South Sudan

How ostrich feathers and beads are tackling conflict

Faith Sudi

BBC Swahili, Lodwar

Men wearing ostrich-feather headdresses in Lowdar, Kenya
BBC

The Ateker community from four countries have gathered together in north-western Kenya for a four-day festival to celebrate their cultural heritage - and overcome fierce tensions over resources.

The gathering is called “Tobong' ulore”, which means “Welcome back home” - and is a reference to the fact that the region is said to be the cradle of mankind.

Seven groups make up the Ateker community:

  • Kenya: Turkana and Iteso
  • Ethiopia: Nyang'atom and Dasanach
  • South Sudan: Toposa
  • Uganda: Karamoja and Teso.

These clans often tend to clash over cattle and borders, but community leaders say they actually share a common language. They also share a common culture, including similar hair styles, houses and shoes, which are made from goat skin.

An Ateker hairstyle
BBC
Ateker houses in Lowdar, Kenya
BBC

This is the fifth year of the festival, at the Ekalees Centre in Lodwar, where each clan also gets to show off their unique traditions.

“Ekalees” means ostrich, which is the symbol for all the clans - and the men use feathers from the bird to decorate their headdresses. The colour of the feather determines which group they belong to.

A statue of ostriches in Lowdar, Kenya
BBC
A woman sewing an ostrich feather headdress in Lowdar, Kenya
BBC

The copper rings on the necklaces worn by women also signify which clan they come from - the colour of the beads are more specific indicating exactly where they live.

A woman wearing beads in Lowdar, Kenya
BBC

The hundreds who descend for the festival are also a boon for hotels in the region.

Next year it has been agreed the community will attend a similar festival in Ethiopia.

South Sudan's leader sorry for government's failures

South Sudan"s President Salva Kiir
AFP
President Kiir said the civil war had led to “serious financial challenges”

In a candid speech on South Sudan’s independence day, President Salva Kiir has apologised for the “failures” of his government.

After a long civil war, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 to great fanfare. That optimism was shattered following the start of South Sudan’s own civil war in December 2013.

Mr Kiir said that the war had led to “very serious financial challenges”.

He added that he was “fully aware that our people are angry because of the difficult living conditions imposed upon them by insecurity and economic hardship.

“This is further exacerbated by the failure of my government to pay salaries of our civil servants on time…

“I want to sincerely apologise to you my people on my own behalf and on behalf of the government for those failures.”

The president tried to strike an optimistic tone by saying that despite it not yet being fully implemented, last year’s peace deal has meant that “peace is holding throughout the country”.

He added that when a unity government was created the “economy will thrive”.

Radio Miraya in Juba has posted audio of the speech.

Salva Kiir begins two-day state visit to Kenya

Emmanuel Igunza

BBC Africa, Nairobi

South Sudan's stalled peace process has been high on the agenda as President Salva Kiir begins a two-day state visit to neighbouring Kenya.

He arrived in the capital, Nairobi, on Monday and was received by his counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta at State House with a 21-gun salute and guard of honour.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss trade and business ties - including plans to hold the first Kenya trade expo in South Sudan.

President Kenyatta says the trade expo is to show that South Sudan is on the path of recovery following years of conflict.

A civil war has been raging in South Sudan since December 2013, killing tens of thousands and displacing millions.

Kenya and Ethiopia are guarantors of the peace process in South Sudan.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), an eight-country trade bloc in East Africa, brokered the latest peace deal signed last September, but the two warring sides are yet to fully implement it.

Salva Kiir
Getty Images
Salva Kiir Mayardit became the first president of Africa's newest country - South Sudan - in 2011

South Sudan and Kenya leaders to discuss stalled peace process

Emmanuel Igunza

BBC Africa, Nairobi

South Sudan's stalled peace process will be on the agenda as President Salva Kiir begins a two-day state visit to neighbouring Kenya.

He arrived in the capital, Nairobi, on Monday and was received by his counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta at State House with a 21-gun salute and guard of honour.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Salva Kiir
State House kenya

The two leaders are also expected to discuss trade and business ties.

A civil war has been raging in South Sudan since December 2013, killing tens of thousands and displacing millions.

Kenya and Ethiopia are guarantors of the peace process in South Sudan.

The regional body Igad brokered the latest peace deal signed last September, but the two warring sides in the conflict are yet to fully implement it.

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'Outrageous' conviction in South Sudan

Prominent human rights activist Peter Biar Ajak is sentenced to two years in prison.
A South Sudanese court has sentenced prominent economist Peter Biar Ajak to two years in prison for
disturbing the peace because he gave interviews to foreign media. At the time he was already under arrest on treason charges that were subsequently dropped. That's a travesty of justice according to his international lawyer, Jared Genser.

(Picture: Peter Biar Ajak in court in Juba; Credit: Reuters)

Heavy security in South Sudan ahead of planned protest

Catherine Byaruhanga

BBC Africa

Salva Kiir
Reuters
Protesters are calling for President Salva Kiir to step down

There’s a heavy deployment of security forces on the streets of the South Sudanese capital, Juba, with door-to-door searches being carried out in some neighbourhoods.

This comes ahead of planned street protests in towns across the country and in the diaspora.

The Red Card Movement is calling for President Salva Kiir to step down and democratic elections to take place.

The movement, a coalition of youth and women’s groups, says it is time for the ruling class symbolised by President Kiir to be removed.

They accuse the warring sides in South Sudan’s civil war of ripping the country apart.

In a speech on Wednesday, President Kiir warned that any violent attempts to overthrow his government will be met with force.

Over the past week, troop deployments have been stepped up across the capital including Freedom Square where demonstrators plan to gather.

Authorities say security searches are meant to find what they call "prohibited items" but the movement’s organisers believe they are being targeted.

Thursday’s protests are planned to coincide with the SPLA day, which marks the formation of the country’s army. Official celebrations to commemorate the day have been postponed to next week.