Approchement to the Sub-Saharan Africa reality

I am fascinated with the predisposition of Casa Africa‘s Secretary General Arianne Hernández González. Although it was not a face-to-face contact due to the Casa Africa’s headquarters in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; I soaked up the e-mails and the phone call in detail.

Arianne Hernández 2 [141944]

Arianne Hernández Gonzalez is the Secretary General of Casa Africa

 

Arianne Hernández, who has a Bachelor Degree in Economics and a Master in International Solidarity Actions in Europe by the Carlos III University, is a qualified professional in her area. In fact, she also experienced cooperation in Africa, acquired in the University Centre for International Cooperation Development (CUCID), University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University Foundation of Las Palmas.

Casa Africa is integrated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Government of the Canary Islands, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation and the Town Council of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. It is defined as economic and public diplomacy tool to promote and consolidate Hispano-African relations. Their headquarters in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is used to strengthen the role of the Canary Islands as a political, economic and logistical platform to Africa.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Sub-Saharan Africa is famine, conflicts, failed-states. “It is just sold one narrative story. It is important to be aware of its greatness, its variety, its wealth, its power, its potential”. Arriane added, “It is essential to try to understand African continent from the complexity and far from easy speeches, cliches and noise. And see it through our eyes”.

In terms of the relationship between Spain and Sub-Saharan states, it is a priority to Casa Africa, Spain Brand, Spanish and Canary government as well as many other public institutions, firms and civil society organizations. “There is an enormous interest in the opportunities that this region offers to Spanish entrepreneurs, who are conscientious of its relevance”. For instance, “we have opened embassies, offices, Cervantes institutes”, she said. They have more than 200 events each year that cover all fields and have the basic objective to approach the African continent.

Sub-Saharan Africa has 54 states; each one has its own economy (different history and development). It cannot talk of unity because of rent per capita, exportations and indebtedness. However, more and more media is informing about the prosperity. “How has Africa gone from being globally considered as an almost cursed continent to occupy the cover of Time Africa grows?”, she asked. “One answer is the export of raw materials which are enormously rich. For example, the African continent has 95% of world reserves of platinum, 90% of chromite reserves and 85% of phosphate rock reserves and more half the world’s cobalt and bauxite third. At the same time, the known oil reserves on the continent have increased by 40%”, she answered. “Moreover, the importance of African agriculture increases due to growth in demand by developing countries”, she added.

“Africa is not a technological desert. Quite the opposite”, she said. They publish an essay on new technologies in Africa. “ We use the examples of Senegal, Angola and Kenya to illustrate diverse social platforms where citizens act as activists, journalists and even election observers”, she informed.  What most sock me is that according to the report most Africans have mobile line, they use innovative SMS technology to create applications that respond to their needs and interest such as birth registration in remote areas, market prices and innovation to improve crops, pregnancy control and mobilization in case of need to organize elections.  Moreover,  she mentioned. I completely agree with her statement “lack of resources and young population sharpen ingenuity, the desire and the choices”.

Arianne highlighted that insecurity is clearly a problem, not only because it affects in the worst way to people, but also because it leaves terrible sequels and traumas in a society. Moreover, it affects the economy of a country. “It is like killing two or more times a people”, she said.

A true fact is that the situation has improved in Africa since the 80s and 90s. There are fewer conflicts than before, better governance and greater democracy. In fact, African GDP growth was 5.7% in the last decade (2000-2010), which indicates that, in recent years Africa has been growing at a higher rate than Europe (2.5%). Africa is one of the regions that better and faster has recovered from the global economic recession of recent years.

On balance, “at present some African countries are looking for alternatives to natural resources to maintain sustainable growth. Many speak of a theoretical emergency by 2020. The challenge is not to rely solely on those resources such as tourism, is to diversify the economy”, she said.

Written by Celia Hernández Arbella

Interview with Gabriella s. Buescher: use your twenties to explore different paths.

Ida Yordi Bredal, 27-11-2015.

Gabriella S. Buescher is the Chief of political office at the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission – UN Regional Office for West Africa, Dakar.

14900a1

Gabriella S. Buescher on fieldwork. 

In brief Gabriella is a Director-level senior expert with over 20 years of experience in humanitarian action, emergency preparedness and response, protection, political affairs, resilience and transition. The United Nations Office for West Africa is the first regional conflict prevention and peace building office of the United Nations. Created in 2002 it has as a mission to enhance the contributions of the UN towards achieving peace and security in West Africa. It helps promote the importance of good governance and respect towards the rule of law. It protects human rights and gender in conflict prevention and management in West Africa and helps good border relations between Cameroon and Nigeria. Boko Haram in the sub-region has complicated the work but they are now pursuing confidence building and development projects of communities along the border.

