Archive for January 25, 2012

Photo: Satellite Sentinel Project
Satellite image of helicopters at the Sudanese airbase at Kidugli.

Analysts say new satellite images of Sudan’s Southern Kordofan State indicate a major government military offensive is about to begin against the Nuba people.  The images were released Wednesday by the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP).

Government forces have been fighting the rebel SPLA-North Sector in Southern Kordofan, causing thousands of civilians to flee to South Sudan.

De Capua interview with Nathaniel Raymond

“What we’re seeing is the grounds for issuing a Human Security Alert, which we issued today,” said Nathaniel Raymond, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which analyzed the images.“Satellite imagery collected by DigitalGlobe has captured evidence of road construction and the presence of heavy armor units in position to the Kauda Valley. The Kauda Valley is where at least 200,000 civilians of the Nuba people are currently taking refuge,” he said.

No escape?

Images also indicate the route that’s been used by thousands of civilians to cross into South Sudan appears to be under the control of the Sudanese Armed Forces. Raymond said the route “appears to be blocked, limiting the movement of civilians who may still be trying to flee the Kauda Valley and the Nuba mountains.”

There are also images of an airbase where improvements are being made.

“We see the construction of an airstrip at Talodi, which is approximately 30 miles or 50 kilometers from Kauda Valley. Why this is important is that the runway there is being lengthened to approximately 1800 meters. It takes 1500 to 1550 meters to land an Antonov. An Antonov is the plane which has been used to drop bombs and explosive ordinance of many types. With this new strip, they will be able to conduct high tempo air operations into the Kauda Valley, combined with the infrastructure improvements needed to deploy heavy armor in coordination with that air support,” said Raymond.

Witnesses say it was an Antonov plane that dropped bombs Monday on a refugee center just across the border from Southern Kordofan in South Sudan. Images also show helicopter gunships at the Kadugli airbase

The Satellite Sentinel Project issued a Human Security Alert last year for the disputed oil rich region of Abyei two months before it was attacked by Sudanese forces. “We saw almost an identical force pattern and infrastructure pattern prior to the invasion of Abyei region,” said Raymond.

Final assault

Analysts believe the military offensive could begin soon. “At this point, there’s approximately 8 to 9 weeks before the start of the rainy season. And it makes sense based on the very clear statements of indicted war criminal Governor Ahmed Haroun and President Bashir that they intend to take the Kauda Valley, if possible, likely before the rainy season begins again,” he said.

The Satellite Sentinel Project said the images indicate “preparation for a final assault against the Nuba people.” It said when the fighting began last June in Southern Kordofan there were more than one million Nuba people in the state. It estimates there are now between 200,000 and 400,000.

“During that time you have had more than half of the Nuba population killed, displaced internally or displaced into South Sudan,” he said, adding, “It is crucial to note that this is occurring with the backdrop of what we call a green famine. The Famine Early Warning System, the United Nations and the U.S. government have made it very clear that the food security situation in the Nuba Mountains and the Kauda Valley is precarious.”

The SSP said reports from the ground say the price of sorghum has skyrocketed.

Raymond said, “People are eating reserve foods and in some cases eating bark and leaves. If there is not immediate humanitarian assistance into this restricted area, it is a very real possibility that a famine could occur by some estimates as early as March. And we’re talking 200,000 civilians at least cut off from escape, cut off from humanitarian aid and cut off from protection.”

Satellite Images Show Artillery Barrage in S. Kordofan

Joe DeCapua

Images of smoke plumes indicate a Sudanese armed forces artillery barrage against SPLA-North rebels in Toroge in Southern Kordofan State.

Photo: Satellite Sentinel Project
Images of smoke plumes indicate a Sudanese armed forces artillery barrage against SPLA-North rebels in Toroge in Southern Kordofan State.

For the second time this week, new satellite images have been released for Sudan’s Southern Kordofan State, where Sudanese armed forces have been fighting the rebel SPLA-North Sector.

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) said Friday’s images indicate an apparent artillery barrage and an attempt to block civilians from crossing the border into South Sudan.


“The latest images are probably some of the most visually striking we have captured so far at Satellite Sentinel,” said Nathaniel Raymond, head of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, which analyzes the satellite images.

Smoke Plumes

“One of the lead images,” he said, “is six plumes of grey smoke consistent with an artillery barrage on a ridge in the area known as Toroge. And that area, according to information we received last night from sources on the ground, has been the site of fighting for the past two days or so.”

Images indicate Sudanese forces are at battalion strength on the Buram-Jau Road. It’s been the main route civilians had been taking to South Sudan to escape the fighting. The road leads to the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan.

Earlier this week, the SSP released images showing a build-up of Sudanese forces in Southern Kordofan, along with road construction. It said the information indicated a pending military offensive against the Nuba people in the Kauda Valley.

“It does not show the beginning of the offensive that we fear will take place in the next few weeks,” said Raymond. But he added that the position of the Sudanese troops has created a “choke point” on the Buram-Jau Road, which is about 45 kilometers north of the Yida camp.

“The position is described as a choke point because it sits directly across the road and in a mountainous area where there is basically one way down that stretch to get to the border with South Sudan. And now we know why there has been a decreasing flow of civilians across that border,” he said.

Accusations and denial

The Sudan Armed Forces have accused the Satellite Sentinel Project of helping the SPLA-North rebels by providing them with information.

“My reaction to that accusation is simply this – The Satellite Sentinel Project and the analytic operation that we run at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is party to the Red Cross NGO code of conduct, which means that we are impartial. We do not provide information to either side. What we do provide information about is specific to one thing: threats against civilians,” Raymond said.

He said the SSP does not provide GPS coordinates.

“We do show specific information, yes, when it’s relevant about the Sudan Armed Forces’ bases and positions. But that’s when those bases and positions are threats to civilians,” he said.

A spokesman for Sudanese forces, Col. Al-Sawarmi Khalid Said, is quoted as saying the SSP is “carrying out a hostile operation” and that the armed forces are responsible for protecting civilians.

