Fifteen shops burned in fire blast at Jebel market

Fifteen shops have burned in a fire blast on Tuesday in Jebel market along Yei road. Traders say they have lost thousands of pounds, hardware, and timbers. It is unclear what causes the fire.

The shops burned were owned by South Sudanese and foreign traders. Eyewitness gives mixed reactions to how fire breaks-out occurred.

The market residents were shocked to see terrifying smokes in the sky that burned everything, including an electrical pole.

Some people told Radio Community journalist Chuol Jany the fire broke out at 6 am. Other eyewitnesses claimed that an incident happened from 4:50 am until 5: 40am.

Many water tankers and firefighters were seen on the scene trying to put off the fire to prevent further damage. Their intervention was unhelpful when everything burned to ash.

The Radio community reporter who has been in the scene took a small video clip for broader views of the situation

Dinka Elders’ Demands Government Accountability on Oil Money

The Jieng Council of elders has called for the international community to audited South Sudan oil money. 

Norway and Canada were the only two countries suggested to audit the ministry of finance and petroleum ministry. Auditing will include the transactions of Transitional Financial Assistant from Sudan.

The Dinka elders issued seven pages statement over the weekend, accusing the government of leadership failure and political deadlock between president Kiir and his deputy Dr. Riek Machar for keeping the country hostage.

Two co-chairs signed a comprehensive document shared on social media, and three members include Joshual Dau Diu, Charles Majack Aleer, Dr. Aldo Ajou Deng, Daniel Dhieu Matuet, and Maker Thiong Maal.

Dinka elders have been accused of being pro-government supporters since the war broke out in mid-December 2013. But now it seems their chain political marriage with president Kiir’s regime sour due to new political disloyalty.

The group alleged, apparently the corruption scandal in South Sudan is high. And the government operated in total darkness without accountability. “Oil revenue and the revenues from the National Revenue Authority get spent without regards to the public financial management rules.”

They say the country is basically up looting. The public resources were being spent on bribing political opponents, buying them home, and keeping them in lengthy luxury hotels. In contrast, the armed and public civic servants went unpaid for several months. 

The political analyst Abraham Kuol says Jieng Council Elders represented political fallout with president Kiir’s regime but did not reflect the reality of accountability. However, they align their voice with the public interest. 

The analyst observed elders are fade-up groups who ought to use different approaches to secure their lion share in the palace. He says they can change their political color anytime if the government can fulfill what they need.

Abraham dismissed the legitimacy of JCE that as either a political entity or civil society organization to vocal on national affairs. He acknowledged that Dinka elders called shall be a driving tool to exposed hiding out within the government, but can sabotage the agreement.

“So in my opinion, although it is good to try from the side of Jieng Council of Elders to be able to talk about bring international auditors to audit the oil resources, but, I would say this is a political game for them to be relevant, to be known by J1, and mostly to get position mostly in J1 politic that they should have an alliance. Maybe this one made the fact that they are trying to expose J1 to bring them on board? In my opinion, this call showed that there is a fall out between J1 and JCE”, Kuol reiterated.

The executive director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, Edmond Yakani, has welcome Jieng elder’s call for transparency and accountability. He accused the assembly of an “illegitimate and self-proclaim group” whose public representation holds no water because they have been messing up the country during the crisis.  

“In terms of transparency in the oil sector, all of us need it, but they use it for the political motif. They should go off independently and ask the institution to handle that. I know they frame any move of the international community; they rush quickly to write the statement and say they call for accountability. 

And I know they are merely following the UNSC, the UNSC is pushing so much on the transparency of oil sector by asking the Chinese company to disclose money given to the government, and Dinka council elders rushed to write a letter about to get recognition.”

Two weeks ago, the Dinka council of elders called for president Kiir and first vice president Dr. Riek Machar to step aside and demanded election before the end of the Transitional Government of National Unity.

In 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on 15 oil operators in the country, accusing them of financing its civil war. 

Last week 16 February 2021, UNSC, the Panel Coordinator, Mr. Emilio Manfredi, requested information about Dar Petroleum Operating Company. The government of South Sudan has a financial stake through Nile Petroleum Corporation-Nilepet.

Urgency needed to implement R-ARCSS fully, Troika say.

