Q&A: Outgoing MSF chief reflects on a rapidly changing South Sudan

JUBA, South Sudan — After 11 years of working on and off in South Sudan, Liz Harding, the country’s head of mission for Médecins Sans Frontières says she wishes she could have done more.

Médecins Sans Frontières doctors and clinical officers hold their daily meeting in Agok, South Sudan. Photo by: MSF South Sudan

“I always feel like we should have gone into that place quicker or been more responsive or should have seen that coming,” the British native told Devex. Ultimately, Harding says you have to “work with the information you have at the end of the day.”

After 14 months at the helm of one of MSF’s largest operations worldwide, Harding is handing over the reins. In her only one-on-one interview on the record, Harding speaks exclusively with Devex about the challenges she’s faced and insights she’s gained working in one of the world’s most challenging aid environments.

South Sudan is MSF’s second largest operation globally, having spent 84.5 million euros ($98 million) in 2016, following the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 107 million euros expenditure. The South Sudan mission employed the largest number of staff — with 3,923 people, including expats and nationals — for the organization last year.

A seasoned aid worker, Harding has worked with MSF in Ethiopia, Somalia, India, the Philippines, and Myanmar, and says South Sudan stands out due to its complex and dynamic context, one where the “need is so much in your face.”

In this exit interview, she opens up about her experience coming to South Sudan as a nurse in 2006, one year after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that put the country on track toward independence — and what’s it’s been like watching the young nation spiral into war.

What’s going through your mind now that you’re leaving?

It’s quite a separation. This has been so much a part of my life for two years that it’s hard to leave the work and our staff. I also know that I need to be fresh and have a rest and someone else can take over for now. My heart wants to stay but my brain’s saying, no you need to rest.

How do you know when it’s the right time to leave a job like this?

It’s always quite hard to gage how long you should stay. I don’t want to leave with bad feelings or feeling too stressed and you kind of have to feel ok when you leave and not push it too far. I want to continue with MSF, and so this is my lifestyle and you also have to be a little bit sensible as well.

How does an organization like MSF evolve in a conflict zone with restricted access and attacks against humanitarians?

You just have to respond to changing situations. For example, right before I came in 2015, our hospital in Leer, in Unity State, was looted and we had to evacuate. Then we went back trying to set up some secondary health care and it all went wrong again. The sad thing is that it’s not safe for us to open a hospital again in Leer, so we’ve had to use a much more community approach. This means that we have our national staff out in different areas around Leer and Mayendit counties, providing basic nutrition and health care. They provide the care for where the population actually is and they can move if the people move or due to insecurity.

It means that those who feel safe in certain areas don’t have to go to an unsafe place to get health care. The painful thing is that we can’t do it with secondary health — overnight, in-patient care. With secondary health you need a fixed location and it’s a bigger operation, and it’s just not safe right now to be able to set up that kind of facility. You can’t do what the population needs, but you still remain engaged with them in providing some basic health care. It’s hard choices.

How do you keep up with the changing pace?

Our [MSF] independence is not just a nice philosophy; it’s actually the way we do things, so we have the privilege as well to be able to respond when we want, to places where we think it’s important for us to be there. I know other organizations don’t necessarily have that privilege and I think that’s the key to making us effective. It’s about always thinking: What is the situation today that the population needs? Even if you just planned a beautiful intervention, things can change overnight, and you have to be willing to change your approach and your priorities and just keep always on your toes.

How does South Sudan compare to other places you’ve worked?

This is a very dynamic context both from a security and context point of view, but also from a medical point of view. It’s a country that has so many endemic tropical diseases and not just cholera, but you have ups and downs of kala-azar and malaria. Initially when I was here as a nurse and I’d just finished my diploma in tropical nursing at the London school, you’d see everything that you’d been taught.

Then there’s the logistics required to get the operation going. The fact that you have to fly most things in, and there’s many months a year when it’s all wet. So for example, when we had to open up the cholera treatment center in Lankien and the cholera treatment unit in Pieri, that was at a time when we were fortunate that the rain hadn’t come too much. Imagine having to do that in the middle of a big rain when you can’t actually get anything in when things aren’t land-able.

