Posts Tagged ‘robyn dixon’

South Sudan’s dreams slipping away already

Posted: March 21, 2012 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan
Tags: , ,

Dreams fading in South SudanA man collects water from the Nile in Juba, South Sudan. Many people arriving from the north set up temporary shelter along the riverbank. (Adriane Ohanesian, AFP/Getty Images / February 28, 2012
By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times

March 21, 2012, 5:32 p.m.

 
Reporting from Juba, South Sudan—
The nation’s creation last year was greeted with hope and celebration. Now residents see only corruption and an uncaring government.

With a gnarled hand, the elderly widow picks up a rock and taps it with another rock until it shatters. Then she tosses the pebbles into a small pile.

The tap-tap of stone on stone echoes like drips in a cave as women pound stones to pebbles in the blasting heat of Rock City, on the outskirts of Juba, capital of the new nation of South Sudan.

Davidka Clement made the long trek to Juba from her village a few years ago. She had heard that South Sudan, which fought for decades for independence from Sudan, would soon become an independent country with its own leaders, who would care about people like her.

The country became a reality in July, to momentous celebration, but it changed nothing for Clement or the other pebble women of Rock City. She sits in her small square of shade, beneath a shelter of sticks and plastic, pounding stones.

It takes 10 days to make a pile about two feet high, but there are many pebble sellers in Rock City and few buyers. Much of the business goes to a nearby quarry, where people buy gravel by the truckload for road building and construction.

Clement makes about $1 a day.

“There’s nothing,” she says. “What do you do? You just come and do your work. I go home, my body is in pain. I cry, but I come back.”

Freedom wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Long marginalized by the Sudanese government in Khartoum, the southern part of the country was one of the most destitute, least developed places on Earth, with just a few miles of paved road. But last year’s peaceful secession sparked a surge of hope among South Sudanese. With their own flag, their own government, their own oil, they would build a decent country.

Instead, the government has taken the well-worn path of many other rebels-turned-leaders. Corruption and nepotism are pervasive, public services are negligible, and on a recent visit to Juba there was more evidence of demolition than of reconstruction.

In January, the government suspended oil production, which accounts for 98% of its revenue, in a dispute with Sudan over transit fees for shipping crude through the north by pipeline.

The joy of independence is a distant memory. Austerity is the new refrain.

Clement reaches for another rock.

“I left everything and I came to the city because they were saying: ‘Government, government, government. They want to help the poor people who are suffering.’ That’s why I came here,” says Clement, who wears a ragged, grimy dress. “But the government doesn’t want to help.”

Juba has about 370,000 inhabitants and the exhilarating atmosphere of a place in a hurry, with hotels made of shipping containers and thrown-together humanitarian compounds on nearly every street. New roads unfurl across the landscape like runaway rolls of paper.

Hotels are full of chattering oil analysts, government advisors, workers for charitable organizations and freelance journalists, waiting expectantly, like birth attendants in a delivery room, to see whether the newborn will live or die.

The bustle cannot soften the bleakness of the place. Red dust makes every surface look rusty. Plastic water bottles lie heaped in gutters. Tick-infested dogs poke their noses into garbage piles, and women cook pancake-like breads over charcoal fires on the roadside.

On every corner, motorcycle taxis sit waiting for fares. The sickening thunk of a car colliding with a motorcycle is heard several times a day.

The promise of a better life in Juba, made possible by South Sudan’s oil money, drew not only Clement, but thousands of Kenyans and Ugandans. They work as drivers, cooks and waiters, serving beers and burgers to the army of aid workers who keep the country’s hospitals and schools running.

Even in the capital, the main hospital is scruffy and grim; in rural areas, schools and medical facilities are scarce.

With the government slow to open clinics in Juba, private ones have sprung up. On the edge of Rock City, a half-finished clinic looms above the street, with patients lined up on benches, waiting to see a doctor.

The prices in South Sudanese pounds are scrawled on the wall: Admission: £20 ($6.25) Consultation: £15 ($4.60) Blood sugar: £10 ($3.12) Ultrasound: £40 ($12.48).

Last year, Hassan Awule, head of the clinic, was full of optimism: He would build an operating theater, a pediatrics unit and a morgue. Today, his ambitions have shrunk and the second story of the clinic is just a shell.

He was realistic enough not to expect help from the government or aid agencies, but he believed that with oil, South Sudan’s economy would grow enough to employ people who could afford to use private clinics.

“Even this month, there’s a danger this business could collapse,” Awule says. He has just held a crisis meeting with his senior staff members to decide how to save it: Raise prices, lay off some of the 48 personnel or slash salaries.

“There’s not enough money coming in to pay the staff,” Awule says.

Then there’s the cost of basic services the government doesn’t provide: Water has to be trucked in, and electricity comes from noisy diesel generators.

