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Tuesday, Oct 21st, 2014

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Freedom of Expression in South Sudan: Does it exists?

By Abu Deng

“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.” (US President Ronald Reagan, from "The Speech" - October 27, 1964)

Dear Mr. President:

August 18, 2014 (SSNA) -- I have followed recent events where the actions of the security forces of South Sudan have done things which are contradictory to the stated public stance of the Republic of South Sudan (RSS), particularly given the recent comments by your Spokesman, Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny, a journalist himself.

Last Thursday Mr. Ateny gave an interview to Bakhita Radio, stating anyone is allowed to express themselves, and there is no intimidation in the country, according to media reports (Sudan Tribune, see article http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article51954).

So one finds it quite ironic that the radio station where your journalist-spokesman, Mr. Ateny was interviewed last Thursday was stormed then closed down on Saturday, 16 August at around 9 a.m. and four of its journalists arrested. See,http://www.bakhitaradio.org/?q=node%2F6275

Even more ironic is the fact that the Presidential spokesman has been using Bakhita Radio as a platform to decimate the views of the Presidency, like when he spoke on 2 July regarding Equatorian's governors assassination rumors; or 23 June on getting Equatorians to not discuss federalism, see http://catholicradionetwork.org/?q=node/14718 - the spokesman has been mentioned or interviewed by Bakhita Radio more than 10 times since January, yet their reporters are mistreated, arrested.

Does the leadership not see how bad this is for the nation - preaching openness and freedom of expression, then slamming down the hammer on a station that is trying to provide a balanced perspective for listeners. Unfortunately this is one area of international norms no one can argue with that needs serious work in the country, which still does not have a formal media law - which has been expected or rather promised since 2007. Should not RSS citizens hears both sides of a story? Most of the world would think so, but this recent action feels like the old Africa, that of Macias Nguema and Siad Barre.

Members of the Troika are noticing, and reporting these sad actions of the national security service and other forces, the UK government country report (31 March 2014) on South Sudan had this to say:

"Restrictions on freedom of expression have continued throughout the conflict. Harassment, intimidation and detention of journalists and human rights defenders have increased in frequency. The Union of Journalists of South Sudan reports that numerous such incidents took place in the first two months of the year. Journalists report increasing constraints on their independence, including seizure of publications and restrictions on coverage of opposition leaders. In March, Information Minister Michael Makeui stated that journalists who interviewed opposition figures risked possible arrest or expulsion from the country. Self-censorship by journalists and media houses is now understood to be widespread."

Mr. President: Why, how, can you allow the case of Journalist Abraham Agoth to occur, why must he hide for his life in Northern Bahr El Ghazal? See CPJ article,http://bit.ly/1sNwP3s - Is this one of your decreed governors hunting Mr. Agoth - please tell him to stop or "un-decree" him since your have that constitutional right if he does not behave as a responsible public official immersed in democratic standards.

Mr. Agoth has to hide because RSS security forces have spoken clearly through their past actions against Isaiah Abraham, Jok Madut Jok, Deng Athuai and others. Our brave son has been trying to act in a modern competent and professional way with his news coverage in a hostile environment, proven by the news agency who use his journalistic services like Gurtong and Voice of America.

Mr. President, the principle of freedom of expression must be a pillar of South Sudan, otherwise, how can we sit at the Global table asking for aid, development and investment funds...invites. The South's friends are concerned. The Freedom House 2014 report on political rights and civil liberties has us at 6, equal with Afganistan, but not yet as bad as as Eritrea and Sudan.

Proper nation-building requires an open-minded environment for a progressive and prosperous nation. News reporting is a vital piece of that building process, and the Catholic Radio Network's Bakhita Radio is a professional organisation that provides objective news coverage. Its reporters like others around the world follow a creed. Let me quote two sentences from that Journalist Creed of 1914:

I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true.

I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.

Most Journalists live by this code or creed, some have even died by it. So please respect these pen and paper warriors  - and ensure all of the RSS apparatus does too.

