the UN warning that another 7 million people remain severely food insecure.
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Peace monitor urges South Sudan parties to allow aid access

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan peace monitors on Tuesday said the South Sudan humanitarian situation remains dire and urged warring parties to allow increased humanitarian access to reach the millions in need.

The Joint Monitoring Evaluation Commission (JMEC) said in its quarterly report that despite the huge humanitarian needs, provision of targeted assistance remains difficult due to not only the ongoing rainy season, but also the continued violations of the Peace agreement and the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA).

"With the ongoing conflict and the deteriorating economy, food insecurity is likely to persist due to increased displacement, disruption of markets and supply routes leading to increased prices, and hampering of livelihood activities, especially food production," it said.

JMEC said the CoHA has been breached on several occasions as reported by ceasefire monitors (CTSAMM) and that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) also reported 138 access incidents during April and May which included the death of four aid workers and dozens of aid workers detained.

According to UNOCHA, 4.2 million people remain displaced, including 2.5 million in neighboring countries and almost 1.7 million internally.

Of those remaining in the country, 7 million people need humanitarian assistance and 7.1 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure.

The peace monitors disclosed that continued violations of the CoHA particularly in the context of the renewed peace efforts must stop and urged Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers to hold to account spoilers and violators of the agreement and impose the necessary punitive sanctions.

"No one should be allowed to violate the agreement with impunity.

"To this end, JMEC recommends the formation of a high-level consultative mechanism comprised of regional guarantors, the AU adhoc committee on South Sudan, and the UN," it said.

It added that this mechanism will periodically review the implementation of the peace agreement with the objective of formulating and taking timely and decisive action against spoilers and violators of the agreement.

President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar on June 27 agreed in Khartoum to permanent ceasefire and pulling of troops out of urban areas, but JMEC said the parties must effectively demonstrate political will, commit to implementing already agreed provisions, and work towards the speedy resolution of outstanding issues.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

A 2015 peace agreement was shattered when the warring parties renewed fighting in July 2016 in the capital.
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Aid agencies provide nutritional support to
pregnant mothers, children in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The World Food Program (WFP) and the World Vision on Tuesday announced that they were teaming up to provide nutritional support to pregnant women and children below five years in South Sudan.

Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, the WFP goodwill ambassador who is on a four-day visit to South Sudan, said adequate nutrition for pregnant mothers and their infants is key to boost their physical and mental health.

"Proper nutrition has the ability to boost a child’s physical health and cognitive abilities. It is therefore critical to provide nutritional support to young ones from their conception to other stages of development," Zeid told Journalists in Juba.

Damaris Wanjiku, South Sudan’s World Vision Nutrition Project Manager, said they have over 700 children admitted into the program with severe and moderate malnutrition.

             

 

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