Raymond rejected those comments. He said, “South Kordofan and the Blue Nile have been the site of clear evidence of mass atrocities against the civilian populations there. We have documented evidence of systematic house to house mass killing in Kadugli, the displacement of the entirety of the Dinka-Not population from Abyei, the bombing and burning and armored attacks on civilian villages in Blue Nile and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians,” he said.

He added, “If the Sudan Armed Forces is responsible for civilian protection, then it is no surprise why so many civilians have fled.”

The SSP has called on the international community to “take responsibility for civilian protection.”

South Sudan, Kenya Sign Deal to Build Pipeline
Wall Street Journal
By NICHOLAS BARIYO LONDON—South Sudan and Kenya signed an agreement to build an oil pipeline between the two countries, Martin Heya, the commissioner in charge of petroleum at Kenya’s Energy Ministry said Wednesday. The pipeline will provide a

Sudan Military May be Poised for Major Offensive
Voice of America
Government forces have been fighting the rebel SPLA-North Sector in Southern Kordofan, causing thousands of civilians to flee to South Sudan. De Capua interview with Nathaniel Raymond download iconDownload: MP3 Right click (Control click for Mac) and

‘Don’t waste time, there is no God’

It will remain one of the abiding ironies of the Jaipur Literature Festival: For an event that got the loudest publicity because of the threats of ungodly communal trouble, a number of sessions were dedicated to denouncing god and religion. The most strident among the speakers on the subject, however, was Richard Dawkins, author of the bestseller The God Delusion.

At one of his three sessions at JLF, where he read out from his latest work The Magic of Reality in tandem with his wife and actor Lalla Ward, the British author said, “Religious faith deserves a whole chapter in war technology, alongside tanks and guns… Religiosity usually recedes with the advancement of knowledge. In the fullness of time, we may see the death of all religions.” He followed the broadside with a statement in support of Salman Rushdie, which he said was a modified version of what he had written at the time of the earlier fatwa against the author. Dawkins’s eloquence on the “magic of truth in science” led a member of the audience to accuse the author of “fostering a religion of science”.

It’s a line of counter-attack the 70-year-old Dawkins is familiar with. The evolutionary biologist has been called ‘Darwin’s Rottweiler’ for his passionate defence of the subject in works such as The Selfish Gene, the bestseller from which he read out in another session at the festival. Not long ago, he won a bruising battle against the British government to keep out religious Creationist myths from school science texts.

Off stage, when asked whether he would want to be immortal with the help of science, Dawkins said, “Eternity is a frightening thought whether you are in it or not. I can only go through it under general anesthesia.” He parried a question on why faith and emotion spurred humans to greater efforts – such as love and war – than reason ever could.

Such questions were straight down the line for AC Grayling, whose quote, ‘Religion and science have a common ancestor, ignorance’, features at the top of the quotes page of the Richard Dawkins Foundation website. At an earlier session in Jaipur, ‘In Defence of Enlightenment’, Grayling said, “Earlier, doubt about the existence of god was seen as a sin. This is what changed with the Enlightenment in the 18th century, which taught us scepticism; that humans can be fallible.”

“One of the best known examples of this divide between emotions and reason was Dr Spock of Star Trek. He thought he was a poor logician because he was always in love with someone or the other. It’s another matter that he was suspected to be in love with Captain Kirk,” Grayling told to a ripple of laughter. “But seriously, the rights of the individual are not in exclusion to his deep emotional bonds with family or society.”

Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, who was on the dais with Grayling, addressed the ‘faith-versus-reason’ question head-on. He told Hindustan Times, “Emotions can be very destructive. And reason even lets you choose the right belief.”

The last throw on the subject, however, was Dawkins’s. At the last session of the festival on Tuesday, a debate on whether man has replaced god, Dawkins said, “You are utterly wasting your time – all of you who are indignant at being attacked about your god – because there is no god.”

In Defense of Superstition


SUPERSTITION is typically a pejorative term. Belief in things like magic and miracles is thought to be irrational and scientifically retrograde. But as studies have repeatedly shown, some level of belief in the supernatural — often a subtle and unconscious belief — appears to be unavoidable, even among skeptics. One study found that a group of seemingly rational Princeton students nonetheless believed that they had influenced the Super Bowl just by watching it on TV. We are all mystics, to a degree.

The good news is that superstitious thought, or “magical thinking,” even as it misrepresents reality, has its advantages. It offers psychological benefits that logic and science can’t always provide: namely, a sense of control and a sense of meaning.

Consider one “law of magic” that people tend to put stock in: the idea that “luck is in your hands,” that you can affect your fate via superstitious rituals like knocking on wood or carrying a lucky charm. We often rely on such rituals when we are anxious or want to perform well, and though they may not directly have their intended magical effects, these rituals produce an illusion of control and enhance self-confidence, which in turn can improve our performance and thus indirectly affect our fate.

For instance, in one study led by the psychologist Lysann Damisch of the University of Cologne, subjects were handed a golf ball, and half of them were told that the ball had been lucky so far. Those subjects with a “lucky” ball drained 35 percent more golf putts than those with a “regular” ball. In another scenario, subjects performed better on memory and word games when armed with a lucky charm. In a more real-world example of this effect, the anthropologist Richard Sosis of the University of Connecticut found that in Israel during the second intifada in the early 2000s, 36 percent of secular women in the town of Tzfat recited psalms in response to the violence. Compared with those who did not recite psalms, he found, those women benefited from reduced anxiety: they felt more comfortable entering crowds, going shopping and riding buses — a result, he concluded, of their increased sense of control.

Another law of magic is “everything happens for a reason” — there is no such thing as randomness or happenstance. This is so-called teleological reasoning, which assumes intentions and goals behind even evidently purposeless entities like hurricanes. As social creatures, we may be biologically tuned to seek evidence of intentionality in the world, so that we can combat or collaborate with whoever did what’s been done. When lacking a visible author, we end up crediting an invisible one — God, karma, destiny, whatever.

