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South Sudan’s peace hangs in the balance

Armed cattle rustlers ambush soldiers, leaving 25 dead


A boy carries water while his grandfather watches for cattle rustlers and lions in northeastern South Sudan. Getty Images/Photo by Julien Behal/PA Images

South Sudan’s peace hangs in the balance

Late in June, soldiers fought with cattle rustlers in a village in South Sudan’s restive northwest Warrap state. Eighteen soldiers and seven civilians died as the forces came under fire when trying to recover the stolen cattle from the gelweng—cattle protectors, in Dinka—a quasi-organized group of armed young men.

Warrap is one of several regions in South Sudan plagued by ethnic conflict. The near-daily attacks and killings now threaten an already fragile path to peace.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan tracked 72 civilian deaths and 64 cases of sexual violence between Feb. 17 and April 7 in Leer County alone. As many as 40,000 people fled the region. A Juba-based civic group, CEPO, reported at least 209 deaths and 33 injuries across the nation in June.

In 2013, two years after gaining independence from Sudan, South Sudan faced a civil war fueled by fighting between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and his rival Vice President Riek Machar. Kiir and Machar are jointly working under a fragile 2018 peace deal and preparing for elections in February. But armed groups and rustlers across the country are fracturing signs of peace as they operate without much security pushback. Kiir remains hopeful elections can still happen next year, but Machar has said the widespread insecurity makes it impossible.

Nicholas Haysom, who heads the UN Mission in the country, said intercommunal violence and armed militias that have spread across all four regions of the country account for more than 80 percent of civilian deaths this year. “The sheer magnitude of the tasks ahead requires the international community’s full and unrestricted attention,” he said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price announced last week that the U.S. has withdrawn support from two peacekeeping organizations in South Sudan due to the “lack of sustained progress.” Price highlighted the ongoing absence of critical electoral legislation ahead of the elections and the lack of a unified military to better protect civilians.

Chido Mutangadura with the South Africa–based Institute for Security Studies said any peace prospects are still subject to South Sudan’s political dynamics.

“The viability of the peace agreement depends on the level of trust between the country’s leaders, which is low,” Mutangadura explained. “Kiir remains deeply suspicious of his deputy, even refusing to allow him to leave the country.”

World Radar

EUROPE: The United Kingdom limited train services this week over fears that the continent’s record heat wave could buckle the rails. The record heat also warped part of Luton Airport’s runway in London, causing flight suspensions. France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany recorded temperatures that hovered around 104 degrees this week. Portugal sweltered under 117 degrees last week. More than 1,000 heat-related deaths occurred in Portugal and Spain. Wildfires in France, Portugal, Spain, and Greece forced many to evacuate. In France, over 30,000 people had to flee. In Spain, at least 20 fires burned out of control.

THAILAND: Cybersecurity investigators revealed on Monday that an unspecified government actor targeted Thai pro-democracy activists with the spyware Pegasus. The attacks on their phones and other devices occurred between October 2020 and November 2021, coinciding with the pro-democracy protests that broke out across the country. Produced by the Israeli-based NSO Group, Pegasus uses zero-click attacks, which means it can remotely infect a device without requiring the target to click on or download anything. Researchers are concerned the spyware typically sold to governments for security purposes allows them to surveil dissidents.

INDIA: Droupadi Murmu, 64, won election as India’s first tribal president and second-ever female president. About 4,800 members of India’s parliament and legislative assembly voted on Monday. Murmu’s win, announced Thursday, was largely expected as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party controls enough seats in federal and state legislatures to push its preferred candidate. A former governor of Jharkhand state, Murmu will assume the largely ceremonial role, though the president can have greater power at times of political uncertainty, such as a hung parliament. —Joyce Wu, WORLD correspondent

GHANA: Health officials in Ghana this week confirmed the country’s first outbreak of the Marburg virus as two patients who tested positive died. Authorities launched contact tracing and quarantined dozens of the contacts of the two confirmed cases in the southern Ashanti region. Marburg is a highly infectious hemorrhagic fever in the same family as the Ebola virus. Ghana is the second West African nation to confirm the virus after Guinea reported one case last year.

MALAWI: A BBC documentary last month exposed the Chinese online industry exploiting African children for paid greeting videos. Zambian officials detained Lu Ke, a Chinese filmmaker caught on camera filming Malawian children, for illegal entry when he fled after the documentary surfaced. Malawi’s Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda this week confirmed Lu was extradited to Malawi and is facing charges linked to racism and child exploitation. Chinese authorities have also vowed to crack down on online racism.

AUSTRALIA: Most grocery store shelves in Geelong, Australia, are empty of lettuce and have been for months. During the winter, many of Australia’s vegetables are grown in the temperate regions of New South Wales and Queensland, but back-to-back flooding has ruined crops and raised the cost of other vegetables—like broccoli at $11.22/lb—to twice the price of a gallon of gasoline. Rising costs of fertilizer and pesticides since the Russian invasion of Ukraine also contribute to the shortages, prompting a growing interest in backyard gardens, including 15 lettuce starts in my own garden. I hope to share the bounty. —Amy Lewis, WORLD correspondent


Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.

@onize_ohiks

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