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South Sudan’s Authorities Show Their Aversion to Criticism Yet Again

South Sudan’s Authorities Show Their Aversion to Criticism Yet Again

Last week, authorities in Jonglei state detained a photojournalist with the state-run South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation for participating in protests about the cost of living and nonpayment of civil servant salaries. Media reported that police and National Security Service (NSS) agents took Aleu Anyieth from his home in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, but his whereabouts, five days later, remain unknown, raising the possibility that he has been forcibly disappeared. Credible sources say he is accused of organizing the protests. Bol Deng Bol, a human rights defender who heads the Jonglei Civil Society Network and Intrepid South Sudan, a human rights organization, announced on the social media site X that he is wanted by the authorities in connection with the same protests. He told Human Rights Watch that he had received repeated threats, including that his office would be shut down, by people he believes to be NSS. Neither Anyieth nor Bol, nor any other peaceful protestor, should face harassment or sanctions for participating in or allegedly organizing protests. Anyieth’s whereabouts should immediately be made public and he should be released.

These recent developments are indicative of the heavy-handed approach used by the government to quash dissent. Since the start of 2024, Human Rights Watch has documented an increase in arbitrary arrests and detentions of critics.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan noted in late 2023 that repression was deeply entrenched in South Sudan and that it had stagnated any democratic prospects. Citizens have a right to protest and to demand that their government addresses economic hardship, corruption, and increasing inequality in South Sudan. Many security forces, civil servants, and members of parliament have not been paid since September 2023.

The war in neighboring Sudan has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation, with the UN saying 7 million people in South Sudan are facing hunger.

The war has also overstretched South Sudan’s capacity to respond to a growing refugee crisis and jeopardized its economy, which relies on Sudan’s infrastructure to transport its oil to international markets. South Sudan’s government should allow and encourage a national conversation about the socioeconomic realities and outline plans to tackle the harm those realities create for people. What it shouldn’t be doing is silencing those calling for solutions, transparency, and equity. .

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