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Hope in short supply as fighting in South Sudan escalates ahead of decisive Addis peace talks
Image by UNMISS MEDIA
As our helicopter approaches Leer in northern South Sudan, all one can see is eerily empty, dry, sun-stricken land. The people we meet on the ground, however, have a different story to tell. It is one of human suffering on an unimaginable scale. Escalating fighting and brutality in the area may compromise the next, widely believed to be decisive, round of peace talks in Addis Ababa.
“The peace talks have not been successful, and I guess most disappointingly the cessation of hostilities [agreement] that was signed at the end of last year which most people felt was a step in the right direction is not working either, and the intensification of the conflict on the ground has a huge human impact,” says UNMISS Chief David Shearer, keen to talk to the warring parties in the hope they will lay down their weapons and build durable peace.
On arrival, we are greeted not by one but two typhoons, as the armed personnel carriers used by the Ghanaian peacekeepers are called.
And the 126 West African blue helmets making up the robust base in Leer have indeed gotten used to vicious, destructive whirlwinds in their immediate vicinity. Recent, frequent clashes between government and opposition troops have seen several humanitarian actors forced to leave the area.
But Leer has witnessed numerous arrivals, albeit involuntary ones, too. Over the last week, a steady stream of approximately 600 displaced persons have been scrambling for a place to temporarily settle down in a tiny protection area next to the base of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
They are joining another 500 or so displaced and disillusioned individuals, most of whom may smile wryly at the somewhat euphemistically named Temporary Protection Area.
“I have been here for three years by now, because of the crisis and all the cases of rape going on outside of here, in the villages. Staying here is not easy, but at least it is better and safer than in a village,” says Nyalui Yor. “Many people were being killed outside, and if you survive and if you are a woman, they rape you.”
Or worse, her fellow protection area resident Nyakui Kong, might add. She arrived just three days ago, with horror scenes still haunting her mind.
“People were killed, houses were burnt, food was taken away. Someone tried to hang me, but luckily I fell down and ran to the UN base. This is the only place I can go,” she says.
The utter lack of available food has also contributed to the decision of the desperate to seek shelter in the protection area, and judging by what precious little can be purchased in Leer’s town centre, real scarcity persists.
Cooking oil is sold in minuscule plastic bags, garlic is bought, or at least on offer, by the clove. Purchasing power is so limited and customers so few and far between that an elderly, near-toothless man fails to fetch a paltry 5 dollars for his two cute baby goats. Two armed young men of unknown affiliation grin grimly, puffing away on their cigarettes as they watch the non-unfolding of the business transaction.
James Gatdit, in the protection area, is also having a feeling that nothing positive is happening. He and his six brothers, three sets of twins, no less, were somehow separated from their parents about two years ago. His mother and father live in the UN Mission protection site in Bentiu, while James and his brothers are mostly idle in Leer.
“Life is no good here. We have no proper accommodation, there is not enough food and nobody is going to school. Why? There are no teachers and no books,” says James, who would like to become a doctor “to give medicines to people who need them”.
James Gatdit seems sadly resigned to his fate.
“How can I be optimistic? The future is no good. There is no future. I don’t believe that our leaders have it in their hearts to make peace.”
Sporting a Liverpool FC football shirt, he cannot even follow his favourite club’s amazing Champions League campaign on TV. Yet Champions League football provides a rare distraction for James and his peers.
“We can’t watch the games, but we play them ourselves,” he says with a hint of a smile.
So, who is to blame for the dire circumstances found in Leer and its surroundings? That, it turns out, depends on whom you are asking.
John Matip Gatluak, governor of Southern Liech, talks of “rebel” attacks “on a daily basis” and about the difficulties of “youth management”.
“The government is doing what it can to contain the situation, but management of youths is difficult, actually. We can’t really control our youth. The security situation is normal, except for the youth, who are out there fighting far from Leer”, Mr. Gatluak says as he steps out from his bullet-ridden office. He and his advisors hint that the conflict is not “tribal”, but “all political” and also driven by cattle raids and subsequent revenge attacks.
His is a lone voice of optimism:
“There is no point that we fight ourselves. President Salva Kiir is declaring a ceasefire and we have to respect it, although rebels continue to attack us. But peace will come. We will manage to bring peace to our people.”
In Dablual in Northern Liech, ten minutes north by helicopter, the tune is different.
“The security situation here is very bad. Government forces have been stealing in this area for almost ten days now. The soldiers come and look for the IO [in opposition] soldiers. They come and kill the old women, the children, the old men. They destroy everything, including houses and even the bore hole, which is now broken,” Major General Joseph Nhial, acting governor in the opposition-controlled area, laments. He mentions numerous places where fighting is ongoing, but maintains that his troops are just defending themselves.
