Article written

  • on 28.06.2015
  • at 08:30 AM
  • by Kevin Hind

Three Lessons in Repression from Khartoum to Juba 0

Civil society activists in Khartoum suffered at the hands of Sudanese authorities for decades, but there was hope for South Sudanese activists after the country seceded from the north on July 9, 2011. Most of South Sudan’s leading activists and journalists relocated to Juba, where they hoped to start afresh and contribute to developing their proud new nation. Today, almost four years later, South Sudan has crumbled into a war zone, and civil society is on the defensive yet again.

South Sudanese authorities have taken a page out of Khartoum’s playbook by targeting activists and journalists. Like their brothers in the north, South Sudan’s security authorities now expel foreign aid workers, shut down civil society organizations, and seize newspapers.

esson #1: Expel Outspoken UN Leaders            

Six months ago, Sudanese authorities expelled two leading UN officials in the north, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ali al-Za’atari and UN Development Program chief Yvonne Helle. Juba watched and learned: earlier this month, the top humanitarian official in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, was expelled. Mr. Lanzer served as deputy special representative at the UN Mission in South Sudan and used Twitter to call attention to the utter failure of South Sudan’s leaders to resolve the ongoing conflict. In February, South Sudan’s Minister of Information Michael Makuei even proclaimed in a moment of frustration, “That UN — I will shut it down.” It appears he has got what he wanted, and there has been little reaction from the international community.

Lesson #2: Go After the Activists

Sudanese authorities have made a habit of shutting down civil society organizations, detaining activists, and generally silencing dissent. In September of last year, the Regional Center for the Development of Civil Society, an NGO working to build political participation, was raided and shut down. The organization’s equipment and files, including computers and hard drives, were seized for inspection. Within the last two years, a number of other organizations experienced similar raids and closures – al Khatim Adlan Center for Enlightenment, the Sudanese Studies Center, and the Sudanese Writers Union, to name a few.

While the restrictive environment in Khartoum is nothing new, Juba’s changing attitude towards civil society is something to fear. In the last six months, the situation has deteriorated rapidly, such that some activists cannot travel anywhere alone for fear they will be “disappeared.” Human rights leaders are called in for questioning on a routine basis, others receive anonymous, threatening phone calls in the night.

Continue reading on African Arguments

by Katie Campo

Photo Credit: UN Photo Library (Lesson #1: Expel outspoken UN leaders. Toby Lanzer (second from right) – Special Representative on the UN in South Sudan – was asked to leave the country in early June)

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi