South Sudan will switch to a new official time zone in February, the government has announced.
The country has been using Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) +3 and will switch to UTC +2 which is in her real location, according to the Cabinet.
"This means that the current time will be set back by one hour, the current 1:00am will be set to 00:00am, effective 1st February 2021," said Mary Hillary Wani Pitia, the Undersecretary of the country's Ministry of Labour.
In the statement on Friday, Ms Pitia said the usual working hours in a day will not be affected by the change.
Two weeks ago, South Sudan's Cabinet approved the switch to a new time zone, a decision drew criticism on social media.
But the government couldn't comment on it though it raised questions on why the country was focusing on petty things as opposed to majors.
Once the change becomes effective, South Sudan will no longer use East African Time, but will be in the same time zone as Egypt, Chad and Sudan.
Michael Makuei Lueth, the government spokesperson, told The EastAfrican on Friday that the country has not been using her real time according to Greenwich Meridian Time.
"The current time zone is not our actual time zone. We are in the 30th longitude and as such we are supposed to be two hours ahead of Greenwich Time zone. So, it was clear that the far East is 2.4 hours and the far west is 1.6 hours," he said.
“End the wars” and “peace in our land” were the rallying cries for the protests that ultimately ousted Sudan’s long-ruling strongman Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The country had been afflicted by a 40-year war with South Sudan, which resulted in South Sudan’s secession.
There is still intermittent conflict in the western region, particularly in Darfur, where the Janjaweed, an Arab militia, first clashed with the region’s black population in 2003. The conflict is rooted in ethno-religious and tribal divisions, economic disenfranchisement related to land, and profits from the oil industry.
The United Nations estimates that over 300,000 people died during the first Darfurian conflict, with over 2.6 million displaced.
The end of Bashir’s regime provided renewed optimism that these kinds of conflict would end for good, setting Sudan on a path to peace. And now with the signing of a peace agreement between the Sudan Transitional Authority and the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a broad alliance of armed and other movements, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has heeded one of the protestors’ most visceral demands.
But signing the agreement is the easy part. Implementing the finer details of the laboriously negotiated peace pact will be the real test.
Peace has eluded Sudan for a very long time. The signing of the peace agreements heralds an epochal moment, but it is overshadowed by the enormity of the task at hand. The legacy of the conflicts has created a complex set of circumstances that directly inform the fate of this accord.
The most crucial of all is the cost of peace. Simply put, Sudan is too broke to afford peace. But with its imminent removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, an economic reset could be in the offing.
This latest development comes after the country agreed to pay $335 million to American terror victims in compensation for its alleged role in the 1998 al-Qaida bombing of two US embassies in East Africa. Sudan’s removal from the terror list could result in the resumption of much-needed financial inflows to Khartoum.
Terms of peace
The peace deal is anchored by eight protocols. Perhaps the most crucial is the autonomy that has been granted to local governments in West Darfur, the Blue Nile, and South Kordofan. The stipulation of self-government envisages real devolution of power from the centre by empowering local political elites.
Also significant was the agreement that warring rebel outfits (notably the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North) would be integrated into the national army within a period of just over three years. This enables the demobilisation of thousands of men under arms and brings them into formal institutions of the state. Consequently, it turns them into security guardians of the nation.
A revenue sharing agreement was also reached. Up to 40% of revenue generated in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan will now be retained by the local authorities. This assuages local grievances of resource flight, exploitation and uneven development.
The return of internally displaced persons and creation of a commission for protection of religious minorities was also stipulated. Sudan’s protracted conflicts displaced millions from their communal lands; this stipulation ensures a return of lands to their rightful owners who can then engage in productive economic activities.
It was also agreed that there would be regional balance in the appointment of officials to national institutions, especially within the legislature and executive. This provides marginalised groups the opportunity to share power, influence policy, and shape legislation.
A perilous road ahead
Sudan has been here before. Peace agreements have been known to fall apart quickly.
There are many obstacles.
Firstly, the previous Sudanese government worked strategically to prolong the wars during the al-Bashir years. Some of these officials remain in the transitional government.
Equally, the conflicts were a profitable venture for war profiteers. Part of the military hierarchy benefited directly. Not only did this culminate in a “war economy” with up to 70% of revenue directed to the war effort, it also saw the emergence of a cabal of officer-businessmen.
