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Crisis Briefing: Restless South Sudan

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South Sudan with capital Juba is a country in northeastern Africa. Young state has a population over 11 million people with diverse ethnicity of 18 ethnic groups.Among the largest ethnic groups are Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk. Unlike the predominantly Muslim population of Sudan, the South Sudanese follows traditional religions, while a minority is Christians. South Sudan has six neighboring countries and is divided into ten states.

After independence on July 9 2011 country had no internal capacity to build all of the institutions that takes to build a successful state. Following several decades of civil war with Sudan, industry and infrastructure in South Sudan are severely underdeveloped and poverty is widespread. Between 1955 and 2005, Sudan and South Sudan experience conflict and war for all but few years. Relationship between countries is of special importance since South Sudan relies on pipelines, refineries and Port Sudan’s facilities in Red Sea in Sudan.South Sudan has the third largest oil reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa and it is estimated that 75% of all the former Sudan’s oil reserves are in South Sudan. There are still conflicts between two mentioned countries. Beside oil dispute there is also ongoing border dispute in the region of Abyei, over land. South Kordofan and Darfur are still open topics. Oil production in South Sudan and its dependence on oil has an impact on the economic situation.

It is acknowledgeable that South Sudan has some of the worst health indicators in the world. More than half of the population lives below the poverty line. Based on The Fund for Peace and itsFragile states index, country was the most fragile state in the world in 2014. The youngest country in the world has suffered internal conflicts since its independence.Fighting started on 15 December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his ex-vice president, Riek Machar of an attempted coup. Conflict spiraled out of control and spread across the country.Machar assumed leadership of “rebellion” and the army split as clashes occurred around the country.Violence began along ethnic lines, but the dynamics are very complicated.The political crisis and the break-up of security forces affected states in South Sudan in different ways. Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile and Central Equatoria (Juba County) have seen the worst of the fighting. In Lakes and Warrap States were and still are thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs). In the other four remaining states there was no fighting and only small numbers of IDPs. It is sad and frustrating that South Sudan, with catastrophic humanitarian crisis and civil war does not even hit the headlines anymore.

Since the fighting started tens of thousands of people have been killed, and more than 1, 5 million are IDPs. According to World Food Program (WPF) 2, 5 million people in country urgently need food. Based on World Health Organization (WHO) life expectancy in the country is only 55 years. There are also a lot of refugees in and outside the country. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that more than 500,000 individuals have crossed the borders to seek refuge in neighboring countries. The number of refugees in the country is 259,232. Amnesty International and other international organizations reported of systematic and widespread human rights violations. There is also no accountability for crimes and atrocities. Children are forcibly recruited on both sides of the conflict. Furthermore, sexual and gender-based violence is constantly reported. The legacy of civil war and chronic underdevelopment impact heavily on the ability of the new state to provide basic services and respond to humanitarian needs, rendering communities vulnerable to the effects of insecurity, displacement, food shortages, outbreaks of disease and seasonal floods.

There are different options or courses of action that should be considered in order to resolve problems in South Sudan. We have seen negotiations and mediation in South Sudan but they do not reflect the diversity of armed groups and interests in the country and region. In 2014 Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) began mediating a political dispute between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) which escalated into an armed conflict between forces loyal to President Kiir and those loyal to Riek Machar. East African sub-regional body began mediating between the government of South Sudan and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in Opposition (SPLA/M-IO). A cessation of hostilities agreement was signed in January 2014 and also on 9 May, but fighting continued. In June negotiations was broadened to include other stakeholder groups. IGAD leaders further authorized the IGAD region to intervene directly in South Sudan to protect life and restore peace. To date, there is no agreement between the fighting parties. The conflict cannot be resolved by engaging only two of the nearly two-dozen armed groups in the country and ignoring groups that had not yet engaged in fighting. There is a nationwide trend of fragmentation of armed groups.

In order to reach peace in South Sudan African Union (AU) established a Commission of inquiry in March 2014. The commission was given three month mandate to investigate human rights violations and other abuses during the armed conflict. Report that still has not been made public is an assurance of accountability for crimes and atrocities. The body decided not to release the report because it feared that its publication would disrupt peace negotiations.

The UN Security Council in December 2013 approved an increase in the military strength of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to 12,500 troops and 1323 police personnel. The focus of UNMISS is on protection of civilians, monitoring and investigating human rights, humanitarian assistance and supporting the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement. After failed talks in March this year the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution to impose sanctions on any party that disrupts efforts to restore peace in South Sudan.