Mr. President you were treated with great respect in my country during the recent African Leaders Summit, were you not, even though I know many US government officials, NGOs and private individuals disagree with what you have done and said.

Yet, America invited you and rolled out the red carpet treatment for you. Our leaders even took photos with you: Obamas, Menendez, Royce. Haven't you wondered about that how could you be treated with such respect there when many people there believe that you are part of the problem in South Sudan?

Mr. President it is because of the hallmarks of democracy, characteristics of which we Americans hold dearly, such as: freedom of expression, of opinion. We believe in allowing dissenting voices in society, in a governmental system - for it makes it better, more accountable, as our founding fathers debated and concluded over 200 years earlier. For it is believed in the end, a Leader will take a step toward compromise though he or she may disagrees with their opponent's views.

In such a society a worker does not have to agree with a superior all the time, sometimes the worker may have a better idea or approach that can advance that organisation. This is the essence of democracy! Richness of opinion is a good thing.

A final note, it was believed by many Mr. President that when you hired government critic Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny, a better relationship between the government and media would occur, but alas it has not, even the British Foreign office has taken notice of this failure in its April 2014 South Sudan - Country of concern report:

"Outspoken commentator Ateny Wek Ateny was appointed as presidential spokesperson in November, prompting speculation that this represented a new openness in the government’s relationship with the media. However, this was not borne out in the government’s subsequent treatment of the media."

It seems whose like Mr. Ateny who used to speak out are silenced by the system, and those who report on the system are hunted and silenced or disappear. Well, correct the path Mr. President, before it's too late - the whole world wants to be proud of South Sudan, to help it grow and prosper. Protect our journalists!

P.S. Oh, on the war, please take a giant step toward Peace. As Head of State, the burden of the nation's welfare is in your hand, and will be part of your legacy, be it good or bad. You alone - through decree or political will - can end this current war - if you like! Everyday you delay, dozens of Junubin children of future generations are dying.

Abu Deng is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in Public Policy and International Affairs, who lives in Oslo, Norway.

This war is not for Dr. Riek Machar; this war is a war against Nuer cleansing

By: Sirir Gabriel Yiei Rut

August 17, 2014 (SSNA) -- My fellow country men and women of south Sudan, I know very well that our country has been automatically divided into small sections engulf by tribal hatred for one tribe to another. And I am very much aware that south Sudanese were not born to hate each other. It’s an artificial kind of hatred planted into our hearts by people who claimed to be our liberators. With time it will perish.

South Sudan is a country with all kind of gifts in it vast territories but always a cruel ruler with no vision and missions is always a blind ruler. President Salva Kiir Mayardit turned us down by declaring a war against civilians who voted for him, by giving orders to ununiformed recruits to carryout killing on tribal lines, by instructing his tribesmen to search for Nuer public figure and murdered them in cold blood inside their houses. This is insane.

My fellow country men and women, I strongly refute the lies fabricated to you by people of interest the betrayers/traitors that Nuer are fighting the government because of Dr. Riek Machar Teny. No! This is not true. That is not their primary concerned. Nuer who are engaging the government forces in all frontlines are sacrificing themselves because of Nuer who were massacred in Juba, Yei, Mapel, Wau, Malakal Renk and Bor by Salva Kiir Mayardit. Nuer  are fighting the government because their women were gangs rapes, their children who don’t know who Dr. Riek Machar is, were butchered by the tranny. This is unforgivable.

I ought you to calm down and relax. Come to your senses and talk to yourselves, ask yourselves about the genesis of this crisis without favoring your tribe or a person you support. You will eventually come to one conclusion and that will be” Nuer join rebellion because their lives become in danger in their own country”. They are being hunt down by people whom they didn’t do anything to them but because they simply belong to Nuer tribe. This is unforgettable.

This is the reason why I rebel; this also why our soldiers and politicians severally defected and joint the struggle, we are joining the rebellion because the government under Dinka’s influence wanted to wipe the Nuer out of south Sudan. And I am pretty sure more will rebel it’s just a matter of time.

