Is freedom of Speech dead or alive in South Sudan?

By James Tot Mathiang

September 9, 2017 (SSNA) — What is freedom mean to South Sudanese after the bitter fruit of civil-war, which began in 1955, and ended in 2005? Two years after the independence, South Sudanese returned to a brutal civil war that resulted in the death of tens of thousands and displacement of more than 3 million across the country.  The Human Rights Watch and the United Nation Mission in South Sudan reported that Government soldiers killed, raped, and tortured civilians as well as destroying and pillaging civilian property during counterinsurgency operations across the country.

When the level of crimes was begun to rise from corner to corner in South Sudan and the dictatorship like government started to suppress the media, the question of whether it was a right choice to separate from Sudan became a heated debate. One of these arguments was that the number of civilians killed by armed groups after the comprehensive Peace Agreement or CPA was higher than the number killed by Arabs in the Northern Sudan.  Some South Sudanese expressed disappointment and regretted voting for separation because they believe that Salva Kiir’s government is far worse than the old government in Khartoum. The central point of the debate was the brutality of the South Sudan National Security personnel. Some individuals specifically pointed out that the number kills every day in cold blood by Bahr El Ghazal security agents are not counted for.

Therefore, South Sudanese wanted the president to preserve democracy as he always talks about it. But the first thing the dictator did after the independence was to shut down the press, and attempted to silence his critics through kidnapping and assassination. Even though the freedom of expression is the basic part of human life, the so called national security agents” have declared war against the people who advocate for peace and freedom in the country.  One of those peace advocates was Isaiah Abraham.  Mr. Abraham was too vocal about human rights abuses and suppression of the press in South Sudan. Because Abraham believed in freedom of speech, he was kidnapped and killed in cold blood.

Social scientists believe that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right which is a precondition to the enjoyment of all rights. But where freedom of expression is suppressed, other human rights violations follow. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated publicly that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”. And this right includes freedom to hold opinions without intrusion and to seek, receive, and pass on information and ideas through any type of media. However, the rise of the totalitarian regime in South Sudan has a contradictory self-motivated. The attempt by the president Salva Kiir to control South Sudan wealth and power eradicates all the rights and freedoms South Sudanese had been fighting for.

Currently, the government of South Sudan takes a complete control of the media and makes it into a tool for conveying tribal ideology. Since the war broke out in 2013, many journalists were killed and others are jailed for life. For example, in 2016, James Gatdet Dak one of the well-known journalists in East Africa was kidnapped in Kenya by South Sudan security and he is now in a Devil house called “Blue House”. That security house is run by notorious security agents in the capital city of South Sudan. In early 2017, two South Sudanese human rights activists who lived in Kenya as refugees were once again kidnapped by South Sudanese security operatives and their where about is still unknown. Samuel Dong Luak, who was a human right lawyer and activist survived the first kidnapping attempt back in 2015. President Salva Kiir and the minister of information Michael Makuei Lueth attempt to control thought and principles through misinformation, intimidation of assassination, arrest, and firing.

Recently, Michael Makuei Lueth blocked some media outlets, that includes Nyalepedia, Sudan Tribune, Radio Tamazuj and other media houses because South Sudan government does not want the world to know about the ongoing genocide in the country. The recent killing of young American Journalist has shown the reality of life under the dictatorship.  Without respect to the deceased family and relatives, Michael Makuei Lueth, the South Sudan Minister of information called the young American journalist “Criminal and White rebel”. Makuei Lueth not only disrespect the deceased family, but he blocked the effort to investigate the circumstances that led to the killing of that young journalist.

Thomas Jefferson once said “when the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty”. The freedom of expression has been described as fundamental to the liberty to develop and discuss ideas in the search for reality and understanding freedom of individuals, and effective participation in the political life of a free country. In other hands, human beings regard freedom of speech as a fundamental concept in contemporary modest democracy, where it is implicit to block government restrictions. Though we all know that we are not free to do unlawful things or physically harm someone, if we are free, then we have the right to express all our ideas without fear of being arrested, kill or legally prosecuted. For the last three years, President Salva Kiir’s has intensified his war against his political opponents, as well as journalists, Human Right activists and ordinary citizens who are skeptical of the claim of democracy in South Sudan.

The brutal killing of Isaiah Abraham and the ongoing genocide in the country are the greatest signs that our rights and freedoms have been reduced to zero. The tyranny government makes the life in South Sudan quite unpleasant for many of us. In any democratic society, the relationships between people and government are based on varying levels of trust. True trust always involves honesty, integrity, and honor. Since our president has never honor what he says, or deliver what he promises and act in an honest and open manner, the general public does not trust Salva Kiir’s government anymore.  Thomas Jefferson also stated, “No man can acquire honor by doing what is wrong”. South Sudan president and his advisors have forsaken honesty, integrity, and honor in the pursuit of earthly materials by any mean possible. If those politicians from Bahr El Ghazal advising Salva Kiir continue to give in to the ills of greed and payoffs for favors, the worst downfall of freedom and liberty is all but guaranteed.

The Author is a South Sudanese Canadian who has written a lot of articles pertaining to South Sudan civil war. He can be reached at [email protected].

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