NGOs’ response to UN meeting on South Sudan

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Where are the women?

Women work. Women speak out. Women plan. All the while the African women take care of their families and pray for a voice for themselves, for lives free of famine, sickness and violence. Women are organizing for better policy and effective action.

Tumekutana

The upcoming Tumekutana gathering of women leaders from 22 African nations takes place in Accra, Ghana October 25-31, 2014. Tumekutana is Swahili for “We have come together.” The invitation is open to the women of African partner churches, but are regional women leaders who are to discern regional solutions for the most excruciating needs of African children able to afford the cost of the conference? Few have the $400 registration fee. Contributions toward the average total cost of $1,750 per woman are gratefully accepted by the organizers. Please pray for and consider contributing to Tumekutana. Contact Christi Boyd: christi.boyd@pcusa.org

Women and Genocide in the 21st Century: The Case for Darfur

Darfur Women Action Group, in partnership with Genocide Watch, presents the 3rd annual “Women and Genocide in the 21st Century – A National Action Symposium” in Washington, D.C.

For the past six years, the Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) has worked with its allies to bring awareness to the magnitude of the genocide in Darfur, and particularly, its impact on women. On October 25-26, DWAG, hundreds of anti-genocide activists, women’s rights advocates, artists, celebrities, survivors, experts, and concerned leaders will come together in Washington, D.C. to build strategies for sustainable change for Sudanese people. Standard Fee (8/31): Students: $20, 
 Non-Students: $60, hurry up for early bird rate.   *Financial aid is available for the first 200 students, volunteers and those in the Sudanese diaspora. Contact: info@darfurwomenaction.org

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South Sudan food crisis: Surviving on water lilies

It is early morning in Reke village, a settlement of about 3,000 people displaced by fighting between government and rebel forces in the oil-rich Unity state. There were heavy rains overnight and the village, about 650km (400 miles) northwest of the capital Juba, is only accessible with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. With the rainy season, many roads have been cut off and food is hard to come by.

In Reke, people depend on food aid from the World Food Programme (WFP), but they say deliveries are rare. Getting that help to remote villages is anything but easy. The people in Reke are now surviving on water lilies from a nearby river. They collect the seeds, grind them and mix them with water, and then cook them for a meal.

More than 1.5 million people have been displaced by the clashes and the UN has warned that South Sudan is on the verge of a famine. The UN says at least 4 million people are facing starvation after farmers missed the planting season. Experts have warned that South Sudan will most probably face a severe famine by the end of the year or early next year. The children’s agency Unicef has warned that up to 50,000 children could die of malnutrition by the end of the year if they do not receive help.

(Emmanuel Igunza, BBC September 8, 2014) For full article, follow link: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29113819

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Ambassador Susan D. Page’s Farewell

Susan D. Page was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan October 11, 2011. In August she returned to the U.S. State Department, but it wasn’t easy as is clear below in her farewell address to the South Sudanese people.

This week, after nearly three years in Juba, I will return to my family and to the U.S. State Department, our equivalent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As I depart, I would like to offer a few memories and reflections, as well as some thoughts going forward.

Although I was not born here, South Sudan feels like a home to me, because its people have been a part of my life for more than a decade. I first joined the IGAD-led peace process twelve years ago and watched proudly as His Excellency Salva Kiir Mayardit signed the Machakos Protocol in July of 2002. In 2003, I took my first trip to the land that would become South Sudan and have travelled throughout this beautiful country and to all ten states many times thereafter. I jumped over my first bull in Panyagor; tasted the sweetest mango of my life in Yambio; and observed the strong desire for peace in Malualkon. I still become emotional when I remember January 9, 2005 – the day the Government of Sudan and the SPLM/SPLA signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. I too swelled with pride when the people of South Sudan voted their country into existence in 2011. And, because my country also fought long and hard for its independence, I have always felt it is a special honor and privilege to be the United States’ first ambassador to the world’s newest country.

As sweet as these memories are, thinking about them also brings tears to my eyes, for the country that you voted to create in 2011 is now divided and suffering badly. As I return to the United States, I will tell President Obama what I will tell you here today: this conflict did not come from God or nature – it is man-made. If famine comes in the months that follow, it too will be man-made. Therefore, the path to peace will also come from people – not only from the leaders in the conflict, but from chiefs, elders, religious leaders, women, and you, the ordinary citizens of South Sudan. And so, instead of saying farewell, let me say a word to each of you about what has happened over the last eight months and what can happen in the months and years ahead.