However, I am sending a heartfelt message and warning to my fellows Nuer who are still saving under President Salva Kiir Government to realize the consequences of their greed and betrayal toward their community. This Nuer politicians who are working under President Salva Kiir previously send their families inside UN compounds and started to mobilized some vulnerable innocents who already taken refuge and given shelter in UNIMISS bases to come out and got killed just because you wanted to benefit. Their blood is on your neck! Inshallah

And for those politicians, who don’t want to join the struggle simply because they have personal problems with Dr. Riek Machar, I am advising you to give up that attitude and focus on your children’s future in the coming years. Your personal problems with Dr. Riek Machar are something different and the war against dictatorship who aims to cleanse our community is something also different. This conflict has got a lot to do with unity among ourselves so that we can manage to face the enemies. God is great maybe He will touch your hearts abundantly and make you shine your eyes to see the way your brothers and sisters got humiliated in a country their fathers sacrifices themselves for.

Moreover Dr. Riek Machar Teny the leader of the resistance movement SPLM/A in opposition should be always given praises and congratulations for also standing firmed and for His urgent formation of resistance forces that quickly gave a pause to tranny forces advancement. This is a permanent credit I gave him since.

I always said, “South Sudan problem is not Dr. Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon and his comrades in the struggle, south Sudan problem is not White army who came to rescue their loves one neither the problem of south Sudan is the Equatorians who are crying for the implementation of Federalism in the young nation. The problems are; Rule of dictatorship, Corruption, Poor leadership, Tribalism, Carnage, Pogroms and Chronic love for leadership without vision and missions”

South Sudanese need to think about the future of south Sudan and their own future too. We need to be realistic in taking decision; we can’t go on with government which value money more than the lives of the citizens. I know we are wise enough to say a big NO! To Salva Kiir and I also know you can denounce Him as soon as possible. I hope with time you will agree with your brain and quickly reject his murderous regime once and for all.

Our beloved country south Sudan a land God has given us is full of everything we need but, poor leadership always lead us to be people without capability to develop their country. Poor leadership always weakens our ambitions to become who we wanted to become………

But I can assure you ladies and gentlemen if we give new leadership a chance, our country will immediately experiences prompt changes. Hence we can have a new least of life in the young nation, freedom of right to express your anger without fear shall prevail……..

Hopefully one fine day in the tile of the night peace will prevail…………………………….

The author is a student of political science living in Egypt; you can easily reach Him through his Email address: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Squandered Opportunity Threaten South Sudan’s Sovereignty: Warring Parties may Lose the Country Unknowingly

By Gabrial Pager Ajang

August 17, 2014 (SSNA) -- Since the beginning of the December 15th, 2013 war, South Sudanese moral leaders, and good hearted people have been pondering on how this war could possibly be ended? This existential question of life and death has caused many South Sudanese in the diaspora and South Sudan to criticize government, and rebels, offer their insights, and free framed proposals to the government. Besides, various international agencies and regional leaders have also offered tons of ideas and guidance to the government of South Sudan. Furthermore, it is not clear whether the government had a team that analyzes, organizes, and articulates these offered proposals to help pave way for reconciliation, peace and stability.  To my understanding, the powers of the president are usually proportional to his task; hence the President Kiir is responsible for proposing national programs, and articulate way forward than rebels can do. President can appoint a team to work on critical post-war issues, and if the government does not layout peace process programs, and remedies of the post-issues, stability and peace would hypothetically be hard to achieve. Sticking to militarization as a form governance, and allows problems to accumulate make fragile situations susceptible to war and volatility. Issues move precariously and rushing at the speed of light and suddenly cause conflict. We have witnessed how the militarization of Pualino Matip Nhial, Marial Chanoug, and Riek Machar guards in Juba (all known as presidential led current war).

