The United Nations in December appealed for a record US $22.2 billion to provide aid in 2017 to surging number of people that have been affected by conflicts and disasters around the world.
Speaking at a press conference, UN humanitarian aid chief Stephen O’Brien disclosed that it is “the highest amount we have ever requested,” noting that the figure “…is a reflection of a state of human needs in the world not witnessed since the Second World War.” He went on to say that more than 80 percent of the needs come from manmade conflicts “many of which are now protracted and push up demand for relief year after year.”
The global appeal by UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations aims to gather funds to help the 92.8 million most vulnerable of the nearly 129 million people who are expected to require assistance across 33 countries in 2017. The numbers are staggering, particularly when considering that three war-ravaged countries – Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan – alone account for about a third of all those in need. In a report, O’Brien disclosed that “with persistently escalating humanitarian needs, the gap between what has to be done to save and protect more people today and what humanitarians are financed to do and can access is growing wider,” nothing that “climate change, natural disasters are likely to become more frequent, more severe,” which will in turn make matters worse.
The Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 300,000 people since march 2011 and forced more than half the population to flee, is set to absorb the biggest portion of the funds, with the UN disclosing that it wants a full US $3.4 billion to go towards helping those inside Syria, and another US $4.7 billion destined for refugees and their hose communities in the region. Second in line is South Sudan, which has been wracked by a civil war since 2013 and where the UN warned last month “ethnic cleansing” is taking place. The UN is planning to spend a total of US $2.5 billion to help South Sudanese in need, including US $1.2 billion for refugees from the country. The UN has indicated that US $1.9 billion should go towards helping the victims of Yemen’s brutal civil war, which has escalated dramatically in the wake of the intervention of a Saudi-led coalition in March 2015.
Aid needs have been rising steadily for decades and when the UN launched its first global appeal 25 years ago, it estimated that just US $2.7 billion would cover aid needs around the globe in 1992. However in the last few years, the situation has worsened dramatically, with O’Brien stating “humanitarian needs continue to rise and humanitarian efforts are hampered by reduced access, growing disrespect for human rights and flagrant violations of international humanitarian law.”
The new report highlighted “severely constrained” humanitarian access in places like Iraq, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, which is “leaving affected people without basic services and protection.” The report further stats “mines, explosives, remnants of war and improvised explosive devices impede humanitarian aces and threaten the lives of vulnerable populations in conflict-affected regions.”
This year’s sum tops the US $20.1 billion that was requested last December for 2016, when, according to O’Brien, “humanitarian actors have saved, protected and supported more people than in any previous year since the founding of the United Nations.” In the end, the UN broadened its 2016 appeal to US $22.1 billion, however donors only produced US $11.4 billion for aid projects this year.
On Tuesday, 26 April, South Sudan’s rebel chief Riek Machar finally returned to the capital Juba, where he was sworn in as vice president of a unity government that was formed in order to end more than two years of civil war in the world’s newest country. His return, which was delayed by a week, is seen as a critical step towards cementing a fragile peace agreement that was brokered in August 2015.
The conflict in South Sudan, which won independence from Sudan in 2011, has pitted government troops loyal to President Salva Kiir against those of Machar, who was dismissed as vice president five months before the war began in December 2013. Tens of thousands have been killed and more than two million people forced from their homes.
Key Events in the War
- 15 December – Heavy gunfire erupts in Juba, where tensions have been rising since July when Machar was dismissed as vice president. Kiir blames Machar for an attempted coup, however Machar denies this and accuses the president of purging his rivals. Fighting spreads and rebels seize control of key towns.
- 10 – 20 January – Uganda sends troops to back Kiir. Government troops recapture the northern city of Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State, and Bor, the capital of the eastern state of Jonglei.
- 15 – 17 April – According to the United Nations, more than 350 civilians are killed in Bentiu and Bor.
- 26 August – A UN helicopter is shot down, with three onboard killed. Each side blames the other.
- 1 February – Kiir and Machar sign a new agreement to end the fighting, in what is the latest in a series of deals. However like the others, it is broken within days.
- 30 June – According to a UN rights report, South Sudan’s army raped then torched girls alive inside their homes. The report warns of “widespread human rights abuses.” Rebels have been accused of similar atrocities.
- 2 July – UN and US sanctions decided against six leaders from both sides.
- 17 August – Machar signs a peace agreement in Addis Ababa.
- 26 August – Kiir signs the peace accord, however he issues a list of “serious reservations.” Fighting continues.