To the leaders on both sides of the conflict: I beg you to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself what you can do to stop the suffering of your people. The present crisis began long before December 15, 2013, and you must all work together to stop it – now. Already, more than 1.5 million people have been pushed from their homes, and hunger and disease threaten to kill many more. The United States stood by you as you worked together to create South Sudan. Now, in a horrible twist of fate, you are both working to destroy the country you created. The United States is trying to help you negotiate a sustainable peace under the auspices of IGAD. Blaming each other is not a strategy. Honest dialogue and compromise are the hallmarks of true leadership and the path to long term peace for South Sudan.

Chiefs, elders, women, and members of the religious community: you also have a critical role in helping to bring peace back to South Sudan. You are the guarantors of honesty in your communities and the protectors of your people. You know what it means to be selfless and to put others’ needs before your own. Now you must convince the rest of the population to do the same. During the civil war Nuer and Dinka and so many other ethnic communities fought side-by-side to create this country. Now you kill each other and work to drag others into your conflict. You can help stop this. As I travel around this beautiful country, tarnished as it is by the fighting, I see still see a few slogans on t-shirts and signs along the road that say, “South Sudan is my tribe.” I know that many of you are already working towards this end, but please continue. All of you must help make that message a reality.

To South Sudan’s next generation of leaders – the youth: People talk often about what percentage of the country is from different tribes, but in fact, you, the youth, are the largest “tribe” of South Sudan. Fully 65 percent of your country’s population is under the age of 24 and almost 50 percent are under the age of 14. You know as well as I do that there will be no peace if your elders keep putting guns in the hands of children. Instead of weapons, young people should be reading books, putting thoughts on paper, and designing and constructing buildings for the future instead of destroying foundations. As the great Nigerian author Chinua Achebe wrote years ago, “Literature is my weapon.” Show your leaders your potential by speaking your truths and working together for the betterment of all. In war, everyone suffers, but it is the women and children that suffer the most. Protect your mothers, sisters, brothers, and friends by working together to make peace a reality. Family members will always fight, but your family will always be with you. The same is true for the bigger “family” of South Sudan.

Some might say that my words are naive and that, as the bible says, there is a time for war and a time for peace. But war is never the best way to bring change and solve problems – in fact, it is usually the worst way for it destroys the very things that keep the peace – families, schools, markets, and hospitals. I know something of conflict, for in my own country, African Americans were systematically oppressed until just after I was born. However, it was not violence that brought us our rights, but the non-violent protests of church groups, students, and ordinary citizens who believed in doing the right thing. The methods used and preached by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the United States were the same ones Mahatma Ghandi used in India and Nelson Mandela embraced to end apartheid in South Africa. Peaceful actions by community leaders and ordinary citizens and the courage of their convictions that all men – and women – are created equal and must be afforded equal opportunities and equal rights and obligations, were, and continue to be, the tools of change in these countries and many more around the world. The people of South Sudan have lived and died through decades of war. Now is the time for peace and justice.

In some of my farewell interviews with newspapers and radio stations, I have been asked an important question: what can South Sudan – the newest country in the world – learn from the United States, one of the oldest democracies? Here is how I have answered: the United States has thrived by creating peaceful means to resolve disputes over land, resources, and politics. This means supporting a truly free press, for the media is a megaphone for ideas that everyone must be able to use without fear of arrest or intimidation. Exchanging viewpoints – even controversial ones – is not a recipe for conflicts; it is a means to prevent them. Although imperfect in practice, the U.S. has also learned that the best path to stability and prosperity is by embracing our diversity, empowering people, and including all groups in the political and economic future of the nation. The exclusion of African Americans from the American dream led to a bloody civil war and social unrest for generations. One hundred fifty years later, the scars still remain. From these experiences we’ve learned something that too many others have forgotten: You cannot fight your way to peace.

Finally, the U. S. has also succeeded by ensuring that no one is above the law – not our politicians, our generals, not even the President. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said so eloquently, “Peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.” Adhering to the law, following the rules, and holding people accountable is not a foreign construct. Justice is the glue that holds societies together.

Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I depart, but I am not truly leaving South Sudan. In my next assignment, I will continue to work towards peace in my new position as Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan and I hope that you will show my successor here in Juba the same warm South Sudanese welcome that I received. And, even though the challenges in front of you are enormous, I remain optimistic that you – the people of South Sudan – can put your country back on the right track. Dialogue and compromise will be the key, both with the warring parties and with the international community. Together, we can end the suffering now overtaking the country, but only if we speak honestly with each other and put differences aside in pursuit of the greater good. As the great South Sudanese musician Emmanuel Kembe sings, “our boat is shaky, but we are moving forward all the same.” I pray that the people of South Sudan can all move forward together to a peaceful and united future. One people – one nation. 

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Voices of Diaspora

SAAF inaugurates Voices of Diaspora with this post to honor forward-looking advocacy efforts on behalf of South Sudan as a nation with equality and justice for all.

The recently organized Coalition of Advocates for South Sudan (CASS) has taken on the ambitious goal of motivating the many diaspora groups to speak as one voice on behalf of a just and lasting peace in South Sudan. 

 Civil society and the diaspora together represent the majority of South Sudanese citizens, yet they lack a place at the negotiation table in regard to ending armed conflict in South Sudan, allowing delivery of humanitarian aid, the formation of an interim government, and establishing accountability for all.  CASS strives to become a voice on behalf of the under-represented in these matters.

CASS recently made public the following white paper introducing its goals and constituencies. 

 

Coalition of Advocates for South Sudan 

July 21, 2014

 The Coalition of Advocates for South Sudan (CASS) was established in late April 2014 with the following:

Mission:  CASS seeks to establish a just and lasting peace in South Sudan. Our advocacy is directly informed by the situation on the ground and the South Sudanese people who urgently seek: justice, peace, an end to violence, and establishment of a democratic nation with equality for all.

Membership: CASS members primarily are South Sudanese now living in North America; they come from various ethnic backgrounds and work together with the interest of all the people of South Sudan at the fore rather than any specific group.  All agree to place current and historical ethnic issues behind them and work for the good of all South Sudanese.  All agree that all groups and cultures are equal in value if not in population.

CASS hopes to accomplish its mission by drawing into its membership representatives of all major diaspora groups so that the diaspora can speak with one voice as it seeks to accomplish its mission.

Strategically, CASS focuses on the most immediate issue at hand in a progression from (1) ending the armed conflict, (2) allowing humanitarian aid to reach all the people who need it, (3) establishing an interim government, (4) establishing accountability for all, (5)  followed by healing the trauma caused by the civil war, and (6)  reconciliation.  This will bring (7) lasting peace.

Currently CASS is focused on ending the armed conflict.  The current conflict in South Sudan arose out of a political difference within the SPLM between President Kiir and his former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar and their supporters.  Neither side has the ability to defeat the other side – at least at this time. Thus the conflict must be resolved through political negotiation. The two sides vary in approach but little progress is being made, and the earlier agreement to cease conflict has not been honored.

To bring the sides to serious negotiation, four major actions must occur:

External pressure: The IGAD nations, United States, and China especially have strong vested interests in peace and justice in South Sudan.  We must lobby those nations to bring pressure on the leaders through economic, financial, political, and all ways except military intervention.

Face-to-Face meeting:  A face-to-face meeting between President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar is necessary to gain true commitment to peaceful solutions to this conflict. We believe that the Church in South Sudan is best equipped to do this.

Internal pressure: South Sudan civic leadership, church leadership, and women’s leadership have strengthened considerably since 2009. We must assist them in obtaining places at the negotiating table that they may put internal pressure on the leaders of the conflict.

People pressure: South Sudanese everywhere need to contact their friends and relatives who are involved in the fighting and point out to them that this conflict will not resolve the issues that matter to them. The leaders have begun fighting for their own political futures and not for the people. This war has taken a horrible toll on the people of South Sudan and their material structures. This will only get worse. Thus we urge the frontline commanders to observe the Cessation of Hostilities and other agreements signed by their leaders in Addis as the only way to guarantee peace for them and their families.

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Where are the women of South Sudan?

Near the town of Bentiu, some are in the women’s camp. Their homes are burned down or otherwise destroyed. Their temporary housing is a blanket, a mosquito net, or nothing at all.

They forage for food and firewood in order for their children to subsist.

What is a woman’s risk in this rural area? Mosquito-born illness? Yes. Snake bites? Yes.

Yet, another greater risk is a human-born weapon. Women risk rape by marauding soldiers. Males, teens and adults, rape as a means to hurt and demean women. Rape splashes cultural degradation on women and the risk of exclusion by their communities. Rape also spreads disease where medical care is rare.