“We [the opposition] are in a position of peace. We follow the cessation of hostilities [agreement] we signed last year.”
In the meantime, a majority of the local population, mostly women and children, are surviving on wild vegetables and fruits, in the bush or on fragile islands in the swamps surrounding the area.
Later this month, the next round of the High Level Revitalization Forum, already postponed twice, is expected to take place. Several stakeholders believe that these talks are crucial, and possibly the last chance to mend the broken seams of this young, war-torn country.
Optimism is hard to come by.
“I know that we are making a difference. I know that people are alive today because of what we do. It is what gets me up in the morning and keeps me going, but you are not seeing the longer term process panning out and that is really depressing. After a day like today, I feel pretty dispirited, to be perfectly honest,” Mr. Shearer said.
In an attempt to mitigate these bleak circumstances, UNMISS is intensifying its patrols to protect civilians and to monitor and report human rights violations. The Mission is also supporting the safe delivery of humanitarian aid and will continue to work alongside local communities to end the hostilities and build durable peace for the sake of the people.
But as we leave Leer heading for Juba, the Ghanaian typhoons remain. So does the uncertainty of what the future holds.
Photo: UNMISS / Eric Kanalstein
FRENCH ESCAPISM & LIQUID PAINTING, by scott richard
Image by torbakhopper
liquid painting is very liberating for the painter.
and it’s very exciting to overpaint.
it provides its own form of escapism — the ability to be free to paint over what is finished in a way that builds and destroys at the same time. just like life!
in life when we have a goal or an accomplishment that we want to achieve, we set out toward the completion point.
if we work hard enough and have the necessary aptitude for success within the project, eventually the TASK is completed.
and there is perhaps a celebration?
but then the next chapter of this incessant struggle rears up to make itself frontal to our next accomplishment.
we seem to live between the accomplishments, ever-focused on the end point of achievement.
and liquid painting is like this without the neurotic sadness.
it is about literally PAINTING OVER already wonderful and finished products.
it is ANTI-MATERIALISTIC.
it is an exploration into change.
it is an adventure about letting go of something.
it is like a tibetan sand painting that is fated to be blown away.
and so are dynasties and earthly power.
as the RISE OF A GLOBAL TELEVISION NETWORK continues its mad race toward existence, nation states will be used like pawns. they will become like the characters on the Dopaquel Peninsula.
they will eat horses and chop off the arms of their daughters.
they will seek an illusion of the pre-electric world reintegrated with the post-havoc world of nuclear energy and atomic warfare. they will look to the past as though it had become a heaven.
and the inversion of the demented CHRISTIAN FALL will make heaven into an "historical" notion that can only be reached by going back into time, whereas hell will become a "future possibility".
the threat of CRIME BLOTTER posing as news will make the peaceful tranquility of the Dopaquel Peninsula irresistible to the betteroffs and the prettyoffs.
the idea of CLEAN AIR, CLEAN LAND, CLEAN WATER, CLEAN FOOD will be the plaintiff cry of all the people.
but few will have access to it.
so keep shoveling those fking MEDZ down your throat, america.
blake’s poetry that you didn’t read or understand because all you could stand was the image of a tiger burning bright.
you never made it to the real poetic works, did you?
got hung up at the door jam,
again and again and again.
the piscean slave syndrome of catch and release, catch and release.
but who if not you ever listened or read our government’s abominations in the 9/11 commission report?
did NOT ONE american take time to hear what the government "claims" happened?
is this inconceivably sharp question so DAMNING?!?!
how could NOT ONE american take time to examine 9/11?
how could GLOBAL TELEVISION crush the story and the fall out so THOROUGHLY?
it literally KILLED the show friends.
i don’t know, but i’d bet that you never took the time to understand just exactly what our rogue government was up to, but you acted like you did.
you pretended that these new unnamed organizations weren’t stool pigeons of your own government, set up and paid for and then "allegedly" they went sideways?!<| maybe not.
liars tell lies.
instead, you probably know at least a couple of people who took time and money to out and buy duct tape and plastic wrapping.
and all of us bought so much gas it could fill swimming pools and a whole neighborhood could fill lakes and underground oceans have been consumed by cities.
it was US!!!
i gave my car up for three years, but after i was almost run down on my mountain bike by a confused motorist who had never used a "roundabout" before, i too returned to the petroleum speed addiction of instant travel power.