As a woman who has travelled the world, and dedicated her life to development and cooperation, i was curious of Gabriella’s personal choices that led her to where she is today. Which sacrifices that had entailed, how she had known which path to choose and when to trust her instincts.

Gabriella studied Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, and Political Philosophy at Queen’s University in Canada; in 2000, when she was working for UNICEF in New York she decided to go back for a second Master’s—she started part-time and then took a one-year leave of absence from the UN to finish the MIA in International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, as a Fellow in the Conflict Resolution Office.

When she studied journalism, it was with the goal of eventually working in the US Foreign Service but later she decided she wanted to work for an international organization instead. After her MA in Canada, she moved to NYC in her early twenties and tried to join the UN in NYC, but realized she needed ‘field experience’ and so started as a JPO for Italy at the UNESCO Regional Office in Nairobi, Kenya. She loved Nairobi but saw that one of the best agencies was UNICEF and after a year in NBI, UNICEF offered her a regular post in Mogadiscio. Somalia. From there she transferred to UNICEF NYHQ to work as an editor, and had the opportunity of going on a mission for a few months to Baghdad, Iraq. There, she met her ex-husband (who followed her to NYC) and found two other passions: emergency humanitarian work and photography. She still pursues both. She just published a photography book with five other photographers on their work in Iceland.

She has since been in several emergencies for the UN system, from working in the bush in Angola and Sudan, to running the OCHA office in Haiti; from running the human rights program for the UN Peace Keeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire to leading the UNICEF New York HQ response to the Haiti earthquake. She is currently working in a more political post in West Africa.

Gabriella has always followed her instincts and chased the next challenge. She has not had a linear career, and this might not be for everyone she says. When asked for advice for a student studying international relations interested in a career in development and cooperation, she says that she’s learned that by having such a career in the field in several countries, it makes it harder to have easy promotions and to have a career-private life balance. Yet, she might not have been considered for high level Director posts now if she had not had a wide range of experience in terms of Agency, location, and focus of work. The wide experience in four continents and with different agencies has provided her with the know-how to do coordination and evaluation work successfully.  One pays the price both in terms of career and love life, living such a nomadic life, but she has always taken chances in both areas, and still does. She has been lucky to have been married twice, to have met men who followed her (and still do), to have great friends in several countries, but has waited to have a family until now when she is ready.

In terms of career choices, follow your passion, follow your heart and you will do well, she advices. She is glad to have worked in challenging contexts such as Somalia, Iraq and Colombia when she was in her twenties and early thirties. It shaped the person she has become and it provided her with valuable work and life lessons. She also took chances leaving jobs that felt restricted her and choose some that she thought she could grow with; she took chances ending UN contracts and going back to school or working for an NGO, learned a new language or traveled. If there is a lesson she would like to share it is this: of course, try to be strategic in a tough and competitive market, but also use your twenties to explore different paths, learn about yourself; take chances, be courageous!

Interview: Expert In Armed Conflicts Aleksi Ylönen On South Sudan Issue

Ylönen Aleksi

Aleksi Ylönen

First of all, the main point is to introduce the person I have chosen for the interview: Dr. Ylönen. He is a researcher at the Center of International Studies, Lisbon (CEI-ISCTE/IUL), Doctor of Political Science and International Relations from Universidad Autónoma, Madrid (2011), International Master in Peace, Conflict and Development at Jaume I University and Bachelor in History at College of Charleston, United States. His research topics are politics, armed conflicts and separatism, and his countries of specialization are Sudan and South Sudan.

I have chosen him because of my huge interest in armed conflicts, and, of course, he is an expert in the “field”. The interview had to be located in the geographical area of sub-Saharan Africa, so I decided to find someone to interview related to this area and, if possible, specialized in armed conflicts.

The interview is about South Sudan and its neighbor Sudan, but there are also some historical questions to enhance the comprehension of the interview.

