South Sudan: One People, One Nation

An interesting poem by Its message is an African message though it speaks of oneness of South Sudanese. Our African poverty is as a result of Tribalism, corruption and selfishness.

By Deng Mangok Ayuel
We are one nation forever,
In epochs of sadness, we unruffled each other,
In minutes of consternation, we embrace together,
When we shortly fall in politics, we hold each other,
When trepidation strikes, fears, we preserve together,
We are not Dinkas, Nuers and Jurchol – we belong to each other
We are South Sudanese.
We are one …!
We shall live together as one people,
Call our leaders as leaders, spade a spade
No matter the shame, no matter the darkness,
No matter the fear we live, no matter the failures,
We shall return to our roots, do things right, build togetherness
Pray to God for forgiveness, reconcile immediately and stop killing ourselves,
We are for one objective, one vision for all.
We are one …!
We fought for our freedom,
And separated from Sudan at referendum.
And we weep, reducing ourselves to doom,
But who to blame, you or cerebral pragmatism?
Everything but the reality, call it mess of realism,
Oh God, oh God, give us peace, free us from tribalism;
……and I am worried of YOU, the leaders, not your realm?
We are one …!
Patience shall make things right,
And purge political fear under one hat
Let’s respect ourselves, our political height
In order to grow and become a better terrain,
We need to come together as stunning nation,
Put the hate on the ledge to stop the desolation
And the public relation engraves a new assertion
We are one…!
We are South Sudanese,
No matter who is Mr. Achak,
No matter if he is from Rumbek,
No matter if he is loyal to Dr Machar,
No matter which tribe: Dinka, Acholi, Nuer
He is your brother, from baby nation, South Sudan.
Let’s us fulfill our dreams for freedom, live together as a nation


Abyei finally Conducts the Referendum

Abyei Vote8

Residents of Abyei que in a polling station in Abyei Town. Voters have turned to vote for the referendum in thousands.

On Sunday 28th October 2013, the Ngok Dinka residents of Abyei went to the polling stations to determine their “final status.” This is a ‘unilateral’ referendum which is meant to determine whether it will be possible to split from Sudan and join South Sudan. Ballots were printed with two symbols: a sign of two hands clasped and another one of one hand alone. The former symbol meant continued unity with Sudan, the latter separation from Sudan. Voters turned out in thousands at 29 voting centers across the Abyei region, 4 of which were in Abyei town. In the past months, there was a massive voter registration exercise and compilation of voter registers. During the voting exercise, each  voter first checked whether his or her name was in the referendum register. He or she was then given a ballot paper and marker pen before being sent to a separate place to cast the vote. The voter marked his or her choice with a pen or thumbprint.

Voters cross checking their names with poll clerks.

Voters cross checking their names with poll clerks.

The Abyei referendum is in defiance to  the directive by heads of states of South Sudan and Sudan amid concerns that the poll had the potential to destabilize bilateral relations between the two countries as well as with the neighboring Misseriya tribe. The poll also defied the advise of African Union and the International community. According to a letter addressed to the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU-PSC) by the NIne Dinka Chiefdoms of Abyei Area of 26th October 2013, the right of self determination for the people of Abyei was affirmed in Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972 between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the then South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM), in 1995 by all Sudanese opposition parties, in the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement between GoS and SPLM/A and in 2012 by the Africa Union Commission.

A voter at the polling station

A voter at the polling station

South Sudan’s government has warned that it will not consider the poll legitimate and denied participating in the logistical preparations for the conduct of the vote. Leaders of the Ngok Dinka,  point to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005, according to which the Abyei Referendum was supposed to take place concurrently with South Sudan’s referendum. The Ngok Dinka rushed to hold the vote before the end of this month because the African Union had set a one-year target for holding the vote when it sought endorsement of a plan of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel in October a year ago.

A sample of the voter register in Abyei. Voters have to first countercheck their names before going to poll.

A sample of the voter register in Abyei. Voters have to first countercheck their names before going to poll.

Although there is no formal international election observation mission in the region, members of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) are taking part in observing the poll, among others. The voting was thorough and all attempts were taken to ensure that there is no rigging. The voting is expected to end in three days and the results will be announced on the 1st of November 2013.

Time to cast the ballot. All ballot boxes were transparent.