This illusion, too, turns out to be psychologically useful. In research led by the psychologistLaura Kray of the University of California, Berkeley, subjects reflected on a turning point in their lives. The more they felt the turning point to have been fated, the more they believed, “It made me who I am today” and, “It gave meaning to my life.” Belief in destiny helps render your life a coherent narrative, which infuses your goals with a greater sense of purpose. This works even when those turning points are harmful: in a study led by the psychologist Kenneth Pargament of Bowling Green State University, students who saw a negative event as “part of God’s plan” showed more growth in its aftermath. They became more open to new perspectives, more intimate in their relationships and more persistent in overcoming challenges.

There are similar laws that govern other popular superstitions, including the belief that objects can carry the “essences” of previous owners (which explains why you might want to own a pen once used by a favorite writer); the belief that symbolic objects can summon what they represent (which explains why you’re scared to cut up a photograph of your mother); and the attribution of consciousness to inanimate objects (which explains why you yell at the laptop that deleted your files). In various ways they all emerge from basic habits of mind, and they all add structure and meaning to a chaotic and absurd universe.

Which isn’t to say magical thinking has no downside. At its worst, it can lead to obsession, fatalism or psychosis. But without it, the existential angst of realizing we’re just impermanent clusters of molecules with no ultimate purpose would overwhelm us.

So to believe in magic — as, on some deep level, we all do — does not make you stupid, ignorant or crazy. It makes you human.

Matthew Hutson is the author of the forthcoming book “The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane.”

Learning to Respect Religion


A FEW years ago, God seemed caught in a devil of a fight.

Atheists were firing thunderbolts suggesting that “religion poisons everything,” as Christopher Hitchens put it in the subtitle of his book, “God Is Not Great.” Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins also wrote best sellers that were scathing about God, whom Dawkins denounced as “arguably the most unpleasant character in fiction.”

Yet lately I’ve noticed a very different intellectual tide: grudging admiration for religion as an ethical and cohesive force.

The standard-bearer of this line of thinking — and a provocative text for Easter Sunday — is a new book, “Religion for Atheists,” by Alain de Botton. He argues that atheists have a great deal to learn from religion.

“One can be left cold by the doctrines of the Christian Trinity and the Buddhist Eightfold Path and yet at the same time be interested in the ways in which religions deliver sermons, promote morality, engender a spirit of community, make use of art and architecture, inspire travels, train minds and encourage gratitude at the beauty of spring,” de Botton writes.

“The error of modern atheism has been to overlook how many aspects of the faiths remain relevant even after their central tenets have been dismissed,” he adds, and his book displays an attitude toward religion that is sometimes — dare I say — reverential.

Edward O. Wilson, the eminent Harvard biologist, has a new book, “The Social Conquest of Earth,” that criticizes religion as “stultifying and divisive” — but also argues that religion offered a competitive advantage to early societies. Faith bolstered social order among followers and helped bind a tribe together, he writes, and that is why religion is so widespread today. And he tips his hat to the social role of faith:

“Organized religions preside over the rites of passage, from birth to maturity, from marriage to death,” Wilson writes, adding: “Beliefs in immortality and ultimate divine justice give priceless comfort, and they steel resolution and bravery in difficult times. For millennia, organized religions have been the source of much of the best in the creative arts.”

Jonathan Haidt, a University of Virginia psychology professor, also focuses on the unifying power of faith in his new book, “The Righteous Mind.” Haidt, an atheist since his teens, argues that scientists often misunderstand religion because they home in on individuals rather than on the way faith can bind a community.

Haidt cites research showing that a fear of God may make a society more ethical and harmonious. For example, one study found that people were less likely to cheat if they were first given a puzzle that prompted thoughts of God.

Another study cited by Haidt found that of 200 communes founded in the 19th century, only 6 percent of the secular communes survived two decades, compared with 39 percent of the religious ones. Those that survived longest were those that demanded sacrifices of members, like fasting, daily prayer, abstaining from alcohol or tobacco, or adopting new forms of clothing or hairstyle.

“The very ritual practices that the New Atheists dismiss as costly, inefficient and irrational turn out to be a solution to one of the hardest problems humans face: cooperation without kinship,” Haidt writes.

The latest wave of respectful atheist writing strikes me as a healthy step toward nuance. I’ve reported on some of the worst of religion — such as smug, sanctimonious indifference among Christian fundamentalists at the toll of AIDS among gay men — yet I’ve also been awed by nuns and priests risking their lives in war zones. And many studies have found that religious people donate more money and volunteer more time to charity than the nonreligious. Let’s not answer religious fundamentalism with secular fundamentalism, religious intolerance with irreligious intolerance.

The new wave is skeptical but acknowledges stunning achievements, from Notre Dame Cathedral to networks of soup kitchens run by houses of worship across America. Maybe this new attitude can eventually be the basis for a truce in our religious wars, for a bridge across the “God gulf.” Let us pray …

The Taint of ‘Social Darwinism’

Given the well-known Republican antipathy to evolution, President Obama’s recent description of the Republican budget as an example of “social Darwinism” may be a canny piece of political labeling. In the interests of historical accuracy, however, it should be clearly recognized that “social Darwinism” has very little to do with the ideas developed by Charles Darwin in “On the Origin of Species.” Social Darwinism emerged as a movement in the late 19th-century, and has had waves of popularity ever since, but its central ideas owe more to the thought of a luminary of that time, Herbert Spencer, whose writings are (to understate) no longer widely read.

Spencer, who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest,” thought about natural selection on a grand scale. Conceiving selection in pre-Darwinian terms — as a ruthless process, “red in tooth and claw” — he viewed human culture and human societies as progressing through fierce competition. Provided that policymakers do not take foolish steps to protect the weak, those people and those human achievements that are fittest — most beautiful, noble, wise, creative, virtuous, and so forth — will succeed in a fierce competition, so that, over time, humanity and its accomplishments will continually improve. Late 19th-century dynastic capitalists, especially the American “robber barons,” found this vision profoundly congenial. Their contemporary successors like it for much the same reasons, just as some adolescents discover an inspiring reinforcement of their self-image in the writings of Ayn Rand .

