Eight Dead in Turkey as 5.7 Earthquake Strikes Western Iran

Eight people were killed in Turkey in a magnitude 5.7 earthquake that struck western Iran early Sunday morning, Turkish Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu said.
    
The quake centered west of the Iranian city of Khoy and affected villages in the Turkish province of Van.
    
Soylu told a news conference that three children and four adults were killed in Turkey’s Baskule district. He later said another person had died.
    
No one remained trapped under fallen buildings, Van Governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez said.
    
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said at least 21 people had been injured, including eight who are in a critical condition.
    
Emergency teams have been sent to the remote mountainous region.
    
Iran’s official IRNA news agency said the earthquake affected 43 villages in the mountainous Qotour area. It reported some residents were injured but didn’t say any were in critical condition.
    
According to the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC), the quake, which happened at 9:22 a.m. local time (0552GMT), had a depth of 5 kilometers.
    
The region has a history of powerful earthquakes. Last month a quake centered on the eastern Turkish city of Elazig killed more than 40 people.
    
Turkish broadcaster NTV showed images of locals and soldiers digging through the rubble of collapsed buildings as families fearing further tremors sat in snowy streets. The EMSC reported several further quakes that measured up to magnitude 3.9.A man carries a wounded boy to an ambulance after an earthquake hit villages in Baskale town in Van province, Turkey, at the border with Iran, Feb. 23, 2020.The effects of the quake hit four villages in Van. Sevenof the fatalities occurred in Ozpinar village, where Soylu said search and rescue teams had arrived. He added that the quake caused 1,066 buildings to collapse while the Education Ministry said a number of schools were damaged.
    
Koca said 25 ambulances, a medical helicopter and 13 emergency teams had been sent to the region. The Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said 144 tents for families had been dispatched.

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Brazilian Transgender Dancer Shatters Carnival Parade Taboo

When dancer Camila Prins entered Sao Paulo’s Carnival parade grounds, a costume of feathers clinging to her sinuous body, she fulfilled a dream of feminine beauty nearly three decades old.Prins says she first realized she wanted to be a woman at a Carnival party at age 11, when, like the other boys, she was allowed to dress like a girl as part of the burlesque festivities. Now, in the final minutes of Saturday, she became the first transgender woman to lead the drum section of a top samba school in either of the renowned Carnival parades put on in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.Prins, 40, was hand-picked to be “godmother” of the Colorado do Bras samba school’s drum section, an iconic role fought over by dozens of models and TV celebrities. Her duty was to dance infectiously for 65 minutes in front of the drummers, using her legs to drive their rhythm while judges assessed the school’s parade.“Gorgeous women wanted to be here. I’m very excited because this shows we can be anywhere. We can be godmother of the drummers, we can be owners of a samba school,” Prins told The Associated Press before the parade. “Soon they will see many other transgender girls, who will find it easier than I did.”Transgender godmother Camila Prins from the Colorado do Bras samba school performs during a Carnival parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Feb. 23, 2020. Prins fulfilled a dream nearly three decades old.Samba league’s bold decisionColorado do Bras, which rose to Sao Paulo’s top samba league only two years ago, made a bold decision in picking Prins for the role, despite Brazil’s Carnival being a party at which few things have never been tried.Transgender people remain something of a taboo among Brazilians, even in Sao Paulo, the country’s most cosmopolitan city and host to the world’s largest gay pride parade. Brazil has more killings of transvestites and transgender people than any country in the world. In 2019, 124 were killed, 21 of them in Sao Paulo state.As godmother of the drum section, Prins teamed up with a drum queen who has a similar role, and together they worked to dazzle fans in the Sambadrome bleachers with their beauty and sex appeal. Prins said she was counting on her penetrating brown eyes, long blond hair, strong legs, open smile and imposing breasts to help win points from the judges.Colorado do Bras finished the 2019 parade in 11th place, only two spots above the cutoff for being relegated back to a lower league. Directors of the samba school decided to try for something different this year, since the group has fewer resources than richer samba schools. Its floats and costumes were clearly less luxurious than the main challengers for the title.Camila Prins sits in a chair as she has her makeup done before performing for Colorado do Bras samba school in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Feb. 22, 2020. Her costume is ready on a nearby bed.A new normalKeila Simpson, president of Brazil’s National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals, was happy Prins secured her prominent Carnival role, and said their community aims to make cases like hers the new normal.“We have to be proud of Camila and hope her symbolic message allows us to think of reducing violence against trans people. Why can people celebrate her at the Sambadrome while trans people on the street are subject to violence?” Simpson said. “We don’t have data, but there are many violent cases against us during Carnival. Because there’s more of us outside, there’s more attacks.”Sao Paulo is trying to root out persecution of LGBT people during Carnival, and this year set up 20 tents spread among major street parties to handle cases of violence against the community. Psychologists, police officers and social workers are on hand until Wednesday for revelers who are victimized.English teacher Alessandra Salvador, a transgender woman who encouraged revelers to come to the city hall tent at the LGBT street party Minhoqueens, said she was excited by Prins’ selection.“I don’t even watch parades that much, but this year I will when she is on,” Salvador said. “It is good to see one of us being talked up. We don’t get it so often. If we don’t get that in Carnival, we won’t get it anywhere else.”Long road to big leaguesIt’s been a long road for Prins to reach the big leagues. She has worked as a professional dancer for 20 years and, though she lives in a small town in Switzerland with her husband, practices her steps at home all year and listens to samba incessantly. As Carnival nears, she splits her dance routine with ab workouts and squats at a gym, then makes her annual return to Brazil.Prins’ first time dancing as a samba school’s godmother came in 2018, in the second division of Sao Paulo’s Carnival league. And it wasn’t easy.“Many people turned their backs, because they thought I shouldn’t be there. They thought it was a role for a woman,” Prins said. “Little by little I won them over with a lot of respect and true dancing.”Prins said her friends in Switzerland feared for her because of the increase in violence against transgender people, and because of the rise of far-right political groups in Brazil. She said she was worried about an increase in hateful comments aimed at LGBT people since President Jair Bolsonaro took office Jan. 1, 2019, but she planned to keep her smile and march on.Just before midnight, when Colorado do Bras finally started its parade, a TV Globo reporter approached a tearful Prins in front of her drummers. She was already the most talked about of all 2,200 members of the samba school, even more than eight young topless women dressed as “goddesses of the sea.” “I feel so blessed this is happening. I came here to hold my banner and dance samba to the face of prejudice, for all the LGBT community,” she said. “Trans girls, I am sure your day will come, too. I am just the first, many more of you will follow.”

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Sanders Wins: Key Nevada Caucuses Takeaways

Sen. Bernie Sanders cruised to victory in the Nevada caucuses, heartening his supporters and stoking alarm among moderates who fear he is too liberal and would lose to President Donald Trump.Here are some takeaways from the Nevada caucuses:Sanders’ presidential bid gets rocket fuelSanders’ convincing win means there is no longer an asterisk next to his status as the front-runner in the race. He proved his strength with a broad coalition that included Latino voters, union members and African Americans.Now Sanders claims three victories in a row heading into South Carolina next Saturday, and more important, Super Tuesday on March 3 when about one-third of the delegates needed for the nomination are at stake. The biggest prizes that day, California and Texas, look a lot like Nevada demographically.FILE – Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg at a campaign rally in Salt Lake City, Feb. 20, 2020.Another advantage: His opponents remain splintered and, with the exception of billionaire former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, underfunded to compete across such a vast terrain.But now there will be extraordinary pressure to try to consolidate moderate support in an effort to stop Sanders’ rise. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren will have a decision to make on how much she tries to draw separation from Sanders since they are both competing for the progressive vote.There is at least one strong note of caution about Sanders’ success. In Iowa and New Hampshire he didn’t seem to grow the electorate substantially. Data is still out in Nevada.Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign rally, Feb. 22, 2020, in Denver.Buttigieg issues warning about SandersFormer South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg ran well behind Sanders, but he tried to cast himself as the strongest alternative to Sanders.In language uncharacteristically blunt, Buttigieg issued a warning to Democrats about the perils of nominating Sanders, whom he characterized as inflexible and whose ideas are not in the American mainstream.“Sen. Sanders believes in an inflexible, ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans,” Buttigieg told supporters. He held himself out as the only viable alternative. “We can prioritize either ideological purity or inclusive victory,” Buttigieg said.He added: “Sen. Sanders sees capitalism as the root of all evil. He’d go beyond reform and reorder the economy in ways most Democrats — let alone most Americans — don’t support.”Despite his forceful argument, there’s a serious risk to Buttigieg in the upcoming calendar. He will have to win over black voters in South Carolina, then pivot to a multistate primary with comparatively limited resources. Buttigieg put out a plea for $13 million from donors before Super Tuesday.The former mayor of a city of 100,000 has repeatedly defied the odds in the presidential nominating contests, but the odds are getting longer.Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Nevada Caucus night event in Las Vegas, Feb. 22, 2020.Biden has his back against a firewallFormer Vice President Joe Biden was hoping Nevada would turn things around for him after a disastrous showing in Iowa and then New Hampshire. He argued that he’d do better in a more diverse state.But Biden again lost badly even as he told supporters at a union hall, “We’re alive and coming back and we’re gonna win.”His last and best hope may be to win in South Carolina next Saturday. He’s counting on his support among the state’s black voters — they could make up two-thirds of the voters — to serve as his firewall.If Biden doesn’t win South Carolina, the rationale for his candidacy will much harder to maintain.In Las Vegas, he tried out a new rallying cry: “I ain’t a socialist. I ain’t a plutocrat. I’m a Democrat. And I’m proud of it.” Party loyalty may be all Biden has left.Maybe Culinary isn’t all-powerful after allThe 60,000-member Culinary Workers Local 226 represents workers in the casinos on the Las Vegas strip, and it’s routinely described, correctly, as the most powerful force in the state’s Democratic politics. But it’s not omnipotent.Culinary didn’t want Sanders to win. It has strongly opposed his “Medicare for All” plan, warning its members that it would eliminate their own generous health plan. Some observers thought the union might end up backing Biden. But after the former vice president’s embarrassing performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, Culinary instead stayed neutral.The calls from leadership went unheeded by many. Sanders had strong showings in some caucuses in casinos where crowds of Culinary members chanted the Vermont senator’s name and powered him to wins in most casinos. Culinary is driven by its members, many of whom are Sanders supporters, and there was no consensus among the rest about what they should do.Leadership decided to refrain from a divisive fight, helping pave the way for Sanders’ win. It’s a reminder that even in places like Nevada with strong political institutions, those institutions ultimately derive their power from voters.Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., reacts while meeting supporters at a campaign office, Feb. 22, 2020, in Las Vegas.No bounce for KlobucharSen. Amy Klobuchar produced one of the few surprises of the race when she surged to a third-place finish in New Hampshire, announced that she had raised more than $12 million, and vowed to prove her doubters wrong.Her momentum proved short-lived. She finished well behind the leading candidates, and in the process, prompted questions about her viability.But in a speech to supporters in her home state of Minnesota, she was defiant and said she would continue. She even tried to make a virtue of the fact that Trump mentioned her name at a rally. “By the way, for the first time ever, he mentioned me at a rally,” she said. “You know I’ve arrived now. You know they must be worried.”Probably not. Time is running out for candidates who haven’t finished higher than third in any contest. That also applies to Warren, also desperately needs a win. Her strong debate performance came after much of the state had already cast early votes.Not a great return on investmentTom Steyer, the billionaire who made his fortune running a hedge fund, bet heavily in Nevada, more than $12 million on advertising, and lost big, finishing sixth. Steyer has made strong appeals to minority voters, but in Nevada, failed decisively.But Steyer’s impact on the race could come next week in South Carolina, where he has spent even more money. Polls show that he has made significant inroads among African American voters. That would not be good news for Biden, who is counting on those votes to resuscitate his campaign.

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Second Death Reported at New Orleans Mardi Gras

A person was struck by a float and fatally injured Saturday evening during one of the iconic parades of the Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, authorities said. It was the second death in days to mar this year’s Carnival festivities.A city agency tasked with emergency preparedness tweeted that the death occurred Saturday night as the popular parade of the Krewe of Endymion was rolling. The agency, NOLA Ready, said it had no immediate details about how the death occurred or the identity of the person.NOLA Ready tweeted that the remainder of Endymion’s parade was being canceled Saturday evening. Reports said 13 floats had already passed the area where the accident occurred and that the remaining floats and marching groups diverted elsewhere. Police said the accident occurred along Canal Street, a major downtown thoroughfare in this Mississippi River port city.Second deathThe fatality comes as New Orleans had already been mourning the death of a 58-year-old woman who witnesses said was run over by a parade float Wednesday night in the runup to Mardi Gras.That death occurred during the parade of the Mystic Krewe of Nyx, an all-female Carnival group. Witnesses said the woman, later identified by authorities as New Orleans native Geraldine Carmouche, had apparently tried to cross between two parts of a tandem float and tripped over a hitch connecting the sections.It wasn’t immediately clear if a tandem float was involved in Saturday night’s fatality, but the city agency NOLA Ready tweeted that tandem floats would not be allowed for the remainder of the 2020 season. Tandem floats are multiple floats connected together and pulled by one tractor.Mardi Gras concludes with the Fat Tuesday celebration that marks the raucous climax of a week or more of parades and parties each year.2019 attackThe 2020 Carnival season deaths come just a year after a car sped into a bicycle lane near a parade route, hitting nine people and killing two bicyclists not far from where the Krewe of Endymion formation had just passed. A man identified as the driver was subsequently charged with two counts of vehicular homicide.Before this year, the most recent Carnival float-related fatality happened in 2009, when a 23-year-old rider fell from a float and in front of its wheels in Carencro, about 120 miles (195 kilometers) west of New Orleans.In 2008, a rider getting off a three-part float after the Krewe of Endymion parade in New Orleans was killed when the float lurched forward and the third section ran over him, police said.
 

