By Okech Francis
Attacks on dissent from human rights defenders, journalists and civil society actors in South Sudan are undermining efforts towards sustainable peace, according to the United Nations Commission of Human Rights on South Sudan.
In a statement on Tuesday, the commissioned expressed “alarm and dismay” at the “ongoing threats, harassment and intimidation of prominent human rights defenders, journalists and civil society actors, many of whom have played a key role in the country’s peace and justice processes.”
“Credible threats to their lives by the National Security Services (NSS) have caused some to flee the country, while the NSS continue to harass their colleagues and families,” the commission said.
It mentioned Jame David Kolok, a member of the Technical Committee to Conduct Consultative Process on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing and Michael Wani who acted as a youth representative on the National Constitution Amendment Committee as those forced to flee South Sudan this year, with their bank accounts, and those of the non-government organisations they lead, among those recently blocked on government orders.
“Civic space in South Sudan is eroding at an accelerating pace, undermining efforts to achieve a sustainable peace,” the Commission chairperson, Yasmin Sooka, said in the statement.
“The role played by overzealous security services in preventing dissent and criticism, causing key stakeholders involved in constitutional and transitional justice processes to flee the country, discourages the participation of others,” she said.
“It negates the government’s own efforts in these critical arenas.”
The commission also warned that numerous civil society leaders remain detained with a lack of clarity on their wellbeing and status. The Commission is concerned their detention is arbitrary.