Civil war and conflicts have disrupted agriculture and food production. More than seven million people are put at risk of hunger and disease. Humanitarian organizations do not have access to all people in need. There were even reports of obstructing UN mission UNMISS in the country and that puts even greater risk to stability and peace. No free access to lands and the plant corps because of fear of violence has a negative impact on every aspect of the country.

What needs to be done in South Sudan? There is an urgent need for humanitarian assistance and adequate funding. Agreements which were signed in January and in May must be respected by both parties – Government of South Sudan and opposition – SPLM/A-IO. All fighting groups must be considered. Violence against civilians must stop. Crisis Group recommends national dialog, a new constitution, credible elections, addressing the root causes and redefining relations between the state and its citizens. Despite the wealth of natural resources, especially oil, water, gold, silver, iron ore and copper South Sudan remain one of the poorest countries in the world. Problems related to livelihoods, economic development, lack of basic services and extremely weak infrastructure need to be addressed. Due to lack of maintenance, qualified staff, equipment, medicine, medical centers and schools barley function. A new approach is required from UN Security Council. An arms embargo should be posed. There should be an examination of sources that fund the war and actions that will enable leaders from using oil revenues to fund further conflicts. Engagement with the wider community is needed. China is the largest investor and buyer of South Sudan’s oil, and some of the 700 troops of its troops are in the UN peacekeeping force. USA and Washington played a key role in winning independence from Khartoum in 2011. USA and China should persuade Uganda and Sudan to de-escalate the conflicts and pressure their South Sudanese allies to work toward agreements that will enable further development and peace.Cross-border activities should be reduced. So far two agreements to end hostilities have been signed, but the fighting still continues. The one scheduled in March did not come to a light but we hope negotiations will bring more results in the future. Establishment of the hybrid court system with international assistance and independent investigations is needed. There can be no reconciliation without accountability.

Teja Palko is a Slovenian writer. She finished studies on Master’s Degree programme in Defense Science at the Faculty of Social Science at University in Ljubljana.

Africa

African Union’s Inaction on Ethiopia Deplorable – Open Letter

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The crisis in northern Ethiopia has resulted in millions of people in need of emergency assistance and protection. © UNICEF/Christine Nesbitt

A group of African intellectuals says in an open letter that it is appalled and dismayed by the steadily deteriorating situation in Ethiopia. The letter, signed by 58 people, says the African Union’s lack of effective engagement in the crisis is deplorable. The letter calls on regional bloc IGAD and the AU to “proactively take up their mandates with respect to providing mediation for the protagonists to this conflict”.

The letter also asks for “all possible political support” for the AU’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, whose appointment was announced on August 26, 2021. A United Nations Security Council meeting on the same day welcomed the former Nigerian president’s appointment.

Earlier in August 2021, UN  chief Antonio Guterres appealed for a ceasefire, unrestricted aid access and an Ethiopian-led political dialogue. He told the council these steps were essential to preserve Ethiopia’s unity and the stability of the region and to ease the humanitarian crisis. He said that he had been in close contact with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and had received a letter from the leader of the Tigray region in response to his appeal. “The UN is ready to work together with the African Union and other key partners to support such a dialogue,” he said.

August 26, 2021 was only the second time during the conflict that the council held a public meeting to discuss the situation. Britain, Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway and the United States requested the session.

Fighting between the national government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front broke out in November 2020, leaving millions facing emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity, according to the United Nations. Both sides have been accused of atrocities.

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Africa

Africa: The G20 Must Recommit to Covax

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It is one year since the international community gave its backing to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility to lead a worldwide effort to end the acute phase of the pandemic. The initiative aimed to ensure that every country, and not just those with sufficient money or resources, could access life-saving vaccines once they became available. As G20 health ministers prepare to meet in Rome on September 5-6, they are in a position to ensure that COVAX fulfills its mission.

A year ago, no one knew when or even if it might be possible to develop a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19, let alone the 20 that are available today. But since making its first international deliveries in February, COVAX a partnership established by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has delivered more than 235 million vaccine doses to 139 countries, and expects to deliver another billion doses in the fourth quarter. Only China, India, and the United States have delivered more. This start to the largest and most complex vaccine rollout in history has given hope to millions of people and laid solid foundations for how we respond to future pandemics.