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AP: DEA Agent Accused of Conspiring With Cartel 

A U.S. federal narcotics agent known for spending lavishly on luxury cars and Tiffany jewelry has been arrested on charges of conspiring to launder money with the same Colombian drug cartel he was supposed to be fighting. Jose Irizarry and his wife were arrested Friday at their home near San Juan, Puerto Rico, as part of a 19-count federal indictment that accused the 46-year-old Irizarry of “secretly using his position and his special access to information” to divert millions in drug proceeds from control of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “It’s a black eye for the DEA to have one of its own engaged in such a high level of corruption,” said Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations. “He jeopardized investigations. He jeopardized other agents and he jeopardized informants.” Federal prosecutors in Tampa, Florida, allege the conspiracy not only enriched Irizarry but also benefited two unindicted co-conspirators, neither of whom is named in the indictment. One was employed as a Colombian public official while the other was described as the head of a drug trafficking and money laundering organization who became the godfather to the Irizarry couple’s children in 2015, when the DEA agent was posted to the Colombian resort city of Cartagena. When The Associated Press revealed the scale of Irizarry’s alleged wrongdoing last year, it sent shock waves through the DEA, where his ostentatious habits and tales of raucous yacht parties with bikini-clad prostitutes were legendary among agents. Once a model agentBut prior to being exposed, Irizarry had been a model agent, winning awards and praise from his supervisors. After joining the DEA in Miami 2009, he was entrusted with an undercover money laundering operation using front companies, shell bank accounts and couriers.  Irizarry resigned in January 2018 after being reassigned to Washington when his boss in Colombia became suspicious. The case has raised concerns within the DEA that the conspiracy may have compromised undercover operations and may upend criminal cases. “His fingerprints are all over dozens of arrests and indictments,” said David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in Miami. “It could have a ripple effect and cause courts to re-examine any case he was involved in.” Irizarry and his wife posted $10,000 bond each and were released later Friday. Nathalia Gomez-Irizarry declined to comment to AP and closed the door at the house she shares with her husband, saying he wasn’t home. Messages to Irizarry’s attorney were not immediately returned. The DEA referred comment to the Justice Department. A lawyer for the star witness in the case, a former DEA informant who was handled by Irizarry, celebrated the charges. Gustavo Yabrudi was given a 46-month sentence last year for his role in a multimillion-dollar money-laundering conspiracy. “Mr. Yabrudi has been waiting for almost two years for this day,” said Leonardo Concepcion. “It’s time that the puppet masters who pulled his strings and abused their authority over him are made to answer for their actions.” False reportsStarting around 2011, Irizarry allegedly used the cover of his badge to file false reports and mislead his superiors, all while directing DEA personnel to wire funds reserved for undercover stings to accounts in Spain, the Netherlands and elsewhere that he controlled or were tied to his wife and his co-conspirators. He’s also accused of sharing sensitive law enforcement information with his co-conspirators. The DEA has declined to comment on its employment of Irizarry and potential red flags that came up during his screening process. Irizarry was hired by the DEA despite indications he showed signs of deception in a polygraph exam, and despite the fact that he had declared bankruptcy with debts of almost $500,000. Still, he was permitted to handle financial transactions after being hired by the DEA. In total, Irizarry and informants under his direction handled at least $3.8 million that should have been carefully tracked by the DEA as part of undercover money laundering investigations. The indictment was handed up a week after another former DEA agent was sentenced to four years in federal prison for his role in a decadelong drug conspiracy that involved the smuggling of thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York. 