The purpose of national standing army is to protect the national interest, and territorial integrity of South Sudan, and when that looses it meaning, and soldiers turn their guns onto citizens, the South Sudan loses its sovereignty’s protection. When the police fail to keep laws and orders, and deviated from their primary roles of protecting citizens, and resorted to mistreatment of citizens, South Sudan loses its legitimacy, and South Sudan becomes lawless. It is fundamental for all of us to understand that God will not descend from above to solve our problems; the government carries huge burdens of offering practical solutions to all post-war issues, and brings about peace than the rebels. Besides, the current militarization of youth could have a disastrous end if not carefully and responsibly managed. Ongoing negotiations and going to Ethiopia empty handed can never bring any lasting solutions. People of South Sudan want practical resolutions for war, and their problems…not necessary empty words televised every week. For example, people want laws, and orders, they want guarantee protections of their life and properties, and their constitution written.

It is worth noting that president Salva Kiir secured South Sudan independence. And I am also mindful that the administration is undergoing daunting task of managing a nation in crisis. However, perils of post-war issues are threatening viability of this country. There are irrefutable evidences that this crisis is exacerbated by SPLM leaders who made mistakes of taking regressive journey from the comprehensive implementation of the 2005 accord and initiated Cooperation Agreement. The left post-war issues have caused disagreement among the SPLM leaders and had plundered country into conflict.

The following elements of post-war issues have emerged as threat to South Sudan Sovereignty:

1. Failing to transform SPLA soldiers from guerrilla movement into conventional army caused more tribal militia.

2. Failing to write a governing document, supreme law of land, the constitution, has caused more skepticism about the government, and rebellions. Citizens are confused about South Sudan system of governance.

3. Deep tribal divisions spearheaded by national leaders is disturbing, some speak on the national TV, and not knowing what they say could have far more repercussions, and sow more divisions. National leader must understand that what they say matter to citizens.

4. Failing to transform SPLM party core organs and leadership from Guerrilla movement to a democratic political partially caused in December 15th, war.

5. Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan governments are encroaching on South Sudan territories. SPLM leaders abandoned border demarcation; protocol well pronounced in the CPA and renegotiated CPA in the Cooperation Agreement. The creations of 14 mile are a clear violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

6. Lack of clear domestic programs, and foreign policies, just to mention few.

These daring national challenges are mounting, and they are jeopardizing citizens’ life, and future of this nation. South Sudan had clear borders and citizens are fighting themselves malevolently. It begs the questions; what is the future of this country, and what could possibly preserve national interest and sovereignty? Tribes are divided, and almost disagreed on every issue, for instance Dinka, and Nuer are deeply divided, and Dinka and Nuer are even more subdivided internally. This war kept together. Besides, these entrenched divisions, sowed by both government and rebels’ leaders are shocking and have caused more rampant tribalism. It would require a true national figure to resolve and eradicate tribalism. Moreover, national army has disintegrated into tribal militias, a new development that put South Sudan on the path of ungovernable state. These sowed divisions can cause nation greater harms. The trend is disturbing. Government officials and rebels are also engaging in blame games, and subversion of truth. Both rebels and government solders are responsible of solving national issues. However, some leaders and citizens have taken regressive, and they blamed tribes, and subtribes for mistakes made by national leaders. We are at the very sad state of affairs. If we love this country, we must tell the truth, it does not matter who commits the crimes.

SPLM leaders missed an opportunity when they rejected full implementation of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and initiated COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Today, South Sudan has lost all the towns in the north, and in borders of Uganda, Ethiopian and Kenya. These countries are gradually encroaching South Sudan territories. History indicates that territorial annexations are done slowly in such manner. It would be hard to antagonize three countries at the same time even if South Sudan borrowed Israelis military arsenals. What struck me is the government of South Sudan is aware that Lokichiogio is not the border between Kenya, and South Sudan and officials never issued a statement. Interestingly enough, there are no proposed national agendas critical to national interest that can unite south Sudanese. Leaders are so blinded by war to extend that they could loose South Sudan without Knowledge.

Sudan youth are finishing themselves, who will fight to restore borders, and territorial integrity? Current leaders, young people and new generations are charged with a responsibility of restoring, and repairing our ethnics divide.  It is high time to stop this war. Those older leaders must stop sidelining young emerging leaders who have better vision for country.