Secondly, international and regional efforts to resolve Sudan’s conflicts were in the past frustrated by lack of political goodwill. Historically, there has been a tremendous trust deficit between the rebels and government. This meant that carefully negotiated pacts came unstuck because of the distrust between signatories and failure to implement what was agreed. The Koka Dam Declaration is one of many.
Ultimately, warring factions have gone back to what they know best: leveraging by armed confrontation.
This has been driven by pure self-interest on the part of the para-military establishment and al-Bashir’s notorious proxies like the Janjaweed.
Thirdly, the peace deal is expensive. In its current state Sudan can’t afford its peace agreement commitments. The mobilisation of funds to rebuild areas devastated by war, repatriation of displaced communities, reintegration of the armed factions, and land and criminal justice reforms will require billions of dollars. This is money Sudan doesn’t have, at least not yet.
US sanctions stemming from Sudan’s links to terror starved the country of foreign direct investment, debt relief, and international financial support. While these sanctions are soon to be lifted, how soon Sudan rebounds from economic collapse can only be speculated.
Real power and money still lies with the men in uniform. Bankrolled by patron states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, military chairman of the transitional council, and his deputy General Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo are pivotal to the fate of this peace agreement. They wield both military might and financial leverage.
Finally, Sudan’s victims of conflict deserve justice. The pact promises to bring to book those who committed crimes against humanity and other human rights violations. Ironically, these judicial reforms are supposed to be undertaken by the same military men who bear responsibility for some of the worst atrocities.
The current peace agreement has been precipitated by the sheer pressure of domestic change forces. All parties appear to be grasping at this opportunity to co-write Sudan’s new chapter of peace.
Political goodwill and timing have coincided to beget compromise. But what remains to be seen, as is so often the case, is whether the signatories to the accord will have the patience to see the deal through.
Temporary setbacks are part of implementation dynamics, but a peaceful new Sudan is worth being patient for.
South Sudan's Council of Ministers has lifted the ban on learning that President Salva Kiir imposed in March in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus ins schools.
In an exclusive interview with The EastAfrican in Juba on Saturday, Information minister Michael Makuei confirmed the development, saying it followed a comprehensive study by the National Taskforce on Covid-19.
"This decision was based on the report presented by the taskforce. It observed that the level of infection has reduced and there have been no more cases in the last few weeks," he said.
"After that study, it was decided that schools and higher learning institutions should re-open at times to be fixed by the General and Higher Education ministries. The guidelines to be followed will be issued by the concerned ministries."
Mr Makuei added that the council also lifted restrictions on working hours, saying that starting next week, offices will open from 8am to 5pm.
In March, the government took steps such as closing borders, schools and non-essential businesses, banning interstate travel and limiting public transport in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
But in July, Save the Children, Unicef and Unesco released a press statement calling on nations to review the suspension of learning.
The humanitarian agencies called for the reopening schools, saying evidence shows children are harmed in other way by extended stays at home.
The organisations stressed that many children were malnourished due to the absence of school feeding programmes and that they also faced abuse.
In May, the Ministry of General Education and Instructions reported 23 cases of teenage pregnancies in Western Equatoria State alone.
And in July, Eastern Equatoria State authorities said the redundancy caused by the Covid-19 lockdown left over 125 teenage girls pregnant since the emergence of the virus in South Sudan.
As of Sunday, South Sudan had 2,578 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 49 deaths and 1,438 recoveries.
Source: Daily Nation
Cash-strapped South Sudan is seeking a $250 million loan from the African Export-Import Bank, the deputy minister of agriculture said, to implement a long-delayed peace agreement, fight COVID-19 and support food security.
“The African Export-Import Bank agreed to continue with the process of finalizing the loan provided that the government of South Sudan goes through the right procedures,” Lily Akol Akol said, telling state television late on Monday it was an “emergency loan”.
She spoke a week after the central bank warned the country was running out of dollars.
Oil-rich South Sudan, which has suffered five years of civil war since becoming independent in 2011, has attracted repeated criticism for endemic corruption.
It has also approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help, but it’s unclear if that will be successful.
Experts trying to analyse South Sudan’s debt profile are facing twin problems, one diplomat said: sometimes officials are unwilling to share data, and sometimes it is unclear if it even exists. The diplomat was not authorised to speak to the media and so requested anonymity.
Although South Sudan has always kept low dollar reserves - typically around two weeks - reserves were believed to have halved over the past month to five days worth of imports, the diplomat told Reuters last week.