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Macron Vows to Defend French Farmers, Fishermen in Uncertain Year

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday promised to safeguard European farm subsidies, secure compensation for wine producers hit by U.S. tariffs and defend fishermen in talks with Britain, as France’s farming world faces an uncertain year. Opening the annual Paris farm show, Macron said France would continue to oppose cuts to agricultural subsidies, a day after discussions broke down on a new European Union budget without Britain. Like his predecessors, Macron vowed to maintain a large budget for the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), of which France is the main beneficiary. “On the CAP we defend an ambitious budget. CAP cannot be the adjustment variable of Brexit. We need to support our farmers,” Macron told farmers. “We did not yield to those who wanted to reduce the [CAP] budget,” he added. Compensation for tariffsMeeting wine industry representatives, the president pledged to get compensation for U.S. tariffs in place by the spring, Jerome Despey, secretary-general of France’s main farmer union, the FNSEA, said afterward. Macron has previously backed tariff relief for wine producers and said he has raised the issue with the European Commission. The sector fears it could lose 300 million to 400 million euros in annual sales in its main export market if the 25% tariff imposed by Washington in October remains in place, Despey said. French President Emmanuel Macron samples cheese during a visit to the 57th International Agriculture Fair (Salon international de l’Agriculture) at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France Feb. 22, 2020.French wine is among EU products subject to the U.S. tariffs as part of an aircraft subsidy dispute. French wine exporters estimate the duties led to a 40 million-euro drop in sales to the United States in the last quarter. Fishing tensions Macron also voiced support for the fishing sector, which risks losing current access to British waters as the EU negotiates a new relationship with Britain. “Boris Johnson has a card in his hand, and it is fishing,” he told representatives of the French fishing industry, warning it was unclear if the EU and Britain could reach an overall trade agreement before a transition period expires at the end of the year. He reiterated that he would seek compensation for French fishermen for any losses they suffered. Macron spent over 12 hours at the Paris farm show, a major event for politicians in the EU’s biggest agricultural economy. During the customary presidential visit to the weeklong event, which attracts 600,000 visitors, he tasted French specialities like Charolais beef and Cotes de Provence rose wine, and he served draft beer at the French brewers’ stand. PesticidesHe also faced stern questioning from farmers, with whom he has had an uneasy relationship, particularly over pesticide policy. Macron told farmers that the common weedkiller glyphosate would not be scrapped where there were no alternatives, while safety rules on pesticide spraying would be adopted progressively. There were glimpses of wider tensions in France, with a heated exchange with a woman about pension reform and police violence in street protests. Eric Drouet, a leading figure in the “yellow vest” protest movement that rocked Macron’s government a year ago, was expelled from the show when he tried to approach the president. 

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Erdogan to Hold Syria Summit With Russia, France and Germany

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said he would hold a summit with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany on March 5 to discuss the situation in Syria’s last rebel enclave of Idlib.”We will come together on March 5 and discuss these issues,” Erdogan said in a televised speech, following a phone call on Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his tele-conference with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.The Turkish leader did not say where the summit would be held but his announcement comes a day after Macron and Merkel called for a four-party Syria summit also involving the Russian leader.  A months-long offensive by Russia-backed Syrian troops against rebels backed by Turkey in northwest Idlib has seen close to one million civilians flee the violence.The two European Union heavyweights on Friday “expressed their willingness to meet President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan to find a political solution to the crisis,” the chancellor’s office said.Russia on Wednesday objected to the U.N. Security Council adopting a statement that would have called for a cease-fire in Idlib, diplomats said, after a tense closed-door meeting.Turkey, which has threatened an “imminent” operation in Idlib after its troops have come under intense fire from regime forces, has given Damascus until the end of this month to drive back its army positions.Syrian regime fire has killed 17 Turkish personnel this month alone, sparking a war of words between Ankara and Moscow, a key Damascus ally.
 

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Former IS Capital Raqqa Now Shelters Thousands of Syrians Fleeing Idlib Assault

Raqqa, the former self-proclaimed Islamic State capital now under the control of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, has become a safe haven for thousands of civilians fleeing a Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive in Idlib, northwest Syria. The United Nations estimates the fighting in Idlib since December 2019 has displaced more than 900,000 people, mostly women and children. VOA’s Reber Kalo reports from Raqqa. 

