Fox News’ Fake News on South Sudan

Fake photo makes smoke get in your eyes.
Fake photo makes smoke get in your eyes. Purports to show burning huts in Pajok, but there are no power lines anywhere near Pajok.

Earlier this spring, a Foxnews.com article described two horrific massacres of civilians in the world’s newest nation, South Sudan. The massacres were attributed to government troops. One terrible slaughter allegedly took place in Pajok, Eastern Equatoria, on April 4. The other alleged incident by the seemingly insatiable South Sudan Army, the SPLA, took place in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal,  April 9.

FoxNews didn’t add “allegedly,” but there is no actual evidence that these attacks took place in the manner described. FoxNews, like other media, has recirculated fake South Sudan news and talking points used by concerned individuals in Congress, the United Nations Security Council, humanitarian organizations, and others considered above reproach. In the past three years that South Sudan has been enmeshed in conflict, fake news geared to undermine the sovereignty of South Sudan has been accepted without question in the name of making peace.

Any serious investigation would prove the falseness and at times, outright absurdity, of many claims against South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the South Sudan government. But such investigations require standing against the accepted moral equivalence. One such widespread claim, that the government denies humanitarian groups access to starving people, has been easily exposed as a lie with photos of piles of approved access forms – over 25,000 for the past 18 months – in the SPLA headquarters.

The same effort to discover the truth should be utilized every time the South Sudan government is accused of human rights violations. But for the most part, the media accepts the prevailing wisdom that the government is the perpetrator of the violence. This is definitely the case with FoxNews April 13 article.

Fake news begins in the title: “South Sudan’s silent slaughter: Dinka massacre unchecked by regional, international groups.”

Silence? Every week a new (i.e. reworked version) news story, Congressional briefing, or UN report accuses the South Sudan government of slaughter, tribal-based ethnic cleansing, deliberate starvation of the people, etc. If that is “silent” and “unchecked,”the Sudanese of Darfur, Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile State who really are being targeted for elimination by the Islamist Government of Sudan (Khartoum) would love to experience such silence!

Then there is the phrase “Dinka massacre.” The United Nations, some US politicians and human rights organizations, the media, the rebel armed combatants under former Vice South Sudan President Riek Machar and his equally-complicit wife, Angelina Teny, and the political opposition known as the “former detainees” accuse the South Sudan Government of tribalism, i.e. favoring the Dinka tribe.

Calling the government “Dinka” and criticizing it for not having “fair” representation of all tribal groups is a gross misrepresentation. It ignores that the Dinka, the largest South Sudanese tribe, are not even close to being equitably represented in the government because President Kiir so desires to be inclusive. Fair representation according to tribal population would actually ensure a supermajority for the Dinka who are over 35% of the population. That’s approximately twice as big as the next largest, Machar’s Nuer tribe, who nevertheless hold currently 75% of the top Cabinet Minister positions.

Implying that there should be fewer Dinka fuels the tribalism of South Sudan’s rebel militias that are perpetuating the conflict against the nation’s civilians and armed forces. This encourages rebels that they have outside support to keep fighting and to overthrow Kiir and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

After such a breathtaking title, the body of the Foxnews.com article reports on the alleged incidents in Pajok and Wau using some ten sources for information. But of the ten, six are anonymous “independent sources,” and four are anti-government SPLA-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition) rebel commanders. The sources’ inaccuracies and slanderous statements about each incident, taken at face value by the author are so numerous that this article will focus on Pajok.

Here is what the FoxNews web story reported about Pajok:

Government militias loyal to the president. . . entered the town of Pajok and began killing and raping men, women and children, one observer said.

Opposition forces led by the former first vice president, Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon, estimate that more than 200 innocent civilians were killed in Pajok.

 The report continues that the “tribal army burned down several buildings” and “indiscriminately shot at” civilians, including women and children. It adds that “a security officer in South Sudan told Fox News” that children were crushed by tanks, primary school girls were raped and killed, and “primitive government soldiers” cut the limbs off a grandmother.

“No one was spared from the soldiers’ wrath . . . even the tiniest of children,” Foxnews quotes the “observer.” The independent observer sounds suspiciously like Nicholas Osobi, a “Revolutionary Columnist” with the anti-government websiteNyamilelepedia.

FoxNews also heard from Lt. Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel of the rebel army SPLA-IO that the South Sudan Army dumped the bodies of those that they killed in the stream “for fear of discovery.” He also said “They have burned down civilians’ houses and looted all they found inside and also killed all livestock, including chickens.”

But evidence*, imagery from a reconnaissance flight over Pajok by an actual investigator, shows Pajok completely clear. There was no sign of bodies dumped into the Atepi River. “Two hundred bodies” would have floated to the surface within 24 hours, if, in fact, the water was deep enough first to hide them.

Moreover, the flight imagery reveals no burned huts or buildings, and no signs of mass burial or funerals. If, as Osobi later backtracked in his own column, the government realized that bodies would float and so burned them instead, flight imagery would have shown evidence of burning.

Whenever such incidents arise, the South Sudan Army leaders want to discover the truth and bring justice. In addition to acquiring the flight imagery of Pajok, the investigator spoke to South Sudan Army officers and soldiers about the town. Not only was there no reported fighting among any soldiers, but all the photos in the Foxnews.com article were visually inaccurate:

  • The burning hut in the photo is a Dinka hut, not one that would be in Pajok.
  • The city pictured has electric power lines. Pajok does not have power lines.
  • About 30% of South Sudan’s population has smart phones, yet no other images have surfaced from this incident.
  • Out of 200 alleged deaths, the only photo produced is of a man lying next to a motorcycle.
  • In the photo showing a fire, people are standing and watching the object burn. No one was running away; no bullets were flying.

And there is not any evidence that this, recounted in the FoxNews article, happened in Pajok: “Toddlers were thrown into the river live. . . The lucky ones had their heads swung against poles and walls . . . at least leaving them dead by the time they have been thrown into the river.”

But this sort of atrocity could have been taken straight from the playbook of SPLA-IO leader, Riek Machar. His SPLA-Nasir did this to children in Bor in 1991 during an actual massacre – of Dinka people. SPLA-Nasir was the armed combatant group he formed when, supported by the Islamist regime in Khartoum, he deserted the SPLA during the north/south war.

The FoxNews article also unquestioningly quotes an SPLA-IO spokesman ‘Deng.’ Deng told Foxnews.com “the government is trying to extinguish the non-Dinka South Sudanese . . . Government forces are ‘100 percent committed to exterminating non-Dinka South Sudanese in an effort to declare Dinka, who constitute less than 20% of the total population, as the only recognized citizens of South Sudan.”

One could say that it is irresponsible to take a virulently anti-government rebel’s words at face value, but since that is what the UN, Congress, and others do – FoxNews is only following the same fake news train. Apart from the wildly false and dangerous claims about the government’s attitude towards non-Dinka tribal groups, it takes very little effort to discover that Deng’s claim that the Dinka are less than 20% of the population is a lie. Even a cursory glance at Wikipedia will show that the Dinka are approximately 38.8% of the population, as explained above in the discussion of the FoxNews article’s title. It seems that the rebel IO group has Alinsky disciples for political advisors. They falsely accuse others of that which they themselves are guilty, and they “freeze the target,” polarizing and isolating the Dinka.

Finally, in the report on Pajok, the FoxNews.com story never refers to the South Sudan government’s army by its name, the SPLA. The article’s sources only refer to the legitimate defense force of the nation as “South Sudan’s military,” “government militias,” “tribal army,” and “primitive government soldiers.” The rebels, however, are referred to throughout the article by the name that Machar stole from the SPLA, the SPLA-IO.

In 1991, when Machar deserted John Garang’s SPLA that was fighting steadily against the Khartoum regime and joined that Islamist regime, he also stole the SPLA acronym. Throughout the nineties, his “SPLA-Nasir” caused more to die in what was then southern Sudan than did the Khartoum regime’s forces themselves.

Khartoum has always believed in the doctrine “Use a slave (black African) to kill a slave” and they used Riek Machar to wage jihad in southern Sudan. Now, fake news that portrays the South Sudan government of Salva Kiir as one of killers and tribalists is aiding the Islamist regime’s continued jihad against South Sudan. And those that choose to believe and act on the fake news without doing any intelligent investigation are, whether knowingly or not, collaborators in an effort to destroy the breakaway nation.

*The flight imagery of Pajok will be available in the near future.

(Originally published at Juicy Ecumenism, a blog of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.)

Looking for the Real Bastards in South Sudan

Small-approved-access-forms

Photo of the some 25,000 approved requests for humanitarian access by UN affiliated NGO’s in the office of the South Sudan Army. This represents the past 18 months of requests for access. (Photo credit: Friends of South Sudan)

In late March, speaking with barely controlled anger, Dutch Minister for International Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen told Dutch TV, “The leaders of South Sudan are bastards who starve their own people!”

Ploumen is justified to feel passionate about African babies dying from hunger. Australia’s SBS on March 31 declared the minister “isn’t one for holding back.”

But Ploumen chose to not hold back on the wrong target in South Sudan’s so-called “civil war” that has devastated the nation and its prospects for the past three years. The minister was primarily referring to the democratically-elected President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, omitting criticism of rebel forces causing displacement of populations and exacerbating a famine by preventing adequate access for humanitarian agencies.

U.S. and other politicians, journalists, and humanitarian organizations usually mutter diplomatically that “both sides are at fault” or “all players in the conflict commit atrocities,” while privately condemning President Kiir’s administration and the South Sudan Army. Ploumen, though, didn’t even try to pretend to see any moral equivalence. The Big Man in his cowboy hat from W (fairly certain Kiir has cast off the hat that former Secretary of State Kerry, that old Texas cowhand, gave him to displace deliberately the Bush hat) was in her sights.

These misleading accusations feed on the fact that every narrative about South Sudan is full of confusing acronyms and terms (SPLA, SPLA-IO, GONU, rebels, civil war, etc.) and unattributed actions.

