The World Today for July 26, 2018

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The Forever War

Perpetual civil war has often seemed to be the fate of the people of South Sudan, where cease-fires and agreements come and go and the fighting grows ever more brutal.

Another such deal is on the anvil this month, with the warring factions representing President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar agreeing to a permanent cease-fire and claiming to be on the brink of signing a power-sharing deal to end the war altogether, the National reported.

But the peace talks have been marred by the release of a United Nations report accusing Kiir’s government troops of alleged war crimes, Al-Jazeera said.

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) documented at least 232 civilian deaths and many more injuries between April 16 and May 24 in attacks by government-backed troops and armed youth on 40 villages in the opposition-held areas of Mayendit and Leer counties. At least 120 women and girls were raped or gang-raped, and at least 132 other women and girls were also abducted.

The testimony of the survivors drove home how brutal the conflict has become.

“How can I forget the sight of an old man whose throat was slit with a knife before being set on fire?” the BBC quoted a 14-year-old survivor as saying. “How can I forget the smell of those decomposed bodies of old men and children pecked and eaten by birds? Those women that were hanged and died up in the tree?”

Another woman testified that soldiers raped her while she was still bleeding from childbirth, but she was too frightened to resist because she’d seen what happened to other women who did so.

“There must be consequences for the men who reportedly gang-raped a six-year-old child, who slit the throats of elderly villagers, who hanged women for resisting looting, and shot fleeing civilians in the swamps where they hid,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement.

But such accountability is likely to be elusive until a lasting peace is established. And past experience suggests that any optimism should include a healthy dose of caution.

The latest round of talks, brokered by Uganda and Sudan, have been underway since June. On July 7, the two sides appeared to have reached a power-sharing deal under which Machar would join the government as Kiir’s vice president. But the rebels swiftly rejected the deal, claiming it didn’t dilute Kiir’s stranglehold on the real power. Ten days later, mediators in Sudan again said the parties were ready to ink a “preliminary” agreement by July 19 and a “final power-sharing accord” July 26. On Wednesday, South Sudan’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, said the two leaders had initialed such a deal in Khartoum and they’d sign the final one Aug. 5, the Associated Press reported.

However, at least nine cease-fire agreements have been signed since the war began, the Economist reported. Only one has lasted longer than a month. Moreover, the new power-sharing deal is all but identical to one that was supposed to end the fighting in 2015.

That one ended in a shootout at the presidential palace.



One Bric at a Time

China and India have been doling out money to win allies in Africa ahead of this week’s summit of the emerging economies dubbed the “BRICS” group.

On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $14.7 billion to South Africa, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Uganda would receive $200 million, CNBC reported, noting that China has a much larger presence on the continent.

The Chinese cash will help South African President Cyril Ramaphosa make progress toward his goal of raising $100 billion in foreign investment to reboot the country’s lagging economy – with $2.8 billion going to South Africa’s primary state utility Eskom. India’s investment is slated to help Uganda develop its dominant agricultural sector and electricity distribution infrastructure, the news channel said. Xi and Modi also visited Rwanda to offer similar, though smaller, loan packages this week.

The grouping of five major emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – has added significance this year amid the US assault on multilateral trade mechanisms and China’s trade practices, in particular, said India’s


Institutionalizing the Emergency

The Turkish parliament on Wednesday passed a tough new anti-terrorism bill that effectively enshrines as law the provisions of the recently ended state of emergency.

Strengthening the authorities’ powers to detain suspects and restrict freedom of assembly, the new law allows authorities to control who can enter and exit an area for 15 days for reasons of security, Al-Jazeera reported. It also allows them to detain suspects without charge for 48 hours or up to four days if they are suspected of multiple offenses.

Introduced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) six days after a two-year state of emergency was allowed to lapse on July 19, the law will keep some of its provisions in place for three years. It allows the government to dismiss army, police and other government employees if they are found to be linked to a terror organization, and it empowers governors of the country’s 81 provinces to restrict freedom of assembly.

The government declared a state of emergency for the first time on July 20, 2016, following an attempted military coup.


Death Throes

Islamic State may be on its last legs in Syria but its death throes claimed more than 200 lives in the southwestern part of the country Wednesday.

At least 215 people have died in a series of apparently coordinated attacks, the BBC cited local officials and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group as saying.

Several suicide bombers struck in and around the government-held city of Suweida on Wednesday. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were the deadliest on government-held territory in months.

Over the past year, IS has lost most of the land it once held across Syria and Iraq. But it is still present in small pockets in the southern provinces of Suweida and Daraa, as well as parts of the country’s east. With Russian support, Syrian troops recently launched a push to eradicate the rebels from these areas, too.

Meanwhile, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman warned the US it must cooperate with Moscow on humanitarian relief or exit the country altogether, Newsweek reported.


Eating Words

When a heat wave struck Vienna’s subway system a few weeks ago, public transport officials decided to take action to help commuters cope.

Instead of providing cold water bottles, or installing air conditioners, they started handing out deodorants, the Washington Post reported.

While many took the opportunity to snatch one of the 14,000 free deodorants, others wondered if this was some passive-aggressive message to shower more.

For years, Europeans have considered air conditioners an “unnecessary luxury” – unlike the US, where 87 percent of households have them.

This is bound to change soon as global temperatures are rising, requiring many cities on the Continent to upgrade their cooling systems in public transport and offices.

“Europeans have generally been less inclined to install an AC compared with their American counterparts until recently, though this is now changing,” wrote the International Energy Agency in a recent publication. AC ownership in Italy, Spain, Greece and southern France has risen rapidly in the last decade, it added.

It’s a double-edged sword for many European countries. Officials fear that the increased number of ACs will lead to a higher carbon footprint.

Still, some hot souls in Europe have found a middle way: Fans that use ice packs to blow cooling mist, avoiding the refrigerant gases that are most damaging for the environment.


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