Time to cast the ballot. All ballot boxes were transparent.

Abyei Vote6

After the voting process voters dipped their fingers in ink in order. This identified those who had voted from those who had not.

Abyei Vote5

“I have voted at last. I have made my voice heard about this referendum.” This seems to be the message conveyed by this woman showing her coloured finger.

Abyei’s Sensitive Referendum

Abyei residents hopeful that normalcy will return. They yearn for the attention of the Governments of South Sudan, Government of Sudan and the International Community.

Abyei residents hopeful that normalcy will return. They yearn for the attention of the Governments of South Sudan, Government of Sudan and the International Community.

On 26th October 2006, the women of Abyei rose up to song and dance running from one corner of Abyei to another. They carried twigs and sang their hearts out.  The whole town was alive as they anticipated a visit by the Africa Union Commission (AUC).  By 12.00 hours it became apparent that the AUC had cancelled their visit to Abyei, this being the third cancellation. The people of Abyei felt sad and held a peaceful demonstration around their town and converged at the United Nations Camp where they sang and prayed. They had carried twigs of peace and after their function they dispersed and left for their homes. The visit by the AUC would have been very important to the people of Abyei, even if the AUC would not be in a position to state its position clearly on the issue of the referendum because of the diplomatic sensitivities involved. One woman was later heard saying “we know how difficult it is for the AUC but they should have come. We are not sure on whether or not they were denied the visa. But we need to be visited and listened to.” Another said “all we need is peace. I need to construct a house that will stay. I am tired of always starting. I need a life.”

Abyei referendum was due this month. The leaders sensing little support wrote to the AU asking for support to conduct it at a later date. This referendum has drawn various opinions from various quarters. Riak Machar the former Vice President was quoted in the Sudan Tribune to have said that South Sudan should stick to the initial proposal by the African Union (AU) for the people of Abyei to exercise their self-determination referendum this month. His statement came in response a  joint communique on Tuesday 22nd October 2013 in Juba, by South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his Sudanese counter-part, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, on their commitment to pursue the formation of a joint administration for Abyei inclusive of Dinka Ngok and Misseriya, prior to the conduct of referendum in the area. Following this communique the Government of South Sudan, on Wednesday 23rd October 2013, issued a statement broadcast on the state-run TV, warning that the government will not be part of a unilateral conduct of referendum by Dinka Ngok in Abyei.

Resolving the final status of Abyei still remains a major issue between Sudan and South Sudan after the latter broke away from the former in July 2011, leaving several unresolved post-secession issues. Fearing a negative impact on the relations between Khartoum and Juba of an unilateral vote and possible tensions between the two communities of Dinka Ngok and Misseriya in Abyei, the UN Security Council and the United States urged to both parties to refrain from actions that can increase tension in the disputed area. The US State Department, also welcomed the outcome of Bashir-Kiir summit in Juba, warned the Dinka Ngok against unilateral action, saying it could jeopardize peace between the two countries.

Last year, the AU mediation team proposed holding a referendum in Abyei this month, but stated that only those residing permanently in the area were to be allowed to vote in the plebiscite and decide whether they want to join Sudan or South Sudan. The Sudanese government, however, rejected the AU proposal aimed at breaking the deadlock over Abyei referendum saying it ignored that the eligibility of the Misseriya. Machar criticised the two governments of South Sudan and Sudan for going back to the outdated proposal of a joint administration between Dinka Ngok and Misseriya tribes, saying this old idea has already been superseded after the killing of the Dinka Ngok chief, Kuol Deng Majok by the Misseriya in May 2013, as well as by the AU proposal presented by President Thabo Mbeki, which urged for the conduct of the referendum in October. He further explained that in accordance with the ruling by the court of arbitration in The Hague, a specific area of Abyei was demarcated for the nine Dinka Ngok chiefdoms, excluding the Misseriya. Machar who led the SPLM delegation to The Hague court in July 2009 on Abyei file pointed out that any Misseriya member who continued to live in Abyei after the court ruling should be considered a mere trader who no longer have the right to participate in the Dinka Ngok referendum. He said as a result of the court ruling, a piece of Abyei land was already cut out to the side of the Misseriya tribe and that was what they should have gotten from Abyei, leaving the Dinka Ngok alone to conduct the referendum.
Machar urged SPLM, not to let down the people of Abyei who have empowered and entrusted the party to negotiate on their behalf since the timen of the CPA. A unilateral referendum by the people of Abyei in their territory per the court ruling need to be conducted and respected as the will of the people, he said. He encouraged that the Dinka Ngok to go ahead with the conduct of the unilateral referendum in the next few days and the result to be declared by 31 October 2013. The former vice-president also commended the presence of the UNISFA forces on the ground in Abyei to ensure the security of the voters.