The Government of South Sudan that Kiir leads was renamed the Transitional Government of National Unity, (GONU) in April 2016. A global coalition, including the United States, the African Union, the UN, and others, pressured South Sudan’s leaders into sharing power and leadership with all of their unelected rivals, including the former Vice President Riek Machar. Kiir’s government cooperated with the dictates of internationally imposed leadership as demanded, and has made concession after concession of its own sovereignty for the sake of pursuing peace with rebels like Machar.

Machar has attempted to take over South Sudan by armed rebellion and by a campaign of deception and demonization worthy of Saul Alinsky. He has been aided in this by the Islamic Republic of Sudan (Khartoum), just as he was during Sudan’s civil war in the 1990’s, when he and other current “opposition leaders” tried to take control of what was then southern Sudan. In that rebellion, he was responsible for the death of more southern Sudanese than were the Khartoum jihadists.

A great lesson: stage a violent coup attempt as Machar did in December 2013, be responsible for the death and displacement of hundreds of thousands and for encouraging other leaders to leave the government and join the rebellion, and the international community will reward you by supporting your ‘right’ to be part of the government.

There is calamitous food insecurity in South Sudan. 100,000 citizens are at risk of starvation and half the population, 5.5 million people, face severe food insecurity this summer, according to the World Food Program. Many issues cause this food insecurity, including the displacement of populations by South Sudanese rebels’ attacks and the inability for humanitarian aid to reach affected populations because of the threat from those same rebels, but not deliberate starving of the citizens by the government.

News stories say “fighting,” “civil war,” and raids by “the military” have caused enormous displacement. True enough. But most often, it is the attacks and terror inspired by the rebels – often supported or at least encouraged by the Khartoum regime – or the ensuing firefights between the rebels and the Army that cause people to flee.

In addition, few news stories explain that much food insecurity is actually within the UN “Protection of Civilians” (POC) sites in country. POC’s and refugee camps are overcrowded and food is scarce. GONU officials have urged citizens to return home in peaceful areas where cultivation is taking place. But the UN’s drumbeat of tribal conflict has frightened many South Sudanese and discouraged them from going home.

Response to request for humanitarian access-some regions approved, some directed "go at your own risk."

Finally, there is the claim of humanitarian groups and the UN that the government “denies access” to them in areas where people are starving. But according to a trusted, well-placed source, stacks and stacks of access request forms have been approved by the GONU. The government willingly opened its files to our investigator who provided the photos in this article of some 25,000 forms that cover the past 18 months. They note in cases where the rebels are in control, “Go at your own risk,” which the UN translates as “access denied.”

The UN is well aware that the requests for access denied are in areas controlled by rebels, not the GONU. The government has neither control nor the ability to protect the humanitarian agencies from attacks and kidnappings by rebel militias aligned with Riek Machar or with others that have taken advantage of the nation’s instability to try to grab power for themselves.

Last November, the UN pushed the GONU until it finally gave access to an area under rebel control. Naturally, the rebel forces of Riek Machar (the SPLA-IO “In Opposition”) ambushed the group. The UN called for help and the real SPLA, the South Sudan Army, came to the rescue. But the SPLA lost 16 of its own men because of this reckless action by humanitarian groups whose loyalty to the rebels is not returned by the rebels. The incident resulted in a notable lack of reports featuring quotes from UN officials expressing their gratitude to the GONU and the SPLA for this sacrificial action.

The criticism of South Sudan appears particularly hollow when compared to international commentary on Sudan. The regime in Khartoum has used government-orchestrated starvation and famine as a weapon of jihad for decades. And it is currently perpetrating three, three genocidal wars: in the Nuba Mountains, in Blue Nile State, and in Darfur, where starvation conditions, not to mention chemical weapons, are always present.

Unlike South Sudan, however, the trade and investment opportunities between the Netherlands and Sudan may be too cozy for insults. Sudan has notably evaded the criticism Ploumen offered – for example, former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, lauded a “sea change of improvement in Khartoum’s facilitating of humanitarian access in Sudan” in spite of no change in Khartoum’s policies and declaration of jihad against the black African Christians and Muslims of the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile State, and Darfur.

Contrary to the assessment of certain Africa policy experts that opine about a country far away with little to no actual experience there, South Sudan was not stillborn. South Sudan was delivered, a baby nation, but then expected to act full grown while emerging from trauma such as most human beings could never imagine. The international community should redirect its anger away from the legitimate South Sudanese government and look to quell the actions of violent rebels supported by the genocidal regime in Khartoum.

(This article was originally published on April 21 by Breitbart, and is reprinted with permisson. Photographs were received after original publication, so some editing of paragraph 11 has been done to include the photos.)


The Truth About South Sudan

cropped-dscn1966A false narrative, no matter how clever, and no matter how deceptively charming, can be blasted by truth — actual factual evidence, photographs, videos, documents that show reality. Truth-tellers will prevail for the sake of South Sudan, because the liars act out of selfish ambition and rage that consumes and destroys not only their fellow South Sudanese, but, eventually, themselves. May G-D use the revelation of truth to bring contrition, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing to all in South Sudan.