News flash: urgent, utterly heartbreaking petition received from CSO in Bentiu

From: People’s Initiative Development Organization
To: Honorable Major General Dr. Joseph Monytuil Wejang
Governor of Northern Liech State, Bentiu

Re: Request for urgent intervention to address the environmental pollution caused by oil spillage

We the undersigned present to you the following petition:
We are writing to bring to your attention the leakage from oil wells located on the Unity, Male and Tharjath oil fields, and from the Tang-Rial, Manga and Kaikang oil processing facilities. This oil spillage has damaged and contaminated settlements in the area. Pools, streams and swamps have also been polluted, leading to the loss of animal and some human lives.

This oil leakage is being caused by the oil companies, which do not have proper methods of disposing of oil. This untold, pollution-caused suffering gives rise to a need to address the situation. The oil companies have the legal obligation to reclaim the land damaged by pollution, and to compensate the communities adversely affected by the operations of the oil facilities.

We beseech you to use your good offices by reaching out to the National Ministry of Petroleum and to the oil companies, and to thus bring about the reclaiming of the land in our area and the compensation of the families for their loss of loved ones and livestock.

Kerubino Pow
Executive Director, PIDO South Sudan

Founded in 2005, the People’s Initiative Development Organization (PIDO) has become a leading facilitator of effective grassroots action in South Sudan’s communities. The thrust of PIDO’s work is helping the South Sudanese effectively address their pressing concerns, which include land management, registration, acquisition, restitution and compensation, and the resolution of disputes about such. Through its locally-staged and provided workshops, events and educational materials, PIDO  assists residents’ defense of their human and environmental rights.

Since 2009, PIDO has been headed by Kerubino Pow, a leading human rights organizer.

Unpaid debts and grave harm: oil production and pollution in South Sudan

by Kor Chop Leek
Kor Chop Leek is a paramedic. He is pursuing a master’s degree in humanitarian and conflict studies

On April 23, 2019, Anataban, the Juba-based artists’ collective, released “Black Tide”. Now available on YouTube and created with the support of Sign of Hope, the humanitarian organization, the video depicted the impact of oil pollution on the people and the environment. The pollution’s contamination of water and thus soil has made fields unfit for cultivation, has caused forests to die, and has wrecked the health of the South Sudanese and their livestock.

Two recent encounters made me painfully aware of the truth of the messages contained in Black Tide.

The first encounter was with a young man who works for an international organization with which I am also associated.

This man hails from Koch county, which is located in the former Unity state, and which is one of South Sudan’s main oil-producing regions. I posed the following question to him: was he aware of oil pollution in his home?

He said “It is something that simply can’t be overseen. It is to be seen with the naked eye, everywhere.” He went on to tell me that the launching of oil production in his family’s homeland has caused the deaths of nine members of his family, with these victims including his father and step-mother. To save themselves, the surviving members of the man’s family abandoned their ancestral land and moved to Mayendit county.

The second encounter was with a baby girl, some six months old and desperately ill. Her mother had brought her all the way from Unity State to a clinic in Juba where I work to get treatment for her daughter’s fever, diarrhea and vomiting – and for her gravest of problems – an abnormal anal opening. My assumption was and is that the baby’s health problems were caused by oil pollution. It turned out that the baby family lived close to oil production facilities, for whose security forces the husband had worked.

As of this writing, the baby’s fate remains uncertain.

“Black Tide” powerfully communicated the unremarked suffering being experienced by the South Sudanese  – and the need for them and stakeholders everywhere to rise up against it.

The author of this article is adding his voice to this campaign’s growing number.

The oil companies have wracked up debts. They owe the people of South Sudan clean water, remediated farmland, medical treatment, compensation, education and infrastructure.

And now is the time to pay these debts – and for the oil companies to live up to their own and international standards of environmental protection.

I am calling upon the oil companies to do this – and upon Sign of Hope to continue its support of the people and the groups fighting for a healthy environment and livable lives in South Sudan.

And, most importantly, I am calling up the government of South Sudan to expeditiously address the environmental crisis prevailing in the country’s oil-producing regions.

Kor’s overview of the history and effects of oil production in South Sudan is available here:

New heat in South Sudan’s resistance to oil pollution

Calls to sue South Sudan’s government in regional court

by Joseph Oduha 
April 30, 2019

A new video has re-energized South Sudanese resistance to the oil pollution sweeping over many parts of the country.Released on April 24th, “Black Tide” shows the toll exacted by the oil industry’s wastes, spills and facility abandonments on South Sudan. 

Its release has been followed by a resumption of calls – notably by human rights defender Keluel Agok – upon South Sudan’s government to take the legal action required to get Asian oil companies – specifically Petronas of Malaysia, China National Petroleum and India’s ONGC – to stop their contamination of oil producing-regions in the country’s north.