Awule fears that conditions will deteriorate further with the suspension of oil production. Corruption is an equally serious problem, he says.

“The management has failed. They’ve taken [oil] for personal benefit. Some politicians have millions while other people have nothing. It’s wrong.”

At the Juba market nearby, people complain that the government is busy dismantling one of the few institutions that provide decent livelihoods.

The air rings with the sound of hammering, but it’s not the sound of creation. Muscled men with mallets are tearing apart shabby little shops with dirt floors and sheet-metal walls.

Dust from the demolition rises like smoke. Dried corn and beans are scattered like confetti in the skeleton of one shop. When a women rescues a wooden box, a large spider scuttles away and crawls into a crack in the wall, but it won’t escape the demolition for long.

The government says it is upgrading the place, but shopkeepers say it’s just a pretext to kick them out and put officials’ friends in a rebuilt market.

“They say this is fourth-class,” says welder Wami Martin, 47, standing in the ruins of the shop he ran for 13 years, now reduced to twisted metal and broken planks. “They did not say what class they want it to be. We don’t know if they want it to be second- or third-class, but they want it to be built out of concrete and zinc sheet.”

Like most of the other shopkeepers, Martin has only a temporary ownership document and no money to rebuild to the government standard.

“What I fear is that land has become big business. Government officials can take the land and rent it out to other people. It’s happened many times. Our worry is that we might not get back our land.”

A tall man wearing sunglasses eavesdrops conspicuously on Martin’s complaints. The conversation ends.

In Rock City, Davidka Clement sits with eight big piles of pebbles, waiting for customers.

Looking back on her life, all she remembers is work. She started as a child, carrying water and making food. None of the girls in her village went to school. They all worked.

She is surprised to learn that not every woman worked as a girl.

“Didn’t your mother show you how to do those things?” she asks incredulously, pounding on a rock.

She talks of her marriage to a man chosen by her parents, and of her 10 children, all of whom, she says, either died or left home.

She strikes the rock harder.

“I wish the government would look at me as someone who’s poor and ask me to come and do some work, so I can survive,” she says.

“We have our new country, yes. But if you stay without work, it’s no good.”

robyn.dixon@latimes.com

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-south-sudan-rock-city-20120322,0,954321,full.story

South Sudan’s dreams slipping away already

Los Angeles Times -‎
The nation’s creation last year was greeted with hope and celebration. Now residents see only corruption and an uncaring government. A man collects water from the Nile in Juba, South Sudan. Many people arriving from the north set up temporary shelter 
Daily Monitor -‎
By Machel Amos (email the author) Major international companies are in South Sudan for a three-day submit aimed a showcasing the new country’s investment potentials. At the conference, which started on Tuesday and will continue until Friday, 
Business Daily Africa
Co-operative Bank House along Nairobi’s Haile Selasie Avenue in Nairobi. The bank, which follows in the footsteps of KCB, and Equity into Africa’s newest state will spend at least Sh860 million to buy a 70 per cent stake in a bank to be opened in Juba, 
Ahram Online – ‎
South Sudan is planning to build about half a dozen hydropower and thermal power plants to help end almost permanent blackouts across the country and attract investment to manufacturing industries, an electricity official said on Wednesday.
Business Daily Africa – ‎Mar 20, 2012‎
Photo/File KCB headquarters in Nairobi: South Sudan accounted for 80 per cent of profits generated by Kenyan banks’ subsidiaries in Juba. By GEORGE NGIGI (email the author) The South Sudan market accounted for 80 per cent of profits generated by KCB’s 
Sudan Tribune –
March 21, 2012 (JUBA) — The newly independent Republic of South Sudan is set to receive a $9m grant from the World Bank as part of efforts to enhance job creation and increase access to finance for entrepreneurs, particularly youth and women, 
Bikya Masr – ‎Mar 20, 2012‎
CAIRO: The Under Secretary for Investment in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment, Simon Nyang Anei announced that South Sudan will host an investor conference in Juba later this month. He made the announcement at a press conference in 

