From the Ukrainian peace plan to Brazil’s worsening drought and the disarmament of South Sudan’s child soldiers to a sex-free Valentine’s Day in Bangkok, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.
Rebel leader Riek Machar tells TIME that this time "I hope it will be different" — but experts aren't so sure it will be
The rebel leader in South Sudan’s yearlong civil war says he’s hopeful peace talks with the government will continue later this month, extending negotiations that could be the country’s last chance at long-term stability.
Rebel leader Riek Machar, the former vice president, agreed early Monday on a roadmap for forming a transitional government after five days of negotiations with President Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on the sidelines of the African Summit. The talks were brokered by envoys from the group of East African nations known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
“We hope to continue discussions on the contentious issues on the 20th of February,” Machar told TIME in a phone interview on Monday, adding that both parties agreed to respect a ceasefire until then. “We will go and consult with all the constituencies.”
Fighting first began in Juba, the capital, in December 2013, as Kiir accused his former vice-president of orchestrating a coup. Violence rapidly spiraled into a national conflict along both political and tribal lines, and has continued ever since.
Both Machar and Kiir agreed to finalize an agreement by the end of March and establish a transitional government by July 9. But key issues, including the power of the presidency and the two deputies, remain unresolved, and it’s unclear if the two parties will be able to overcome their differences.
Machar described negotiations that began on Thursday and continued on and off until early Monday morning as cordial. “We laugh, we joke,” he said of his interactions with Kiir, a one-time ally, but accused government forces of breaking past ceasefires. This time, he said, “I hope it will be different.”
But experts say that’s unlikely to be the case, with at least six ceasefires broken by both sides over the past year. “I doubt that this agreement has really put us on path toward a solution to this conflict,” said David Abramowitz, vice president for policy at Humanity United. Extending the negotiations could be a way for both parties to “position themselves on the battlefield,” according to Abramowitz.
Still, observers say that if a peace deal is not reached soon, the fledgling country that split off from its northern neighbor in 2011 could be permanently fractured. “This is the moment of truth for South Sudan,” said Eric Reeves, an English professor at Smith College and an expert on Sudan and South Sudan, speaking as the negotiations were taking place.
The war’s toll on the country has been devastating. Since the fighting began, at least 10,000 people have been killed and nearly 2 million others displaced. While a massive international assistance effort led by the United Nations and other NGOs helped avert a feared famine this past year, ongoing fighting could disrupt the planting season in the spring and lead to widespread food shortages.
The East African countries heading up negotiations have threatened sanctions or even military intervention. But the group has been hobbled in part by ties between the warring parties and member countries, which include countries like Sudan and Uganda that have long-standing interests in South Sudan. This is now the “last chance” for South Sudan’s East African neighbors to broker peace, Abramowitz said. “If they fail, then others need to get engaged. And the signs are not good.”
Those others would include Western governments and the African Union (AU), which on Saturday threatened to impose sanctions on the warring parties in South Sudan. The United States, which played a key role in ending the Sudanese civil war in 2005 before the North and South split, has been slow to decide whether to push for an international arms embargo on the country amid internal debate in Washington.
Machar said he was open to an arms embargo, which some fear could have a disproportionate impact on the supply of arms to Kiir’s government, but he criticized sanctions as “misguided.”
“Sanctions do not create peace,” he said. “Those who want to make sanctions, they should help us reach an agreement instead of making sanctions.”
Hanging over the negotiations is a report drafted by an AU commission that is expected to identify those responsible for some of the atrocities that have been committed during the conflict. On Friday, Chairwoman of the Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said it would postpone the report’s release, despite calls from human rights groups to publish it in order to help establish accountability in the conflict.
“One of the reasons that we are where we are today is that past human rights abuses were not addressed by the political elites in South Sudan, and these challenges have been festering over years and years,” said Abramowitz. “We can’t allow them to do that again.”
Rebel commander Riek Machar would become Vice President under a proposed power-sharing deal
The government of South Sudan signed a cease-fire agreement with opposition rebel forces on Monday, signaling a possible end to the internal conflict that has ravaged the North African nation for more than a year.
The deal was signed by South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel commander Riek Machar during talks in Ethiopia, Reuters reports.
The agreement proposes a power-sharing arrangement between the two leaders whereby Kiir would remain President and Machar would become Vice President, sources said, although negotiations on the details are still in progress and similar cease-fire deals have been ignored in the past.
More than 10,000 people have been killed and over a million rendered homeless by the violence, which first sparked in December 2013.
UNICEF calls it "one of the largest ever demobilizations of children."
Nearly three hundred children between ages 11 and 17 laid down their arms Tuesday, in the first step of an ambitious program to reintegrate some 3,000 child soldiers in South Sudan, according to UNICEF.
