UN Rights Commission Condemns South Sudan Security Crackdown

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN —

A United Nations rights commission in South Sudan says the government is harassing activists, journalists and their families, limiting their activities, and targeting their work and finances.

In a statement of “concern” issued this week, the United Nations Commission of Human Rights in South Sudan said the pattern of harassment is impeding the already slow pace of achieving peace among feuding factions and stifling public opinion crucial to achieving democracy.

“Civic space in South Sudan is eroding at the accelerating pace, undermining efforts to achieve a sustainable peace,” said Yasmin Sooka, the commission chairwoman.

The government slammed the statement, with a spokesman saying the commission was spreading untruths,

“This U.N. Human Rights Commission, who is monitoring them?” asked Michael Makuei, South Sudan’s information minister. “Who is supervising them? They just sit in their offices here in Juba and they write because they must write something controversial to prove that they are doing their job, so that they continue in their job.”

The commission blames government security officers for a continuing crackdown that it says has forced some prominent activists to flee the country.

The commission says those include James David Kolok, a member of the technical committee to conduct a consultative process on truth, reconciliation and healing, and Wani Michael, who has acted as a youth representative on the national constitution amendment committee.

Andrew Clapham, one of the commissioners, said the government’s targeting of high-profile human rights defenders “will have a chilling effect on civil society, and will discourage public participation.”

He said government actions will undermine confidence in the work on transitional justice, framing a constitution, and setting up national elections, which Clapham said are essential to the success of the transition set out by the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement.

The commission says the latest restrictions and acts of harassment began after the creation of the opposition Peoples Coalition for Civil Action in July.

The security clampdown accelerated after a planned nationwide government protest in August fizzled amid what activists say was an intentional internet outage and warnings from security officials of serious consequences against organizers if the demonstration happened.

Since then, some activists say their phone service has been disrupted and bank accounts frozen and journalists say they have been increasingly harassed.

A key parliament member recently said that journalists should be restricted in covering the newly formed parliament.

Agents also detained a government broadcaster after he allegedly declined to report news about recent presidential decrees on the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation airwaves.

In addition, three journalists recently were detained and a radio station was closed as the government clamped down on the August protests.

Government spokesman Makuei says the government could not allow the planned protests by the PCCA, which he described as “enemies.”

Source: Voice of America

New Airstrike Hits Capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

Ethiopian forces carried out an airstrike Thursday on Mekelle, their third on the Tigray regional capital this week, as the government attempts to weaken the Tigrayan forces they’ve been fighting for almost a year.

Spokesman Legesse Tulu told reporters the airstrike targeted a training center for Tigrayan forces. He said the base previously was used by Ethiopian forces in the area.

There was no immediate word on casualties.

War erupted nearly a year ago between Ethiopian troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which governed Ethiopia for three decades but now rules only the northern Tigray region.

Mekelle has not seen large-scale fighting since June, when Ethiopian forces withdrew from the area and Tigray forces retook control of most of the region. Following that, the conflict continued to spill into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.

Last week, Tigray forces said the Ethiopian military had launched a ground offensive to push them out of Amhara and to recapture territory lost to them several months ago.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Tuesday that U.N. colleagues “are alarmed at the intensification of the conflict and once again reminded all parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.”

Source: Voice of America

Thousands Gathered in Sudan’s Capital Call for Fully Civilian Government

Protests erupted in the streets of Khartoum on Thursday over Sudan’s hybrid transitional government.

Supporters of the northeast African nation’s civilian coalition, the Forces of Freedom and Change, turned out after crowds who support a military-led government marched against civilian rule Saturday.

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters called for a fully civilian government. Their demonstrations skirted around the presidential palace, where pro-military protesters have sat for six days, according to Reuters. Factional rivalries threaten to break apart Sudan’s tenuous power-sharing agreement before elections scheduled for 2023.

Civilian leaders have shared power with Sudan’s military generals since former President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in 2019. But hopes for democratization have run aground after the transitional government’s military wing began calling for the civilian Cabinet’s dissolution.

Protesters on Thursday accused General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, of continued loyalty to Bashir, Al Jazeera reported.

Burhan has called for dismantling the Cabinet of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. Burhan’s supporters say Hamdok’s government has bungled Sudan’s economic recovery, The Associated Press reported. Despite these tensions, both Hamdok and Burhan have asked their supporters to stay peaceful as protests across the country continue.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, an organization of trade unions instrumental in organizing the protests, said on Twitter that security forces attacked demonstrators outside parliament.

Reuters reported that protesters burned tires, waved Sudan’s flag and chanted pro-democracy slogans, part of the largest demonstrations of Sudan’s post-Bashir transition. Some Sudanese government officials even took part in Thursday’s protests.

Source: Voice of America