South Sudan's decision to shut off its oil wells in a dispute with Sudan has sparked fears of economic hardship and war.A policeman has patrol duty at Petrodar, a consortium responsible for oil production in South Sudan. The South Sudanese government has shut off its oil wells in a dispute with Sudan. (Hannah McNeish, AFP/Getty Images /February 16, 2012
The move stems from a dispute over Sudan’s oil transit fees. South Sudanese say they are prepared for hardship, but outsiders warn it could mean another war.
By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles TimesFebruary 16, 2012,
Reporting from Juba, South Sudan— 
To outsiders, the move appears suicidal, a recipe for ruining the economy and possibly returning to war.But on the streets of Juba, the capital of South Sudan, the decision to turn off the flow from oil wells that produce 98% of the government’s revenue has triggered bursts of defiance and national pride.”The oil was shut down because it’s our oil. We need our rights,” said truck driver Nimeiry Thomas, 30, his face dripping with sweat in Juba’s Konyo Konyo market.One of the world’s poorest countries, South Sudan made the move last month in an escalating dispute with northern neighbor Sudan, from which it seceded in July. South Sudan took with it about three-quarters of the former country’s oil reserves, but the only route to market is a pipeline that runs across Sudan.Since the secession, the two countries have continued to quarrel over issues that include borders and the transit fees Sudan charges to get the South’s oil to market. South Sudan’s decision to shut off the oil seriously damages both countries’ economies and has stirred fear of renewed fighting. Both presidents talk openly of war.None of that appears to have damped the mood in Juba. Among government ministers, citizens and soldiers, the talk is of a willingness to endure what it takes to break the hated economic lifeline through Sudan. They survived a 22-year civil war with the north, they say, and they are prepared to suffer again for what they see as their rightful share of the oil wealth.”Every time people dismissed us, every single battle, we have won,” declared Pagan Amum, the country’s chief negotiator on the oil dispute, his eyes flashing.

The country is united, he said. “The South Sudanese will rally around their government. South Sudan is going to emerge as a strong nation in this region with a strong economy.”

Outside experts are not so sure. They warn that once the shutoff begins to bite, life will get even worse in a country where half the people live in poverty and three-quarters are illiterate. There is concern that parents will no longer be able to afford school fees for the trickle of uniformed children plying the dirt roads on their way to class. Food and medicine will be harder to come by.

Alex Vines, an analyst with the London-based think tank Chatham House, said north and south have peered into the abyss and eventually will strike a deal. “But there is a danger that the brinkmanship could result in unintended hostilities,” he said.

The African Union, as well as countries such as Britain and energy-hungry China, which gets about 6% of its oil from South Sudan, are trying to broker a settlement. The focus is on setting an agreed transit price for shipping the oil out of South Sudan through the north’s pipeline.

So far, they are not even close. Talks foundered last month after Khartoum took over ships loaded with South Sudan oil, seizing $850 million worth, to cover its claim for a $36-a-barrel transit fee. South Sudan, willing to pay $1 a barrel (which is close to the global norm), called the seizures theft.

The two countries signed a nonaggression agreement Feb. 10 that is supposed to keep the peace until a broader solution is found. But the pact was broken within hours.

Estimates of how long the government’s monetary reserves will last vary wildly, from a few months to perhaps half a year. Government officials promise to give priority to health, education and the army with the 2% of its revenue that remains.

And the government says it has ambitious long-term plans to overcome the crisis: build an alternative pipeline through Djibouti or Kenya (estimated to cost at least $3 billion and take several years), build its own refineries, develop agriculture, mine other resources, cut government waste, reduce the civil service and collect more taxes.

Riek Reath, a 26-year-old soldier, bristles with the defiance that characterizes the country. He became a bush fighter against the northerners when he was 10; he now has a crisp new uniform, boots that display barely a speck of dust and a private’s salary of $215 a month.

“I’d keep working for nothing, even if we don’t get our salary,” he said. “I’ll live like I did when I started, when I didn’t have money.

“People can still eat. People can still survive. We can share with people.”

One Western observer in Juba questioned how deep that sense of solidarity actually goes.

“It’s one thing to say with a lot of bravado that ‘We have gone without in the past,'” the observer said. “In the past, they lived off the people and if the people didn’t give willingly, they took it.”

The long civil war killed more than 2 million people, traumatized survivors and left much of South Sudan in ruins. A peace agreement reached in 2005 set the country on the road to independence, but many questions went unresolved. Still, it held a referendum on independence in January 2011 and seceded months later.

The new country relies on aid organizations to run clinics and its few schools. The United States contributed $400 million last year. An international trust fund has disbursed $500 million of a promised $2 billion. Its main economic hope is oil, most of it lying near the dividing line between the two rivals.

Analysts in Juba say that the African Union, Sudan and others underestimated South Sudan’s anger over Khartoum’s oil seizures and the fledgling country’s determination to end long-term interdependence with a hostile northern neighbor, even at a cost of several years of pain.

The country was nursing other grievances, as well: Juba had watched Khartoum occupy the disputed oil-rich border region of Abyei, ignoring a 2009 arbitration ruling that divided the land. South Sudan also accuses Khartoum of cheating during the five years after the peace agreement, when they were supposed to share oil revenue. Only when it shut down the wells last month did South Sudan realize there were many more pumping oil than Khartoum had said there were.

The World Bank says South Sudan’s shutdown will hurt both sides.