Rebels, and government are viciously fighting, and the neighboring countries are encroaching on South Sudan territories. We may lose this country while fighting war irrational war. Leaders who strive to lead the nation choose violence path of solving their problems. It is not just wrong, it is morally wrong for leaders to take the country to war. In the course of last nine months, war had killed thousands, destroyed towns, and displaced millions. This war is unjustifiable and unreasonable. The people of South Sudan have been done grave harmed and irreparable injustices.  After 150 years of struggle, war is the least item on South Sudan list. The actions taken by warring parties have only harmed future generation but it will affect future of this country. To South Sudanese citizens, dictators accumulate problems to obliterate country in order to divert citizen attentions from national significant agendas.

This entitlement saga in SPM/A leadership does not justify division sowed in the SPLM/A ranks, and tribalization of the whole country. SPLM seniors officials need to resolve their differences forsake of our nation. The fact that warring parties have mobilized South Sudanese youth to kill themselves to fulfill their selfish goals and interests is criminal. It is crimes committed against people and state. The tribal leadership principles that work to erode national programs is inflicting massive insults and shocking abhorrent of injustice to citizens. There must be a rude awakening over the annihilation of our people and towns. Is there evil in Greater Upper Nile that works day night to destroy livelihood of people and their towns? Am just curious! Both government and rebels’ leaders must check themselves; they are the carriers of this sin that annihilates South Sudan.

The worst of all are leaders who condone current state of affairs. Are we really satisfied with current state of affairs or does this country needs reforms? We seem to be silly, trivial, or infantile, especially in light of the horrors of this war. I reject rebellion, I get it. It is inhumane and cruel for any leader to engage in decapitation of youth as oppose to seek for none violence solutions and democratic mean of ascending to the nation highest office.

South Sudan leadership at the domestic and international stage is at stake. The warring parties’ leaders will be forced to make tough choice and end this war. Good moral leaders never cannot engage in blasphemous behaviors, and annihilation of their own people. Bentiu, Bortown, and Malakal have exchanged hands more than five times, and only a criminal would reject peace and attack these towns again. Is there anything left to be killed or destroyed? Why attacking towns that have been reduced to ashes? What sorts of leaders could attack these ruin towns and survive to be leaders of South Sudan?

Furthermore, denying everything, leaders act like no single person have been killed in South Sudan, denying accountability, deflecting true responsible individuals that commit crimes forsake of diverting blame to others. Leaders altered the meaning of those responsible of crimes to create a lot of moral sounding talk while actually eliminating morality and accountability. The collective benefit and protection of life merits are reverence by all citizens and could bring desperate needed peace, and unity. Moral leaders guide their nation into brighter and prosperous future. I am aware that post issues are complicated and some tribal problems are very deep. However, leadership that is not guided by moral conviction to solve citizen problems and not undergirded by moral leadership make possessor of that conviction obnoxious and the dogma became repulsive.

Conclusion

South Sudan can survive this looming crisis and tragedy if its produces a governing document, and balance powers among its branches of government. This country can survive if its adopt ideology that guides all its citizens. This country can survive if there is consent from the governed (citizens), if citizens are consulted of their issues. This country can survive if citizens have faith in control of their government, and protection guarantee from government. This country can survive if powers are shared between the state, and central governments. This country can survive if this government can see its citizens as equal citizens and not tribes or painted them as rebels. This country can survive if post-war issues are thoroughly resolved, ethnic divides are bridged, and national healing is initiated. This national can survive if national leaders distance themselves from tribal politics, tribal supports, and tribal militia affiliations. This country can survive if it can protect and returns its towns encroached upon by the neighboring countries. This country can survive if the government permits all citizens of South Sudan to voice their opinions to national leaders without sever repercussions. Our heroes and heroines would have died in vain if our current leaders do not stop tribal toxic politics and frame national agendas, and protect South Sudan Sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Gabrial Pager Ajang is a Political Science and History Instructor at Wright Career College. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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