By: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba
November 3, 2011 (SSNA) — Now well beyond the a hundred days since South Sudan became officially an independent state and a full member of the United Nations as well as other similar international and regional bodies, the nascent state is nowhere from being a place governed by laws and systems that can reflect any of the values held by these well placed organisations. Insecurity remains endemic, even within the capital city of South Sudan, Juba, which remains by all standards the only metropolis in an area the size of Texas. Paradoxically it happens all in the heavy presence of police and security agents both in uniforms and plain clothes as they swarm the streets day and night in the name of patrols.
A complete outsider may first struggle while trying to make a sense of what is actually going on, be that in the streets or the government departments or even the boundlessly scattered hotels all over the place. However, for the locals, thanks to the invasion by the Information and Communication Technology [ICT], news travels fast. Today, every South Sudanese in the four corners of the globe keeps a minute to minute footage of each and every event that takes place even in the most remote villages of the country. Yes it is so, because even when a new born calf is stolen in Warrap or Pibor in the remotes of the Jonglei State, Diaspora communities in Sydney Australia, Dallas, Texas Virginia or as far as Alaska get the news instantly. Don’t we?
But today, this article is largely dedicated to shade light on how arbitrary and incommunicado detentions are still rampant all over South Sudan. In the run up to the independence eve we learnt of the strange and complete out of line with international norms of behaviour and code of conduct that a senior UN official – specifically the person responsible for the dossier for Human Rights, was beaten up as his room in the hotel was raided in a broad day light by policemen in uniform. He was then bundled in the back of a pickup car and driven to the police station. There was no consideration for his diplomatic immunity and even the fact that he was the UN’s officer for Human Rights did little to protect him, just to show us that, what our UN friend went to campaign for is far from being achieved. This story is known worldwide, for it made news headlines in different languages and in different corners of the globe.
To prove that the ordeal of the UN official wasn’t an isolated incidence, and even the UNIMISS boss, Ms. Hilde Johnson, confirmed it when she referred to many cases of unlawful beatings and arrests, the Opposition Leader in the Parliament, Hon. Onyoti Adigo MP, was himself beaten up in Juba by security agents who gave no damn to the political leader’s constitutional status and the immunity that it entails. The news of this barbaric attack on an otherwise respectable lawmaker and rightly the third highest person in the Parliament of the Republic of South Sudan made it to the International Media, although the government down played it at home. Also a Member of the Warrap State Parliament was beaten and arrested by military personnel this time in the town of Kwajok for bringing to light the death of over three hundred returnees from the North, who perished as a result of malnutrition, hunger and contaminated water.
Whatever is happening here, the obvious is that there is an established pattern of lawlessness being perpetuated by official units of the state. The challenges may be big for the UNIMISS, but as it is understood, since the mission has been granted the mandate to operate in the nascent state of South Sudan under Chapter VII – it must be seen to be just doing that. The lives of civilians are being constantly exposed to threats by lawlessness, unfortunately the causes are both in the government’s law enforcement apparatus and as well as those who are referred to as rebels etc.
It is now going to two weeks since the outspoken blogger and SPLM-DC activist Dr. James Okuk Solomon was arrested in Juba. The circumstances that surrounded his arrest are completely tragic as narrated by the Opposition Leader Hon. Onyoti Adigo MP in his interview to the Sudan Tribune. Whatever is written here is not meant to defend Dr. Okuk in any way. He will have his lawyers who will do that on his behalf when sobriety reigns again in our legal system. However, as a South Sudanese, and a concerned one for that matter, my voice in the condemnation of wrong doings by the state must count, here and now.
The arrest of Dr. Okuk opens a new chapter in how the new legal system is set to malfunction. For under every situation, except maybe in a state of emergency and God forbid that, the law states that any accused persons remain innocent until they are proved guilty by the court of law. So how lawful do we find it that, Dr. Okuk, a South Sudanese citizen who has not been condemned by any court of law, be bundled up in broad day light and latter exposed to all those inhumane ordeals that clearly violates his Human Rights, and at the end is now thrown into a notorious prison for no established crime?!!!!!
The last time the author had any interaction with Dr. Okuk and this must be well understood, is when he [Dr. Okuk], wrote an article criticising views that I expressed, as I remain opposed to the relocation of the Capital City out of its current site in Juba. That far we still remain opponents, but his right to opinion and his freedom to express it, is in fact his birth right, and no one including myself, whether we agree with him or not, we CANNOT and SHOULD NOT unlawfully condemn him or punish him.
Today I stand for Dr. Okuk’s rights to free life as an innocent citizen. He must be set free and immediately, for until he is judged in a recognised court of law and given his full right to defend himself, he remains innocent. Any minute that he spends in the cell is a disgrace to South Sudan’s legal system and even to any South Sudanese who claims to be an intellectual for that matter.
The ball is now in the court of the UNIMISS boss Ms. Hilde Johnson and her colleagues in the other international organisations who are concerned with issues of Human Rights, and they will be held responsible to the numerous whistle blows should the general situation degenerate and we are faced with a rogue state. This should be straight forward, for this time it isn’t about teaching Human Rights to the 80% illiterate RSS police officers, but it about holding the system that governs the country accountable for how it has to address these very issues of human rights, basic freedoms and upholding the rule of law. The challenge may seem big [I repeat], but that is what UNIMISS and its chapter VII are basically about. From the many lessons learned in Africa and elsewhere, the world must stand together to deter the emergence of another pariah state on the continent. For South Sudan the time is now.