With the South Sudanese pound (SSP) depreciating and reserves shrinking, the biggest risk is the kind of hyperinflation that topped 800% in 2016, helping push pockets of the country into famine the following year.
Currently, food prices are climbing but not spiking, said Abdalla Nasir, a wholesale trader at Konyokonyo market. Since June, a 25 kg bag of a beans has increased from 8,000 SSP in June to 10,000 SSP, and a 50 kg bag of maize from 8,500 SSP to 12,000 SSP.
Security remains a problem. Rebels who did not sign the 2018 peace deal are still mounting attacks; six bodyguards to one of the vice presidents were ambushed and killed last week.
United States anti-corruption watchdog, The Sentry, is warning that the next source of conflict in South Sudan could emerge from the unregulated mining sector that has been captured by politically connected locals and foreigners.
In its latest report, Untapped and Unprepared; Dirty Deals Threatens South Sudan's Mining Sector, the watchdog says that while the mining industry could become an engine for major economic growth, it remains highly susceptible to the violent competition, corruption, and mismanagement.
"These are the same factors that have marred South Sudan's oil sector and rendered peace elusive. Illicit mining activities are inflaming tensions in Eastern Equatoria, the army holds interests in exploration licences, and opposition groups informally control artisanal mining sites," says the report. These factors have fuelled violent competition over the country's resource wealth.
South Sudan is rich in gold, copper, cobalt, zinc, iron, marble, limestone and dolomite but the eruption of the war in 2013 has made it difficult to streamline the sector, leaving it vulnerable to politically-connected and militia group.
The Sentry report warns that weak transparency and accountability frameworks have left South Sudan's mining sector vulnerable to exploitation, raising significant concerns about the government's willingness to oversee responsible development.
In some cases, children have been identified as shareholders in two firms actively exploring for gold, a possible contravention of the 2012 Mining Act's provision against titles held by minors.
But political connections are more threatening. The report says that in August 2016, a mining company owned by South Sudan President Salva Kiir's then 20-year-old daughter Winnie received its first two licences to explore in mineral-rich areas of Central and Eastern Equatoria,
Documents reviewed by The Sentry indicate that Winnie Salva Kiir was listed as an 11 per cent shareholder in Fortune Minerals, a Chinese-owned, but without indicating how much she paid to the government.
Source: East African / AllAfrica.com
South Sudan’s oil minister said on Monday that the country’s oil was flowing smoothly and problems with importing chemicals for drilling, due to a strike at a port in neighbouring Sudan, had been resolved.
Landlocked South Sudan’s main oil shipment hub is Port Sudan in neighbouring Sudan. Chemicals due to be imported by South Sudan via the port for oil drilling were stranded late last week after oil workers at the port went on strike.
Oil minister Ezekiel Lol said those chemicals would be shipped to South Sudan on Monday.
“I can assure the world and the people of South Sudan that South Sudan oil is flowing smoothly without any difficulties,” Lol said during a visit to Sudan to discuss the issue with Sudanese officials.
The chemicals had been held up at the port for three days, he said.
“The chemicals that are in Port Sudan will be leaving today for South Sudan,” Lol said.
South Sudan’s information minister had said on Friday that the country’s oil exports had been disrupted due to strikes and protests in Port Sudan, but Sudan officials said there had been no disruptions to exports.
South Sudan, which ships its oil through Sudan via a pipeline to Port Sudan, says its current oil production is 135,000 barrels per day.
South Africa will invest $1 billion in South Sudan’s oil sector, including in the construction of a refinery, the South African minister for energy and his South Sudanese counterpart for petroleum said on Friday.
South Sudan’s oil industry is dominated by Asian firms including China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Malaysia’s Petronas and India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC Videsh).
The two ministers signed a memorandum of understanding which will also involve South Africa taking part in the exploration of several oil blocks, the ministers said.
“When this refinery is complete, it will have the capacity of producing 60,000 barrels of oil per day,” said Jeff Radebe, South Africa’s minister of energy.
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, petroleum minister for South Sudan, said the deal also offers avenues for cooperation in the construction of a pipeline to serve fields located in the south of the country.
South Sudan exports its crude through another pipeline that goes to a port in neighbouring Sudan to the north.
“It is instrumental to have a new a pipeline,” Gatkuoth said.