How do you combat the logistical challenges?

You try to always have some prepositioning in the projects so you can always have a way to respond. A lot of it is trying to plan ahead, so knowing that it will be malaria season and making sure you have enough drugs in the country and that you’re always prepared. We know roughly times of year when the diseases should happen, but if you have displacement on top of that, you have added complications and suddenly you have things like cholera. We had this in Bentiu. It started last October but didn’t finish until halfway through the dry season, which is unusual for cholera. Sometimes due to the situation it changes the dynamics and you can have certain diseases when you wouldn’t actually expect them.

What is the biggest challenge you face here?

Having to react all the time to changing either context or diseases or population movements. It just becomes part of your regular work life, and you think, “OK this is happening in this project so we need to send more stuff in.” Even now we’re looking at the dry season and we’re looking to see how much stuff we can actually preposition in the projects to be prepared for the next rains when they come. It’s a constant challenge, but it’s the most amazing people and you can really see the effect of what you do every day.

What’s one story or moment that has greatly impacted you?

When I was a nurse in Leer in 2007, if I think now of some of those staff I was working with at the time. Some are in the internally displaced person’s camp in Bentiu and they’ve been there for three and a half years and still aren’t sure when they can go home. Having met them again in Bentiu, nine years later and having talked to them about what they’ve been through and what it’s like to live in the camp and the things they’ve seen, they can’t go back to a normal life. They’ve all lost so greatly and that’s really impacted me a lot, because it’s people that I knew from previous, more stable times and then met them again in different circumstances. Our staff is amazing the way they cope and adapt. It puts our adaption to shame.

How do you feel watching the country go from what it was after independence to what it’s become now?

It’s really hard, particularly knowing that there was so much hope at one time, and it’s tough to deal with. But the toughness I deal with is nothing compared to the toughness our population and our patients and our staff have to deal with. I just feel that we still have a big job to do in this country making it a little better for the population and our patients, and that helps. With the way that we’re able to do things in areas that we’ve been working in for a couple of decades, that also helps us to remain here. Of course you have your days of huge frustrations as in why am I doing this, but overall it’s actually quite positive and I’ve really enjoyed my time here.

MSF has said “we’re doctors, not politicians.” Is it hard walking that line in such a charged context and how do you balance your public responses?

We try to tell the story of what it’s really like, particularly for our patients on the ground. It’s telling their story — whether it’s in a cholera outbreak or if they’ve just been displaced and had to walk three days to the protection of civilian site. Those are the stories that we really need to focus on as they’re quite often not told as much.

In general, we stay away from the politics, but it’s a very hard line to walk as you also don’t want to dilute what’s happening and you don’t just want to brush over the politics either. Whether it’s politics, context, or natural disasters, there are always as many causes to the situations where we find our patients in. It’s very hard to say who did what to whom. In this country, it’s particularly complex and that’s why, personally for me, I stick more with what’s actually happened. For example they’ve just been displaced and they’re in an area and there’s no services and no health care, no food, children are getting malnourished — these kinds of stories have a really big benefit.

What advice would you give another head of a mission in a similar context?

Be as reactive as possible. Plan for what you know might happen and then day-to-day prioritize as much as you can. Set priorities, as in “these are the things I really want to respond to.” So for example, displacement due to conflict is one of the top things on our list and keeping that in mind is important.

On a pure human side, make sure that you take your time off because some days you can feel like you’ve done a week’s work in a day. Take the calmer days when they happen, as it’s not crazy every single day, but is most days. I always tried to take a day off a week and I managed most of the time. If something can wait for Monday morning it can wait till Monday morning.

Tension in South Sudan capital after bid to disarm detained ex-army chief

NAIROBI (Reuters) South Sudan’s government has sought to disarm the bodyguards of detained former army chief Paul Malong on fears he might escape and launch a rebellion, his wife said on Saturday, highlighting tensions within the leadership.

SUDAN-SSUDAN-ECONOMY-OIL-SUMMIT

Salva Kiir


Malong – the man who has led President Salva Kiir’s campaign against rebels – has been under house arrest since May after Kiir sacked him following a string of military resignations by senior generals alleging abuses and ethnic bias.