Although social Darwinism has often been closely connected with ideas in eugenics (pampering the weak will lead to the “decline of the race”) and with theories of racial superiority (the economic and political dominance of people of North European extraction is a sign that some racial groups are intrinsically better than others), these are not central to the position.

The heart of social Darwinism is a pair of theses: first, people have intrinsic abilities and talents (and, correspondingly, intrinsic weaknesses), which will be expressed in their actions and achievements, independently of the social, economic and cultural environments in which they develop; second, intensifying competition enables the most talented to develop their potential to the full, and thereby to provide resources for a society that make life better for all. It is not entirely implausible to think that doctrines like these stand behind a vast swath of Republican proposals, including the recent budget, with its emphasis on providing greater economic benefits to the rich, transferring the burden to the middle-classes and poor, and especially in its proposals for reducing public services. Fuzzier versions of the theses have pervaded Republican rhetoric for the past decade (and even longer).

There are very good reasons to think both theses are false. Especially in the case of the Republican dynasties of our day, the Bushes and the Romneys, success has been facilitated by all kinds of social structures, by educational opportunities and legal restrictions, that were in place prior to and independently of their personal efforts or achievements. For those born into environments in which silver spoons rarely appear — Barack Obama, for instance — the contributions of the social environment are even more apparent. Without enormous support, access to inspiring teachers and skillful doctors, the backing of self-sacrificing relatives and a broader community, and without a fair bit of luck, the vast majority of people, not only in the United States but throughout the world, would never achieve the things of which they are, in principle, capable. In short, Horatio Alger needs lots of help, and a large thrust of contemporary Republican policy is dedicated to making sure he doesn’t get it.

Second, even if rigorous competition enables the talented — or, better, the lucky — to realize their goals, it is completely unwarranted to suppose that their accomplishments will translate into any increased benefit for the overwhelming majority of those who are less fortunate. The strenuous struggle social Darwinism envisages might select for something, but the most likely traits are a tendency to take whatever steps are necessary to achieve a foreseeable end, a sharp focus on narrowly individual goals and a corresponding disregard for others. We might reasonably expect that a world run on social Darwinist lines would generate a cadre of plutocrats, each resolutely concerned to establish a dynasty and to secure his favored branch of industry against future competition. In practical terms it would almost certainly yield a world in which the gap between rich and poor was even larger than it is now.

Rather than the beauty, wisdom, virtue and nobility Spencer envisioned arising from fierce competition, the likely products would be laws repealing inheritance taxes and deregulating profitable activities, and a vast population of people whose lives were even further diminished.

Yet, even if stimulating competition would achieve greater economic productivity, and even if this would, by some miraculous mechanism, yield a more egalitarian distribution of economic resources (presumably through the provision of more remunerative jobs), these welcome material benefits are not all that is needed. To quote a much-cited book, we do not “live by bread alone.” If the vast majority of citizens (or, globally, of people) are to enjoy any opportunities to develop the talents they have, they need the social structures social Darwinism perceives as pampering and counter-productive. Human well-being is profoundly affected by public goods, a concept that is entirely antithetical to social Darwinism or to contemporary Republican ideology, with their mythical citizens who can fulfill their potential without rich systems of social support. It is a callous fiction to suppose that what is needed is less investment in education, health care, public transportation and affordable public housing.

So long as social Darwinism is disentangled from the ancillary eugenic and racist ideas, so long as it is viewed in its core form of the two theses about the glories of competition, the label President Obama pinned on the Republican budget is completely deserved. Because the central ideas of social Darwinism are equally false and noxious, a commitment to truth in advertising should welcome the label. And all of us, including President Obama and the many people whose less spectacular successes have been enabled by social structures and public goods, should hope that the name leads Darwin-hating conservatives to worry about the Republican budget.

Philip Kitcher

Philip Kitcher is John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. He has written on topics in many fields of philosophy, including the history and philosophy of biology. Among his books are “Living with Darwin,” and, most recently, “The Ethical Project” and “Science in a Democratic Society.”

PHOTO: Eleven-year-old Kakayo recovers from wounds suffered during a recent round of violent tribal clashes in South Sudan
Eleven-year-old Kakayo recovers from wounds suffered during a recent round of violent tribal clashes in South Sudan (ABC News)
JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN, January 25, 2012

Before the red dust could settle in South Sudan’s most recent tribal clashes, 11-year-old Kakayo had lost her father, and she has no idea where her mother and two siblings are.

“When the attackers came, we ran into the bushes,” said Kakayo, as she lay idly on the floor in the back room of a dirty hospital ward in Juba, the capital of the newly independent South Sudan.

“That’s when they started shooting at us.”

Kakayo, whose family are members of the Murle tribe, is recovering from two bullet wounds, one in the knee, another in her foot. She has no bed, just a simple cloth to cover herself; thick bandages are wrapped around her frail legs.

Still, in this recent round of violence Kakayo is considered one of the lucky ones. She escaped, and she is one of the few who are receiving treatment at the hospital. “I was injured, but some of the others who survived took me with them,” she said of her escape from her village in Jonglei state.

The violent attacks Kakayo was caught up in began around the start of the new year and have affected 120,000 people, according to the U.N.

For Kakayo, the “they” who “started shooting at us” refers to the youth fighters of the Lou Nuer tribe. Clashes over cattle in the barren region are nothing new, and for a time were put on hold as a show of unity before the referendum that granted South Sudan independence a little over six months ago after two decades of civil war. Now they’ve resumed with a fury, and on a larger scale, partly fueled by weapons left over from the civil war.