The classification of a famine as man-made is applied to severe hunger arising from a set of foreseeable, and therefore avoidable, circumstances. According to criteria set down by the United Nations a famine is declared in an area when at least 20% of households are viewed as being exposed to extreme food shortages, 30% are malnourished and deaths from hunger has reached two persons a day for every 10,000.
Famines can result from natural or man-made causes. Natural causes include droughts, plant disease, insect plagues, floods and earthquakes. A prolonged drought is behind the recent warning of potential famine in Somalia by the World Food Programme.
The human causes of famine include extreme poverty, war, deliberate crop destruction and the inefficient distribution of food. South Sudan’s predicament falls square under this category. There have been no major droughts, flooding or other natural catastrophe reported. Instead a three year conflict that has engulfed the country, combined with high food prices, economic disruption and low agricultural production has resulted in UN and the government of South Sudan declaring a famine in the country.
According to the head of the World Food Programme, the avoidable conflict between the main political protagonists is solely to blame. Years of conflict have created a situation in which many women, children and the elderly are suffering needlessly and have no access to food or water.
High food prices, economic disruption and low agricultural production have resulted in the large areas becoming “food insecure”. The situation could not have come at a more difficult time. Years of conflict have crippled the economy and hammered the value of its currency. Severe inflation has seen the value of its currency plummet 800% in the past year alone. This has made food unaffordable for many families.
Despite the deteriorating situation the government of South Sudan has been using its limited resources to buy weapons, increase the number of states, pay military wages and wage war on civilians.
Conflict sows seeds of hunger
Significant progress in reducing global hunger has been achieved over the past 30 years. But the impact of conflict on food production and citizens ability to feed themselves is often underestimated. This was highlighted in a study that found that
“civil wars and conflicts are detrimental to food security, but the negative effects are more severe for countries unable to make available for their citizens the minimum dietary energy requirement under which a country is qualified for food aid”
This is true of South Sudan, which can feed itself in peace time. Just six months ago, many parts of the country were bustling with agricultural activity, producing enough food for the local populations.
The medium sized town of Yei is a good example. Locals report an inability to cultivate their land since the recent escalation of fighting. A town once seen as a place where coffee bean production was on the rise is now a place where farmers no longer venture out.
It’s also likely that Yemen, Nigeria, and Somalia, could declare a famine in the next few months. It’s no coincidence that those countries are also embroiled in widespread or localised armed conflict.
More than 100,000 people in two counties of Unity state are experiencing famine. This number could rise as an additional one million South Sudanese are on the brink of starvation. Central Equatoria state, traditionally South Sudan’s breadbasket, has been hit by ethnically targeted killings that have disrupted agricultural production.
Between 40%-50% of South Sudan’s population are expected to be severely food insecure and at risk of death in the coming months. Over 250,000 children are severely malnourished according to UNICEF and these are number where UNICEF has access to. Yet the government does not seem to want to address the underlying causes of the famine. In fact it’s unclear what its overall plan is.
It is relocating by air internally displaced people through Juba into Malakal. The Dinka-controlled government’s strategy is not entirely clear. But some of my informants claim that the objective is to rid the capital of rival ethnic groups that could pose a direct threat to the seat of government in Juba.
Adding to this, the new Special Representative for South Sudan has raised concerns over some 20,000 internally displaced people on the West bank of the Nile in the Upper Nile region as a “real problem.” These fleeing civilians are victims of government efforts to consolidate power centrally and push certain ethnic groups who are not aligned to the government away from the centre.
Food aid restricted
The UN has repeatedly warned that government forces are blocking the delivery of food aid to affected areas.
South Sudan’s government wouldn’t be the first to have done this. In 2012 the Rohingya in Myanmar who were left to starve amidst sectarian violence with local Buddhist communities. In 2011 it was Sudan starving its people in the Nuba mountain region. More recently in Syria the government was allegedly targeting bakeries, hitting civilians waiting to buy food.
According to the Geneva Convention treaty on non-international armed conflicts a government can legally restrict food access for a short-term period if it is militarily necessary. This is a very narrow exception. It cannot and should not be used to punish civilians for their affiliation to the conflict and it cannot be used on a biased basis. And such restrictions must not result in starvation of the civilians.
Famine and political unrest
The situation in South Sudan is likely to get worse. The ongoing conflict is likely to escalate as the number of smaller armed groups rises on the back of more localised self-militias being set up. In the light of this government military action will escalate.
This new dimension in South Sudan’s conflict increases in the chances of further political turmoil and further narrows the window of peace for the world’s youngest nation.