Insecurity in the country: it’s link to increased vulnerability among the Kenyan Population

Haki yako

On March 4th, we Kenyans have an opportunity to determine how we shall be governed. We have to analyze  those vying for positions and look at their track records. It is important to remember that when policies go wrong we suffer together as people of the same nation. We need to be cautious of cunning politicians!

Story by Michael Mungai Nyambura

Over the last several months, Kenya has witnessed one of the darkest eras since independence. Tribal clashes and subsequent retaliatory attacks that led to the loss of tens of lives, and others injured and homeless in Tana River; grenade detonations in public areas of Nairobi, Mombasa and Garrissa leaving scores of people dead, children orphaned others in hospitals with medical bills to cover. Violent attacks in Mathare slums leaving individuals dead, injured, houses were burnt and property destroyed, this period has also seen the greatest loss of members of the uniformed forces in the country. More than 40 members of the force were ambushed and killed in Baragoi, the attacks in Garrissa led to the deaths of several members of both the police and army.

All this loss of lives will lead in the long run to increased levels of insecurity and reduced economic growth in the country. One by one, the number of members in the armed forces is dwindling day by day. The ratio  of police to population is one police to every 800. For instance, when 40 police men lost their lives in Baragoi, 32,000 individuals were left without the services and protection  That was not the last instance of the loss of lives by the members of the forces last ear This added to the loss of lives to grenade attacks poor and lower middle income families have lost their sole breadwinners. Those who survived but have injuries have medical bills to cover, families to cater for and they also need to come up with new ways of generating incomes. With the current economic conditions, it is very clear how scarce it is to get a job  even for individuals who are physically fit and with the best academic transcripts, how hard then, will life be for individuals who have been incapacitated?

There has been widespread destruction of poverty, the whole town of Garrissa was torched to the ground, how has the livelihood of the people who made a living by conducting business in the town been affected? Houses in Mathare slums have also been torched which is very sad as we are familiar with how difficult it usually is to stock up a house in order to make it a home. The individuals whose houses have been torched, what measures will they take to restore their homes to previous or even better conditions? Will they be overwhelmed by hatred first and decide to retaliate against their neighbors or with they engage in not so lawful means to achieve their goals? It is easier to assume that they will turn their cheek and decide to pick up their lives and move on without harboring any hatred.

Children have been left orphans with no one to neither pay their school fees nor provide their basic meals for them. What options for survival do they have? Move in with their relatives, most especially their old grandparents in rural areas? Or hit the streets and live as street kids? Whichever their option will be, it will be, just for as a survival tactic, an most probably than not: they will be forced to drop from school, engage in provision of labor and when things get out of hand, they will engage in drugs. The children of today, are the workers, managers, doctors, clergy, inventors lawyer of tomorrow to mention just but a few. If the future of the children of today who find themselves in situations of vulnerability due to insecurity in the nation is allowed to go into waste, then we should be confident that our future won’t be devoid of trigger happy thugs, rapists, conmen and traffickers. But how can we ensure that they don’t yield into vulnerability and waste their lives?

Insecurity leads to vulnerability. Individuals are left with little or no opportunities of bettering their lives and are prone to fall victims to all forms of manipulations and exploitations. They might be coerced to join gangs and mette out brutality on their neighbors which  serves only to create a cycle of violence. Little girls may be forced to offer their bodies for sexual exploitation so as to put ugali on the table or see their siblings go through school while other individuals may be trafficked and exploited to other towns or countries simply because they were in such of opportunities to raise some money to rebuild their house, cover a medical bill or take their children to school.