At the opposite end of the hospital compound in Juba, separated by a weak chain-link fence, sits a field hospital tent where young men from the Lou Nuer, who attacked Kakayo’s tribe, had congregated, when ABC News visited the hospital early one recent morning.

“We think we have to go and destroy them,” said a youth fighter, seemingly the spokesman for the 20 or so fighters recovering from injuries.

“They kill our wives, our children, and they’ve taken our cows,” he said, with determination and conviction, the voices around him escalating, of the retaliation attacks initiated by the Murle people early last week that killed over 100 of the Lou Nuer.

He says he and the other fighters will return to the villages once they’ve recovered, and continue to attack and abduct more children in retaliation.

Child Abduction on the Rise

The fight begins over cattle, but the byproduct of these raids has always been murder and child abduction.

UNICEF says child abductions have been on the rise for the past two years in Jonglei state, one of South Sudan’s most remote tribal regions.

In the past, abductions were few. “Five children, two children, three children,” said Fatuma Ibrahim, Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF. She says it’s likely hundreds of children have been abducted in these most recent raids.

Ibrahim has been at the forefront of registering and recovering the missing children for UNICEF in South Sudan. So far, they have recovered 117 unaccompanied children in Jonglei, but they know the number will rise. She is also concerned with how violent these attacks and abductions have become.

New weaponry and military style raids in the area have increased the number of children abducted during these cattle raids.

“Before, even the abduction process itself was not violent,” she said. “Now, what brings a lot of protection concerns is the violence that is associated with the process…. They are using guns,” she said.

In late December, the Lou Nuer attacked Kakayo’s village. Local officials and members of the Murle say that 3,000 were killed, but the UN says the number is more likely in the hundreds.

Just weeks later, fighters from the Murle tribe launched attacks on the Lou Nuer in different towns, killing over a hundred people. This is why the fighters whom ABC News spoke with in the hospital in Juba want to retaliate.

The U.N. has reported that the number of people affected by the violence has doubled: first it was thought to be 60,000; now it’s more like 120,000. The U.N. has engaged a “massive emergency” response to get food and water to them.

A Culture of Cattle Raids and Child Abduction

While Ibrahim and other child protection agencies worry about the level of violence and the massive numbers of children becoming displaced, the Lou Nuer and the Murle people have thrived off these cattle raids and abductions.

In some cases, the children can be used for ransom payments and seen as a commodity to be exchanged for more cattle.

A 2010 Rift Valley Institute report for the U.N. documenting child abductions in Jonglei stated, “We learned that the youth abduct the children and then give them to the chiefs. The chiefs then sell out the children and give a portion of the sale in cattle to the youth.”

Abduction has become so engrained in the daily lives of these tribes, that Ibrahim says the children are often treated well by the “new” families who have bought the children.

“Even though they are sold, they are treated like children of the family. This is one of the reasons that there are not many children escaping,” she said.

Returning Home, But Possibility of Recapture

In rare occasions, the children can be recovered by South Sudan’s military, but mostly the children are reported missing and/or escape by themselves. Both government and other child protection services then have to sort out the legalities of returning the children back to their families.

“Right now there is a case of one child where 15 parents are claiming that this is their child,” said Ibrahim. “This happens when the child is abducted very young.”

Local officials in the town of Bor, Jonglei’s capital, have made attempts at bringing the tribe’s chiefs together to negotiate the return of children, but mostly it is coordinated through NGO programs.

When the children do return home, it is no guarantee of safety. Some children have escaped, only to be recaptured again.

Kakayo may have escaped the raid, but she has a long journey to recovery, and an even longer journey home. Doctors are unsure when she will be able to leave the hospital; they’re predicting months. But lying on her rug on the tile floor, not knowing if her mother and siblings are even alive, Kakayo tells the doctor in no uncertain terms that when she is well, she will go home to find them.

Briefing on Issues of Ongoing Concern in Sudan and South Sudan
US Department of State (press release)
I wanted to just bring everybody up to date on a number of issues that we’re following very closely related to Sudan and South Sudan. So let me discuss them briefly and then happy to take your questions about them. One of the issues that we are

Sudan: South Darfur IDP Camps Suffering Acute Water Shortages
South Darfur — The internally displaced persons camps in South Darfur are facing an acute shortage of drinking water. A camp resident said to Radio Dabanga, the shortage has emerged from the government reducing its share of fuel from seven barrels a

South Sudan signs pipeline deal with Kenya
Mail & Guardian Online
South Sudan signed an agreement with Kenya to build an oil pipeline to a Kenyan port, potentially freeing it from reliance on its northern neighbour Sudan, officials said on Wednesday. A memorandum of understanding was signed by Kenya and South Sudan

SOUTH SUDAN: Building a blood bank
JUBA, 25 January 2012 (IRIN) – A small fridge in the corner of Juba Teaching Hospital’s laboratory is the only blood bank in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation with some of the worst health statistics in the world. Health workers say a lack of

Sudan: South Darfur State witness protests against new governor
Sudan Tribune
January 24, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Protests erupted on Tuesday in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur State, as its newly appointed governor arrived to assume his duties. Eye witnesses told Sudan Tribune that the protestors were demonstrating against the

South Sudan: UNHCR Alarmed At Air Raid On Vulnerable Refugees in Nation
Juba — The UN refugee agency on Tuesday condemned an air attack earlier this week that left at least one Sudanese boy injured and 14 other refugees missing in South Sudan. “Bombing of civilian areas must be condemned in the strongest terms,” Mireille

South Sudan: New Country Torn By Old Conflicts
ABC News
Before the red dust could settle in South Sudan’s most recent tribal clashes, 11-year-old Kakayo had lost her father, and she has no idea where her mother and two siblings are. “When the attackers came, we ran into the bushes,” said Kakayo,

South Sudan: Police in Black Uniform Shut Down the Citizen for a Day
South Sudan Police in black uniform detained the chief technician, printer and electrician of The Citizen while they were coming to the printing press Monday night. The police unit of twelve men commanded by a second lieutenant intercepted the three

South Sudan: SPLM-DC Criticizes Government Closure of Pipeline
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Special Briefing

Ambassador Princeton Lyman
Special Envoy for Sudan
Via Teleconference
January 25, 2012

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Thank you very much. Thank you all for coming and being on the line. I wanted to just bring everybody up to date on a number of issues that we’re following very closely related to Sudan and South Sudan. So let me discuss them briefly and then happy to take your questions about them.

