Unbearable Human Rights Abuse in South Sudan
My country, the Republic of South Sudan, is suffering from chronic depression over the killings of their own citizens. The liberation process of South Sudan had different fronts: physical warfare, international diplomatic engagement, and civil society advocacy. All of these led to the creation of this new country. The 21 year civil war between the Sudan armed forces and the Sudan’s People Liberation Army (SPLA) had paramount contributions of the grassroots from both sides. This article examines human rights abuses against civilians, the disarmament campaign in Jonglei and discrimination against the Diasporas.
Human Rights Abuse in South Sudan
South Sudan was granted self-autonomy under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the Sudanese government for the period of six years before votes for independence could be cast in 2011. Regardless of this beautiful opportunity for South Sudanese to have full custody of their own internal affairs, citizens remain in fear. Today the universal idea of freedom for which the South Sudanese have been fighting for is still a dream for them. Citizens are arrested and killed for expressing their views on whether our country is heading in the right direction.
I have lived in South Sudan’s capital of Juba and I have witnessed how civilians are being treated. There are no legal procedures being followed and any punishment for those found to have committed the crime is not defined by law. It is based on how politically connected you are. What makes our current leadership in Juba different from the government in Khartoum that used to deny us our rights? Most of the crimes being committed in the Republic of South Sudan today are being committed by law enforcement agents and the government elites (those handling big positions in the government and in the military). A democracy must respect all public opinions and worldviews. It is important for South Sudan to create a positive image on the world stage as it galvanizes international support. Every nation stands on its own records and it is clear that South Sudan has failed its first test as a country. It has failed in the respect that many human rights violation have occurred in this first half of 2012.
On many occasions citizens are arrested for voicing their own views. Early in 2012, Dr. James Okuk, a noted writer, was taken into custody by security agents for his writing against corruption within the new government. He was arrested with no legal charges made against him. He was only released because of public outcry.
Deng Monydit, another noted writer, was arrested in regards to an article he wrote regarding the marriage of the President’s daughter to an Ethiopian national. Whether one agrees with Mr. Monydit on his stance in the article or not he is irrelevant, he is entitled to his opinion as a South Sudanese citizen.
Disarmament Campaign in Jonglei
Since the peace deal was signed in 2005, Jonglei state has found itself enmeshed in tribal warfare. Thousands of lives have been lost and hundreds of thousands of animals have been reported stolen. In addition to this, a large number of children have been abducted from their families. Little independent research has been conducted but there is evidence that the government of Sudan has been supporting local militias to destabilize South Sudan.
In March 2012, the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir issued an executive order to deploy 15,000 combat forces to collect local arms that were in the hands of civilians. This move by the president was received with mixed reactions. Some people supported the idea to conduct statewide disarmament and some people rejected the plan claiming it would leave them with no protection when others are not disarmed.
This executive order was put in place all over Jonglei state at the same time. There are indications that improvements have been made. According to the Governor of Jonglei state, Kuol Manyang Juuk, violence has been reduced by 90% which is a very big achievement.
Since the inception of the disarmament campaign, there have been issues of torture, rape and killing by the SPLA forces. A woman was raped by two SPLA soldiers in Kolnyang Payam in Bor County. The victim was later notified that the culprits were arrested and they will face justice.
But there is no trial scheduled and it is uncertain that the perpetrators are in jail. How can justice be served when the victims are not involved?
In Twic East and Bor counties respectively, many people have experienced torture in the hands of the SPLA. The SPLA were given mandates to collect all illegal arms from the people. Not everybody in South Sudan has access to weapons but when some individuals told the SPLA that they didn’t have any arms, they were beaten and tortured. It is not known whether there were instructions given to the SPLA on how to deal with those who didn’t have weapons. All of these issues have been raised and no action has been taken by authorities in charge.
In July 2012 when the nation was celebrating the one year anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, the diaspora were mourning the death of their brother, Mayol Kuch who died in the hands of the SPLA in Bor, South Sudan while he was visiting his home village of Kolnyang in Bor County. Mr. Kuch was sleeping in a hut when the SPLA soldiers went to his village in response to the local disputes among groups of people in the village. As soon as the soldiers got into his hut, they started beating him and took him to the army barracks where he was tortured throughout the night. After Mr. Kuch lost consciousness, he was released and taken to the hospital in Bortown where he was later pronounced dead.
Mr. Kuch is one of the ‘Lost Boys’ who walked for a thousand miles from South Sudan to Ethiopian and Kenyan camps in 1987 as the result of the 21 year civil war between the Sudan armed forces and South Sudanese. The lost boys have made an enormous contribution in the signing of the CPA and they have raised international support for South Sudan. The United States is one of the leading countries that have played an important role in bringing peace to South Sudan. This has been done through the connections of the lost boys and many other South Sudanese Diasporas. Mr. Kuch suffered all his life for the country he loves and now he shamelessly died in the hands of his own people. It is time for the government of South Sudan to make things straight and bring those who are responsible to justice. What good did the disarmament forces bring to the people of Jonglei state? Mr. Kuch was a naturalized US citizen from the state of Texas. The government of South Sudan must publicly explain how he died and what measures have been taken to bring justice to this injustice. Is this the nation we dreamed for where injustice spread like a wild fire? Lord prints our national identity in our hearts and change the mindset of those who think they are the supreme owners of our land and that we all belong to South Sudan. In the name of freedom, peace to South Sudan and to the world!
–Michael Ayuen Kuany holds a master’s degree (MA) from Eastern Mennonite University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. He is the founder, president and CEO of Rebuild South Sudan.