South Sudan commemorates the First Anniversary of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity on Monday. Last year, a power-sharing government was formed on February 22.

The Five Vice Presidents appointed under the term of peace agreement parties signed in September 2018. The President also relieves all ministers and advisors of his Government and set up new cabinets comprised of all parties to the deal

The Opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar has sworn into office as First Vice President, a position he lost in 2016 following the violence that erupted in Juba.

Other vice presidents include Dr. James Wani Igga, Taban Deng Gai, Rebecca Nyandeng, and Hussein Abdelbagi Akol, were also take oaths on that day.

Today [Monday, February 22] marks the first anniversary of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity’s formation, described as a significant step toward restoring peace in South Sudan. Since the Government was partially formed, the parties have been known of a slow process to implement the agreement. There still no parliament reconstituted, forces not yet graduates as plans and States government formation have just started over the weekend with Central Equatoria.

The Troika countries include United States, UK, and Norway, welcomes all efforts by the RTGoNU in implementing the Revitalized Agreement.  

In the statement three western countries issued, much work is needed to complete a Unity government formation.

“Much work remains, and there is an urgent need to implement R-ARCSS in full. Progress made over the past year has been too slow and too limited. Critically important is the immediate formation of State Governments and the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and Council of States’ re-constitution.”

“Implementation of Transitional Security Arrangements and real security sector reform should commence immediately. The Troika endorses and reiterates the call made by the African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Ambassadors to improve conditions in training centers and accelerate the graduation and deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces.

“We will continue to work closely with IGAD and the regional guarantors to reach common objectives on the peace process and an agreed roadmap for implementation” Troika Stated.

The Troika members state further called for the establishment of a Hybrid Court. The Court is to trial those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict. 

The Troika further welcomes the endorsement by the Council of Ministers on January 28 of a roadmap for implementing Chapter 5, including the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan; the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing; and the Compensation and Reparations Authority”.

The Troika called  for the commencement of the permanent constitution-making process and preparations for peaceful, credible, and inclusive post-transitional elections. They are also concerned about the reports of defection from one party to the other.

The diplomats stated that violence is not acceptable and parties must restore peacefully include engaging a holdout group through the Rome peace process.

“While the national ceasefire has generally held, the level of violence across the country, including conflict caused by defections, is unacceptable. We urge all parties to the Rome process to ensure adherence to the Cessation of Hostilities and pursue political dialogue”.

Government spokesperson and Information Minister Michael Makuei accused International Community of being a double agent on the peace process in South Sudan. He said the diplomats should work hard so that the armed embargo imposed on South Sudan is reverse which he described as a factor delay graduation of Unify forces.

Those who are concerning are the very people who are obstructing the implementation of the peace agreement. Those diplomats wrote reports to the security council on the passed armed embargo. If they are a concern, they are supposed to work hard so that the resolution of the armed embargo is reverse, but these are people who are out to complicate issues for South Sudan.”

The UN arms embargo on South Sudan was instituted on July 13, 2018, to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of arms and related material – including ammunition, military vehicles, and spare parts entering South Sudan.

Information Minister called for unify disarmament.

South Sudan Minister of Information has called for holistic disarmament to avoid smuggling guns from one area to another during the exercise.

The call comes as the country has witnessed several criminal activities being committed by those with unauthorizing guns within the nation’s territory.

And these include cattle raiding, revenge killing, road ambushes reported daily.

In an inclusive interview with TRC’s journalist, Hon: Michael Makuei Lueth, the disarmament should not be partially done.

Makuei suggests that government should put in place an approach of conducting general disarmament exercise in the country.

 “The issue of disarmament cannot be done partly because it does not address the situation. It is supposed to be holistic. If it is holistic, it has to be an overall plan for disarmament because if I am disarmed today”. Makuei said

“If disarmament started from my village, we would rush our arms to your town. They say they have finished here in my village. So, it is supposed to be a holistic approach so that disarmament is done all over. South Sudan at ago so that you don’t give room to others to run away with their arms to the other side”, He stressed 

South Sudan People Defense Forces-SSPDF launched the disarmament exercise in many parts of the country, including Warrap and the Lakes States, targeting armed civilians. Those exercises were unsuccessful.