One of the issues that we are extremely concerned about is the situation in the states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. These are states in the Republic of Sudan; that is, the North. But a conflict has been raging there since last May, arising from issues never fully resolved in the civil war because people in those states, particularly in the Nuba Mountains, fought with the South. And though they remained in the North, their issues were to be resolved in a process called popular consultations. Those did not get finished and a conflict broke out. A very serious armed conflict broke out last year.

Now, what we are very concerned about right now is that there are predictions of a major humanitarian crisis in those areas, particularly Southern Kordofan. You know there’s this predictive mechanism called FEWS NET, the Famine Early Warning System Network. They – if you go on their website, you’ll see they have produced two maps, one the situation now – excuse me – and one predicting for March. By March, they feel that a large number of people, a quarter of a million or more, will be – will reach what they call emergency status, which is one short of famine. And this is very alarming to us.
We have strongly urged the Government of Sudan to allow international humanitarian aid – that is, World Food Program, UNICEF, et cetera – to come in, in all parts, across lines of whoever’s holding territory. They have refused to do so. They don’t want international involvement in this area, which they think is an internal matter and a conflict area. But we have been saying and saying to our African partners that we just can’t – the world can’t stand by and watch famine take place in an area, and know nothings being done.

So we’ve been working very hard, leading up the Africa Union meeting at the end of this month, to urge the Government of Sudan to open up international access and to do so soon. We’re under a lot of pressure if that doesn’t happen to look at other alternatives, but they all contain serious risks in doing so. So our preferred alternative – very far first alternative – is for the Government of Sudan to do this. The UN has made proposals to the government, but they haven’t been accepted yet.

The second issue that I would like to touch on is a – ongoing negotiation and dispute between Sudan and South Sudan over the distribution of oil revenues and financing. You’ll recall that after the secession of the South, 70 percent of the oil was in the South but all the infrastructure for exporting it – pipelines, et cetera – are in the North. So the two countries really are dependent on each other in the oil sector. It was also understood that when the North, now the Republic of Sudan, lost that much revenue there would be a transitional financial arrangement in which the South would ease that transition.

They’ve been negotiating and arguing over this for some time. The negotiations reached a very serious point in the last few weeks when the Republic of Sudan, in the North, began to divert Southern oil from the pipeline and to block ships with Southern oil from leaving the port, claiming this is a way to collect transit fees that they claim the South wasn’t paying. And they imposed a fee of $32 a barrel, which is quite high, for that.

After negotiations, which are still going underway, failed to reach an agreement, South Sudan said, okay, we’re going to shut off the oil, we’re going to start closing the wells, and we’ll suffer until we build a new pipeline through Kenya but we just can’t take this anymore; they’re stealing our oil.

It is a very bad situation, and both sides could get hurt very, very badly. The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel – this is the panel headed by Thabo Mbeki and former president of Burundi Pierre Buyoya and Nigerian former head of state General Abubakar – has been running negotiations on this in Addis. They’re working very hard. They’re very close to a proposal which should be able to reconcile the different interests and come up with a solution.

We’re very concerned that this negotiation succeed and before too much damage is done to the oil sector and the infrastructure, that the South feels that they can stop shutting off the production and go back to full production. So this is a quite urgent matter on which we are working very hard.

The third area I want to touch on is the situation in Jonglei. That’s a state in South Sudan. You’ll recall about two weeks ago there was a major conflict between two ethnic groups, the Lou Nuer and the Murle. There have been attacks back and forth between these groups over cattle, kidnapping of women and children, et cetera. And in this latest incident, 6,000 or so young Nuer marched on the Murle to regain the cattle, to regain the people who were kidnapped, and we feared a major massacre.

Fortunately, with the help of UNMIS, et cetera, the Murle were warned in the town of Pibor. Most of them left, and after some skirmishing and some people getting killed, perhaps several hundred, the young Nuer have started to go back. But now the Murle are undertaking revenge attacks.

In the meanwhile, the people who fled Pibor are displaced people in various towns, and we think more are in the bush. So the UN, USAID, humanitarian NGOs are all working to try and reach these people and get them humanitarian assistance.

This is a situation that demonstrates the tensions and traditional and otherwise that exist in South Sudan that have sort of – were set aside in the campaign for independence and the successful independence July 9th but now, coming to the surface, demonstrate how much the Government of South Sudan must do to improve both its security sector capabilities, but also its outreach to these communities and conflict resolution and development programs here and elsewhere in South Sudan.

So I wanted to touch on all three of those, because they are all very serious situations on which we have been working very heavily here and in the field and in our diplomacy, both in Europe, the Arab world, Africa, et cetera. So let me stop there and open it up. Happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and take a few questions from here in the room and then we’ll turn it over to the callers. Does anyone here in the room first have a question? Andy, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. On the issue of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan and the potential famine or food emergency, I’m wondering what you can tell us about the contingency planning, should Sudan continue to refuse access to aid groups. I understand that there has been some discussion of unilateral aid operations. Is that true? How is that possible without Sudanese Government approval? And how advanced are those – is that planning?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Well, we – right. We have said to the government in Khartoum for some time that we are feeling a lot of pressure if there’s no international access to look at ways in which assistance would be carried across the border without their approval. But we know there are a lot of risks to that. We know the government would be opposed to it. We have to look at the possibility of it, but we’ve made no decision to do that because it has a lot of complications.

But at the same time, we’re very worried about what happens if they don’t allow international assistance, so we continue to press heavily for international accepted assistance by the government even as we look with a good deal of apprehension at what alternatives might be possible.

