South Africa takes sides in South Sudan

Simon Allison 

South African William Endley (left) arrives for his trial in Juba, where he was found guilty of treason. (Stefanie Glinski/AFP)

NEWS ANALYSIS 

Last week, a South African citizen was sentenced to death in a courtroom in Juba.

But what exactly was William Endley, a former career officer in the South African army —in both its pre- and post-1994 iterations — doing in South Sudan to begin with?

His family, and his defence lawyers, insist that Endley was a peacekeeper, and had been tasked with reintegrating rebel soldiers into the South Sudanese military. But South Sudan’s government tells a very different story.

They say Endley was training those rebels to fight against the government and the court agreed, convicting him of treason.

Not that too much store can be set by the opinion of a South Sudanese court. Rule of law in the country has almost entirely broken down, and an independent judiciary exists only on paper.

Take it from Kukurlopita Marino Pitia, a Supreme Court judge who said in his resignation letter in November: “The independence of the judiciary in the Republic of South Sudan has become a mockery.”

Given this context, the near-complete silence from the South African government on Endley’s case is hard to explain. Endley is a South African citizen, about to be executed in a foreign land after being convicted in a kangaroo court, and his government is doing nothing publicly to support him.

Whether he is or is not a mercenary is beside the point: as a South African, he is entitled to a fair trial and South Africa should be insisting that no one executes him before he gets one. But the South African government is playing its own dodgy games in South Sudan, which may explain its reluctance to criticise President Salva Kiir and his administration.

Recently, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula concluded a memorandum of understanding with her opposite number in Juba, Kuol Manyang Juuk. He oversees the army,  which is implicated in some of the most brutal human rights violations of the 21st century.

“There is sufficient evidence to conclude that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, both factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition, as well as the armed groups that support the parties to the conflict, are deliberately targeting civilians on the basis of their ethnic identity and by means of killings, abductions, rape and sexual violence, as well as the destruction of villages and looting. These acts constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity,” concluded a recent report of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

These war crimes were not enough to deter Mapisa-Nqakula from visiting Juba, nor did they elicit any condemnation from her. And they did not prevent the signing of the memorandum of understanding, which envisages that the South African and South Sudanese armies will conduct joint military exercises, training and capacity building, according to the minister.

The exact text of the memorandum of understanding has not been made public, and the Mail & Guardian’s requests to see it went unacknowledged by the ministry of defence and military veterans.

Regardless of the details, the minister’s visit to Juba served as a resounding endorsement of the South Sudanese government. So, too, did the warm welcome extended in January to Kiir, who visited Pretoria for three days, meeting with former president Jacob Zuma and then-deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa is South Africa’s special envoy to South Sudan.

On the other hand, Pretoria’s approach towards South Sudan’s opposition has been the opposite of friendly. As the M&G reported last year, opposition leader Riek Machar is under house arrest in a farmhouse just outside Johannesburg. His passport has been confiscated and he is under 24-hour guard, even though there is no legal basis for his detention.

Other opposition figures have regularly complained about a perceived bias against them from South Africa.

This disparity in the treatment meted out towards the government and the opposition makes a mockery of South Africa’s involvement in South Sudan’s drawn-out peace talks. Mediators are not supposed to play favourites.

It also fuels speculation about what South Africa’s motives really are for involving itself so deeply in South Sudan. If it’s really born of a genuine desire to bring peace to South Sudan, this hardly seems the way to go about it.

It is also bad news for William Endley. South Africa has chosen sides in South Sudan, and he finds himself on the wrong one.

Oppression of the church in Sudan

We received this message from a Sudanese brother yesterday:

“Today Sunday 11 February 2018. The government attacked the Evangelical Church in Hajyousif ( skirt of Khartoum ). After people finished Sunday service, the church members just surprised with government police with more than 3-4 trucks and they took church properties which included the chairs bibles and all instruments and don’t where they took them.

They demolished the church building which was built since 1989. Their is that there no permission from government to have church in that area while the church has all legal documents from ministry but it’s very clear that the government of Sudan persecuted the Christians systemically….. please keep praying for church members to know that they are not alone.”

Vastly different opinions from the Sudans on US decision on Jerusalem

It appears that South Sudan and Sudan have vastly different opinions on the US government announcement on Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel. Here are extracts of two articles on that:

South Sudan lauds U.S. Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

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December 9, 2017 (JUBA) – South Sudan government on Saturday lauded the decision of the President of the United States Donald Trump in which he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Trump on Wednesday formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and instructed to begin the procedure of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Sudanese protest against Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

Link to full article.