The children are members of the South Sudan Democratic Army Cobra Faction, a militant group in eastern Sudan whose leader, David Yau Yau, signed a peace agreement with the government last year amid ongoing violence in the country.
UNICEF, which helped broker the children’s release, said it would mark one of the largest demobilization of children soldiers ever. It expects the full handover to take weeks.
“These children have been forced to do and see things no child should ever experience,” UNICEF South Sudan Representative Jonathan Veitch said in a statement.
Since fighting broke out between President Salva Kiir and supporters of Vice President Riek Machar in December 2013, the country—which broke off from Sudan, its northern neighbor, in 2011—has been embroiled in a conflict between the government and rebel groups that has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced some 1.5 million others.
But the conflict has taken a disproportionate toll on children, forcing some 400,000 students out of school and prompting a surge in the number of child soldiers, according to Ettie Higgins, the deputy representative for UNICEF in South Sudan. Since the fighting began, an estimated 12,000 children have been recruited to fight with armed groups on both sides.
Now UNICEF and other organizations, in conjunction with the government, are aiming to return those children to their families.
“They’re happy to give their gun up and they just want to go to school,” Higgins said in a telephone interview from South Sudan after the first group of 280 children were released. “That’s been the key message we’re getting.”
UNICEF and its partner organizations said they will provide counseling and health care to the children as they attempt to reunite them with their families. The aid groups are also working with local communities, which have agreed to welcome back the children recruited by the Cobra Faction, to prevent discrimination and limit the chances that the children are again recruited.
But UN officials stress that the program risks stalling if funding dries up. UNICEF, which is appealing for $10 million in funding, says the process of reintigrating the children costs roughly $2,330 a child over two years.
“At the risk of sounding like other conflict zones, we don’t want to lose another generation here,” Higgins said. “These children, despite everything they’ve gone through, they’re still looking to the future. We mustn’t let them down.”
From the escalating violence in Gaza and the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, to the growing influx of unaccompanied migrant minors entering the US and the rise of the Super Moon, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.
"Children are especially vulnerable."
Thousands of people in South Sudan are being put at risk by a cholera outbreak, says international aid group Save the Children. Cholera has infected 2,600 people in 9 of the the country’s 10 states, according to the group, leaving 60 dead since cases were first reported in May.
“Save the Children’s feeding clinics are dealing with an influx of severely malnourished children. We urgently need to further funds to provide families with life-saving food supplements,” said Save the Children’s Country Director Pete Walsh in a statement Friday.
The cholera outbreak is tied to an ongoing conflict in the country. South Sudan is home to a long-standing civil war, with the most recent violence escalating in December after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy of attempting to launch a coup.
Aid agencies are struggling to receive needed funding even as the fighting has pushed the country to famine. Save the Children says the seven major international aid agencies operating in the country face closure, currently short an excess of $92 million.
“We are seeing a lot of cases of malnutrition at our treatment centers,” Save the Children Director Francine Uenuma tells TIME. “Children are especially vulnerable.”
Save the Children is working closely with local treatment centers, hoping to develop assessment plans and prevention education. However, with the rainy season approaching, conditions are only expected to deteriorate further. Walsh says that flooded roads will only slow down the delivery of life-saving drugs.
Down and out in Paris and London? Try spending a year in the world's biggest cost sinks, Venezuela, Angola or South Sudan
A new ranking of the world’s most expensive cities for expats knocked the usual candidates — New York, Tokyo and London — off of the list. The true epicenters of sticker shock were Venezuela, Angola and South Sudan.
Global staffing firm ECA International surveyed prices in 440 cities, focusing on items that expats were most likely to buy on a daily basis, including groceries, clothing and bar tabs. The cities that topped the list tended to fall in one of two areas: Wealthy swathes of Scandinavia and economies coming apart at the seams.
Caracas, Venezuela topped the list after runaway inflation hurdled the city from 32nd place to 1st in one year. Surveyors found price levels 40% above the second costliest city: Oslo, Norway. Luanda, Angola came in third partly due to import tariffs that have hiked the price for a half-liter tub of vanilla ice cream to $31. Rounding out the list was Juba, South Sudan, where a 90 kilometer drive along one of the only continuous roads to the outside world can take upwards of 24 hours to navigate, according to the World Bank.
The list offers a stark reminder that outside of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, the real sticker shock tends to hit the people who can least afford it.
|Global Rank 2014||Country||City|
Source: ECA International
From the Santa Barbara drive-by shootings and Ukrainian presidential elections, to martial law in Thailand and Kim and Kanye’s wedding extravaganza, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.