QUESTION: And under that alternative plan, would that be something the U.S. is considering doing on its own, or is it something that the U.S. and neighbors are talking about?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: We haven’t reached that point yet, and so we’re not at a point where we could get into any details as to what is possible or not. But we do know that other countries are concerned, not necessarily engaged in the same kind of planning but very concerned about this humanitarian situation.

QUESTION: And just a final one on this, on this line. Is the AU meeting and whether or not the AU takes it up as a formal subject – is that a sort of a hard or soft deadline here, because you have only until March?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: It’s a very important date because if you want to do something by March, considering positioning of food, et cetera, it takes quite a while, several weeks, the humanitarian agencies say. So if the meeting doesn’t resolve this by the end of January, we’re going to be in a serious situation.

QUESTION: Ambassador Lyman, Rosalind Jordan of Al Jazeera English. Talk a little more about the political considerations around Khartoum’s refusal so far to allow outside interference. Why would it be to Khartoum’s benefit to not have outsiders intervening in this near-famine situation?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Well, of course, I can’t speak for the government, but the arguments that they have advanced to us on this are several. First of all, they say they’ve learned the lessons of Darfur; you let the international community in and the next thing you know, you’ve got a UN peacekeeping operation, you’re charged with human rights violations, there’s a peace process, and then, like Naivasha and the CPA, you lose part of your territory. So they say we’ve learned that lesson, we’re not going to do it again. That’s one line of argument.

The second is that they think the food will go to supporters of the SPLM and their North – the people they’re fighting, and therefore will prolong the conflict. So those two are the main reasons that they advance. They also deny that the situation is that serious, but we just have these predictions that are based on a lot of data.

QUESTION: And what are some of the environmental factors that may have led to this near-famine situation?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Two things in particular. The nature of the conflict – the Sudanese armed forces has done a great deal of bombing, and the bombing has hit the civilian population and has prevented them from planting this last year. It also forced many of them to live in caves rather than be able to tend their farms, et cetera. So they lost the planting season.

And second, because international access hasn’t been allowed, all the stocks that were there from the World Food Program, UNICEF, et cetera, are exhausted. So those two factors are the main ones.

There’s about 50,000 refugees in South Sudan and Ethiopia already from these two areas, but we see in these predictions a quarter of a million people or more who might be affected. This could be a major, major calamity. And for Africa, it seems to me this is something that shouldn’t be tolerated.

QUESTION: And does the U.S. have an assessment of whether this potential plan from the AU, from the Mbeki group, let’s call it, could actually work if some sort of resolution is reached between now and next Tuesday?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: I only have the general outlines of the proposal. They’re being presented today to the parties. But my information is that this proposal will address the basic concerns of the North and South; that is, how to assure that there’s enough oil for the refinery in the North, which is a major concern of theirs, and a prospect of this transitional assistance while recognizing that the South has a legitimate claim about all this diverted oil and that has to be costed, and that the fees for transit are – that there’s a mutual basis for determining those.

I haven’t seen the details of the proposal. We think it’s going to address all these things, and we hope once it’s on the table that both sides will refrain from these kind of unilateral steps.

Let me just say one more thing on the humanitarian issue, because I’ve told you what I think are the arguments from Sudan, but let me tell you the arguments we have advanced on the other side. We think it would look very bad for the Government of Sudan to deny international assistance when the world is watching and a major famine could take place. We don’t think this is in the interest of the Government of Sudan, it’s not in their interest in world opinion, it’s not in the interest of them as a protector of their own citizens. These are all their own citizens.

Second, we think that – and this goes beyond the immediate humanitarian situation – ultimately there has to be a political solution here. They have fought in the Nuba Mountains before during the civil war. It never ended. So it – there has to be eventually a political solution. Making the humanitarian gesture now may create an atmosphere for that, but the most important is for the government to recognize they have this responsibility and the world will respond positively if they say yes, we have this responsibility, we’ll bring in agencies that we can trust – World Food Program and UNICEF, and monitor – and have it monitored and do the right thing.

MODERATOR: Operator, do we have any reporters on the line who would like to ask a question?

OPERATOR: To ask a question at this time, please press *1, un-mute your phone, and record your name when prompted. To withdraw your request, you may press *2. Once again, to ask a question, please press *1. I currently show no questions at this time.

MODERATOR: Andy, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ve got another one. On the oil, on South Sudan’s decision to stop the oil production, in your view, how long can this go on? Number one, do you have any position on whether or not this was a wise bargaining move? Was this the right thing for them to do? Did they have any other option? And number two, how long can this go on before you start having very serious issues with the infrastructure and that it sort of really affects the viability of their finances?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: I’ve heard mixed reaction – responses to that question. There is some feeling that in just three and a half days after they shut down the wells, you will get into a situation which will be very costly and time-consuming to restore production. I’ve heard different assessments of the impact on the pipeline and the environmental damage, some predicting very serious damage and costs. Others are saying less so. I don’t have a firm feeling, but there is a general feeling that it’s going to be very costly.

Is it a good tactic? I was just in South Africa, as you know, Andy, and I was reminded that Nelson Mandela also often had to take the country to the brink but never crossed it, even in the most tense times. I think the Government of South Sudan was outraged and angry and took the situation to the brink, but I’m afraid in this they may be crossing over and costing themselves in the long run when they have so many development needs.

So I think I can understand the anger, I can understand the response, but I’m very worried that they go over the brink here and then have to pay a price that will hurt the people of South Sudan for a long period of time.

QUESTION: Well, both in this case with the oil fees and with the fighting between traditional groups, does this suggest that perhaps the new government isn’t quite capable of dealing with these very serious fundamental issues? And if it’s not fully capable, what can the U.S. do to support them to prevent things from going over the edge?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: I think the Government of South Sudan is faced with a number of challenges and still has a relatively thin layer of trained civil servants, professionalized military command and control systems, et cetera. And the country was so devastated by the civil war that there is just basic, basic development needs all throughout the country.

