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Marial denies calling Biong Sudanese

Author : Mabior Philip | Published: Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin, has clarified that his reference to Dr Luka Biong, who hails from Abyei, as a citizen of the Republic of Sudan was an error.

The reference is contained in a letter he wrote to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stating the government response on the human rights situation in the country.

In a section addressing freedom of opinion and expression, Dr Marial tried to explain the arrest and detention of Joseph Afandy.

The section includes the removal of Dr Biong as Director for the Center for Peace and Development Studies at the University of Juba.

“In case of Luka Biong Deng, the University of Juba is an independent academic institution which employs nationals and non-nationals, like Luka Biong Deng who is a citizen of the Republic of the Sudan. The termination of service is based on the terms of contract. Therefore, the President cannot order the university to dismiss any of its staff including Dr Luka Biong Deng,” Dr Marial said in a letter dated March 9, bearing his signature.

However, Dr Marial said the university was an independent academic institution that employs nationals and non-nationals like Dr Biong, who he said in the later is a Sudanese.

“We all know that if you talk about ethnicity of the Dinka of Abyei, geographically and socially and culturally, you don’t get any Dinka outside the territory of South Sudan,” Dr Marial told the media in Juba on Monday.

“So to dwell on this issue that the ministry of foreign affairs has denied the presence of the sons and daughters of Abyei in South Sudan is not correct.”

In October 2015, media reports suggested that the president directed the administration of the University of Juba to fire Dr Luka Biong, an allegation the Office of the President denied.

Presidential press secretary Ateny Wek Ateny told Eye Radio that the story was ‘concocted’.

Dr Biong’s dismissal followed a debate he organized at the university, challenging the president’s decision to create more states.

Dr Biong was a lecturer and also the director of the Centre for Peace and Development Studies at the University.

The debate was organized to seek public opinions on constitutionality and legality of the republican order number 36, issued by president Kiir on October 2, splitting the 10 states into 28 despite the peace agreement with the opposition faction of SPLM-IO on the basis of the 10 states.

Several public figures attended the lecture, including the leader of the SPLM-DC, Dr Lam Akol, the Presidential Advisor on Legal Affairs, Lawrence Korbandy, and the chairman of the Jieng Council of Elders, Justice Ambrose Ring Thiik.

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