In 1953, United Kingdom and Egypt decided to give the independence to the whole territory, why did they reach to the First Sudanese Civil War? Dr. Ylönen argues there were both internal and external factors. Internal factors included sentiments of fear and mistrust towards northern Sudanese due to fear of resumed domination (slavery), loss of jobs and livelihoods, etc… External factors included decolonization and emerging Cold War climate. Who fought in that First Sudanese Civil War? He declares the Sudanese government fought various rebel formations in southern Sudan, mainly the Anyanya (Southern Sudan Liberation Movement/Front). Which was the outcome of that war? He mentions Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972, which ended the war and gave southern Sudan self-governance and limited autonomy. This agreement also known as the Addis Ababa Accord, was a set of compromises within a 1972 treaty that ended the First Sudanese Civil War (1955-1972) fighting in Sudan. But this agreement ended the conflict only temporarily, and in the next decade widespread fighting resumed with the second civil war.

What caused the outbreak of the Second Sudanese Civil War? Our expert, Aleksi, talks about a mutiny in southern army troops provoked by a conspiracy among southern army officers which triggered the second period of civil war in southern Sudan. Which political organization born at that time? “Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which is a political party in South Sudan”, says Dr. Ylönen. It was initially founded as the political wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in 1983. Who was their leader? Dr. Ylönen refers to John Garang de Mabior, who emerged as the supreme leader. He was a Sudanese rebel leader and politician who was appointed to the post of first vice president of The Sudan after having founded and led the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in 22 years of war against the Sudanese government and then negotiating an end to that war.

What has been the problem of Sudan why, within the total of years of its independence, over 80% of it has been years of conflicts? The problem, from the point of view of our expert, was the domination of minority elite group imposing Arab-Muslim identity to a high heterogeneous state. Which is the context that defines the complex and multidimensional crisis between these two areas? “The context defining this crisis is a problem of exclusive governance and uneven resource distribution”, declares Aleksi.

What contemplated the signing of the 2005 Peace Agreement between north and south in Kenya? It contemplated the right of self-determination of southern Sudan, where only southerners would decide to continue or not in the Sudanese state, or creating their own state. What has been the result of lack of compliance with the terms of the agreement? “In the CPA there was an attempt to preserve the unity of Sudan by making concessions to the SPLM/A (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army). However, this did not materialize for various reasons and Southern Sudanese opted for independence”, said our armed conflicts expert.

Why did southerners see the independence agreement did not satisfy their national aspirations? Dr. Ylönen was very surprised about this question. “Did they?” he asked, “I don’t think so. Most were enthusiastic about getting independence”. Why, before having time to solve this problem, there was a military coup that wanted fix it by force? “Coup?” he asked, “There were several coups in Sudan more or less related to the southern problem”.

The issue of identity has always been at the heart of the problem between the north and the south, what is the difference in terms of identity between both areas? With the issue of identity I am referring to the fact that Sudan was at the same time an Arab country and an African country, a Muslim country and a Cristian country. The fact that Sudan was a multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious country resulted in lot of conflicts within the population. “The differences deepened due to exclusive and sometimes authoritarian governance which repressed the periphery and mostly southern Sudan. This galvanized further identity differences making them more confrontational. Although north and south Sudan are distinct in many ways, an adequate governance could have remedied such differences and perhaps allowed maintaining the state as one”, argues Dr. Ylönen.

Why does exist such a marked difference in development between north and south? Aleksi said that it was a result of governance and deliberate concentration of development in certain areas for political and economic benefit.

In late 2013, a year and a half after the formal entry of South Sudan in the international community, which was the result of the resurgence of internal conflicts and political disputes between their leaders?  “Power struggle for state leadership and crisis within the SPLM party leadership”, argue Dr. Ylönen. Why has it been so easy for the elites, both north and south, using the civilian population and sending them to the battlefield to sacrifice themselves to defend elites’ interests and privileges? “Extensive question”, said Aleksi, “Basically, loyalties to leaders and commanders. Some have fought because they had to, others indoctrinated, yet others for personal benefit…Motivations differ…”.

South Sudan retains the name of its neighbor Sudan, does this mean that a possible reunification is not ruled out? His response in this case was very firm: “No. South Sudanese leadership will not give up its independence”.

ZIMBABWE: A DIPLOMATIC APPROACH

Imagen3

Alicia Moral in the 8Enise (Encuentro Internacional de Seguridad) in 2014

Zimbabwe, a country in Sub-Saharan Africa with a colonial past and years of political problems behind, is the new destination of Alicia Moral Revilla, the new ambassador of Spain in Zimbabwe Malawi and Zambia. Since May, she has been the representative of our country there while fulfilling her desire of returning to Africa, her first diplomatic destination.