Alex de Waal, who advises the African Union mediation team, wrote that the move had set an “economic doomsday machine” in motion, and that the conflict could reignite the civil war.

South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, warned recently that if the conflict over the border and other issues are not settled along with the oil dispute, a new war could break out. Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir told state television, “The climate now is closer to a climate of war than one of peace.”

South Sudanese journalist Mayom Nyok expressed fear that the north would send militia groups to occupy the oil fields.

Welder Stephen Jada, sitting outside his metal shop as dusk fell and motorcycles buzzed by like mosquitoes, is concerned that with the country’s oil income drying up, no one will buy the bed frames he has stacked for sale.

A year ago, on the cusp of independence, he had grand hopes. Now he worries about how he will pay school fees, or anything else. “Who will buy these things?” he asked, gesturing at his inventory.

Yet the decision to shut down production is surprisingly popular.

“We’ll have to go back to agriculture to survive,” said Sandia Martin, 30, an accounting student and market stall owner. “The people of South Sudan were not really benefiting from the oil, so it’s better to shut it down.”

robyn.dixon@latimes.com

Crude Prices Push Higher
Wall Street Journal
By DAVID BIRD NEW YORK—US crude-oil futures settled at a seven-week high, while North Sea Brent traded near an eight-month high as buyers scrambled to line up alternative supplies amid outages in Yemen, South Sudan and worries about near-term flows 
South Sudan struggles to keep promises to citizens
Vatican Radio
Sudan said it would resume talks over oil transit fees with South Sudan in the next two weeks after the two sides failed to reach a deal in the latest round of negotiations. The African Union’s security council yesterday appealed to the two nations to 
In South Sudan, oil shutoff is a matter of national pride
Los Angeles Times
The move stems from a dispute over Sudan’s oil transit fees. South Sudanese say they are prepared for hardship, but outsiders warn it could mean another war. A policeman has patrol duty at Petrodar, a consortium responsible for oil production in South 
South Sudan anti-corruption investigation drive is on track but
Sudan Tribune
By Isaiah Abraham February 15, 2012 — There have been reports in the media about corruption allegations and counter allegations against senior South Sudan politicians. This came about whenSouth Sudan Auditor’s General Report for 2005-2006 qualified 
UNICEF, Gender ministry to develop child protection strategy
Sudan Tribune
By Julius N. Uma February 16, 2012 (JUBA) — South Sudan’s ministry of gender, child and social welfare in collaboration with United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday resolved to develop a framework for strategic plans on child protection in 
Residents Warned On Sudan-Uganda Bombs
AllAfrica.com
By Alex Otto, 15 February 2012 Lamo — The Danish Demining Group in Uganda and Mine Action inSouth Sudan have revealed that the two countries’ border areas are still unsafe for human settlement and other activities as they harbour unexploded ordnances.
From Fargo to Africa: Gathering supplies to help girls in Sudan go to school
In-Forum
FARGO – Deb Dawson’s life would have been much easier if she’d never traveled to South Sudanin 2007 and seen the needs of the people there. In subsequent trips to the area, one concern in particular haunted her: how the orphaned Sudanese girls quit 
Amnesty International calls for humanitarian access to South Kordofan and Blue 
Sudan Tribune
The UN estimates that since the conflict started in Blue Nile in early September 2011 26400 refugees from South Kordofan moved to South Sudan’s Unity State, 78605 from Blue Nile moved to Upper Nile state, and 25256 Sudanese refugees have arrived in 
South Sudan Faces 470000-Ton Grain Deficit, Food Insecurity
Bloomberg
South Sudan faces a grain shortfall of 470000 metric tons this year, close to half the country’s total consumption, that will make more people food insecure, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization forecast. Cereal output in 2011 fell 19 
South Sudan mired in tribal conflict
France 24
Last July, the world’s youngest country, South Sudan, peacefully seceded from Sudan. Today, women and children are being killed and thousands of cattle stolen as the new country falls prey to inter-ethnic violence. In December, between 6000 and 8000 
South Sudan wants Kenya to mediate in Abiyei
The Star
South Sudan government wants Kenya to mediate in the conflict between South Sudan and its northern neighbour Sudan over Abiyei and Kadugli border areas. Chief South Sudan Presidential Advisor Joseph Lagu said that Kenya being one of the leading African 

AllAfrica.com
London — Amnesty International (AI) has welcomed the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) call forSudanese government and rebels from Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) to allow humanitarian groups access to the border states of South Kordofan ..

Fear and Hunger in Border Region Between Sudans
AllAfrica.com
By Arne Doornebal, 17 February 2012 Refugees who fled Sudan for 
South Sudan have been moved dozens of kilometres further from the border, after four bombs fell near a refugee camp in El Foj last month. The refugees are lacking food while there are