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South Sudan leaders appeal for forgiveness after brutal civil war

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his deputy Wani Igga have joined a campaign seeking to reunite and reconcile South Sudanese torn apart by a five-year conflict.

Using pre-recorded audio messages aired on local radio stations, the leaders of the world’s youngest nation are urging the people of South Sudan to embrace forgiveness to pave way for nationwide reconciliation.

The campaign, spearheaded by a local religious group, is using billboards and recorded voices to share peace messages across South Sudan.

“As the president of the republic, I feel duty bound to lead the people of South Sudan to forgive each other even when forgiveness is being perceived as a weakness by those to whom they are forgiving,” Kiir said in an audio message.

“Indeed South Sudanese have brutally destroyed themselves - untold loss of lives, untold loss of property, and those who lost property and dear ones are definitely bitter. This reconciliation should be proceeded by forgiveness. You reconcile in order to forgive and open a new page,” Igga said.

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 United Nations estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally. A peace deal signed in August 2015 collapsed following renewed violence in the capital of Juba in July 2016.

The conflict left many South Sudanese communities fractured along ethnic lines, prompting the United Nations to warn in 2016 that the east African nation risks descending into genocide if the use of inflammatory rhetoric, ethnic polarization and name calling by the warring factions do not end.

A new peace deal signed in September appears to be holding as fighting and targeted killings have reduced in recent months.

“All of us the people of South Sudan have to forgive one another for the wrongs we have committed against one another,” he said.

“I always forgive as I also ask to be forgiven when I had wronged someone,” the South Sudanese leader added.



South Sudan denies rights group report on prisoner executions

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Friday denied a rights group’s allegations over prisoner executions.

Ateny Wek Ateny, spokesman for the President of South Sudan, said that the government put a moratorium on executions and President Salva Kiir has not signed any prisoner execution since 2011.

“If there were prisoners executed before independence they were executed under Sudanese law,” he told Xinhua in Juba.

However, Ateny said that execution law is still on the law books of the country, and added that abolishing the death penalty will depend on the views of South Sudanese during the constitutional review process, which is being undertaken by the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC) under the revitalized peace agreement.

Amnesty International said in a report on Friday that South Sudan has carried out more executions this year than it has done in any year since gaining independence in 2011.


United Nations official calls for expansion of civic space in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- A senior human rights official of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Friday called for expansion of civic space in the country to promote the implementation of peace agreement.

Eugene Nindorera, director of human rights division of the UNMISS, said effective civic participation, including human rights promotion, remains a challenge that must be acknowledged and addressed at this crucial juncture in the history of South Sudan.

“We urge the government to expand the civic space and to safeguard open and inclusive debate, especially in the context of the ongoing reconciliation efforts, so that the work of human rights defenders can thrive and effectively support the implementation of the peace agreement,” Nindorera said in a statement issued ahead of the International Human Rights Defenders Day on Sunday.

He said the government should also prioritize efforts to protect activists, through concrete measures aiming at preventing and promptly responding to acts of intimidation and violence targeting human rights defenders.

“Those responsible for any violation against a human rights defender should be held accountable,” said the UN official.

He said the recent signing of the revitalized peace agreement by most parties to the conflict, if fully implemented, will lead the country on a path of peace and prosperity.


Norway increases funding for education to help more children in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- Norway has increased funding toward the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to support education of underprivileged children in South Sudan.

UNICEF said in a statement on Friday in Juba that 60,000 children in South Sudan will be provided learning opportunities as a result of increased funding from the Norwegian government to the Back to Learning initiative.

It said Norway agreed to provide an additional funding of about 5 million U.S dollars to keep thousands of South Sudanese children in school.

Lars Andersen, Norwegian ambassador to South Sudan, said education, particularly for young girls, is a crucial element in supporting lasting peace.

“The Back to Learning initiative has provided education to tens of thousands of out-of-school children and we are very happy to support its further expansion,” he said.

Michael Lopuke, undersecretary at South Sudan’s Ministry of General Education and Instruction, lauded Norwegian government for their continued support of education, noting that his childhood classroom was built with Norwegian assistance.

Lopuke expressed hope that the funds would benefit some of the most deprived children across the country who lack access to education, despite the efforts of the government, national and international non-governmental organizations.

“The Back to Learning program has brought education to children who would otherwise miss out on this vital resource for their future and the future of the country,” said Andrea Suley, a UNICEF official.

Back to Learning was launched in February 2015 as a flagship program to bring out-of-school children to the classroom. 


South Sudan plans policy against child trafficking

JUBA South Sudan  (Xinhua) -- South Sudan government on Thursday announced plans to enact an immigration policy to counter child trafficking which is rampant in the country.

James Dak, deputy spokesman for South Sudan National Police Service, said the government is in the process of consulting with human rights activists to find the modality of developing the policy.

“We are forced to develop the policy to help guide law enforcement agents to address child abduction and girls’ trafficking that have increased along the points of entry,” Dak said during a dialogue about gender-based violence.

He revealed that the policy will be used for reference and it is to indicate whoever is traveling, whether male or female carrying a child or an underage person, has to be verified where they are going with that child.

Dak said the government issues passports for everybody including children and grown-ups. “The law requires that all parents travelling to foreign countries with their children must present evidence,” he said.

He said that the deliberations on the proposed policy will serve as a guide to everyone who intends to travel abroad.

Dak said that once compiled and approved by the parliament, the policy will be used by immigration and security personnel at the border points.

As reported over the past five years, he said, South Sudan is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.


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