South Sudan rebels say they seize oil hub Bentiu; govt denies it

* Each side blames the other for renewed fighting

* Diplomats fear escalation of clashes in dry season

* Peace talks due this week, but start date uncertain

By Aaron Maasho and Denis Dumo

ADDIS ABABA/JUBA, Oct 29 (Reuters) – Rebels said on Wednesday they had seized the South Sudan oil hub of Bentiu as renewed fighting against government troops entered a third day, but the government said it was still in control of the town.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than a million have fled their homes since fighting erupted in December, triggered by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar.

The conflict has disrupted oil production, which provides a big portion of the government’s revenue.

Diplomats and analysts say there could be a surge in fighting as the dry season approaches, after a lull in the rainy season.

“We are now in control of Bentiu, as of this afternoon,” Lul Ruai Koang, the rebels’ spokesman on military affairs, told Reuters in the Ethiopian capital.

Each side blamed the other for the fighting in Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity State.

“Fighting started two days ago when government troops attempted to expand areas under their control. Our presence was limited to seven or eight kilometres to the north and to the south of the city before clashes broke out,” Koang said.

He said oil facilities in South Sudan’s Upper Nile region could be attacked by the rebels. “Oil installations are a legitimate target,” he added, because they were a source of government funding.


The two sides are due to hold a fresh round of talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa this week, but the start date is uncertain.

SPLA Army spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer rejected the rebels’ claim to have seized Bentiu.

“That is a lie, after four hours of serious fighting in Bentiu today, at around 4 p.m., our forces have managed to defeat the rebels and Bentiu is under the government control,” he told Reuters in Juba.

Aguer said there were no details of casualties because there was no telephone network in Bentiu, which has changed hands between the two sides since the war erupted.

Unity State oil fields have been damaged in previous episodes of fighting, slashing output, which stands at about 160,000 barrels per day for the whole country, down from 245,000 barrels per day in December 2013.

The civil war has created a humanitarian crisis in the world’s newest state, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011, and has exacerbated ethnic tensions between Kiir’s Dinka people and Machar’s Nuer.

A ceasefire signed in January has been broken frequently and peace talks have often stalled.

The lack of progress has frustrated Western backers of South Sudan. The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on commanders on both sides for violating the ceasefire. (Writing by James Macharia; editing by Andrew Roche)

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South Sudan bus crash kills at least 32, mainly Ugandans

By Denis Dumo

JUBA, Sept 29 (Reuters) – At least 32 people were killed and 10 seriously injured when a bus collided with a cargo truck in southern South Sudan, hospital officials said on Monday.

Officials said it was still not clear what caused the accident early on Monday morning on a road that links the capital of South Sudan, Juba, to Uganda.

Police spokesman James Monday Enocka told a news conference the majority of the dead were Ugandan citizens.

Traffic accidents are common in the world’s newest country, where buses are the main form of public transport between towns and roads are often poor. (Editing by James Macharia and Crispian Balmer)

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Hopes dashed for new South Sudan economy as war grinds on and famine looms

* Corruption, conflict saps government resources

* Poor South Sudanese see hopes of change dashed

* Shortage of foreign exchange hurts importers

* Oil exports shrunk by a third due to conflict

By Carl Odera and Denis Dumo

JUBA, Sept 24 (Reuters) – When South Sudan was born, the world’s youngest country had generous Western allies and sturdy oil exports, a formula that offered a chance to build a modern economy and drag its people out of their daily struggle to feed themselves.

Three years on, ethnic-fuelled conflict has flared, oil money has been spirited away through corruption or squandered on war and a nation that sits on Sub-Saharan Africa’s third biggest reserves of crude is sliding towards famine.

In the capital Juba, a muddy Nile trading post where new office blocks had begun rising, trading firms and banks that had sprung up now struggle to survive after nine months of fighting between government forces and rebels.

In the rural hinterland, where most of the country’s 11 million people till tiny plots of land or herd cattle on traditional pastures, hopes of development entertained when South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011 have been dashed.

“We are just living as you can see, with no job, no money. We thought our independence from Sudan would mean our children would go to school and see no war,” said Simon Koul, a 47-year-old father of five in a Juba camp, one of an estimated 1.3 million people who have fled their homes due to fighting.

By year end, a third of the nation could face the threat of starvation. Already, almost 180,000 children between 6 months old and five years are being treated for severe acute malnutrition. Mothers are more likely to die in childbirth than anywhere else in the world, according to U.N. statistics.

“There was no country on earth that had a larger score of goodwill than South Sudan,” Thomas Shannon, a U.S. State Department envoy for Africa, told Reuters. “But beginning in December it has been spending that goodwill at record speed.”