In August last year, more than 130 people died in the disarmament process in Tonj East – Romic of Warrap state.

Three hundred MSF staff strike over NSIF tax cut in Abyei.

More than three hundred Medicine San Frontiers’ staff in Abyei went on strike on Wednesday on the national social insurance tax cut.

An antagonistic strike occurred after staff received a document from the national labor office stipulating that they are to receive their salary indicating “TAX-FREE.”

According to the demonstrators, the National Revenue Authority, NRA, has implemented the policy taxing the national Social Insurance Fund (NSIF) after the staff contract ended with the organization.

The national staff viewed the new taxation policy as a day raiding strategy.

Daniel Reec Ador, head of protestors, said staffs would not go back to work till government, MSF office and teams on strike sit and find an amicable solution to the matter.”

Ador said their strike did not abandon people; the group has assigned some health personals to carryout medication in the hospital.

“We need to be convincing on the article that says that NSIF is subject to taxation. If we are shown the article, find, we don’t have any problem. We will receive this money and go back to work, but the labor office in Abyei should come and see what we can do and go back to work. This is after the government will tell us that it will follow the case.”

The field coordinator for Medicine San Frontiers, MSF, Mr. Ken Hagiwara declined to comment on the issue, which he said in the following interview.

“I cannot make any comment. Sorry sir, very sorry. I just am working on something, and I cannot comment on this. I cannot give you something, you know, some really, like unreliable information. I mean.”

The legal consultant and commissioner for Oath, Johnny Saverio Ayiik, says 58 of South Sudan Constitution National Revenue Authority can tax the payout National Social Insurance Fund. The reason is that NSIF is only taxed during the payout.

“That amount of eight percent which is deducted from each employee is not subjected to tax at the payment of the monthly salary because it is not yet an income into your pocket. So when you get it, and it comes to your pocket, this time now becomes income. Any income you received, that income is subjected to tax, and the government authority which is concerned and custodian of the implementation of the tax act is the national revenue authority.”

Saverio urges the protestors to avoid protesting against the employer but meet the National Revenue Authority as the concerned authority.

R-TGoNU criticizes of delay in government formation.

South Sudan Council of Church, Civil Society Forum, and Women’s Coalition for Peace have called the Unity government to end insecurity and reinstate peace.

Activists made a joint press statement to the media in Juba as a renewed push for the parties to “end bloodshed” in the country. 

Human rights activists slapped South Sudanese leaders for being reluctant by dragging backward the agreement’s implementation. 

The peace graduators include IGAD, AU, TROIKA, UN, Activists, and Faith-based group has noted that keys provisional of the agreement. The formation of a Unity government, the graduation of forces, and soldiers’ integration are yet to be implemented. 

Bishop Dr. Arkanjelo Wani Lem for the South Sudan Council of Church questioned South Sudanese leaders’ commitment to reconciling the nation. He said their group made several calls that encouraged leaders to move the agreement forward, but their voice was trashed. All their everyday needs “yielded any meaningful change to the ongoing crisis in the country.”

Bishop Wani acknowledged a decrease in military confrontation among forces to the parties. The church is deeply concerned about the general situation, which has not convincingly improved. 

The group has noted devastating intercommunal violence, displacement of civilians, sexual, gender-based violence, and unnecessary roadblock in some parts of the country. They say such unlawful behavior inflicting Pain on travelers and humanitarian workers.

“Bishop warned that “with this unbearable situation of human suffering. We are promoted to echo the people’s call for an end to violent conflict and insecurity, displacement of civilians, and insensitive creation of more orphans and widows. It is becoming more apparent to us each passing day that this is the most viable option to stability”.

Coordinator for South Sudan Civil Society Forum Caroline Kibas attributed the current insecurity threats caused by cattle raiders’ overall delay in establishing State government.

He believes the leadership vacuum in the state, counties, and Payams should end killing incidences.

“So, the first solution is to ensure that we move quickly to establish the government and make sure that we have leadership that can able to confront some of this inter-communal violence. The crucial aspect of the government, and that is the parliament”, Kibas explained. 