On March 4th, we Kenyans have an opportunity to determine how the above issues and others likely to arise in the future will be addressed by those who will govern us. We have to analyze what those vying for positions are offering, and look at their track records. In periods culminating to elections, we get to look at each other and to those vying for governing positions from tribal perspectives, yes, we might be as divided and independent as the fingers but when policies go wrong let us remember that we suffer together as united as the hand. As such there arises the need to shun voting on tribal lines and the need to look at each other as fellow Kenyans, sons and daughters of the same land. We only need to be cautious of cunning politicians, those addicted to power, who go down on their knees seeking for votes but only have their asses to show us when they are in office.

All this leaves us with one question, who is to be blamed for the all time high increased insecurity in the country?

Gender based violence against men needs to be addressed

This article looks at  gender based violence directed against men.  Some of the abuses here seem extreme as they are perpetrated in situations of conflict, however they are used to illustrate the nature of SGBV experienced by men. Picture source

By Millicent Agutu

It is a fact that daily there could be an act of violence against some men at a domestic level etc. In Kenya for example there are various media stories of men being battered by their wives, injured or even being killed. There are unconfirmed reports too showing that some men after buying investments for their families get killed by their  wives who seek  for freedom. It ends recommending that organizations should equip themselves to addressing the needs of such victims be it domestic or other forms of violence.

According to various institutional and media reports of Sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) perpetrated against men have increased. However, response to these reports has been limited, as existing evidence and programs have primarily focused on prevention and response to women and girl survivors of GBV. Communities and organizations are not equipped to deal with male survivors of sexual and gender violence because it undermines the ideals of social constructions of masculinity. Compared with females, male survivors lack access to reproductive health programs and are generally ignored in gender-based violence discourse. Yet, male survivors are known to suffer from numerous physical injuries and psychosocial disorders.

SGBV perpetrated against men and boys often go unreported by survivors due to socio-cultural factors associated with sexual assaults, including survivor shame, fear of retaliation by perpetrators and stigma by community members. In Kenya too during the post electoral violence period of 2008, there were many reports of violence against men in the form of forced circumcision, rapes and other humiliating experiences of a sexual nature. Before discussing the impact the victims go through, we look at the various forms of abuses against males that have been the subjects of various reports and media.

Rape – A number of different forms of male rape do take place. Victims may be forced to perform fellatio on their perpetrators or on one another; perpetrators may anally rape victims themselves, using objects, or force victims to rape fellow victims. At times victims are been ‘made to masturbate their culprits orally’ or rape each other in front of their perpetrators. At times too victims are  forced to commit acts of incest.  There is also the notion of ‘rape plus’, the ‘plus’ being HIV/AIDS, or another consequence of rape, which may have been the very purpose for the rape in the first place.

Enforced Sterilization – Enforced sterilization largely comprises castration and other forms of sexual mutilation. Castrations are performed through the use of crude means such as, forcing one victim to bite off another’s testicles, chopping them off or through pulling off the testicles.

Genital ViolenceThere are cases where victims private parts are hit or subjected to electric shocks. There are instances of forced circumcisions.

Enforced Nudity – The most common way of sexually humiliating men is forcing them to strip naked in public. There are reports of men being made to repeatedly undress and dress, undress and stand naked for periods of time and undress in public or forcing males to wear women underwears and bras; taking pictures and video taping them in explicit sexual positions.

Enforced Masturbation – There are also cases where groups of male detainees are forced to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped or being forced to masturbate their captors. The forced masturbation of the victim and the perpetrator is considered to be one of the most common forms of sexual violence experienced by men.

Therapists working with men who were sexually abused in childhood  report findings such as guilt and self-blame; low self-esteem and negative self-image, Problems with intimacy; sexual problems; compulsions;  or dysfunctions; substance abuse and depression and symptoms of post-traumatic Stress disorder. Societies should create ways and means of helping male victims of SGBV deal with their pain. However, Kenya as a society tends to have a few facilities to address problems of SGBV affecting men.

The article summarizes Lydia Maingi’s presentation on Addressing male gender based violence  presented at the First International Conference Against Gender Based Violence, Kenyatta University from 1st to 3rd August 2012.

Kenyan youth have a role to create peace as we approach the 2013 elections

By Akoya Ochanda

Peace is in the hands of the youth when they decide not to join acts of violence or engage in acts that put the lives of other people in jeopardy. Let no manipulation or provocation lead the youth to commit heineous acts against their fellow Kenyans. Let our youthful hands be used to create, build and strengthen peace. Let all our acts be guided by the care of the safety of fellow Kenyans!