The United States had heralded South Sudan’s independence as a foreign policy success and, with other Western donors such as Britain and Norway, poured in aid, helping spur a mini-boom in the capital that was meant to spread to the rest of the nation.

Now Western and regional African diplomats talk of mounting frustration at President Salva Kiir and the deputy he sacked last year, Riek Machar, as they continue to command rival forces in battle. Nascent businesses that might have brought a modern economy are buckling under the pressure.

“There is fear. People don’t want to expand their businesses, and those who are operating in the crisis areas, they lost a lot,” said Bruna Siricio, deputy managing director of locally-owned Ivory Bank.

The bank moved its headquarters from Sudan’s capital Khartoum to the south’s capital Juba in 2009 to take advantage of the opportunities that independence would bring, but now faces a stark reality.

In a country where only a tiny fraction of the population had ever had a bank account, Ivory Bank set up branches in remote locations. Government employees could be paid their salaries directly into their accounts, which could be used as guarantees for loans.


Now, its branches in war-torn towns of Malakal, Bentiu and Bor, north of Juba, have shut. The government has stopped transferring salaries to customer accounts to avoid paying workers who rebelled, so many loans are not being serviced.

This month the bank advertised in newspapers telling defaulters to report to the bank or face legal action. Siricio said the bank had stopped all lending for the next three months.

“We are concentrating on collection,” Siricio said at the bank’s headquarters, which like other firms relies on a private generator for power in a nation where experts say just 1 percent of the population are connected to the grid.

One of the biggest challenges for banks and businesses is securing foreign exchange to pay for purchases abroad. Scarcity has a swift impact on the land-locked economy that relies heavily on imports from neighbours such as Kenya and Uganda.

The central bank initially reduced dollar sales to banks to fund letters of credit, and has now stopped such sales completely, bankers say. That makes it harder for importers to buy goods. While the official exchange rate is 2.95 pounds to the dollar, the cost of a dollar on the black market has risen from 3.50 pounds before the fighting to around 5 pounds now.

Central bank officials were not available for comment.

“I have South Sudanese pounds but it’s harder for us to get dollars from the bank,” said Abjata Abdi Abdullah, a Kenyan trader who needs hard currency to import clothes for his shop.


The currency shortage has led to rising prices and decreased availability of imported food, pushing the country further towards hunger.

John Semolina, a Ugandan grains store owner in Juba’s Konyo Konyo market, said the dollar shortage means he has cut back on imports of maize and sugar, having a knock on effect on prices and availability down the supply chain.

“Sometimes it takes so long to find money to pay suppliers in Uganda,” he said.

Bishar Oman, who sells electronics, said the steady pound weakening had pushed up the price of his laptops, mobile phones and other devices, so now even fewer customers can afford them.

South Sudan should be flush with cash from oil exports. But its savings have been plundered, after about $5 billion of reserves was taken by officials in the years shortly before and after independence. Diplomats said efforts to recover the funds retrieved little of the missing cash.

Oil income has fallen. Crude production now runs at 160,000 barrels per day, a third lower than it was in December before fighting erupted and roughly half the 300,000 barrels per day or so it exported at the time of independence.

Officials suggest a large chunk of the income that still flows now goes on the war effort, halting development projects in a country the size of France with almost no tarmac roads and barely any public services.

Officials do not offer full details on spending, but parliamentary deputy Onyoti Agigo Nyikwac said about four fifths of a supplementary budget worth $700 million went on “security”.

One member of parliament said the government had to buy more guns after rebels emptied armouries when they deserted. Officials deny the government has bought weapons since fighting began but acknowledge priorities have changed.

“During this crisis, the demand for foreign currency has shifted from normal trade to other activities,” said Ukuni Paul Omseon, a project officer for a Finance Ministry department that helps private business. He cited funding for “emergencies”.

The government said in July it planned to borrow about $1 billion from oil firms to help it balance the budget.

Some of the dollars that do make it into the market come via U.N. and other aid agency workers, as the aid groups ramp up activities to avert a deepening humanitarian disaster.

Mabior Deng, 29-year-old South Sudanese exchange dealer, makes a tidy income buying dollars from workers at the United Nations at a rate of 4.65 pounds and then selling them on for more. “I get my profit from there,” he said. (Writing and additional reporting by Edmund Blair in Nairobi; Editing by Peter Graff)


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Seven Political detainees will appears tomorrow for trial

By Denis Dumo-JUBA

The seven Political detainees who were released on bail in Addis Ababa last month will appear tomorrow before the court to be testifying for their crimes accused by the government of South Sudan of allaged to overthrow Kiir’s regime.