She started the diplomatic career in Tanzania, where she was posted from 1991 to 1994. After, she worked in Indonesia (1996-1998), The Netherlands (1998-2003), Bulgaria (2005-2008) and is now in Zimbabwe. Ms. Moral has also worked in the the OECD in Paris from 2008 to 2012. Her extensive experience in the diplomatic corp has provided an excellent background to conduct a certainly interesting interview focused on the relations between Spain and Zimbabwe as well as on the current situation of the latter.

But, what does the diplomatic work consist of in a country like Zimbabwe? A variety of functions are assigned to an ambassador. Ms. Moral is the voice of Spain in the state and has to enhance its visibility in official and bureaucratic actions, such as sending reports to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or participate in the meetings organized by the European Union, and in cultural ceremonies, for example organizing cultural events. Another function is to be the mediator between the government and Spanish people in Zimbabwe, either residents or tourists; she is in charge of legal procedures and problems with documentation. But Alicia also works in the opposite direction; Zimbabweans that want to travel to Spain have to request their visas to the embassy in Harare, the capital.

However, it is curious that a diplomat with so many tasks is posted to a country like Zimbabwe, with whom Spain does not have a prolific relation, either political or economic, and where there are not many Spanish residents. Ms. Moral firstly gave an apparently simple response: “because Spain is an important country within the international community”. Nevertheless, this does not only mean that is relevant in multilateral organisations and decisions, but also that has huge rivalry among other powers. Zimbabwe, despite suffering a rather complicated situation, it is considered a regional power and Ms. Moral highlighted that the most important countries of the EU have their representation there: UK, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Romania and Check Republic as well as the so called emergent countries, the BRICS. Considering all this and the importance of “soft power” nowadays, “Spain has to be represented and defend the interests and values of the European Union and of the country”.

Additionally, not only the present situation is important; it is essential to have far-sighted initiatives and that’s why Spain is maintaining its relation with Zimbabwe. The economic and political forecast of the country is very positive and maybe in the future a business partnership is possible. Zimbabwe has great potential and, as Ms. Moral explained, “there will be lots of opportunities for Spanish companies in sectors like renewable energy, infrastructures, tourism, water…”. And that is why diplomatic relations are essential.

Still, the current political situation is far from optimistic. President Mugabe has been in power for the last 20 years and he, who first presented himself as a “freedom fighter”, has taken advantage of his position, for example expropriating of farms without compensation, and is responsible of massive human rights violations. Zimbabwe is surely “a rich country in terms of natural and human resources” as Ms. Moral emphasized. For example, the level of education is much higher than those of other African countries and there are plenty of natural resources such as gold, diamonds, metals, sugar, tobacco, maize, etc. However, she outlined that many reforms are necessary to attract foreign investment to take advantage of this richness and to increase the development level as income reaches the people. But these people alone cannot make the change; growth will only come if the government makes these needed new policies.

Mugabe is still in power but, regarding his last actions, the international community believes that now the government is seriously committed to make reforms to develop its economy and to implement a new and fairer constitution. That is why Spain is taking steps to strengthen its diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe through Alicia Moral, who has experience in the field and in Africa. In our globalised world, there is an increasing need of soft power and Spain, as well as the international community, is aware of this fact, also bearing in mind that the most promising continent right now in terms of new economic opportunities and growth is Africa. The world must keep an eye on Zimbabwe’s political context to see if the expected growth is real or if, lamentably, the country remains stuck in its unstable and complicated situation.

By Cristina Huergo

“SUPPORT AFRICAN WOMEN IS TO SUPPORT THE CONTINENT”

Last Wednesday 18th, I had the pleasure to get to know and interview Ana Salado Suarez, director of communications of “Fundación Mujeres por Africa”, which explained how “Mujeres por África” emerged, who are part of it and what are the different projects being carried out.

IMG_5536

Ana Salado and Victoria Lopez from ” Fundación Mujeres por África”

She started telling me the history of “Mujeres por África”, she told that it was created by María Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, deputy prime minister during the last mandate, when in February 2012 she found organizations that fund her idea, basically influenced by the strength and enthusiasm of African women to build a better world and then she realized that she wanted to help these women.

She also talked about the principles of the foundation, Ana summarized them saying: “The foundation is based on the trust in women, that part of the world that for so long has been under the domain of the other sex.” She added, “ Support African women is to support the continent, is to support the development and progress.” She summarized their objectives saying that what they want is to contribute to the development of Africa helping its women, this mean that they are “empowerment” them, qualifying them, walking with them in their labor that is fundamental for the continent.