it’s a life/death issue — don’t go up against armored vehicles with your windmill tilting two wheeled pedaler.
that’s just stupid.
and even though i’ve only put 60k miles on my car in 12 years, we are all in this game and working it.
so it’s on us.
we did it.
we are guilty.
and the outside world knows and sees this VERY CLEARLY.
they aren’t hindered by all the GOOD TIMES we had.
instead, they remember every flagrant fku we sent their way.
historically, this is why the party kids never realize how much they fk others up. they are so fkt up that they think they’re funny and attractive and special and deserving.
and that’s sad and true.
so the party kids blow off their human duties to other humans.
they suppress those truths and hide those memories,.
they live on borrowed money’s pleasure and then they pretend they never have to pay it back.
they neglect their most basic obligations .
seriously can you fking believe that american kid stole a poster from the north koreans.
i mean, too bad for him and all, that’s a private family issue and none of my concern in ANY WAY.
but what a fking horrible person!!!!!
fking GD AWFUL TREASONOUS AMERICAN!!!!
how DARE him!!!!
or "how a kid hired by the C.I.A. tried to start a war with NORTH KOREA" at our EXPENSE.
i wish that was fake news.
but we fall for it every fking time.
it doesn’t occur to us to think that that young man violated our NATION’S trust with a NATION by his fkt up actions.
it was INTENTIONAL GLOBAL SABOTAGE.
and even if it wasn’t, it was.
that’s the STANDOFF rules and don’t fake like you don’t know that.
no true american would ever stain their country’s nation’s state reputation with such fkt up behavior. that’s something an entitled ditch would do. OR A YOUNG MAN ON MEDZ.
and true americans aren’t ditches.
it is against all the values of americanism to be a ditch.
but MEDZ make remorseless ditches out of their users.
and i can’t diagnose that kid, but his pupils had what i call MEDZ eye syndrome. it is a darkening of the actual eye color. a tinting that makes the pupils appear to be dilated larger than the light values would naturally dilate an eye.
but i saw some pics of him and i’d give 7:1 odds that he was using pharmaceuticals or had been using pharmaceuticals before the incident.
but this kid’s actions aren’t really my point.
my point is that we get so worked up by the FAKE CRIME BLOTTER because we secretly know that if we don’t go to war with everyone at some point, everyone is coming for us.
will this mean that americans will be physically invading other countries as rogue individuals?
it’s happening to putin’s government now, so why wouldn’t it also happen to ours?
we’ve had the white gee-hadists who go rogue and the reality is that the "rebel" element is a condition of the human WHOLE.
until we address these philosophical NECESSITIES, we will continue to be swept up in the drama of the circumstances that are intentionally manufactured FOR THAT PURPOSE.
we will be "GRETEL/HANSELED" down the prescribed bread crumb path of "the nation state game" when the nations are just pawns in the GLOBAL NEWS NETWORK SCHEME.
somehow we innately know this in our soceity. but it’s literally so much easier to refocus our intentions on fking GLUTTONY and constant feasting and bad health options and all that alcohol and the MEDZ for depression and the wanton sickness of overindulgence when it becomes BORING is such an OBVIOUS choice to make.
it’s not very poetic.
it’s not noble or uplifting.
it’s not smart.
it’s not very realized and has a variable suicide contract attached to it.
some come with murder warnings.
MARS NEEDS MARTIANS!!!!!
but remember this, those who have become MATERIALLY-entitled nazi people (the big difference between the nazis and modern average americans is that the nazis had pride and enthusiasm for ideals and achievable dreams whereas americans are awash in medz and alcohol and entertainment):
you should examine your government.
read what they have been forced to share with you in the official reports.
get out a fking map and start to make some connections.
a true republic or democracy is so much stronger when the people are aware of the actions of our own people.
the delusion is of no strategic or spiritual benefit to any humans including us, but we are bigger than us.
and all of these avoidance techniques are the insider’s view.
and this is NOT the outside experience.
it is the TOWER OF BABEL view from the outside
it’s the burning man of hades.
it’s that crazy place in the disney version of pinocchio where all the boys get turned into jackasses.
so that outside view is clearly different and very CLEAR.
those outside are hindered only by their ability to throw envy and jealousy as hard as they can at the raging partiers.
same trap, different time zone.
same war, new leaders.
hateful to be gratefully hatefilled.
the nemesis and the zenith-makers.
the death of music.
the murder of art.
the villianification of truth.
but we can all dream the same dream of CLEAN AIR, CLEAN LAND, CLEAN WATER, CLEAN FOOD.
it is a worthwhile dream because it will make CLEAN PEOPLE.