Kenya is slowly walking into the future and will soon experience an important moment. This moment is the  electioneering period scheduled to take place in March 2013 and the preceding campaigns. As we prepare for this important moment, we are also nursing wounds of 2008 post electoral violence which brought untold pains to many families in terms of family breakages, loss of property; creation of orphans, widows and widowers. The suffering was immense and the physical and psychological trauma was enormous to the extent that no words can capture them well.

Before the 2007 election no one in Kenya had imagined that the country had deteriorated to that extent. Though it was evident that tribalism was heavily pronounced and unity amongst Kenyans was elusive. However despite this reality it still remains difficult to account for the fact that different ethnic communities attacked and each other, destroying, killing and doing many other evil things. Though most of the blame was apportioned to the leaders, we the wananchi also played a major role in bringing about this moment. We bear part of the blame for being partakers in the evil acts of that time that caused great wounds that will take long to heal.

As a young Kenyan I will be voting for the first time in the 2013 election. During the previous election I was very young. As people went to vote, I was contemplating to join a secondary school. However what is still fresh in my minds are the horrific memories of that period.  Despite the memories of those dark times in Kenya, I will go to vote and will do it confidently. I really believe that our country is changing for the better and we as loyal citizens have to support these changes which  will contribute to a wonderful Kenya by 2030. By then I presume I will have a family and my children will have a different version of Kenya all-together.

As young people, the responsibility to create a great and peaceful Kenya today rests in our hands. Before deciding to carry out evil acts we must ask ourselves many practical questions such as: if now I take my machete and stab someone to death, am I not killing someone’s mom? Am I not killing someone’s dad? Am I not murdering ones sister or brother? Am I not taking life of ones child? How will the affected families take it? How will they survive? In order to extend this discussion, I would like that my fellow youth create a mental picture of having actually carried out the evil act, what is your feeling?  Then ask yourself an important question what have I done? Is it right? What have I become? How will the society see me now? How will I live with this guilty feeling in me? After you have asked yourself all these questions tell me, are you still going to commit acts of violence against your fellow citizens? Will you kill because of an election- Something that comes once after five years? Let’s assume you are paid 10000/= to do that? Will the person who gave you this help you to deal with the guilty feelings that will develop thereafter?

After all these questions, what is your decision? Are you just blindly going to be used for evil acts? Fellow young men and women, realize that we are the ones who are prone to this kind of evil manipulation. Our hands are used to do evil things whose origin is not with us. We however have the power in our hands to refuse these bribes that create deadly beasts in us. We as youth should work to make a safe Kenya and also push for the safety of all Kenyans. We have a task and the ability to create a perfect and peaceful Kenya if we decide to choose the path of integrity and virtue.

Mau mau veterans win torture case against Britain

Daily Nation, October 5  2012

London’s High Court has allowed Mau Mau’s compensation case against the British government to proceed despite a 50 year time lapse.

The case now to go to full trial.

The Judge, Mr Justice McCombe ruled that “…a fair trial on this part of the case does remain possible and that the evidence on both sides remains significantly cogent for the Court to complete its task satisfactorily.”

The Kenyan government has yet to issue a statement in response to the ruling.

The British High Commission in Nairobi however released a press statement immediately after the ruling was made to express its “disappointment” with the ruling and declared the British Government will seek an appeal.

“The British Government is disappointed with today’s (Friday) judgment. The judgment was not a finding of liability but a procedural decision following a preliminary hearing on limitation, which allows the cases to go to a full trial,” the statement said.

It added: “The judgement has potentially significant and far reaching legal implications

“Since this is an important legal issue, we have taken the decision to appeal. In light of the legal proceedings it would not be appropriate for the Government to comment any further on the detail of the case.”

In July 2012, three claimants won court approval in Britain to sue the British government over the brutality they claimed they suffered in the struggle.

Britain fears the case will open a floodgate of other claims.

This is the second time in two years that the British Government has lost in its efforts to use legal technicalities to have the case against it thrown out.

Last year it argued on the grounds that the Kenyan Government was legally responsible for any abuses committed by the British colony. The Court rejected those arguments in April 2011.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has accused Britain of neglecting its human-rights duties over a case brought by Kenyans allegedly abused by British colonial officials in the 1950s.

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