After talking about the history of “Mujeres por África”, its principles and objectives, I asked her about the different projects that are being carried out and which have more important. She started explained their four difference working areas that are health, education, economic and empowerment, which most of the time, they overlap each other.

In health, she talked about the maternal-child health projects like “Stop Fistula”.
“Stop fistula” is a project that fight for the cure of fistula austerity that according to the UN “between two and three and a half million women living with fistula austerity, most in Africa, and it is estimated that each year there are between 50,000 and 100,000 new cases.” Ana added that the seriousness of this disease and figures that illustrate contrasts with the great ignorance that exists for the majority of society.
“Stop Fistula” aims to prevent and cure more cases of fistula. Which has two stages, on the one hand, the action of a preventive character that promotes access to health services for the most vulnerable women, and the remedial action that is to operate already with the disease. She said, “It is our flagship project”.
But, we also talked about others health projects as “Pintando África: Mujeres contra la Malaria” that is being carried out in Ghana.

In the education area, stand out “Ghana Wings!” project which involves the formation of Ghanaian women in three strategic areas for social transformation and development: education, health and social leadership assistance. About 100 women are the beneficiaries of the project. It has three specific programs: Nursing Leadership Program, the training of trainers and Social Leadership.
“With the “Ghana Wings” project, we hope to advance in the perception towards women as they are, truths protagonists of progress in Ghana, and finally, take a step forward on the path of development and welfare undertaken by the country.” she exclaimed.
Also, there are more projects as “Niñas de Rimkieta” in Burkina Faso or “Niñas de Malawi” in Malawi.

In the economic area, she discussed “Mujeres al volante”, this project takes place in Sierra Leone, it is one of the most emblematic actions of the Foundation in the area of economic development because it places women in Sierra Leone in a strategic and service point to the public sector. The project has enabled the launch of the first professional taxi service quality in the capital of Sierra Leone, supporting a cooperative of women drivers, automotive and mechanical of managers, to promote their economic independence as well as the viability of the service.
Ana added that the beneficiaries start a professional career and enter the working world, rising as stars of the economic development of their country.

And in the “empowerment area”, the most important project is “Mujeres por Mali” because during the conflict in Mali, women have been victims of violence, including rape and other crimes, and their voice needs to be strengthened now that the country’s future is at stake.
“The challenge is big and the participation of Malian women will help the country to overcome it successfully”, she said. “Mujeres de Mali por la Paz” helps to improve their bargaining power and their role in the process of national dialogue reconciliatory, from a personalized training tailored to their particular needs.

These projects are examples of the many projects that they are taking place in this moment. An important characteristic of the Foundation is that it do not give any preference to any project, basically because they believe that all are equally important and necessary.

Finally, she briefly commented the multiples organizations with which they have agreements to carry out these projects, among them are the UN, CYCA, New York University (NYU), Banco Santander.

To conclude, Ana repeated me the importance of African women and why “Mujeres por África” thinks that it is pretty important to help them. “The contribution of African women to development is very special, they have helped sustain life in these societies full of conflicts, revolutions …” she said.

 

reina_mujeres_africa_20151116_03

Key members of “Fundación Mujeres por África”

                                                                                        By María Asiain Belloso

 

Trust Fund for Africa to maintain Europe’s solidary image

After years of migration from the South to the North, tragedies such as the drowning of more than 700 immigrants that were trying to reach the seashore of Italy, after the picture of a dead Syrian kid lying in the sand, Europe starts to give responses. The Heads of State and Government of the European Union and African countries congregated in the Valletta summit in Malta the 11th and 12th November to discuss African migration problems. The outcome has been the creation of the “Trust Fund Aid for Africa” that will provide 1.8 billion Euros set aside for this issue.

European Union leaders and their African counterparts attend the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta

European Union leaders and their African counterparts attend the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta, Malta, November 12, 2015 (REUTERS)

According to the European Commission, this sum is destined to “help foster stability in the regions and to contribute to better migration management”. Their aim is to tackle the root causes that motivate so many people to leave their home countries trying to achieve a better life with real opportunities. As a consequence, migrants will be controlled in the African countries and not when they arrive to Europe. Principally these measures and this amount will be directed towards three regions: the North of Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region and Lake Chad area.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared that “for the Africa Trust Fund and our response to be credible, I want to see more member states contributing and matching the 1.8 billion Euros the EU has put forward”. “It’s a new impetus we want to give”, a European diplomat told AFP. “But African countries are reluctant to take back nationals to avoid losing billions of euros in remittances, which exceed the value of development aid”, another diplomat opined.