So I think the challenges are very great, and they must be able to dedicate their efforts, time, and resources to those demands. And that’s why getting a resolution of this issue and not losing their main source of revenue for the next couple years is vital if they’re going to be able to tackle this. And they’re going to need a lot of help. They’re going to need a lot of help to do this.

QUESTION: How is the U.S. prepared particularly to help them develop a revenue stream, since I would imagine that things such as property taxes that we have here in the U.S. aren’t as readily accessible for government operations?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Right now, oil provides 98 percent of the budget of South Sudan. And the other alternatives are still very, very underdeveloped. Most of the people live in the rural area. They’re poor. It’s not a commercialized agricultural sector. Even though there’s potential there, they import most of their food. So there isn’t really a solid tax base that can even begin at this point to compensate for the loss of oil revenue.

Now, we are helping, along with others, to develop agriculture. We had a big conference here called the South Sudan Engagement Conference, where we encouraged private sector investment. There was a lot of interest in it. I think over the longer term, they must diversify away from oil, but that’s going to take several years at best.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your – the tenor of your conversation with Khartoum these days. I mean, we have another report this morning that aircraft, presumably Sudanese aircraft, have bombed a refugee camp in South Sudan. This seems to be recurring practice. How are you reacting to that, and what’s your message to them? And are they – what are they telling you?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Well, we are concerned about this. This is the second bombing of a refugee camp in South Sudan. It violates all the rules regarding refugees. And we have raised that, raised that in the UN Security Council as well as with the government in Khartoum. Their reaction has been mixed on the first incident. I haven’t seen their reaction to this incident yesterday. But they went through a number of explanations on the last one, which – some of which were not credible, et cetera.

This is, again, as we’ve said to the government in Khartoum, an example of why this war is bad for everybody. And bombing South Sudan is only going to aggravate the situation. The Republic of Sudan claims that South Sudan is feeding this rebellion, and if that were stopped, the rebellion would end. That’s just not accurate. Even if there were assistance from the South, that isn’t what’s at the heart of this conflict.

So we’ve raised this very much with Khartoum. They haven’t appreciated our doing so, but we have. And we have continued to discuss with the Government of Sudan the importance of resolving the issues in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, that that these are getting in the way of our normalization process, and we’ll continue to have that dialogue.

QUESTION: You mentioned that you raised it at the Security Council. Do you think that this is something that – what would you want the Security Council to do, should these attacks continue? And does that risk complicating the bilateral issues? I mean, if you bring it into the Security Council, won’t that complicate the Sudan-South Sudan track?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Well, it can if the Government of Sudan sees it that way. One of the points that we have tried to convey is that we’re not doing these things just to be antagonistic to the Republic of Sudan. These are ways in which the two countries can be at peace, and that includes the Republic of Sudan. Having a war in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, still conflict in Darfur, trouble in the east – this isn’t providing a future for the people of the Republic of Sudan.

So when we raise these issues, et cetera, they see it often as antagonistic. We see it as, look, this is the pathway to the future of a peaceful Republic of Sudan. And sometimes we’re like ships crossing in the night, but that’s really the tenor of what we’re trying to say.

QUESTION: Given all of these problems that you’ve just discussed, are you concerned that the – sort of the victory that was the July independence declaration and all of the work that went into that is in danger of being unraveled, that the Sudan project is, in both cases, South and North, is really at risk of going right back off the rails now?

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: I don’t think either Sudan or South Sudan wants or intends to go back to full-scale war. I really – I’m almost totally convinced of that. That doesn’t mean that they have a good relationship at all and that there aren’t a lot of friction points on the border, over Abyei, over oil. And the relationship is bad. So there is a danger that things could get out of control, that incidents could lead to greater conflict. That’s why these issues are so terribly important, not only in and of themselves but to prevent exactly what you’re talking about. But I think both sides recognize that going back to full-scale war would be disastrous. So I think we still have to look upon that successful independence of the South as a great achievement and be thankful for it.

MODERATOR: Operator, we’ll go for one last chance and see if there are any calls in queue. Are there any calls in the queue right now?

OPERATOR: I show no questions.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, Operator. With that, I think we end our session. Thank you, Ambassador Lyman.

AMBASSADOR LYMAN: Well, I want to thank you all. These are issues that we think are of great importance for this – the Administration is heavily focused on these issues, and we hope that we can do everything we can to help resolve them. So thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

# # #

South Sudan, Kenya Governments Sign Accord to Build Oil Pipeline Via Lamu

Posted: January 25, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Economy

South Sudan and Kenya signed a memorandum of understanding to build an oil pipeline to the Kenyan port of Lamu, said Barnaba Marial Benjamin, a spokesman for South Sudan’s government.

Construction of the pipeline will begin “as soon as sources of funding are made available,” which should take about a month, Benjamin said in a phone interview today from the capital, Juba. The accord was signed yesterday.

Benjamin said the need for a new pipeline has taken on added urgency since South Sudan started on Jan. 22 to shut down oil production because Khartoum is confiscating its crude and demanding a transportation fee of $32 a barrel.

Juba has offered $1 a barrel. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said Jan. 23 that Sudan has “looted” $815 million worth of his country’s oil.

South Sudan took control of about three-quarters of Sudan’s output of 490,000 barrels a day when it gained independence in July. The crude is pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp (CNPZ)., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd.

Benjamin said Kenya and South Sudan have been discussing plans for a new pipeline over the past few years and have identified possible investors, including Toyota East Africa.

Negotiations between the two countries in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, have been extended until “some kind of agreement” is reached on how much landlocked South Sudan will pay to transport its oil across Sudan to the Red Sea, Benjamin said.

South Sudan says Sudan is seizing exports that pass through its territory to an export terminal on the Red Sea. Sudan says it is diverting the crude to cover unpaid bills.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jared Ferrie in Juba