Malong had initially fled the capital Juba with a convoy of vehicles for his home state of Aweil following his dismissal – raising fears he might join opposition forces, before returning to the capital.
On Saturday, his wife Lucy Ayak told Reuters security officials arrived at their home late on Friday with “specific orders” from Kiir.

“They came carrying the order from the president and told General Malong that they had been ordered to disarm his bodyguards,” she said, adding that they also tried to take his phone and said his family members would not be allowed to visit.

“The government is thinking that General Malong might take the country back to war. The tension is still high … we do not know if they might come back and arrest him by force if he resists.”

Residents in Juba told Reuters heavily-armed soldiers have blocked the main road leading to his house.

Media outlets from Juba also reported that a senior commander in the army who is allied with Malong has also defected with the aim of launching a rebellion.

President Kiir’s press secretary Ateny Wek Ateny declined to comment, saying the “issue was purely an army matter”.
South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into civil war in 2013 after Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar.

The conflict, largely fought along ethnic lines, has pitched parts of the oil-producing country into severe hunger, paralyzed public services and forced a quarter of the population – three million people – to flee their homes.

– REUTERS-

Uganda: MPs Plot to Counter Age Limit Bill

At least eight legislators from ruling party, opposition and independents Wednesday vowed to block any attempts by their colleagues to have the 75-year presidential age limit cap lifted.

allAfrica

ug mps

Ugandan Parliament

This comes after over 245 National Resistance Movement (NRM) MPs and NRM-leaning independents on Tuesday agreed to table a private members bill seeking to amend Article 102(b), which provides that for a person vying for the seat of president, ought to be between 35 and 75 years.

At a press conference held at parliament today, the MPs including Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) Barnabas Tinkasimire (Buyaga West), Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo south), Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Betty Nambooze (Mukono County North), John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya County), Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central) and Moses Kasibante (Rubaga North) were angry that their colleagues’ move would plunge the country into disaster if not countered.

According to the legislators, they are in the process of ensuring that the debate on the age limit lifting is blocked in addition to making sure speaker of parliament does not preside over the matter.

“This thing called age limit will not be lifted. We are disturbed the blackmail is put on all NRM MPs including myself. I would go home, get a hoe to cultivate for basic survival than take a single coin to betray Ugandans, I took oath,” Tinkasimiire said.

The group argued that it was shameful that all Ugandan MPs have to walk the walk of shame because of the actions of some of their colleagues; after they took oath to uphold Constitution.

“I am so surprised that leaders and MPs that I respect have decided to betray Ugandans to amend the Constitution that we all respect and we have sworn to defend it and protect it,” Okot Ogong said.

Niwagaba, also shadow attorney general urged Ugandans to resist the removal of the presidential age limits as it has been with the amendment of Article 26 concerning acquisition of land so that the two constitutional amendments can be thrown out.

“It’s quite a sad story that people who have been elected and have sworn to uphold the constitution have decided to rape the constitution.”

“Either we stop calling it the Constitution of the republic of Uganda and call it the Constitution of NRM and Museveni, fold our hands and let the country go to the dogs as it surely will unless citizens resist this or all of us take the mantle and challenge to stop this business of people raping our constitution,” Niwagaba said.

Nambeshe noted that it was it was disturbing to see that when articles affect individuals in the Constitution they are amended, adding that this was time to test the constitution.

“Why would an Article like 102(b) of removal of presidential age limit never been tested and tried be allowed to happen? Whenever an article will affect an individual in Uganda here so must it be removed?” Nambeshe said.

“Who are they trying to hoodwink when they set the nomination fees for the president at Shs 50m? Which young person graduating from university, who does not even have the entandikwa (startup capital) going to get Shs 50m to raise as nomination fees to stand as president,” Tinkasimire said.

Nambooze called on all Ugandans to rally join in the fight against the removal of age limits adding that all political parties and leadership need to come up. Kampala Central MP, Muhammad Nsereko called for the isolation and detesting of all members of parliament lobbying for the lifting of the presidential age limit, and also President Museveni who is always ducking on the matter.

