Continued violence and harassment of HRDs and journalists as UN extends arms embargo

Although the UN Security Council extended the arms embargo and sanctions regime for South Sudan for another year on 29th May 2020, dozens of people continue to die due to inter-communal fighting, particularly in Bor County, Tonj and Greater Pibor/Jonglei state. In May 2020, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reported that at least 5,000 civilians had recently been displaced by heavy fighting in Jonglei state. In a related incident on 4th August 2020, it was reported that at least 23 people had been killed and 20 others wounded in an attack on a church compound in Jonglei state. Unidentified gunmen killed the church’s deacon and at least 14 women and children who were seeking refuge in the compound. The ongoing clashes between the Neur, Dinka and Murle tribes in Jonglei have intensified lately.

On 16th June 2020, the leader of a newly formed, rebel movement, Kerbino Wol, was shot and killed following a 4-day military operation to destabilise him.

Association

Aid workers serving at the front line of the country’s intercommunal fighting and violence continue to face challenges and threats to their lives. On 17th July 2020, an armed group attacked and killed a group of six people, including two South Sudanese aid workers in Jonglei state. The aid workers were attacked when providing healthcare and nutrition services to women and children in Pajut town centre. This incident marks the sixth and seventh deaths of aid workers in South Sudan so far in 2020.

In separate developments, the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) ruled on 24th July 2020 that a group of 15 judges had been unfairly dismissed after having been fired in 2017 following a public strike for better working conditions. Following a statement from South Sudan’s Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister that the government accepted the EACJ decision, the judge leading the action requested that he and the other 14 judges be immediately reinstated. 

Expression

Targeting and attacks against journalists in South Sudan continued in this period.

On 29th May 2020, a civil society activist, Kanybil Noon, was arrested and detained at the National Security Service headquarters for what appeared to be related to ongoing charges of defamation against him. Noon had published posts on Facebook and written a letter in which he criticised a high-ranking General and cousin of President Kiir. 

Moses Monday, Executive Director of the Organisation for Non-Violence and Development (ONAD) was arrested on 16th June 2020, in relation to a billboard that the group had commissioned in the capital Juba, calling for financial accountability and transparency in South Sudan. The activist was released without charge nine days later.

On 3rd July 2020, Marko Agei Makoor Chol, a young journalist for Door FM, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Warrap state, central South Sudan. Agei was reportedly ambushed and shot by armed men when travelling to Tonj town. Although the motive remains unknown, his death is part of an ongoing pattern of attacks on journalists. 

In late July 2020, the founder of the South Sudan Young Leader Forum and prominent critic of the South Sudanese government, Peter Biar Ajak, fled to the United States, accusing President Kiir of ordering his death or abduction. Ajak had been living in Nairobi with his family since February 2020, following his release from 18 months’ detention in January 2020 which was previously documented on the Monitor. He reportedly began to be followed in Nairobi and received information that President Kiir had authorised his killing or abduction back to South Sudan. Following his arrival in the US, Ajak called for more sanctions to be placed on the President and other high-ranking generals.