By: Michael Deng, LLB
Comments on the “SOUTH SUDAN 2012 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT” Issued by the United States Department of State.
June 2, 2013 (SSNA) — The report is a considerable improvement over the previous ones in dealing with the government’s record on the various aspects of human rights’ violations. However, the report suffers from unjustified bias in favour of the government. A few examples with suffice to illustrate the point.
On page 3, Telefon Kuku and Peter Sule, who were under detention by the security forces, are mentioned as “former RMG [Rebel Militia Groups] leaders”. Telephone Kuku who hails from the Nuba Mountains was not known to have led any militia in his life. As an SPLA officer, he was invited to Juba in 2009 so as to take up an “assignment” only to end up in detention without charges. Peter Sule was alleged to have formed a militia group but nothing was heard about the group following his arrest in November 2011. To be fair, the report should have used a more cautious language towards the two. Following intense pressure from many quarters, Telephone Kuku was recently released and is believed to have been given asylum in France. Peter Sule, 19 months since his detention, still languishes in jail without charges nor due process of law.
Further on, the report stated that “While the SPLA occupied 13 schools around the country prior to April, as of September it only occupied one.” (p. 16). This is definitely untrue. It would have been useful for the authors of the report to mention the one school still being occupied by the SPLA, but one is aware of many schools in Upper Nile State alone that serve up to this moment as barracks to the SPLA. Lelo, Wau and Wadakona schools are just a few examples. The report is silent about the 41 villages of the Shilluk tribe being used by the SPLA as their barracks. It is a well known fact that the SPLA has no barracks other than the huts of the villagers in Shilluk counties. The authors of the report should visit these areas to ascertain this fact and the human rights violations perpetrated by the SPLA in the area.
In reference to Wau protests on December 8, the report asserts that “ The UN confirmed that nine civilians were killed and many more injured in clashes between the demonstrators and security forces.” (p. 21). We all know that there were no clashes between the demonstrators and the security forces. The demonstrators were unarmed and never put up any resistance when they were shot at by the security forces, killing nine of them and the rest ran away. This ugly scene was seen clearly on Al Jazeera TV footage that fateful day.
The most controversial statement in the report is its claim that “While the presidential election, which resulted in the election of President Salva Kiir Mayardit, was deemed generally free and fair within the semiautonomous region of Southern Sudan by international observers, the SPLM was believed to have manipulated state elections to ensure election of SPLM governors in some states.” (p. 25). Such a conclusion is mid-boggling for a number of reasons:
1. The next paragraph of the same report affirms that “In the months preceding the 2010 elections, security forces harasses, arrested and detained persons thought to oppose the SPLM, including journalists and opposition members.” (p. 25). Don’t such practices have a bearing on whether the elections were “free and fair”?
2. Again, in the second paragraph following the one above, the report confirmed what all of us know that “ In Practice there was little or no distinction between the political wing of the governing SPLM party and its military wing, the SPLA”. (p. 25). In other words, there was no level ground for all the political parties when competing for election. Yet, the elections are judged as “free and fair”!
3. When the elections took place, the candidate who competed with Salva Kiir was denied campaigning in the four states that comprise Bahr El Ghazal region ( Western Bahr El Ghazal, Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Lakes and Warrap) by the security forces, especially the “Special Branch”. At one point, his convoy was stoned between Wau airport and the town. Also, the equipment his party set up in the stadium so as to address the public was destroyed by the security forces and nobody raised a finger. The Police Inspector in the State went to where the candidate was booked in and threatened to act if he and his supporters do not leave the town. These were documented incidences. Of course, the pro-government National Elections Commission in Khartoum turned a blind eye to the complaints raised to it seeking its intervention in the matter. Therefore, the candidate who competed with Salva Kiir was denied campaigning in four out of ten states in South Sudan. Yet, the report pulls no punches and declares the election “free and fair”!
4. The voting in the 2010 elections at all levels (presidential, parliamentarian and gubernatorial) were conducted on the same days in the same rooms by the same people throughout the period allocated for the voting process. How come that “the SPLM was believed to have manipulated state elections to ensure election of SPLM governors in some states”(p. 25) and at the same time refrained from manipulating the presidential and parliamentarian elections? This defies commonsense.
5. The rigging of the 2010 elections in both North and South Sudan was comprehensive and agreed upon by the SPLM and the NCP when Ali Osman Taha visited Juba in April 2010. The evidence is overwhelming.
In discussing the letters sent by President Kiir to some 75 current and former ministers and others, the report stated that “The UN’s advisor to President Kiir on anticorruption policy fled the country soon after the letters were released.”(p. 26). The report does not mention what made the advisor to flee. He could not have fled without reason. Was his life in imminent danger, and from whom? The reason(s) certainly have a bearing on human rights. If the advisor to the President doesn’t feel protected, or else will?
The report rates the government’s “South Sudan Human Rights Commission (SSHRC)” highly when it states that “the SSHRC was generally regarded as a committed and competent advocate of human rights” (p. 28). One wonders where that advocacy of human rights is. We have not seen or read much about the work of this SSHRC. What did the SSHRC say about the abuses in Murle land, the killing of Isaiah Abraham, the clamp down on the freedom of expression and association, etc.? We need to be told more about the “commitment’ and “competence” claimed by the report.
The author is a concerned citizen of the Republic of South Sudan.