Read more about current conditions for women in Bentiu, South Sudan:
Rape stands out starkly in S. Sudan war known for brutality

 

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Prayer Initiative – July 2014

You are invited to pray for:

~ The many faithful Christian believers in Sudan, including Khartoum, and their leaders as they attempt to have normalcy amid persecution.

~ The Bible and theology students and their dedicated teachers who faithfully prepare the future of the church in Sudan and South Sudan.

~ Meriam, the Christian woman whose charges were overturned in court, but is detained by authorities from leaving Sudan. Pray she and her family will be able to leave and arrive safely in the USA.

~ The leaders of South Sudan that they may end their fighting and establish a viable transitional government.

~ The displaced Sudanese and South Sudanese seeking safety from fighting by pouring into Juba, South Sudan’s capital city, or by crossing borders into  surrounding countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda).

~ The many relief agencies and their volunteers who are attempting to supply the displaced and refugees with water, food and medical supplies.

~ The powerful countries outside of Sudan and South Sudan, and their leaders, that they may help form and support the structure of a future government.

 ~ The many different agencies addressing the trauma of tribes in conflict and reconciliation of the people of one tribe with those of another.

~ Workers and planners who are attempting to restore infrastructure destroyed in the civil war.

~ The many church-sponsored mission personnel engaged in health training, education and trauma healing and reconciliation work.

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Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, sentenced – Send appeals before June 24th

URGENT ACTION: Meriam Yehya Ibrahim 

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a 27-year-old Christian Sudanese woman was arrested for adultery because of her marriage to a Christian South Sudanese man. According to Meriam, she was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion. Sudanese law does not recognize Meriam as a Christian, but as a Muslim. She has been convicted of adultery, since Sudanese law does not recognize her marriage. She has been convicted of apostasy, since she asserted she is a Christian and not a Muslim.

Appeals for Meriam’s release are requested in Arabic, English or your own language to be send by email before June 24, 2014. 

~ Minister of Justice, Mohamed Bushara Dousa [Salutation: Your Excellency] Email: moj@moj.gov.sd

~ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Ahmed Karti [Salutation: Your Excellency] Email: ministry@mfa.gov.sd

~ Copies to Minister of Interior, Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamed Email: mut@isoc.sd

 ~ Copies to Embassy of Sudan, Washington, D.C. www.sudanembassy.org/index.php?option=com_breezingforms&Itemid=13

Suggested letter: 

Your Excellency:

I am writing from America to call upon you and the Government of Sudan to release Meriam Yehya Ibrahim immediately and unconditionally because she is a prisoner of conscience, convicted solely because of her religious beliefs and identity. Her child and child-to-be are U.S. citizens who are guilty of no wrong and should be turned over to their father. As you know Islamic scholars are divided on whether apostasy is a crime because the Quran states: “There shall be no compulsion in religion.” Of course some quote the Prophet (pbh) and come to different conclusions, but a mere woman should not be held accountable for that that scholarly dispute when the Quran is quite explicit. Regardless she is not and has not been Muslim.

Please show the love and mercy of God to this woman.

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Stop the violence in South Sudan!

For a faith-based advocacy action for South Sudan backing a proposal by Representative Frank Wolf (R., VA), follow the link below.

Contact President Obama and urge him to appoint former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to help negotiate a just and lasting peace in South Sudan.

 

http://capwiz.com/pcusa/issues/alert/?alertid=63209151.

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Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President:

The Sudan Advocacy Action Forum views with alarm the spiraling violence in South Sudan. Please take immediate action to help prevent a catastrophe reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide. We urge you to adopt Rep. Frank Wolf’s recommendation of appointing former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to help negotiate a lasting peace in South Sudan and, in particular, to demonstrate that the fate of South Sudan is a U.S. foreign policy priority.

Last week, Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, went to South Sudan. She met with President Salva Kiir and separately with the opposition leader Riek Machar. Based on her travels in country and meetings with U.N. personnel, she emphasizes the urgency of peace talks and more humanitarian assistance from donor countries. Navi Pillay concluded her remarks of April 30 saying, “How much worse does it have to get, before those who can bring this conflict to an end, especially President Kiir and Dr. Machar, decide to do so?” We believe it doesn’t have to get worse if the United States would step in on behalf of a negotiated peace process. We urge you to act immediately on behalf of the citizens of South Sudan.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Eleanor Wright, Moderator

To add your comments to the President go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call

 

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