South Sudan

South Sudan medics resign after contracting virus

Nichola Mandil

Juba

A lab technician removes his gloves as testing samples for COVID-19 in a laboratory in Juba, South Sudan on April 6, 2020.
Getty Images
The government has promised to distribute more protective gear to health workers

Some of the 16 health workers in South Sudan who tested positive for Covid-19 have resigned, the country's health ministry has said.

Eight health workers resigned last week due to pressure from their families, who expressed concerns that they might bring the virus home and infect family members, the ministry said.

Some are thought to have deserted duty after witnessing Covid-19 patients dying.

The eight include four hygienists and four nurses, according to Prof Mayen Machut Achiek, spokesman of the national Covid-19 task force.

“At a time when the number of people losing their lives [because of Covid-19] are on the rise, the [health workers] have ran away.

“They have resigned because of family pressure. But if they come back, they have got expertise; we will use them, because we need everybody. The point is every hospital in South Sudan is affected by this, if you go to the hospitals in the districts, you find the doctors are cautious,” Prof Achiek told reporters on Sunday in the capital, Juba.

He said the ministry will distribute personal protective equipment, which has been given by donors, to the front line workers.

South Sudan resumes flights after virus suspension

Nichola Mandil

Juba

International flight passengers at Juba International Airport in Juba, South Sudan on January 31, 2020
Getty Images
People arriving in South Sudan will have to quarantine for 14 days

South Sudan has reopened its air space for regional and international flights, the country's civil aviation authority has said.

The government suspended them in March as a precautionary measure to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Kur Kuol, the director-general of Juba International Airport, told reporters on Wednesday that Ethiopian Airlines had been the first non-domestic carrier to land the airport in the capital. The airline is now operating daily flights from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital.

Badr Airlines, a Sudanese cargo and passenger airline, has also resumed flights, as well as Egypt Air.

United Arab Emirates airline FlyDubai will resume regular flights to Juba on Friday.

All those arriving will have to isolate themselves for 14 days and observe health regulations as required.

“Our air space is now open, we have no restrictions on the airlines. But whoever is coming into the country from outside, whether he or she is a foreigner or a South Sudanese national, must provide a health certificate and must self-quarantine for 14 days before engaging with the public while in the country,” Mr Kuol said.

Sudan's final peace deal 'to be signed in two weeks'

Nichola Mandil

Juba

Protesters roll down Sudan's flag on the road near Army Headquarters in Khartoum, April 2019 April
Sudanese journalist group
The talks between government and rebel groups resumed via video conferencing

Sudan’s transitional government and rebel groups negotiating in South Sudan's capital, Juba, will sign a final peace deal in two weeks’ time, mediators have announced.

The news emerged after a delegation of South Sudanese mediators returned from Sudan's capital, Khartoum.

The peace talks, taking place in South Sudan, had stalled because of Covid-19 pandemic.

The talks recently resumed via video conferencing between the government’s delegation in Khartoum and the rebel groups in Juba.

Tut Galwak, South Sudan’s presidential security adviser and chief mediator in the peace process, also went to Khartoum as he said some sticking points could not be discussed via video link.

“For us to reach lasting peace; there are dossiers or issues that cannot be discussed via video link, for example security arrangements," he said on Wednesday.

"We have agreed that a delegation from Khartoum should come to Juba after two days from now and continue with their brothers in finalising security arrangements."

He added:

Once we complete these dossiers after two weeks, His Excellency President Salva Kiir will invite his colleagues, the Igad heads of state and the friends of Sudan who would want to witness the signing of Sudan’s peace agreement to come to Juba.”

Mr Tut said Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was to join the discussions on Thursday via video link from Khartoum - his first time to join the negotiations.

The peace talks incorporate rebel groups operating in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions which had been fighting the government of former President Omar al-Bashir before his overthrow in April 2019.

They include the Justice Equality Movement, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement /Army-North, Democratic Unionist Party and the Sudan Liberation Movement .

South Sudan's economy 'needs a plan B'

Nichola Mandil

BBC News, Juba

Acacia tree
Getty Images
Gum arabic, found in South Sudan's trees, is the ingredient that puts the fizz into fizzy drinks

The governor of the Bank of South Sudan has warned that the coronavirus pandemic means the country needs to find a "plan B" for making money.

Oil is South Sudan's major export. South Sudan used to produce 350,000 barrels of oil per day before the outbreak of conflict in 2013. In February this year, the country’s ministry of petroleum said it was aiming to produce 200,000 barrels per day.

But, in the wake of the pandemic spreading across the world, the global oil prices plummeted earlier this year.

On Tuesday, the Governor of the Bank of South Sudan, Gamal Abdalla Wani, said the country’s economy had been severely hit by coronavirus pandemic because the government did not have "plan B" and "plan C" apart from oil revenue.

He said the coronavirus pandemic had forced South Sudan to try and work out where else to make money apart from oil.

He suggested that the central bank could buy and refine gold.

The country could also increase exports of gum arabic - the ingredient found in Acacia trees in the country which puts the fizz into fizzy drinks, he said.

Money had already been allocated for the central bank to begin this diversification, Mr Wani said.

Burundi, South Sudan face expulsion from regional bloc

Russell Padmore

Business correspondent, BBC News

East Africa's presidents
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A final decision will be made when the heads of state next meet

Burundi and South Sudan could soon lose their membership of the East African Community (EAC), which could undermine the stability of the regional economic bloc.

The EAC's Assembly has voted to expel the two countries, because both have defaulted on their membership fees.