Nsereko said it is time to talk about privileges a retiring leader of the nation should have.

“We should be talking about what privileges will he [Museveni] get. How many medical check- ups will he go for, will he be entitled to use the presidential airforce plane or not, will he be writing novels and calling grand children to read for them some stories?”

“These are the things to be talking about. Leave a legacy. You have been quoting Mwalimu Nyerere, Nyerere, Nyerere, but why don’t you quote and live by his path?” Nsereko said.

Via allafrica.com

Interview: Expert calls for use of diplomacy to resolve South Sudan conflict

A South Sudanese expert Tuesday said the United States should explore use of persuasion and diplomacy toward the war-torn country’s leaders, instead of sanctions which could scuttle ongoing peace efforts.

XINHUANET

Image result for jacob chol

President Salva (centre) and rebel leader Machar (left from front) walk on a red carpet at Addis as James Wani Iga (extreme left) accompanies them

“Sanctions don’t have any major impact on these leaders that have been sanctioned in South Sudan. They just send sort of chilling, personal reflections to those leaders, because most of (leaders) them don’t travel, have no money in the U.S they have money here,” said Jacob Chol, professor of politics at Juba university.

He was reacting to the Sept. 6 sanctions including asset freeze and travel ban imposed by the U.S Department of the Treasury on three former and current South Sudan leaders on pretext of obstructing peace and stability in the country.

The affected individuals include the minister of information Michael Makuei, South Sudan army (SPLA) deputy chief of staff Malek Reuben and former SPLA chief of staff Paul Malong.

“Sanctions will embolden the leaders now and make them stronger. What is important besides, sanctions are persuasion and diplomacy,” said Chol, adding that most of these leaders don’t actually have credit cards.

The political science don also cautioned that the U.S. administration’s recent sanctions should have included members of the armed opposition (SPLA-in opposition) allied to former First Vice President Riek Machar.

“The U.S. should be careful on whom to sanction, if they want to be very fair they have to look on both sides of the war so that the government does not look like it is being targeted by the U.S.,” he disclosed.

Last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Undersecretary Bak Valentino called the U.S. sanctions unjust and unfair since they excluded rebel officials.

Chol further said there is need for leadership transition to be included in the high level peace deal revitalization forum launched in July, by the East African bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

“If the region does not become very neutral and honest enough to resolve conflict, it will go on forever. This State should be helped to save it from collapse,” he added.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting that pitted mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

via xinhuanet.com

Liverpool vs Sevilla: TV channel, kick-off time, live stream and team news for the Champions League clash

Everything you need to know ahead of the Reds’ European group stage opener at Anfield

LIVERPOOL their 2016 Europa League final conquerors Sevilla in the first Champions League match at Anfield for three years.

THE SUN

Jurgen Klopp’s side face Sevilla in their first group game

Jurgen Klopp’s men were blitzed 3-1 in Basel 16 months ago but are now arguably in better shape than Spain’s fourth best side.

When is Liverpool vs Sevilla?

The Reds take on the La Liga outfit on Wednesday, September 13.

Kick-off is at 7.45pm.

The game will be played at Anfield.

What TV channel is showing Liverpool vs Sevilla?

The game will be shown live on BT Sport 2.

Coverage will begin at 7pm and the programme will finish at 10.15pm.

Alternatively, you can keep up to date on SunSport’s live blog

What is the latest team news for Liverpool vs Sevilla?

Despite being sent off against Manchester City, Sadio Mane will be available to play in the Champions League.

Meanwhile, Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana are both out of contention due to injury.

But Jurgen Klopp may choose to play Philippe Coutinho against Sevilla.