However the second hearing was supposed to be today but was adjourned.

The first session for the trial of the four Political detainees accused of plotting a coup against the legitimate government of Salva Kiir Mayardit were mainly Pagan Amum, Oyai Deng Ajak, Majak D’Agoot and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth has kick-off at Juba Supreme Court.


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Lack of political will to negotiates



By Denis Dumo Scopas-Ethiopia  


“If you observe with a child’s eye, you will realize that the remnants of our armed forces which represent only 30% of the original SPLA forces before the crisis are more interested in peace than war”, Oyet Nathaniel Pierino.


South Sudan’s Political Analyst and head of Department of Political Science in the University of Juba, Oyet Nathaniel Pierino, currently in Addis Ababa a member in the Peace talks speaks to our reporter Denis Dumo Scopas via Phone interview elaborate some obstacle sluggish in the Peace talks.



(a) The government delegations and opposition parties to the Peace
talks have return back to the country without any break thought to the peace talks. What do you think is missing in the peace talks?


(1)   Answers: I think there is lack of political will to negotiate. Parties are looking for win-loss solution.  The delegation from government side lack full powers because since the talks started on 10th February, 2014, the number of consultations they had with the one that sent them indicated that they lacked decision making power at peace talks.


Meanwhile the other parties they are preoccupied with securing their legitimacy in order to assert themselves and they do not see political means as the best option. Their demand is over ambitious they demand for total overhaul of the system and this cannot be achieved through political or peaceful means.


(b)What’s gone wrong there according to your observation on the ground?


(2)   Answers: In any conventional negotiation, if it is negotiation, it takes place between two parties in the absent of mediator; if it is a mediation; the two parties negotiate in the presence of a mediator or group of mediators.


What is peculiar with this peace talks is that too many parties with identical interest claiming status at the talks; and I see a lot of political speculation similar to that of free market economy.  There is Government party sitting together with some opposition representatives with different interest and personality; SPLM/A in Opposition party with totally new political actors on a national scene, and the 07 Former Political Detainees who are part and partial of the success and failures of the government has also came up on their own to offer something new.


There is also inclusivity with regards to civil society organizations; religious leaders; youth group; traditional leaders; business community etc. Am afraid ethnicity, regionalism and political affiliations may be their common virus.


IGAD is too weak, its capacity and credibility is undermined by rogue member states like Uganda, South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, and Sudan. The conflict which started as disagreement within the SPLM party has now attracted other states and non states actors like SPLM-North, SLM, JEM, Yau Yau etc. If you scan through, you will realize that Sudan has an interest on oil wealth; economic control; border issues and Abyei area with South Sudan.


Meanwhile, Uganda also has economic and trade interest; they also see the possibility of diverting Lamu pipeline project to Uganda; Uganda has grey areas in her relations with the people of South Sudan; the mysterious death of Dr. John Garang has remain a secret with the report unpublished. There is a long running border disputes across the frontier with South Sudan. It is better to support a friendly regime in Juba than change goal post. The geo politics is also in full gear with China, USA, UK, Russia engaged in perpetual war of determining outcome they may play this through the vessels of neighbouring states or directly through conflicting parties.


(c) The government Spokesman Michael Makuei has accused the IGAD
mediators of being obstacle in the peace talks.  Do you think the agenda favour the rebel groups in the talks?


(3)   Answers: First of all IGAD is a mediator, it enjoys presumption of neutrality. IGAD drafts agenda and presents to the parties for approval. There are also other outlets that can be consulted by IGAD such as other stakeholders including Civil Societies, expert opinions of other peace brokers around the world; IGAD scans the contexts and the structure of the conflict and develops proposals for parties to approve which also depends on their power parity. The current military equation tends to be fairly changing with capture of Malakal; you do not expect parties to keep the same weight and language.


I do not see favouritism but tactics and strategy at the negotiation. All negotiations are similar to a chess game. There is win-loss though sometimes presented as win-win for legitimacy purposes. I also understand that China wants the talks to move under the auspice of African Union where they will have more leverage. The current IGAD led talks is seen to be under the armpit of the Troika-USA, Norway and UK. Since the government of South Sudan is not rubbing shoulders well with the west because of its human rights and governance records the statement of Mr. Makuei is no surprise me.


(d) Juba is still experiencing some short of hostility despite that the
two sides have signed the cessation of hostilities agreement last
month. Do you think that the current fighting is connected to peace
process which bears nothing up to now?