The death sentence for a pregnant Sudanese woman who refuses to renounce her Christian faith shows that the government's depravity extends far beyond religion and deep into the heart of humanity.
The world was shaken by the news Thursday that a pregnant woman was sentenced to death for apostasy. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim is eight months pregnant, and because she will not renounce her Christian faith, she will be hanged soon after she gives birth. In Sudan, children must be raised the religion of their father. The government claims that because Ibrahim’s father was a Muslim, she must remain so and her marriage to a Christian man is invalid.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim’s story resonates with everything I’ve experienced in my 10 years of working in Sudan and South Sudan. Ibrahim’s story reminds me of a dear friend of mine, Mary Achai, whose Muslim slave master set her on fire, along with three of her children, because she ran away when she learned that he planned to sell her 10-year-old daughter as a virgin bride. Although Mary is permanently marred inside and out, she survived the fire. Her 10-year-old daughter, toddler and nursing baby did not.
Rightly so, much emphasis is being given to the fact that Ibrahim’s sentence of death is in retaliation of her choice to be Christian. However, fundamentally, the crisis in Sudan is not one of religion but rather a complete disregard for the dignity of life, especially female life.
I know Muslim women in South Sudan who the Islamic Janjaweed raped with sticks as they mocked, “This is so you cannot make black babies.” I know men who’ve been beaten, had their teeth knocked out and forced to swallow them and had limbs hacked off as they watched their wives and children dragged behind the tail of a horse into slavery because their skin was black instead of the beautiful bronze color of their Arab-descendant fellow countrymen. I know a beautiful young schoolteacher whose father forced her to leave her job to marry a man who already had four wives so that he could garner a few more cows. I’ve sat through bomb blitzes targeted at the indigenous people of the Nuba Mountains, which is largely Islamic, simply because they are black and yet dare to proclaim their right to life, liberty and the use of their homeland’s natural resources.
The depravity of the Sudanese government extends far beyond religion and deep into the heart of humanity. A people will not truly have freedom of religion unless it is built upon a foundation of the sanctity of life.
I find myself cheering for Ibrahim as a thundercloud of hope, proclaiming “Life is worth dying for.” Mohamed Jar Elnabi, her attorney, echoes the sonorous claps of Ibrahim’s life as he endures death threats, social castigation, and financial hardship for defending her.
From half a world away, it is tempting to turn our faces away from Ibrahim and Elnabi, but in so doing we would be turning our backs upon our own human dignity. There may be no financial incentive to pursue the arrest of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president who sets the pace for this human debasement and who the International Criminal Court has indicted for war crimes against the indigenous people of Sudan; in fact, it would cost us something. But I find myself wondering what cost we pay by not demanding the pursuit of justice beyond our political or personal gain.
To date, the embassies of Britain, the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands have called on Sudan to respect Ibrahim’s right to change her faith. Isn’t this woman’s life, and the principle for which she is willing to lay it down, worth more than a “call”?
Kimberly L. Smith is the president and co-founder of Make Way Partners, the only indigenously operated relief organization providing orphan care and anti-trafficking efforts in the Sudan and South Sudan. Smith has been serving alongside the Sudanese people for 10 years. Make Way Partners currently provides complete care to 1,100 orphans and employs 300 Sudanese, many of whom are former victims of sex trafficking. Smith is also the author of the award-winning book Passport through Darkness, which chronicles much of her experience in the Sudans. For more information on Kimberly L. Smith and Make Way Partners, please visit www.makewaypartners.org.
A U.N. report found "reasonable grounds to believe" that both rebels and the government committed crimes against humanity
The U.N. on Thursday accused both the government and the rebels in South Sudan of human-rights abuses and suggested they committed crimes against humanity.
In a 62-page report based largely on more than 900 interviews with eyewitnesses and victims, the U.N. found both sides committed rape, mass killings and torture, often targeting civilians along ethnic lines.
“In light of the widespread and systematic nature of many of the attacks, and information suggesting coordination and planning, there are also reasonable grounds to believe that the crimes against humanity of murder, rape and other acts of sexual violence, enforced disappearance, and imprisonment have occurred,” the report found.
Fighting broke out in December in the world’s newest nation between government troops under President Salva Kiir and rebel fighters backing Kiir’s former deputy, Riek Machar. The conflict has exasperated underlying ethnic tensions between Kiir’s Dinka tribe and Machar’s Nuer, and the U.N. said in the report that thousands of civilians have likely been killed.
Kiir and Machar are expected to meet Friday in Ethiopia to try to negotiate an end to nearly five months of fighting.
On Tuesday, the Obama Administration imposed economic sanctions targeting a top official from each side in an effort to pressure both sides to the negotiating table.