UK ‘deeply’ concerned with freedom restriction in South Sudan

UK ‘deeply’ concerned with freedom restriction in South Sudan
Ambassador James Kariuki, Deputy UK Permanent Representative to the UN (photo credit: Courtesy)

The United Kingdom’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador James Kariuki has said his government is ‘deeply’ concerned with the restriction of civic space and freedoms in South Sudan.

Amb. Kariuki made the statement on Wednesday at the Security Council briefing on South Sudan where he reported on the approach taken by the government to thwart a civil uprising supposedly planned for 30th August, the day internet connection was disrupted.

“The United Kingdom is deeply concerned by restrictions on freedom of expression imposed by South Sudan’s government in response to public calls for peaceful protests. Intimidation, threats, and pre-emptive detentions of civil society are unacceptable,” Ambassador Kariuki said.

The diplomat said as the country draws closer to the first national elections, they urge South Sudan’s Government to respect the freedoms of speech, association, and expression guaranteed in the Transitional Constitution.

“These freedoms are vital to enable much-needed debate on the country’s future. We encourage South Sudan’s leaders to take concrete steps now, to ensure that the path to elections will be open, inclusive, and fair, starting with inclusive consultations on the constitution process,” he said.

Earlier last month, the former Governor of Nothern Bahr El-Ghazal Kuel Aguer Kuel was arrested by the security apparatus for being one of the signatories to the People’s Coalition for Civil Action (PCCA), a group that had called for a mass protest to oust President Salva Kiir and the First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar and declared obsolete the September 2018 revitalized peace agreement.

Four other people were also arrested in Wau Town and detained briefly before they were released. Meanwhile, two activists and one cleric are still being detained in Yei County of Central Equatoria State.

Mr. Kariuki said South Sudan’s future stability and prosperity depend on putting fundamental building blocks including an end to violence and earning respect.

However, the diplomat welcomed the recent areas of progress, including the inauguration of parliament, exchange rate reforms, and public financial management reforms.

However, the envoy noted that three years on, delays in turning core commitments into action are compounding grievances and contributing to ongoing suffering and instability.

Action needed

“We share the concerns expressed by many today regarding recent splits in the SPLM in Opposition and the destabilizing impacts of political maneuvering,” he said.

“We welcome the role of IGAD and Prime Minister Hamdok as Chair in seeking to resolve these divisions,” the Ambassador added. “And we echo their call for all parties to refrain from violence, and to focus on achieving peace and stability through compromise, trust, and unity,” Amb. James stated.

The United Kingdom called on all actors to work towards an improved security situation and for the long-overdue graduation of a Necessary Unified Forces, saying improved security alone will not be sufficient to strengthen trust.

“We cannot ignore the fact that insecurity and political tensions are contributing directly to the suffering of millions of South Sudanese people. We know that 7.2 million people – 60 percent of the population – are likely to face acute food insecurity in the coming months.

“Increased violence has displaced tens of thousands and interrupted humanitarian support delivery. Moreover, humanitarian workers and their assets continue to be targeted. This is deplorable and must end,” he said.