- 3 October – Kiir nearly triples the number of regional states, undermining a key power-sharing clause of the peace agreement.
- 28 October – African Union investigators list atrocities committed, which include forced cannibalism and dismemberment.
- 5 November – UN experts warn that killings, rapes and abductions continue and that both sides are stockpiling weapons. Over two dozens armed groups are involved in fighting characterized by shifting alliances, opportunism and historic grievances.
- 27 November – The UN reports that some 16,000 children have been forced to fight, amidst a growing humanitarian crisis. More than 2.8 million people, almost a quarter of the population, needs emergency food aid.
- 8 February – UN agencies warn that at least 40,000 people are being starved to death in the war zone, with rival forces blocking aid.
- 12 February – Kiir reappoints Machar as vice president.
- 11 April – A 1,370-strong rebel force completes their arrival in Juba ahead of Machar’s expected return.
- 12 April – South Sudan’s rebel deputy chief Alfred Ladu Gore arrives in the capital.
- 25 April – South Sudan’s top rebel military commander Simon Gatwech Dual returns to the capital.
- 26 April – Machar returns to Juba and is sworn in as vice president. UN Security General Ban Ki-moon calls for a new unity government to be set up immediately.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that dozens of British troops will be deployed to Somalia in a bid to help the ongoing peacekeeping efforts to counter Islamist militants operating in the Horn of Africa nation.
Sources have disclosed that up to seventy personnel will join the United Nations contingent, which is supporting African Union (AU) troops who are fighting al-Shabaab. British forces deployed to Somalia will provide combat training as well as medical, logistical and engineering support.
Furthermore, up to 300 personnel could also be deployed in South Sudan over time. The role of those being deployed to South Sudan will include combat training as well as engineer work in order to strengthen vital infrastructure.
The PM, who is due to pledge the support at the upcoming UN General Assembly summit, has disclosed that the approach could help curb migrants coming to Europe. According to Mr Cameron, it is important to “step up” existing British contribution,” adding, “obviously we will want to see all the right force protection arrangements in place but we should be playing a part in this.” The British PM further disclosed that “the outcome in Somalia, if it’s a good outcome, that’s good for Britain…It means less terrorism, les migration, less piracy. Ditto in South Sudan: if we can, as peacekeepers, help to maintain order and peace and see stable development in that country then that is going to be, again, less poverty, less migration, less issues that affect us back at home. Mr Cameron however noted that British troop swill not be involved in combat roles, stating, “its not committing troops to conflict, its committing troops to a UN blue-hatted peacekeeping role – as we’ve done many times in the past, as we will do in the future…And one of the reasons we’re doing it is obviously the expertise that British troops have in training, engineering, and mentoring and we’re raising the standard for peacekeeping troops, which has had some issues and problems in the recent past.”
During the upcoming UN General Assembly summit, Prime Minister Cameron will hold face-to-face talks with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Muhamoud, along with several other world leaders.
On Wednesday (26 August) South Sudanese President Salva Kiir is expected to sign a peace agreement, which is aimed at ending a 20-months civil war in the world’s newest country, which broke away from Sudan in 2011.
President Kiir met with regional leaders on Wednesday ahead of an expected signing of a peace agreement with rebels. While at least seven ceasefire deals have been agreed, they have all been shattered within either hours or days. Furthermore, concerns over the past couple of days have emerged after the South Sudanese government announced that while its president would sign the agreement, “reservations” about the deal remained, and it currently remains unclear if President Kiir will sign all its clauses.
The latest proposed agreement, which was signed on 17 August by rebel chief and former vice president Riek Machar, sets out clear steps towards power sharing, with fixed timeframes for its implementation. The agreement has been backed by the regional eight-nation bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), as well as the United Nations, African Union, Britain, China, Norway and the United States.
Here are the key points of the 72-page agreement.
- Fighting must end immediately with a “permanent ceasefire” beginning 72 hours after the deal is singed.
- Troops on either side have 30 days to gather for “separation, assembly and cantonment,” or confinement to barracks, with their weapons kept in storage, with a security review required before an eventual merger of the two forces.
- All foreign forces embroiled in the war, most of which are from Uganda who back Kiir, must leave within 45 days while foreign militias, including rebels from neighbouring Sudan’s Darfur and Nuba mountain regions, must also be disarmed and sent home.
- No troops are allowed within a 25-kilometre (15-mile) radius of the capital Juba, with only presidential guard members, police and guards protecting infrastructure being allowed to remain in the city.