Yet, so much more could, and should, have been achieved by now. It is unacceptable that only 1.8% of people in low-income countries have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 82% in high- and upper-middle-income countries. This shocking inequality is as economically senseless as it is destructive to human life, with the latest estimate of the cost of the slow rollout amounting to $2.3 trillion.

The world was woefully unprepared for a pandemic, and this is reflected in the challenges COVAX has faced. By the time initial funding arrived, wealthy countries had already locked up early vaccine supplies. Export bans affecting key suppliers, and difficulties experienced by many manufacturers in scaling up production to the required level, also undermined COVAX’s ability to access doses early.

Given increasing global vaccine inequity and the rise of new, more contagious coronavirus variants, we must put these challenges behind us. Thanks to the support of almost all G20 governments, alongside that of foundations and private businesses, COVAX has now raised nearly $10 billion and secured more than 600 million donated doses. All the preparations are in place for the most comprehensive vaccination effort that the world has seen.

Based on the committed orders COVAX has placed with vaccine manufacturers and the additional donations, hundreds of millions of new doses should now be available each month. We need to make sure they reach poorer countries and get into people’s arms. To avoid further delays, and for the facility to succeed, we need support from G20 leaders in four key areas.

First, we need doses, and we need them now. The premise of COVAX was always that the facility should be able to negotiate and buy its own doses. With our early vaccine access compromised, donations have played a vital role in maintaining our ability to keep doses flowing to those most in need. Of the 600 million doses pledged to COVAX to date, 100 million have now been delivered. We need more, and soon, with longer shelf lives and greater certainty so that recipient countries have time to plan their rollout. This can be achieved without jeopardizing high-income countries’ national vaccination efforts.

We also need G20 leaders to support our call for transparency. COVAX has legally binding agreements with manufacturers for more than four billion doses, but has all too often faced delays in accessing them. Without greater clarity regarding firms’ order books, it is impossible to know whether these holdups are due to production challenges or preferential treatment for bilateral arrangements. Insisting that manufacturers are transparent about their order timelines can ensure a level playing field where no one particularly those living in developing countries gets bumped to the back of the vaccine queue because of another bilateral deal.

In addition to ensuring that manufacturers keep their commitment to COVAX, governments should make global vaccine access their highest priority. Countries with pending orders for doses that they currently do not need should allow COVAX to take their place in the queue so that we can get doses to needy countries now.

Finally, lower-income countries require continued financial and technical support for their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. Strengthening national health systems will help these countries to ensure delivery of doses and mitigate the pandemic’s secondary effects, and will leave in place infrastructure critical to future global health security.

By recommitting to COVAX, G20 leaders will recommit to a multilateral solution that builds on the astounding scientific progress of the past year. Based on COVAX’s latest forthcoming supply forecast, when topped up with doses through bilateral deals, equitable COVID-19 vaccine access can protect up to 60% of the adult population in 91 lower-income countries. This would represent a huge step toward the WHO target of 70%, which is needed to suppress the coronavirus everywhere, and COVAX represents the best opportunity to achieve it.

Failure would mean more lives lost, broken health-care systems, even deadlier and more transmissible variants, and a pandemic with no end in sight. The G20 must not allow that to be an option.

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Africa

More African Countries Register Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine

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Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is a specialized technical institution of the African Union (AU) that strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions as well as partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes.

During the outbreak of the coronavirus, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), was established by African Union, as a component in support of the Africa Vaccine Strategy and was endorsed by the AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government on 20th of August 2020.

Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), has emphasized: “Africa has to team up with development partners to achieve its 60% continent-wide vaccination in the next two years. I think that is why we should as a collective of the continent, and of course, in partnership with the developed world make sure that Africa has a timely access to vaccines to meet our vaccination targets.”

An official media release in February 2021, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team from the African Union (AU) informed that Russia would supply and deliver 300 million Sputnik V vaccines to Africa. That step was intended to support African countries to attain their targeted immunization of 60% of the population by the year-end. That vaccine story disappeared, but instead what become so common is the speedy registration of Sputnik V on bilateral basis in various African countries.

According to the latest, Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. The use of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine has been approved in Nigeria, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in an official statement.

