Foreign News


Youth Petition AU on South Sudan Violence



South Sudanese young leaders have asked the African Union (AU) to assume responsibility for the peace process in the war-ravaged country.

A delegation of young leaders, under their umbrella of South Sudan Young Leaders Forum (SSYLF), travelled to Addis Ababa this week to petition the AU to do more and end violence.

SSYLF is a forum of more than 70 young South Sudanese leaders representing the full ethnic, political and geographical diversity of South Sudan.

Beny Gideon Mabor, a member of SSYLF, says regional actors have what he calls vested interests that bar them from objectively addressing the crisis in South Sudan.

"The vested interests that regional actors have in South Sudan, have prevented them from using their influence with our leaders to stop the fighting," Mabor says.

Mabor says that if the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is unable to do what it takes, they should cede responsibility for the peace process to the African Union.

Established in 1986, IGAD is a trade bloc bringing together eight governments from the Horn of Africa, Nile Valley, and the African Great Lakes. The member-countries include Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan.

South Sudan is currently facing concurrent political, economic and humanitarian crises which have taken their toll on the country and the region. More than 3.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes, most of them seeking refuge in the four neighbouring countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan.

Uganda alone hosts close to a million South Sudan refugees besides others from Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Geoffrey Duke, a member of the SSYLF delegation, says the current leaders in South Sudan have demonstrated a clear commitment to military victory at all costs. "The only way to save South Sudan from collapse is to usher in new leadership that can ensure a permanent ceasefire and begin the difficult task of repairing the harms that this war has done," says Duke.

In recent weeks, the AU and IGAD have begun a diplomatic push to revitalise the peace process in South Sudan. Emmily Koiti, a medic and member of the SSYLF delegation, however, argues that for this process to be successful, it must give all the key actors a voice at the table. "This applies to military and political actors involved as well as civic groups, including the youth. It should also guarantee that non-implementation of the peace agreement does not go unpunished," Koiti says.

The young leaders urge IGAD, AU and the international community not to replicate past mistakes by focusing exclusively on accommodation and power sharing as a solution to the political crisis. "Power sharing as it's applied in our country rewards warlords and legitimises the pursuit of power through violence," Duke says.

This is in reference to the fragile peace process that prevailed after the civil war broke out in December 2013. Comrades-turned-foes, President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Dr Riek Machar, agreed to work together again only for the duo to fall out once again in July last year.

In the violence that ensued, over 200 people were reported dead. The clashes forced Dr Machar out of Juba into the DRC, Sudan and later South Africa.

South Sudanese have virtually known no peace for 35 years. The country gained independence in July 2011 after 27 years of fighting against Sudan. Two years into her independence, the country was at war again after President Kiir and his then deputy, Dr Machar, fell out.

Numerous attempts to bring the warring parties together behind the terms of a political settlement have not yielded any meaningful results, including recent efforts by Uganda and Kenya. "We have seen several of these failed attempts to get the parties to talk to one another and agree on a road-map for Peace. While they haggle over their own personal agendas, the people of South Sudan are dying," says Mannaseh Mathiang, another member of the SSYLF delegation.

Youth comprise of over 80 percent of the population in South Sudan, but the young leaders assert that they are marginalised and grossly underrepresented in decision making, including the planned revitalisation of the peace process. As Koiti says, "The youth are bearing the brunt of the conflict. We are the ones that are fighting and dying, and still we're denied the opportunity to share our views on the way forward for South Sudan."

The trip to Addis Ababa is the third stop in the SSYLF delegation's regional tour after Uganda and Kenya. In Uganda, the youth urged President Yoweri Museveni to support the renewed peace process spearhead by IGAD and help galvanise the region into ensuring lasting peace and stability in South Sudan.


One candidate turned up for election debate




A TV debate for Kenyan politicians hoping to become deputy president in next month's elections went ahead even though only one candidate took part.

Muthiora Kariara, a political novice who is running with independent presidential candidate Japheth Kaluyu, answered questions for about an hour.

Some of the candidates were not allowed to take part because they arrived late.

Political parties have accused the organisers of failing to consult them in the planning of the event.

The main candidates for deputy president, the current holder of the office William Ruto and Kalonzo Musyoka of the opposition National Super Alliance, boycotted the debate.

Viewers who tuned in saw a stage set with six podiums at the Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi - but only one of them occupied.

BBC Africa reporter James Copnall says Muthiora Kariara did not look overawed, even when the moderators appeared to struggle to pronounce his name.

He took part in what became a solo question and answer session broadcast live to the nation - perhaps the best political advertising a newcomer could wish for, our correspondent adds.


Worshippers swept away in river baptism




Tanzanian police have detained a pastor after two worshippers drowned while being baptised in a river near Rombo in the north of the country.

The two victims were overwhelmed by the current of the River Ungwasi according to a police .

It is not clear how the pastor and the other worshippers involved managed to survive, the BBC's Odeo Sirari says.

They are members of a local church, Shalom, which is part of the charismatic Christian movement.

Baptism in a river rather than in church is seen as a way of re-enacting the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.

The ceremony is a symbol of washing away sin and the start of a new life.



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