- Child soldiers and prisoners of war must be released and free access given to aid workers.
- The agreement gives rebels the post of “first vice president,” alongside the current vice president. This effectively means that Riek March would likely regain the post which he occupied before he was dismissed by President Kiir in July 2013, just six months before the war began.
- Signatories also take responsibility for the war, “apologising unconditionally” for the tens of thousands killed in a conflict marked by widespread atrocities on both sides.
- Under the agreement, a “transitional government of national unity” will take office 90 days after the signing of the deal and will govern for a period of 30 months.
- Elections must be held 60 days before the end of the transitional government’s mandate. This effectively means that if President signs the agreement now, elections will be due to take place in early 2018.
- At a national level, the government will have 53 percent of ministerial posts, with the rebels attaining 33 percent. The remaining seats will be for other parties.
- In seven of the 10 states, the government will get 85 percent of ministerial posts, however in the battleground states of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile, the government will get 46 percent will the rebels will have 40 percent of posts.
- In the states of Unity and Upper Nile, the main oil regions, which have been amongst the hardest hit areas by the war, the rebels will get to select the powerful post of governor.
War Crime Court
- In order to investigate “all aspects of human rights violations,” a Commission of Truth, Reconciliation and Healing will be set up while a “hybrid court, set up in collaboration with the African Union, will try crimes, including possible genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
- Those indicted cannot be part of the transitional government, with the deal stating, “no one shall be exempted from criminal responsibility on account of their official capacity as a government official, an elected official or claiming the defense of superior orders.”
Efforts to broker a ceasefire in South Sudan continue as a United States special envoy, along with other mediators, hold a meeting with rebel leader Riek Machar.
Reports have indicated that US special envoy Donald Booth met with Mr Machar at an undisclosed location in South Sudan. Mr Booth later indicated that mediators would continue to press for the release of jailed associates of Mr Machar for them to attend peace talks in Ethiopia. A rebel spokesman has also indicated that a ceasefire would be signed if Mr Machar’s associates were freed. Hussein Mar Nyout has also dismissed claims made by the South Sudanese government that is forces were now in full control of Unity State. He also described as baseless a government allegation that forces loyal to Mr Machar had damaged oil facilities there.
Calm Restored in the Central African Republic Following Leaders Departure
In the Central African Republic, after weeks of sectarian clashes, restive calm has returned to the streets Bangui, with banks, offices and markets re-opening. The country’s interim leader has also announced that the days of looting and revenge attacks were over.
Sources on the ground have reported that local residents of Bangui now feel safe enough to leave their homes across the city. The police have also returned to the streets while some local residents have stated that the city is the busiest it has been for a year. Many believe that this feels like a turning point as in recent weeks, there has always been at least one district, whether Muslim or Christian, where violence has resulted in people staying at home.
Following the rebel leader’s resignation on Friday, interim leader and speaker of the provisional parliament Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet vowed that the “anarchy” that has gripped the country would be swiftly brought to an end, adding that “the chaos is over, the pillaging is over, the revenge attacks are over.” He also issued a stern warning to warring militiamen from the Seleka group and the anti-balaka Christian fighters set up to oppose them. Speaking at a police headquarters in the capital Bangui, he stated “to the ex-Seleka, to the anti-balaka and the lovers of looting, I’m giving you a severe warning: The party is over.”
The return of soldiers and police to duty was another encouraging sign for the CAR after weeks of horrific sectarian violence. Over the weekend, hundreds of people lined up to re-enlist in the army, following an appeal from the chief of staff. Many of them had either deserted after the rebel takeover, or left in order to join the vigilante groups.
In recent months, the capital city has been riven by sectarian violence, with about 20% of the 4.6 million population said to have fled their homes.
Following months of fighting, Michel Djotodia seized power in March 2013, effectively becoming the CAR’s first Muslim leader. Although he later disbanded his Seleka rebels, attacks on Christian civilians around the country continued, prompting the formation of vigilante groups, which targeted Muslims. On 10 January 2014, following intense pressure from the CAR’s neighbor’s, Michel Djotodia, along with Prime Minister Nicholas Tiengaye, stepped down. The transitional national council now has two weeks in order to select a new President.
While the situation in Bangui is calm, the mood could quickly turn. On Monday, the Redo Cross reported that about fifteen people were killed ove the weekend, confirming that a degree of tension throughout the country