“The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund) announces the approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control of Nigeria (NAFDAC). Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. Total population of all countries, where Sputnik V is approved for use, now exceeds 3.7 billion people, which is nearly half of the global population,” the statement said.

“Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, and the approval of Sputnik V will provide for using one of the safest and most effective vaccines in the world. Sputnik V is based on a proven human adenoviral vectors platform and is successfully used in over 50 countries. Approval in Nigeria will make an important contribution to the country’s fight against the pandemic,” CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev said.

Besides Nigeria, other African countries have registered Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Reportedly, the vaccine has been registered in Algeria, Angola, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Tunisia, the Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe.

Russia’s drive to share Sputnik V vaccine, of course, offers a chance to raise its image and strengthen alliances in Africa. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has made efforts promoting the vaccine using all its channels. But supply and delivery have largely lagged behind, the pledges have simply not been fulfilled. Russian authorities have oftentimes said that they would step up efforts for fruitful cooperation in combating coronavirus in Africa.

Promising more than can be delivered appears to be a universal problem with coronavirus vaccines, and it is a real risk for Russia as well, said Theresa Fallon, Director of the Brussels-based Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies. “They have won the gold medal for creating this very effective vaccine,” she said. “But the problem is how are they going to implement production and delivery?”

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), with profit motivation, has attempted supplying the Russian vaccines through, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, from the Monarch family and a third party in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to a number of African countries. For instance, the Republic of Ghana reportedly signed US$64.6 million contract for Sputnik V vaccine from Russia through Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum. It was double the price from the producer as reported in the media.

On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin has noted, in a speech early September, that advanced countries that produce vaccines against the coronavirus do little to protect humanity from the pandemic.

“The benefits of vaccination are enjoyed mostly by advanced economies. The bulk of the vaccines is made there, and it is used to protect their own population. But very little is being done to protect humanity in the broad sense,” Putin said at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, the Far East of Russia. “This is very bad for the producers, because all this boomerangs around the globe. For instance, in Africa the level of protection with vaccines is minimal, but contacts with the African countries continue. There is no getting away from this. This infection will return again and again.”

According to an official release obtained late February, the Sputnik V vaccine the following advantages:

• Efficacy of Sputnik V is 91.6% as confirmed by the data published in the Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals; It is one of only three vaccines in the world with efficacy of over 90%; Sputnik V provides full protection against severe cases of COVID-19. 

• The Sputnik V vaccine is based on a proven and well-studied platform of human adenoviral vectors, which cause the common cold and have been around for thousands of years. 

• Sputnik V uses two different vectors for the two shots in a course of vaccination, providing immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery mechanism for both shots. 

• The safety, efficacy and lack of negative long-term effects of adenoviral vaccines have been proven by more than 250 clinical studies over two decades. 

• The developers of the Sputnik V vaccine are working collaboratively with AstraZeneca on a joint clinical trial to improve the efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine. 

• There are no strong allergies caused by Sputnik V. 

• The price of Sputnik V is less than $10 per shot, making it affordable around the world. 

In February, peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet published an analysis from Phase III clinical trial of the Russian vaccine, showing its 91.6-percent efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19. The Sputnik V vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

Sputnik V was registered in Russia on August 11, 2020 as the world’s first officially registered coronavirus vaccine. Russian vaccines have advantages as no deaths have been reported after vaccination with the Sputnik V, Alexander Gintsburg, Director of the Gamaleya Center, the vaccine developer, said and was reported by TASS News Agency. “As of today, no deaths after vaccination with Sputnik V have been registered,” he said.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) is Russia’s sovereign wealth fund established in 2011 to make equity co-investments, primarily in Russia, alongside reputable international financial and strategic investors. RDIF acts as a catalyst for direct investment in the Russian economy. RDIF’s management is based in Moscow.

In Africa, during first of September, the coronavirus-related death toll has topped 196,190, while more than 6.9 million recoveries have been reported. South Africa accounts for a majority of coronavirus cases and deaths across Africa – 2,777,659 and 82,261 respectively. The death toll in Tunisia climbed to 23,451, and 664,034 cases have been confirmed. Egypt recorded 16,736 deaths and 288,441 coronavirus cases.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia is ranked second to South Africa (308,134 cases and 4,675 deaths) and is followed by Kenya (235,863 cases and 4,726 deaths) and Nigeria (191,805 and 2,455). The total number of COVID-19 cases has reached almost 8 million in Africa, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa.

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