Sens. Coons, Booker statement on Peter Ajak
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) released the following statement on the reported detention of South Sudanese peace activist Peter Ajak.
“We are deeply concerned about the reported detention of South Sudanese peace activist Peter Biar Ajak by South Sudan’s National Security Service after his criticism of the direction of the South Sudanese peace process. We are also troubled by reports that President Salva Kiir personally ordered a crackdown on government critics.”
“The views of the South Sudanese people are a critical component of any successful and legitimate peace process in South Sudan. This includes the participation of civil society, women, religious leaders, and other marginalized groups. A poorly constructed agreement based on the same power sharing formulas that have failed in the past, and that is missing these voices, is a recipe for continued conflict in South Sudan, not peace. The arrest of Peter Ajak at a time when the United States and its Troika partners, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and the African Union are encouraging a truly inclusive process undermines the credibility of the government’s claim that it wants peace.
“We also continue to be gravely concerned by the forced disappearances of both Dong Samuel Luak, a well-respected South Sudanese human rights lawyer and activist, and Aggrey Idri, a vocal government critic and member of the opposition, from Nairobi in January of 2017, who were reportedly detained by South Sudan’s National Security Service without charge. South Sudanese authorities have failed to acknowledge their detention, bring charges, or release them.
“We call on the Government of South Sudan to release Peter Ajak and other political prisoners immediately, and respect the rule of law and fundamental freedoms that are necessary pillars of peace in South Sudan. We expect the government to implement its commitment during the talks in Khartoum to release detainees immediately. We urge South Sudan’s political leaders, including President Kiir and SPLM-IO leader Machar, to fully commit to truly inclusive negotiations, and to demonstrate the leadership necessary to bring genuine peace and accountable governance to South Sudan.”
Just out on AFP, both in English and French
US ambassador demands release of S.Sudan activist
The United States’ ambassador to South Sudan on Thursday called on the government to release a prominent activist and economist who has been held without charge for five days.
Peter Biar Ajak, who has featured on international media outlets to analysis the ongoing peace talks in Khartoum, was arrested Saturday at Juba International Airport, according to his family and fellow activists.
“We are asking for his release and for more information about really what the case has been about,” US Ambassador Thomas Hushek told journalists shortly after meeting Justice Minister Paulino Wanawilla to discuss the situation.
Biar’s arrest has provoked condemnation from rights groups, including the South Sudan Young Leaders Forum, which he founded.
“We are deeply troubled that no one has been allowed to speak or visit him at National Security headquarters in Jebel,” said a statement from the forum.
Philip Sanyang Ngong, a rights activist who works with Advocates Without Borders, has confirmed that Biar is being held at the notorious National Security Service compound known as “Blue House”.
However the justice minister claimed not to know anything about the arrest.
“We are still waiting of course for information from the arresting authority,” Wanwilla told reporters.
“We don’t have information still but obviously any arrest may have a reason behind it and until we find out what is the reason we will not be able to talk about a case which we have not yet taken note of.”
Biar was one of the so-called Lost Boys who were displaced or orphaned during the Sudanese Civil War, before South Sudan became independent in 2011.
Biar went to the United States in 2001 where he studied Economics in Philadelphia.
He later got his Masters in Public Administration from Harvard and was currently a PHD student at Cambridge, according to an online profile of him by the International Growth Council thinktank, where he worked as a researcher.
He worked as a World Bank economist based in South Sudan and advised the government on economic policy.
In recent weeks he has urged both President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar to step aside and make way for new people to rule the country, ravaged by nearly five years of war.
South Sudan’s warring parties last week signed a preliminary power-sharing deal which sees Machar re-instated as vice president, with four other vice president positions shared out among other political groups.