A final decision on whether Burundi and South Sudan should be shown the exit door will be made when the heads of state of the member nations next meet.

The members of the EAC, which also includes Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, are supposed to pay $8m (£6.5m) a year.

But Burundi has paid nothing for four years, while South Sudan owes $10m.

The government in Juba is struggling to cope with an economic crisis, caused by the recent civil war, but Burundi's reluctance to pay follows its demand for lower fees, based on its contention that its economy is smaller than its neighbours.

South Sudanese press condemn killing of young journalist

Nichola Mandil

Juba

Picture of the young journalist
South Sudan Journalists Group

South Sudanese media advocacy groups have condemned the killing of a young journalist, Marko Agei, by unidentified gunmen in Warrap state, central South Sudan.

Marko Agei Makoor Chol, 27, was reportedly shot on Wednesday in an ambush on the road by armed youths while he was travelling to Tonj town.

Agei was a reporter for Door Radio (meaning Peace Radio in Dinka language), a local community FM station working to promote peace and reconciliation amongst the communities in Warrap state.

It was not clear whether his murder was related to his work as a journalist.

The death of Agei has angered many journalists who through their social media platforms have widely condemned his killing.

Agei, described by his colleagues as a “light spirited young man” was very much loved and respected by his colleagues and the community for the work he was doing for Door.

The Association for Media Development in South Sudan (Amdiss), an umbrella group of media proprietors in the country said in a statement that it was concerned by the “unfortunate tragic act of terror”.

Amdiss is urging the national government and the state's authorities to protect journalists across South Sudan without prejudice.

South Sudan leader urged to appoint female governors

Nichola Mandil

BBC News, Juba

South Sudan women activists
BBC
The activists say the president is going against the new peace deal

South Sudanese women activists are urging President Salva Kiir to revoke the appointments of state governors in order to include women’s representatives, in accordance with the provisions of the peace agreement.

Early this week, President Kiir appointed governors for eight of the country's 10 regional states after sharing them out with his former rival and now the country’s First Vice-President Riek Machar.

Of the eight appointed governors, only one is a woman - Sarah Cleto Rial, a South Sudanese-American citizen based in the US - who will be the governor for Western Bahr El-Ghazal State.

The revitalised peace agreement grants women across political spectrum affirmative action or gender quota of 35% of portfolios at all levels of government.

The chairperson of South Sudan Women’s Coalition for Peace Caroline Kibos says the ruling party Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) has violated the provisions of the agreement.

"This under-representation manifestly violates our right to participate in peace and political processes," she said in a communique read on behalf of women activists.

They want the president to revoke the appointment of three men and replace them with women.

Responding to the demands raised by women, SPLM acting secretary-general Jemma Nunu Kumba said her party stands with the decision of its leadership.

“Yes we have heard the demands of the women, the SPLM will convene a meeting to address these issues and will respond when time is appropriate but we must respect and stand by the decision of our party leadership,” Ms Kumba stated.

South Sudan leader appoints regional governors

Nichola Mandil

BBC News, Juba

Vice-president Riek Machar (R) speaks during a media briefing with South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (L)
Reuters
Riek Machar (R) became deputy to President Kiir (L) in February, sealing a peace deal aimed at ending six years of civil war

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has appointed governors for eight of the country's 10 regional states after sharing them out with his former rival and now the country’s Vice-President Riek Machar.

The president also appointed superintendents for three administrative areas.

Two weeks ago, the two leaders ended a stalemate over control of the states - which had been a sticking point for the transitional unity government formed in February.

President Kiir's camp was allocated six states - which include the capital city, Juba - while Mr Machar's camp was allocated three states that include the major oil-producing Upper Nile state.

The South Sudan Opposition Alliance was allocated Jonglei state.

Leaders of each camp nominated governors for appointment by the president.

The governors for Upper Nile state and Jonglei state have not been nominated because of disagreements in the respective camps.

Of the eight appointed governors, only one is a woman, Sarah Cleto Rial, a South Sudanese-American citizen based in the US.

She will be the governor for western Bahr El-Ghazal state.

Read:

UN in South Sudan hit by coronavirus

Catherine Byaruhanga

BBC News

Health worker wearing PPE
Getty Images
Only 10,000 tests for coronavirus have been carried out in South Sudan

The Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan has told the BBC that 47 of its staff members have tested positive for coronavirus with one person having died.

It comes as the number of cases in the country nears 2,000 - including at least 10 government ministers.

With only 10,000 tests having been carried out so far, health experts have warned that the true number of cases is likely to be much higher.

In a notice to staff David Shearer warned members of the peacekeeping mission to follow strict social distancing rules or face disciplinary action.

Mr Shearer told the BBC that most staff were respecting the measures but said they had a responsibility not to spread the virus.

In recent weeks there has been violence in some parts of the country leading to 60,000 people being displaced and several hundred civilians being killed, according to the UN.

Mr Shearer said the Covid-19 lockdown had meant there had been slow progress in tackling the upsurge in fighting.

He is concerned the pandemic could jeopardise South Sudan’s fragile peace agreement, signed after years of civil war.

'Thousands flee' upsurge in South Sudan fighting

Mary Harper

Africa editor, BBC World Service

A medical charity says thousands of people have fled into the bush following an upsurge of fighting in the east of South Sudan.

Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has had to suspend activities in the town of Pibor as most of its staff have run away.

Fighters from different communities are killing people, raiding cattle and burning homes.

MSF says it is worried that those displaced by the fighting will catch life-threatening diseases as they have no shelter.

The charity says 70% of children under five who come to its healthcare centres have malaria.

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