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Troika urges gov’t to open civil space

Author: Emmanuel J Akile | Published: Friday, June 26, 2020

One of the billboards that made NSS throw in activists in Juba | Credit | ONAD

The Troika countries have called on the unity government to open political space for civil society groups to fully engage in the peace process in South Sudan.

Civil society activists often face intimidations, harassments, arbitrary arrests, and detention by security organs in the country.

Last week, an activist was taken by the National Security Service for allegedly spearheading a campaign calling for financial transparency in public offices.

This was confirmed by the field assistant officer at the Organization for Non-violence and Development (ONAD).

Moses Monday, the director of the organization was arrested by security officers after a billboard calling for accountability of public finance was erected in Juba.

The billboard, with writings “Gurush Wen” translated as “where is the money?”, demands the government to make all financial spending public as per the laws.

Despite hundreds of millions of petrodollars the government receives monthly, little is known about how it is spent.

Freedom of expression, which has been reportedly abused by security organs such as NSS and others, is a right protected by the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan.

But according to a new UN report, restrictions on freedom of expression in the country are having a “chilling effect” and “further shrinking the space for debate and dissent” in the conflict-affected country.

In May this year, another activist was reportedly held at a national security detention facility for criticizing the defunct Gogrial state government over slow response to communal fighting in the area.

Mariak Madut was kept at the National Security headquarters in Juba.

In a Facebook post shared on the 14th and 18th May, Mariak blamed the government for escalation of the inter-communal violence there.

On Thursday, Ambassadors of the US, UK and Norway met with the minister of presidential affairs, Nhial Deng to discuss the peace process in the country.

The diplomats discussed issues including appointment of governors, economy and public financial oversight, transitional justice among others.

Thomas Hushek,  the outgoing US ambassador to South Sudan called on the unity government to allow for political space for civil society groups to engage in the peace process.

“As the Troika countries, we are really looking forward to a renewed partnership with the government of South Sudan on all these issues,” Amb Hushek told the state-run SSBC last evening.

“We did spend a considerable amount of time talking about the importance of civil society to the process on how the peace process will be much stronger with stronger civil society and so there is a need to making sure that political space is open for them as well.”

The US ambassador added that they discussed a wide range of issues on the peace process, tackling every chapter of the peace deal.

“We talked about some of the security situations in the country, breaking the impasse on the appointment of governors in the ten states and the constitution of the state-level governments and then a little bit about all the other chapters.”

Article 24 of the South Sudan Transitional Constitution states that every citizen shall have the right to the freedom of expression, reception, and dissemination of information, publication, and access to the press without prejudice to public order, safety or morals as prescribed by law.

According to activists, civil society organizations can play an important role in enhancing transparency and good governance in developing countries by contributing to an increased public debate on issues surrounding the formulation and implementation of government budgets as well as in supporting greater transparency of public revenues.

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