By Ajak Deng Chiengkou
Mr. President Kiir Mayardit, the attributes of peace are justice, freedom of speech, freedom from intimidation and freedom to live as a free citizen in your country. It has been two weeks now since Dr. Peter Biar Ajak Deng was arrested and he is still in prison without charges. There is no any public statement from the agencies or the police if he was o face any court should there an alleged crime committed. Other than his work as an activist and a political commentator, Biar is a concerned citizen of South Sudan who needed the best for his country. In case you might have not comes across what is he said, then please pay attention and try to listen to his message of peace, development, recognition of delivery of services to the citizens than a big Government. He was trying to take the torch that was one time held by the young Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Young Kiir Mayardit was a very hopeful youth who needed to do the best for his country. He needed to study and also hope to one day live in a country that can offer him all his needs. Unfortunately, the Government of Sudan never offered the young Kiir that opportunity. At a time, there were no radios, TVs or any other media available and if they were to there; young Salva Kiir would have passionately questioned the motives, policies and the projects of the Sudanese national Government.
By now, we would have retrieved the videos, audios of the teenage Kiir ranting against the Aboud, Azhari, Sadhiq, Marghani, and Nimeiri. The situation created by the Sudanese government in the late 1950s forced the young Kiir out of his parents’ home in Akon in order to seek and fight for the freedom. Regardless of how anyone could criticise you and your Government, each of us would forget what each of you as a young person has to endure in search of freedom.
Young people like Biar get that and they respect you and your colleagues for the role and dedication. Your childhood until now was about the freedom and you put more than 50 years of your life to see the people of South Sudan free. You and many of the liberators set that precedent that would inspire people like Dr. Biar Ajak Deng and his peers. These young people were inspired and influenced by your stories of standing up for others. Biar saw a need to speak up at a time he thought the freedom of an ordinary South Sudanese was threatened. He is not an enemy of state but rather a citizen who need the best for institutions in your regime now and in the future.
Mr. President, you have condemned many things like corruption, looting, cattle raiding, you called out the bad police and the bad soldiers who were accused of killing people. The moment you condemned and started to wish for the freedom, security, and safety of a single South Sudanese, then you and the Biar are at the same chapter because both of you need something good to the country. Peter Biar is a citizen with abilities that can let him work with some of the best institutions on earth but he chose to do the best for the country.
Mr. President, the reason why diversity, multilateralism and any other uniting factors are not being embraced now in South Sudan is that the youth have little knowledge about their great country. Biar was champions of a campaign that can allow the youth of South Sudan to see themselves as South Sudanese but not as tribal warriors. Despite the differences in the rhetoric presented, Biar’s intentions for South Sudan are great if your administration was to take notice of the benefits attached to his work. With the youth being the largest population in South Sudan, they are very vulnerable to the armed groups due to their unemployment or disengagement on national issues. With little civic education, it has been very easy for the youth in the last few years of war to listen to their tribesmen and any national issue is thrown to the back seat.
The concept of the young leader’s forum or the wordings in some segments aired can be misconstrued by some but how do people seeking freedom talks? Biar was being loud because he has a suggestion on what could be good for South Sudan and that what political commentators, activist, advocates and civil societies do across the world. They talk, challenge policies and walk to demand changes to existing legislation. That is the spirit of freedom, democracy and a better path to the country’s development. Ideas or policies that can challenge do have a window of success. Biar was doing what the world’s change agents are known for. In the UK, George Galloway busy with his shows debating those who disagree with him on airwaves but not behind bars. Political commentators make analysis and that can give a Government of particular officials a platform to change what they are being criticised for.
Mr. President, Dr. Biar Ajak Deng is the son of the land who wanted to preserve and protect what you, Dr. John Garang, Agrey Jaden, King Gbudwe, Ngundeng Buong, Ariathdit, Kuol Manyang, William Deng and Samuel Abujohn stood for. All of you were young but you walked the bushes of Congo, Kenya, Uganda and the trenches of South Sudan while looking for a precious thing called freedom. Beny Kiir, Biar is one of the young boys who performed or sung the song ‘Kudual Beny Salva Kiir bɛ̈nydɛn cɔk wuɔk wɛ̈ɛ̈I (greeting leader Salva Kiir, the leader who kept us living)’. This song was a tribute to the young Kiir who left everything from his childhood, the family just to seek freedom. In this process, the young man was inspired by your work and he needed the young people of South Sudan to realise why they are blessed to have a country called South Sudan?
He may be Dr. Biar Ajak but he is saying what the young Kiir once said off camera during the war of liberation. Biar is a concerned citizen like you are concerned about your great people. Like you put it in Khartoum last month that you ‘don’t need people of South Sudan to suffer again’. Biar is a young man with a voice that is carrying the same message that President Kiir Mayardit has been saying. Until now, the agencies who arrested him think that they were doing a favour to your regime but they are not. Any agent who needs you to succeed wouldn’t arrest people at the time the people of South Sudan need peace and to change the perception of the country around the world.
Mr. President, your government is now overwhelmed by the crisis because people like Biar are being silenced. South Sudanese expectations are rising day and night because no one is doing the most needed civic education. The fear that is being put into the lives of many young people with skills, a voice of advocacy is unprecedented but that is a danger for South Sudan. I hope that any reader would understand that I support and respect the laws of South Sudan. If one was to be a subject or accused of any wrongdoing, it would be up to the competent court look into any allegations made. With such procedures in place, there are many chances that South Sudan legal system would get more respect and that help protect government institutions from being implicated in alleged intimidation of individuals or independent organisations. Allowing voices, like Biar and many others to speak out would help reduce a burden on you but give people a window of learning because your government ministers would have a counter argument on issues raised.
For citizens of South Sudan to understand laws of the land, how government works, cohesion between communities, avoid child abduction and occurring issues of raping as a tool of war across the country, you need the champions of civic education. You need strong independent civil society, strong media agencies, strong advocates and these can help reduce a pressure that you and your Government is in now. Mr. President, I know you will not read this letter but your aides will see it and I hope they will pass it to you. The intention of the letter is to let you know that many of these young people are not your enemies but they are rather wishing a good development, peace for South Sudan and success for the institutions in your Government.
The criticism that came your way may not be intended for you but it could be a result of that bad police, soldier, or civil servant who doesn’t know what he/she is doing. As the top of the ladder, you will have to face some serious criticism but it’s doesn’t mean you are responsible for all wrongdoing. As we are approaching a time for peace, you need these young people to take your message of peace, love of each other and a concept of building a cohesive society around the country. You need young people like Dr. Peter Biar Ajak or youth leaders in order to form a working alliance that would bring our people together.
Peter Biar Ajak Deng is not an enemy of state but a young man who is partly taking a torch alongside his mentors like Salva Kiir Mayardit. The young man is inspired by the great work of the selfless Anyanya and SPLA soldiers who gave up their village’s life in search of freedom over 50 years ago. Biar’s message is within the objectives of SPLM many which are mentioned in the ‘SPLM; peace through development’. Biar’s quest is to see Lado, Manut, Ayuel, Gatluak, Poni, Nyawaragak, Mary, and Rezi dancing to the tunes of the South Sudanese nationalism. Salva Kiir stood up for South Sudanese nationalism as a teenager and to continue his legacy, young people like Biar using modern tools are trying to reach out with the same message of freedom, social justice and a call for social-economic development in South Sudan.
You great decision would be appreciated if you let Biar go out free.
Disclaimer: Ajak Deng Chiengkou is a journalist but this article is not a news item and can’t be associated with my work. It is a personal decision to make a personal request and to add my voice to the arrest of Peter Biar Ajak.