Protests met with detentions, peace agreement’s transitional period extended
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 95 people died in intercommunal conflicts in Kapoeta North County, Eastern Equatoria, in July 2022. The humanitarian situation remains dire, as more than 17,500 people have been displaced, and 7.7 million people are at risk of food insecurity.
The implementation of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS, September 2018) has been slow. On 4th August 2022, President Salva Kiir and four other political groups signed a roadmap extending the transitional period as per the R-ARCSS by two years. The transitional period was initially due to expire on 22nd February 2023. President Salva Kiir claimed that the extension would allow time to prepare for elections, unite the armed forces and create a new constitution.
On the same day, the Non-Signatory South Sudan Opposition Groups (NSSSOG), a new political alignment formed in July 2022, described the extension as “illegal.” They also claimed that the President and the First Vice President extended the agreement as a tactic to stay in power. The NSSSOG comprises the United Democratic Revolutionary Movement/Army UDRM/A, National Democratic Movement Patriotic Front (NDM-PF), National Salvation Front (NAS), South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A) and Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC). Tensions in the country are likely to increase.
On 6th September 2022, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a joint report, which revealed that between 11th February and 31st May 2022, at least 173 civilians died because of clashes. The report also documented widespread human rights violations, including 131 abductions and cases of sexual violence. The conflicts displaced approximately 44,000 civilians from at least 26 villages in Koch, Leer, Mayendit, and neighbouring areas.
In June 2022, 39 teachers in Rumbek, Lake States, were arrested for demanding payment of their salary arrears. The primary and secondary teachers were arrested while peacefully marching to Parliament. Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO), an NGO, released a statement condemning this action and warned the government against “using detention as a tradition to intimidate and harass” civil servants. A few days later, 33 teachers were released following an order from the governor to release all teachers. Six teachers purported to be “ring leaders” remained in detention without charge and were denied access to their family members. On 23rd August 2022, the County Court Judge acquitted the six teachers. The court dismissed the case for lack of evidence.
On 11th August 2022, the civil servants declared a general strike over non-payment of five months' salaries. South Sudanese authorities arrested the Chairperson of the Teachers' Union, Reuben Matio Mayol, the Chairperson of Jonglei Workers' Trade Union, David Mayen, and his secretary, Samuel Majier Looch. The three were arrested for leading a peaceful demonstration in Bor, Jonglei. On 31st August 2022, the union members allegedly escaped from police custody with the help of police on duty.
On 8th August 2022, South Sudanese youth and university students demonstrated against high living costs and high unemployment levels. The authorities arrested six protestors and allegedly shotanother in the leg. The police spokesman announced that some youths had been arrested, but he could not confirm the number. He also claimed that the youth were members of the opposition who staged the protest.
On 19th May 2022, the Minister of Information and Communication in South Sudan's East-Central Jonglei State, John Samuel Manyuon, suspended the local Radio Jonglei community broadcaster in Bor town. The ministerial order claimed that the station intentionally "supplanted" and "undermined" the state leadership. The station was accused of censoring a speech delivered by Governor Denay Chagor on Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) day, a holiday commemorating the formation of the then rebel group in 1983. In a letter to the state government, the Media Authority, a group responsible for mediating disputes between the government and the media, demanded the reopening of the radio station. The suspension was lifted a week later. Radio Jonglei was previously closed temporarily on 24th August 2021 after the National Security Service (NSS) accused the radio station of promoting hate speech, as previously reported by the Monitor. The suspension was lifted in September 2021.
While it is welcome news that journalist #DiingMagot was released by South Sudan's authorities, she has been charged with alleged participation in a protest that she was actually covering reports @pressfreedom: https://t.co/XYjv4F8k7A #IFEXgender @EyeRadioJuba @VOANews— IFEX (@IFEX) August 17, 2022
On 7th August 2022, South Sudanese authorities arrested freelance journalist Diing Magot, who was reporting for Voice of America (VOA). Magot was arrested together with other protestors while covering the above-mentioned protest against high inflation and other economic difficulties in Juba. According to a statement by VOA, Magot did not have her press card when she was arrested. The South Sudan Media Authority required a document from VOA stating that she was freelancing for them and that she was there on assignment in order to grant her release. Despite a letter from the broadcaster, Magot was kept in custody without charge.
On 15th August 2022, South Sudanese authorities released Magot on bail. She was charged with crimes related to protesting. Patrick Oyet, president of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS), confirmed that one of the charges was under section 82 of the Penal Code. This provision relates to "possession of articles for criminal use," which carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail, a fine, or both. The police confiscated Magot's phone and recorder and will present them in court as evidence. The managing director of South Sudan's Media Authority stated that Magot is a "journalist and not a protestor" and the media authority should handle her case.
Civic Space Developments