The government promised to reconstitute the parliament and form the state’s administration despite the delay attributed to Coronavirus. It said legislators’ screening has begun. The states nominees list will be submitting to the President for an appointment later this week.

President Salva Kiir announced to make the appointment of parliamentarians and state Ministers on February 15th, but that deadline passed yesterday. This week will mark one year since the Unity Government was formed, but parties have not yet completed their tasks. This creates fear that the Unity government could be extended at the end of the Transitional period.

Government spokesperson denial claims to extends the Transitional Period beyond three years deadline stated in the peace agreement. Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said the country is hoping to go toward the election in two-year time. 

“We’re working hard to ensure we go for election in time; there is no question of extension. If others are talking about an extension, the R-TGoNU is not a party to that plan.”

South Sudanese civil societies were part of negotiators ad signatories to the Revitalized Peace Agreement signed on September 12th, 2018.

Nearly 1,000 primary candidates in IO areas start the exam. 

More than 900 primary eight candidates who missed out in the exams in areas under IO have started sitting for Primary Leaving Examinations on Monday.

Last week, the Ministry of General Education suspended the exams for the candidates in the SPLM-IO controlled areas cited fear of insecurity.

An ultimate compromise was later reached after series of engagements from the Unity government include donors supporting the South Sudan education sector. 

Simon Nyok is the secretary-general for the national examination council in South Sudan.

He says the candidates started today [Monday] expected to finalize this week, and exams will be marks in Juba. The Education Minister rescheduled the exam in two states of Upper Nile and Jonglei.

Nyok says the examinations being undertaken by the candidates are authenticated and free from malpractice.

“They started the examination this week and would continue to the close of the week…we know that the exams were airlifted on Saturday to Centers where candidates are to sit for their exams.”

UNICEF announced that it delivered examination papers to seven counties in South Sudan where exams were postponed. Primary 8 candidates who missed out on their exams last week would sit today, Monday, 15 February.

“This was an important mission for UNICEF as access to education is a right for every child, regardless of location,” said Andrea Suley, UNICEF South Sudan Representative a.i. “I’m pleased with UNICEF’s ability to mobilize quickly with partners and deliver the examination papers on time. What remains is to wish the children the best of luck.”

The UN Children Agency said it delivered face masks for the students, hand sanitizers, and soap for handwashing to maintain COVID-19 guidelines throughout the examination.

UNICEF reiterated its commitment to collects the exam papers at the end of the week and bringing them to Juba for marking.

The Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, 2011 (as amended) article 29 guarantees every Child a right to education.

Candidates Missed Exam in the SPLM-IO Areas to sit on Monday 15th.

The SPLM-IO and the Ministry of General Education have finally settled controversy stuck-point, denying primary eight candidates in Upper Nile and Jonglei states who missed the national exam on February 8th to sit. 

An ultimate compromise was reached after series of engagements from the Unity government include donors supporting the South Sudan education sector, pushing the Ministry of General Education to respect the child’s constitutional right in the Upper Nile region.

The office of First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar delivered a formal statement on Thursday, informing the public about the outcome resolutions with General Education’s ministry. 

According to the press release signed by James Gatdet Dak, the last decision was made in the education cluster meeting. It is agreed children will site, and an examination is expected to occur in “19 centers” controlled by SPLM-IO.

 Dak uttered Machar has “directed authorities in areas where the examination will take place to cooperate, provide security and protect invigilators who will take examination materials, include examinee.”

According to the letter circulated to the media house, the minister of General Education and Instruction Awut Deng confirmed RTGoNU’s decision to let pupils sit their national examinations.

Hon. Awut rescheduled the exam in two states. The exam in Upper Nile and Jonglei shall commence next week, Monday 15th, and ended on Friday 19th.  

Ministry has started examination transportation to the locations on Friday 12th until February 14th. 

“The National Examinations Council has decided to fix new dates to conduct primary eight exams for the pupils who had missed out on the initial examination, Deng reiterated. Congratulation to all my children and wish them the best of luck, Deng reiterated.” 

Hon. Awut stopped taking standard examinations to SPLM-IO control areas last week, citing unclear insecurity threats, which some government dignitary officials rubbished in Unity government include international education partners.

Article 29 in the transitional constitution of South Sudan says education is for every citizen, and all government levels shall provide access to education without any discrimination regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or disability.