(4)   Answers: If you observe with a child’s eye, you will realize that the remnants of our armed forces which represent only 30% of the original SPLA forces before the crisis are more interested in peace than war. So beating the drum of warfare does not impress them. I have seen in many occasions that whenever there are cold feet at peace talks, I am woken up in the middle of the night by gunshots; I do not take it for mistake or granted. These elements are communicating something to somebody. I am not surprise at all by these “shoot-Sayers”. I see the hardest part of the war when rainy season and thick forest is here. That is where also the humanitarian condition in South Sudan will worsen.


(e) South Sudan Human Rights commission went noiseless during the
fighting. Meanwhile most of influential professionals are leaving the
country due to some threat by the security in the country. What is your take there?


(5)   Answers: In crisis like this, governments in third world freeze most of sensitive public organs including; parliament, courts, and independent institutions like human rights commissions etc. South Sudan Human rights commission yes has said nothing including defending government human rights performance against the recently presented UN report on South Sudan Human rights records to the UN Security Council.  Such silence may mean something and merit open eye.  I think most of our intellectuals are leaving the country. These professionals are losing nothing beside they will get green pasture elsewhere. This is brain drain of the economy with only less than 2% professionals. Of course those who are fleeing the country are from the segment of the population who think for the country.


(f)  What do you think could be the solution in the talks?


(6)   Answers: You know the problem in the peace talk is the problem of personalities and history aggravated by ethnic cleavage.  I believe all the South Sudanese know all their leaders well. There is no need to visit history of the SPLM/A war with Khartoum because it will open old wounds and incriminate everybody who participated in it. From 2005, when the semi autonomous government of Southern Sudan was established, those with long arms looted the country. Some of these people now sit around the president and do not want him to take independent decision.  This is what messed us up to this level. Now the pit is deep some of us cannot come out of it.


I think the proposal for an interim administration completely neutral and not from any political party makes sense. They must not be interested in politics and the head must not stand in any election. South Sudan is not short of people who can run such body. They can even pick a university professor for such assignment to put things that have been messed up right. Such body must have fix mandate to hold elections after sometimes.  After all what happened in the country, with almost one region displaced or gone into hiding cannot justify one’s legitimacy. Even if you hold election now, you will do it without one or two regions effectively participating. Then such elections will not be credible but sham.  

Thank you.


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Nybaba: I don’t know why I’m no longer on Coup list



By Denis Dumo Scopas-JUBA


Qn: Dr Peter Adwok, what does it mean that your name was not among the 11 coup plotters accused by the government of attempted a coup?

Adwok, I don’t know why they did not mention by name. You know I supposed to be among them.

Qn: But are you not among those who were released on the bail. And how does it mean to you that your name does not appear in the court?

Adwok, well my name doesn’t appear here, and of course I don’t know which one am I now, whether free or not.

Qn: How did you analysis the first session of the court hearing according to your view today?

Adwok, Well, the session has just began of mentioning the case and for me the way I see the case cannot be made on two things which is one a hear saying and the other is something structure from a press statement, It’s doesn’t indicate that there is so sort of plotting.

Qn: there are request from the lead prosecution requesting the court should be in camera which the court has rejected the requesting saying it will be made in due cost. How do you react on that?  

Adwok, well, this is the case which attracting a lot of interest both locally and regionally and internationally, so you can’t do it in camera, it should be open so that the people should know whether the government has the facts about the coup or not.

Because up now they did not give to the world the evidence of the coup, the evidence of a coup can’t come from the press statement on the 6th December, 2013.

Qn: the public are concerned about the trial, what do you say to them?

Adwok, we still do not know the outcome of the court, and nobody can- what we called jumping the Gun at this stage; it is difficult to say anything here. We want to see how the judges react and to test the justices system in South Sudan.

Denis Dumo, Thank you.


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Scramble to decongest Juba camps after first rains


 By Denis Dumo-Juba 

The United Nations and aid agencies say they are rushing to decongest the overcrowded Tongping and UN House camps in Juba after a week of rains, the first of the impending rainy season in South Sudan. The peacekeeping mission is preparing new ground on which to settle the camp residents, most of whom have spent three months under UN protection.

Heavy rains have flooded camp residents’ shelters, collapsed tents, and created pools of stagnant water in and around homes. About a fifth of the homes in the Tongping camp were flooded or destroyed in the first rains on 7 March.

Facing the onset of the rainy season, NGOs and residents are worried about a deadly health situation inside the IDP camps in Juba, particularly Tongping camp where there is poor sanitation and cases of malnutrition. Watery diarrhea, measles and malaria, coupled with malnutrition, are reported to be…

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