Speaking from Uganda, where he has found sanctuary, Agok, former secretary general of South Sudan’s Civil Society Alliance, stated: “Oil pollution’s impact upon communities located in and around oil fields has been a grave concern since 2014. 

This – highly negative – impact has been thoroughly documented in authoritative reports compiled by the Sudd Institute and other reputable organizations. These were submitted to the country’s authorities.”Agok adds: “Despite this, the government has failed to take the requisite action, which would include the government’s and the oil companies’ providing the funds and social services and facilities so desperately needed by the victims of pollution. This failure to act has caused our people’s continuing to suffer.”“This failure has to be immediately corrected by the government. Its refusal to do such would require South Sudanese civil society activists to sue the government of South Sudan and the oil companies operating in it in the regional court with jurisdiction over them,” Agok concludes.

There are precedents for such. The government of South Sudan was recently summoned by the East African Court of Justice to answer for its “arbitrary” detention of defenders of human rights.

Repression of opposition reaches new highpoint

+By John Adukata 
April 30, 2019

Dong Samuel and Agrey Idris Izbon are dead. Putting a sad end to 16 months of worries about their fates, confirmation of the murders of the two South Sudanese human rights activists was delivered by UN officials to their families.

Dong and Agrey had been kidnapped in Nairobi on January 23 and 24, 2017 respectively by reportedly South Sudan’s infamous National Security Service and its Kenyan counterparts. According to Amnesty International, the two were then brought to the “Blue House” – the prison maintained by the NSS in Juba – and then allegedly murdered on or around January 27th.

The “crime” committed by Dong, a noted attorney, and by Agrey, a politician: they had the courage to report in the social media on the fates of other human rights defenders who became victims of the NSS.

The news of the confirmation of the deaths has unleashed a firestorm of indignation in South Sudan’s media and among its people.

The murders are just the latest in a long series allegedly committed by the NSS. In addition to activists, favorite targets of such are journalists who dare to criticize the government, report Human Rights Watch and Amnesty Internationa

Amnesty calls for prosecution of Sudan’s Salah Gosh

By Joseph Oduha
April 19, 2019

Salah Gosh has to answer for his crimes in a court of law.
Such is the plea of Amnesty International, which has a lot of facts to back it up. Salah Gosh – more properly Salah Abdallah – is reputed to have been instrumental in the killings of some 400,000 peoples perpetrated by the Sudanese government in the years 2003 – 20016 in the Darfur region.

A major general in the Sudanese army and a “national security advisor”, Gosh served stints as the director of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service. During his last tenure at the NISS’ helm (from February 11, 2018 – to April 13, 2019), Gosh presided over the killing and torturing of a large number of the protesters calling – ultimately successfully – for the ousting of Omar al-Bashir, the long-serving and dictatorial president of South Sudan.

“It is crucial that Sudan’s new authorities investigate Salah Gosh’s role in the killings of scores of Sudanese protesters over the past four months as well as allegations of torture, arbitrary detention and other human rights violations under his supervision of Sudan’s NISS,” stated Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

Gosh’s resignation on April 13th should not exempt him from being called to bear responsibility for the gross abuses of human rights committed during his watch, added Amnesty: “Resignation from power must not mean an escape from accountability for serious human rights violations.”
Other calls issued by Amnesty: “The new authorities in Sudan must address past human rights violations and undertake desperately
needed reforms to ensure that there can be no repeat of the heinous crimes under international law the country has witnessed over the past three decades. “Sudan’s new authorities must also urgently declare the whereabouts of former President Omar al-Bashir and immediately hand him over to the International Criminal Court to ensure justice can be served for the atrocities committed during his three decades in power,” it says.

The International Criminal Court has charged al-Bashir with five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war-related transgressions.

Free Sudan’s media – call by Sudanese Journalists’ Network

By Joseph Oduha
April 15, 2019

Spurred by the success of the peoples’ uprising against the regime of Omar al-Bashir and its successors, advocates of media freedom in Sudan have issued an urgent call: ‘Liberate Sudan’s journalists from the confinement constituted by the rules imposed on them by the regime.

In a report broadcast by Dabanga, a Sudanese radio station, the Sudanese Journalists Network (SJN) issued the demand that the country’s radio and television be liberated from the “clutches” of state control.
SJN also called upon the signatories of the “Declaration of Freedom and Change” to take the steps required to make the country’s media free and fair – by ridding it of censor-driven supervision.
Encompassed in this is Sudan’s telecommunications sector, which has been used by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) to track and apprehend dissent.
This tracking was behind the detentions of a large number of journalists over the last few months – and behind the banning of publication of magazines, as reported by Reporters Without Borders.