South Sudan is grappling with accusations of human rights violations even as the country prepares to form a transitional government in November.
Local and international human-rights lobbies, who recently converged at the 6th Human Rights Forum in Juba, expressed concerns about the deteriorating human-rights situation in the country, particularly abuse and violations meted by joint security forces.
The forum, which featured government officials, civil society and Troika representatives, noted that the civic space for human-rights defenders and civil society is increasingly shrinking due to fear of reprisals from the state.
“This is evidenced by the fact that no meeting can be conducted in Juba and other locations in South Sudan without the approval of the National Security Service. This practice is in contravention of the right to freedom of assembly and association under Article 25 (1) of the Transitional Constitution,” they said in their report.
Brian Adeba, deputy director of Policy at the Enough Project, told The EastAfrican that no one can hold the government accountable without external pressure and without the government's endorsement of the process.
Two top government officials are on the record repudiating any dissatisfaction from the public on of governance. First, it was the Chief of Defence Forces General Gabriel Jok Riak who told soldiers who often go without pay for months that sacrifice is more important than salary and that no pay is part of the sacrifice. A soldier receives roughly 1,800 pounds ($6) a month.
Days later, Minister for Information Michael Makuei, who is also the government spokesperson told citizens that there are enough trees in the country to hang themselves if they are unhappy with the goings-on in the country.
A report by Amnesty International released on July 18 says that besides the widespread crimes against humanity conducted under the pretext of enhancing security, the Juba administration has increased crackdown on peaceful dissent with the intention of avoiding a replication of popular protests in neighbouring Sudan. The crackdown escalated when a group calling itself the Red Card Movement called for a failed protest on May 16.
“It is a shame that authorities fail to appreciate the role that respecting, protecting and promoting human rights play in growth and development,” said Joan Nyanyuki, AI Director for East Africa.