 

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Decembers 8, 2017 (KHARTOUM) — Hundreds of protesters in the Sudanese capital rallied on Friday to condemn the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as the U.S. embassy warned its citizens of the protests.

Although persecuted, Sudan’s Christian population is growing

Life may be awful in Muslim Sudan, but it is even worse in largely-Christian South Sudan. Link to image.

“IF SOUTH SUDAN secedes,” Omar al-Bashir told supporters at a rally in 2010, “we will change the constitution”, paying no attention to “diversity of culture”. The Sudanese president revisited the subject two years later. “Our template is clear: a 100% Islamic constitution,” he said in a speech to Muslim leaders in the capital, Khartoum. As for non-Muslims: “Nothing will preserve your rights except for Islamic sharia.”

The south seceded in 2011, taking with it most of Sudan’s Christians. After the split churches in the north were burned. Then came demolitions: at least 20 since 2011. Four took place in August this year. About 27 other churches are listed for bulldozing. The government says it is merely removing unlicensed buildings. But only churches seem to be getting knocked down. In any case, the government announced in 2013 that it would no longer grant licences for the construction of new churches. “Christians have no rights here any longer,” says Reverend Kuwa Shamal of the Sudanese Church of Christ, one of several church leaders who have been arrested on specious charges of spying and undermining the constitution.

Sudan’s treatment of Christians has long been dire. Forced assimilation in the 1980s and 1990s helped spark its decades-long civil war. “Denial of religious freedom” was cited by Bill Clinton, then America’s president, among his reasons for imposing sanctions on Sudan in 1997. A peace agreement with southern rebels in 2005 brought some respite, but “after the independence of South Sudan the government decided there was no space for Christians,” says Muhanad Nur, a human-rights lawyer in Khartoum.

Many Western observers agree. On November 17th America’s deputy secretary of state, John Sullivan, told Sudan to stop smashing churches. Open Doors, an NGO, ranks Sudan as the fifth-worst country in the world for the persecution of Christians. In June, American congressmen from both parties wrote to President Donald Trump urging him to delay lifting sanctions for another year, citing in particular “state-sanctioned persecution of Christians”. (They were lifted anyway on October 12th to prise Sudan from the orbit of Iran, a long-standing ally.)

Although foreigners focus on Sudan’s central government, much of the repression is happening locally and sporadically. Church demolitions in Khartoum, for instance, are carried out by local authorities. Many suspect they are more interested in grabbing valuable land than in suppressing religious minorities. The governor of Khartoum, Abdel Rahim Muhammad Hussein, has threatened to kick out tens of thousands of South Sudanese refugees, many of whom are Christian. He claims they cause insecurity and spread disease. Such words are worrying when coming from a man who, like Mr Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.

Yet Sudanese citizens are far more welcoming. Sudan still has many Christian schools, most of whose pupils are Muslim. And many of the Christians that Sudan lost when the south broke away have since returned: about half a million South Sudanese have crossed the border since the start of a civil war there in 2013. Father Juma Charles of St Matthew’s Catholic Cathedral in Khartoum says that so many of his flock have returned that prayer centres that were closed in 2011 are open again.

This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline “Rendering unto Bashir”

Link to article.

Some of the main news items for this week

Below is extracts of articles with some of the most important news information this week. The news on the revocation of many of the long-standing sanctions against Sudan is by far the most news-worthy item of the week. Click on the links to access the full articles.

US revokes Sudan sanctions

On 6 October, the US decided to revoke long-standing economic sanctions against Sudan, in recognition of its progress towards maintaining a cessation of hostilities in Sudanese conflict areas, improving humanitarian access throughout Sudan, and maintaining cooperation with the US on addressing regional conflicts and the threat of terrorism. Although not a condition for revoking the sanctions, the US also secured a commitment from Sudan not to pursue arms deals with North Korea. The revocation is set to take effect on 12 October 2017.

Sudan, however, will continue to remain on the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism – alongside Iran and Syria – which carries, among other things, a ban on weapon sales and restrictions on US foreign assistance.

One more on that topic:

Trump moves to ease sanctions on Sudan

 

Bern demands release of Swiss woman abducted in Darfur

The Swiss Foreign Ministry has called for the quick release of a Swiss aid worker who was kidnapped by unknown gunmen from her house in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, on Saturday evening.

South Sudan winning against Guinea worm, says Jimmy Carter

War-torn South Sudan “should serve as an example” for other countries in the progress it is making in eradicating Guinea worm, said former United States President Jimmy Carter.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Carter praised the world’s youngest nation for making steady progress in ridding itself of the debilitating parasite despite the “tremendous problems.”