Consequently, the first criticisms are beginning to appear. The African leaders consider that this is not enough for such a vast territory with so many problems. Mahamadou Issoufou, the president of Niger in the Sahel, where migration and droughts are just some of the principal difficulties they face constantly, claimed that “the trust fund is not enough, 1.8 billion Euros is far from enough”. He added that what they need “is not just official development assistance in this form but a reform of global governance. World trade must be fair. There must be more investment in Africa. Official development assistance is good, but it’s not sufficient”. Furthermore, the EU at the moment will bring just 78 of the 1,800 million euros promised, not even half of the total quantity, so it seems to be just another measure to avoid the real causes of the problem as many other actions approved by the EU that, although improving the situation, have not been a real solution.

Another widely discussed point is the facility of taking back migrants to their African home countries, which raises a question: why are migrants from places like Syria considered “refugees” and accepted and Sub-Saharan Africa migrants considered “economic migrants” and “failed asylum seekers” returned to their countries? According to Europe, their lives are not in risk as they just search for better economic conditions. Senior African officials like Khadim Diop, Senegal’s minister for African integration, have expressed their concern saying that they “cannot tolerate double standards” that result in the turning away of Africans and the admission of migrants from, for example, Syria.

Organizations such as the International Organization for Migration show that the amount of people displaced from their countries is huge; 140,000 migrants arrived in Italy from Eritrea in 2015, 18,000 from Nigeria and 8,000 from Sudan and these are just three examples of African countries; the total number is disproportionate. Basically, what Europeis doing is paying to avoid the arrival of African people to their shores with what seems a tactic to get rid of a long-term problem without many complications. Because they are not Syrian refugees, they are just a bunch of people from Africa.

To sum up, EU wants to build a bridge with Africa, but the action plan and the Trust Fund make the bridge even more difficult to cross. The national interest of European countries seems to come first again as they won’t let this massive wave of “economic migrants” disembark in their beaches. While it seems that Europe has showed its humanitarian side in the Syrian refugee crisis, it is still a coordinated fence against other nationality migrants. However, we must think in our priorities; in our increasingly globalized world, do we want a barrier or a path that leads to cooperation?

South Sudan war: rape, cannibalism and famine

Rape, cannibalism, child slaves, ethnic massacres and desperate famine are some of South Sudan civil war consequences since it started in December 2013, has stated the African Union (AU) report published last Tuesday.

Children displaced by fighting in Bor rest upon arriving in Mingkaman refugee camp. (File photo: AP)

The youngest country in the world gained its independence in 2011, but peace didn’t last long; South Sudan’s armed conflict began as a power struggle between the President, Salva Kiir, and the vice president, Riek Machar, who was dismissed. It soon became a multi-ethnic conflict throughout the country that has caused the death of tens of thousands of people and 2 million displaced.

Some investigators said that they have seen the perpetrators “draining human blood from people who had just been killed and forcing others from one ethnic community to drink the blood or eat burnt human flesh”. The report also pointed out other atrocities such as “acts of murder, rape and sexual violence, torture and other inhumane acts of comparable gravity, outrages upon personal dignity, targeting of civilian objects and protected property, as well as other abuses”. Both sides have been accused of these human rights violations that mainly targeted civilians. However, they deny these actions.

The consequences of the war are devastating; according to a United Nation’s report “almost a million people are living in a “catastrophic” situation and nearly four million people especially children are suffering severe hunger”. The conflict has left a third of the country’s population in risk of famine. Some organizations as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Unicef and World Food Programme (WFP) are publishing official summaries to report the severe situation in South Sudan and say that humanitarian intervention is necessary to save the population from absolute misery.

Some people walked for hours and even days because they were desperately needing food, water and medicine. Some families have been eating grass and leaves for months and health-workers said that these people could actually develop serious problems in their kidneys if they consume it over a long period of time. “People are on the edge of a catastrophe that can be prevented”, said WFP chief Joyce Luma.

There are some other conclusions of the AU report that can be problematic for the president, for example that in 2013 there was no risk of a coup d’état, a supposition that originated the conflict and motivated government-organised attacks.

Things are getting worse as peace deals are broken and mass crimes such as torture, mutilations, forced cannibalism, rape and killings continue and worsen dramatically day by day. The violence has not allowed international and local humanitarian teams to deliver needed assistance. The UN has called on all sides of the country’s civil war to prevent the deaths of citizens and the international community claims for a real solution to a conflict that has been going on for too long.