SPLM-IO trade blames with MPs over children missed exam 

Members of National legislative assembly and Sudan People Liberation Movement in Opposition under the leadership of First Vice President Riek Machar have traded an accusation over more than eight hundred primary eight candidates who missed national exanimation in the Jonglei Upper States.

The Minister of General Education Hon. Awut Deng Acuil withholds taking class eight exam to SPLM-IO control areas last week, citing insecurity threats that lead to confiscation of their staff member’s property. 

South Sudan national exam for primary Leaving certificate was kickoff on Monday and end on Friday 12th. 

Restriction of examination for pupils in the IO control area received wider condemnation from the education partners who see it as clear abuse of the child’s fundamental right to access education.

On Tuesday, February 9th, national members of the parliament issued a statement, blaming Machar’s unwilling cooperation for guaranteeing security forces compromised of national security and police service to protect exam.

The five MPs who issued the statement include Susan Machar, Michael Ruo Koryom, Martha Martin Dar, Lydia Jatin Jock, Paul Pur Liah, and Bor Gatwech Kuany.

MPs publicly criticized the First Vice president after meeting with the General Education minister, who briefed them on unfold child rights abuse.

Lawmakers who signed the document claimed that they had contacted the First Vice president’s office on February 7th to meet them but declined their request, citing a busy schedule. They further accused Machar of lack of political will and intentional obstruction of the government of R-TGoNU access to citizens in their areas.

MPs say the move “created division, hatred and disunity among South Sudan people and fit the people against their government.” 

The office of First Vice President denied any wrongdoing. They dismissed the accusation terming it as a “misleading statement.” 

They say the five allegations labeled against them by the lawmakers were “untrue and baseless.”

“Honorable Minister Awut Deng Acuil spoke with the First Vice President on the phone about the matter. Neither a meeting was conducted in person, nor did they meet many times as the letter falsely alleged. 

“In that phone conversation, the Minister was reassured by the SPLM/SPLA (IO) leadership that the Examiners and Examinees’ safety, including the conducive atmosphere for the Examinations, will be fully taken care of. There was that understanding in their conversation,”  The 1st Vice President’s office stated.

The press secretary Puok Kueth Baluong highlighted the conversation contents agreed. He said the First Vice President met international partners and Envoys; he assured them the children in the selected areas should do the Exams. And provide reassurance the safety for all those staff who will be involved in the exercise.

Shearer: Agreement heightened doubt and frustration

UN Special Representative of the secretary-general David Shearer has blamed slow implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement.

The Revitalized peace agreement was signed in September 2018, but there is no smooth implementation. Many keys provision issues include the formation of the Unity government, the graduation of joint security forces, and reunification of soldiers still pending.

The Head of UN Mission says that despite all effort made on the pace of implementation, lack of commitment among the signatories to the agreement will jeopardize the peace deal to hold elections at the end of the transitional government of national unity.

Mr. Shearer warned that slow implementation would open opportunities’ for “peace spoilers” to exploit local tension and fuel conflict.

UN noted that they had seen a recent increase in sub-national violence in Maban, Warrap, Jonglei, and Akobo. 

He explained current unfold situation has given them broader views to following up on the Jonglei conference government hosted in January this year to look at the root cause of the conflict.

 “UNMISS has increased patrols to the potential hotspot, and this week, we plan to deploy peacekeepers to seven temporary operating bases across the country. If we can deploy early in this dry season, we have better success to prevent violence before it happens,” said David Shearer.

In the press conference, the UN confirmed the Bor-Juba protection site’s smooth transition to the unity government. The South Sudan National Police Service is in charge of security in the former POC site located at the Yei checkpoint. 

UN boss disclosed Bentiu site should be re-designated in the next couple of weeks as a transition discussion is underway government of the state. And “Malakal POC transition might take longer.”

Shearer stressed they would support SSNPS by building professional policing and justice in the court of law so that judges can hear crime and punish perpetrators. 

We (UN) believe that it is very important because there is accountability if you have committed a crime; you are likely to be punished, and you are likely to go to court.”

Shearer says he is looking forward to seeing the collaborative approach in working, trust and confidence between the displaced community and police.