Fact me

    • Liverpool and Sevilla’s only previous encounter came in the final of the 2016 Europa League. The Andalucians won 3-1.
    • Liverpool have won one of their eight Champions League home games against Spanish opposition (D3 L4), it was versus Real Madrid in March 2009 (4-0). However, Sevilla have lost all three of their Champions League trips to England.
    • This is Liverpool’s 10th Champions League campaign, and only their second appearance in the group stages in the last eight seasons.
    • In fact, Liverpool haven’t reached the knockout stages of the Champions League since 2008/09, when they were knocked out by Chelsea in the quarter-finals.
    • Liverpool have won the European Cup/Champions League on five occasions, more than any other English side.
    • Liverpool have won their opening group game in each of their last three Champions League appearances. However, they have failed to win any of their last five group games in the competition (D2 L3).
    • Sevilla are taking part in their fifth Champions League campaign. They have gone past the group stages in three of their four previous appearances but never further than the round of 16.
    • Sevilla beat Istanbul Başakşehir 4-3 on aggregate to reach this season’s Champions League group stages.
    • Sevilla have only lost two of their last nine Champions League games (W5 D2).
    • Liverpool beat Hoffenheim 6-3 on aggregate to reach this season’s Champions League group stages.
    • Jürgen Klopp has reached the knockout stages in three of his four Champions League campaigns, all with Dortmund. He was beaten finalist in 2013.
    • Only Marco Verratti (479) completed more passes than Sevilla midfielder Steven N’Zonzi (459) in last season’s Champions League group stages.
    • This is Eduardo Berizzo’s first Champions League appearance as manager. He took Celta Vigo to the semi-finals of the Europa League last season in his only previous European campaign as head-coach.

Ghana: “Quality Education A Key Component Of Free SHS Policy” – President Akufo-Addo

The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has assured that a key component of the Free Senior High School policy must be the provision of quality education.

allAfrica

Ghanaians celebrate free schooling at the senior high school level.

According to President Akufo-Addo, “Government is collaborating with various partners to implement major programmes and interventions such as the Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP), the expansion of physical infrastructure, and free supply of core subject text books to students.”

Central, too, to the prospects of the Free SHS policy, the President added, is the teacher.

“A well-trained, confident and contented teacher is essential in the delivery of quality education. If we are to succeed as a nation, and if we accept that education is central to national development, then it is clear that quality teacher training is vital to our nation’s development,” he said.

Government, the President indicated, is committed to teacher professional development through schemes such as Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (T-TEL), at a cost of 17 million pounds sterling.

T-Tel is a four-year Government of Ghana programme supported by the UK’s Department for International Department (DFID). It seeks to transform the delivery of pre-service teacher education in Ghana, by improving the quality of teacher education and learning through support to all public Colleges of Education from 2014 to 2018. The programme will enhance quality education delivery in the Colleges of Education, with government looking forward to its continuous implementation after 2018.

“The restoration of the teacher trainee allowance, which also begins today, is part of the comprehensive policy of engendering the production of quality teachers,” the President added.

President Akufo-Addo made this known on Tuesday, 12th September, 2017, when he launched the Free SHS policy at the West Africa Senior High School.

Zuma likens himself to Steve Biko

President Jacob Zuma used an analogy likening himself to Biko. 

PRETORIA – President Jacob Zuma has likened himself to Steve Biko, saying the Black Consciousness leader was hated by some, much like himself.

EYEWITNESSES NEWS

President Jacob Zuma lays a wreath at the prison cell at Kgosi Mapuru II Correctional Service Centre where liberation struggle hero Steve Bantu Biko died on 12 September 1977. Picture: GCIS.

President Jacob Zuma lays a wreath at the prison cell at Kgosi Mapuru II Correctional Service Centre where liberation struggle hero Steve Bantu Biko died on 12 September 1977. Picture: GCIS

The President commemorated the 40th anniversary of Biko’s murder on Tuesday by laying a wreath in his cell at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre.

Biko died at the then Pretoria Central Prison from injuries sustained while in police custody.

President Zuma used an analogy likening himself to Biko.

“We are still there some of us, hated as he was hated. At least he was hated and killed – it’s better with us we’re still hated and with words.”

The President seemed to suggest that he’s made peace with this hatred.

“But it is there; it is what we receive always from where we are, and so we’re not ashamed.”

The President told his supporters at his 75th birthday party earlier this year that he is used to being criticized and being called names, saying it doesn’t worry him anymore.