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South Sudan’s Rivals Form Unity Government Aiming to End War

South Sudan opened a new chapter in its fragile emergence from civil war Saturday as rival leaders formed a coalition government that many observers prayed would last this time around.
 
A day after President Salva Kiir dissolved the previous government, opposition leader Riek Machar was sworn in as his deputy, an arrangement that twice collapsed in fighting during the conflict that killed nearly 400,000 people.
 
Kiir declared “the official end of the war, and we can now proclaim a new dawn.” Peace is “never to be shaken ever again,” the president said, adding that he had forgiven Machar and asking for Machar’s forgiveness, to applause. He called on their respective Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups to do the same.
 
The world’s youngest nation slid into civil war in 2013, two years after winning a long-fought independence from Sudan, as supporters of Kiir and Machar clashed. Numerous attempts at peace failed, including a deal that saw Machar return as vice president in 2016 — only to flee the country on foot months later amid fresh gunfire.
 
Intense international pressure followed the most recent peace deal in 2018. Pope Francis in a dramatic gesture kissed the feet of Kiir and Machar last year to coax them into putting differences aside. Saturday’s ceremony began with a presentation to them of that photo as a reminder.
 
Exasperation by the United States, South Sudan’s largest aid donor, and others grew as Kiir and Machar in the past year pushed back two deadlines to take the crucial step of forming the coalition government. But with less than a week before the latest deadline Saturday, each made a key concession.
 
Kiir announced a “painful” decision on the politically sensitive issue of the number of states, and Machar agreed to have Kiir take responsibility for his security. On Thursday, they announced they had agreed to form a government meant to lead to elections in three years’ time — the first vote since independence.
 
“Finally, peace is at our doorstep,” a reporter with the U.N.-backed Radio Miraya declared from Bor in long-suffering Jonglei state. In Yambio, youth with flags were reported in the streets. “I rejoice with the South Sudanese, especially the displaced, hungry and grieving who waited so long,” the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, tweeted.
 
Hugs and applause followed Machar’s swearing-in. He vowed to South Sudanese to work together “to end your suffering.”
 
And both he and Kiir thanked the pope for his gesture. “We are proud to report to him that we have also reconciled,” Kiir said. “We were greatly humbled and challenged” by him, Machar said.
 
Even as citizens breathed a careful sigh of relief, aid groups, analysts and diplomats warned of major challenges ahead. In a likely sign of caution, no heads of state aside from Sudan’s leader, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, attended the swearing-in.
 
“While much work remains to be done, this is an important milestone in the path to peace,” the U.S. Embassy said in a message of congratulations.
 
Tens of thousands of rival forces still must be knitted together into a single army, a process that the U.N. and others have called behind schedule and poorly provisioned.
And observers have stressed that this new government must be inclusive in a country where fighting has often occurred along ethnic lines and where several armed groups operate. Not all have signed on to the peace deal.
 
Kiir and Machar have said outstanding issues will be negotiated under the new government.
 
Other vice presidents named by Kiir on Friday include Taban Deng Gai, a former ally of Machar who switched to the government side and last month was sanctioned by the U.S. over involvement in serious human rights abuses. Another is Rebecca Garang, the widow of John Garang, who led a long fight for independence from Sudan.
 
The humanitarian community, which has seen more than 100 workers killed since the civil war began, hopes the new government will lead to far easier delivery of food and other badly needed support as roughly half of South Sudan’s population of 12 million remain hungry. Some 40,000 are in famine conditions, a new report said Thursday, and now a major locust outbreak in East Africa has arrived.
 
Another more than 2 million people fled South Sudan during the civil war, and Kiir has urged them to come home.
 
The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan warns that serious abuses continue. “Civilians are deliberately starved, systematically surveilled and silenced, arbitrarily arrested and detained and denied meaningful access to justice,” its latest report said Thursday. It said scattered deadly violence, the use of child soldiers and sexual violence imperil the fragile peace.
 
The Sentry, an investigative team that has alleged corruption among some South Sudanese officials, urged the international community to keep up pressure.
 
“Years of conflict have bred deep distrust among South Sudan’s politicians, heightening the potential for a return to civil war,” it said Friday. “The ability to hold South Sudan’s politicians accountable throughout the process, rather than waiting until it is too late, is essential to the survival of the peace agreement.”
 
As some analysts said the threat of further sanctions pushed Kiir and Machar to make peace once more, envoys from neighboring Sudan, Kenya and Uganda in remarks after the swearing-in called for the lifting of existing sanctions, to applause.
 

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