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JONGLEI - 12 May 2023

SPLM alleges intimidation in Fangak

A delegation of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) that had gone to Fangak County of Jonglei State to establish an office returned to Juba after they had been allegedly given a 24-hour ultimatum to leave the area on 6th May.

The ruling SPLM Party is led by the country’s president Salva Kiir Mayardit.

President Kiir, First Vice President and SPLM-IO Riek Machar, and other political figures signed a revitalised peace agreement in 2018 that ended five years of civil war.

The end of the transitional period was scheduled for 2022 but was pushed back to December 2024 due to the lack of progress on many provisions of the peace agreement.

Speaking to reporters at Juba International Airport upon disembarking from the aircraft from Malakal town of Upper Nile State, William Nyuon Kur, a member of the delegation has claimed that they were subjected to intimidation by security operatives in Fangak County, which is controlled by the SPLM-IO.

 He has also alleged that Fangak County Commissioner Biel Boutros Biel, a member of the opposition SPLM-IO, was the mastermind behind threats the SPLM delegation experienced in the county.

“They have brought a skull of a dead human being to us, our compound was padlocked and at the same time, they began to throw stones at our compound and throw fireballs inside the fence and there was political incitement, where children mobilized to chant slogans like ‘down, down Salva Kiir’. These children were mobilized by the Hon. Commissioner,” Nyuon narrated. 

“The county leadership of Honourable Commissioner had intentionally twisted our announcement by making the announcer to state that ‘those who kill your loved ones are here and they want us to welcome them tomorrow’. The SPLM delegation was given a 24-hour ultimatum to leave Fangak County in which a letter said to have been written by the County Youth Leadership but was delivered to us in person by four security personnel,” Nyuon explained.  

Nyuon said the SPLM mission to Fangak was for peace mobilization and also to establish their office since there has been political space for all the political parties granted by the peace agreement. “This mission was made impossible by the county leadership under Hon. Commissioner, in blatant violation of the agreement and its provisions of the political space for all parties,” Nyuon concluded.

When reached for comment on the allegation, Puok Both Baluang, Acting Spokesperson in the Office of the SPLM-IO leader Dr Riek Machar has denied the claims of the SPLM. He has defended Fangak County Commissioner and him as a person with political experience and a professional lawyer who is unlikely to have gotten involved in what was being alleged by SPLM.

“We are not aware of that. Secondly, the commissioner of Fangak is politically oriented, he is a lawyer by profession and he understands the agreement fully and we believe such a move will not come from him knowing that he is,” Both said.

“We will have to crosscheck with the local authorities there and I would like to stress that we do not intimidate people, and as SPLM-IO, we are spearheading the process of opening the political space in the country,” Both stated.

Both instead accused the SPLM of using security operatives to crack down on the political activities of the opposition.

“Usually, the SPLM and security operatives are the ones who, on different occasions during the launch of our secretariat, got involved in incidences of harassing the deputy governor of Lakes State and a member of the Political Bureau of the SPLM-IO was detained by security operatives. So we believe that we cannot use the same mentality to bring change in this country,” he said.  

“We are a reform party, and we are calling for the opening of political space, and we also respect the other parties’ opinion or to express their rights in the country,” Both affirmed.

Ter Manyang Gatwech, a political observer, says the peace agreement provides an avenue for civic space for political leaders and parties, but such incidences of harassment and intimidation keep happening.

He called on the various parties of the 2018 peace agreement to open up civic space for political activities.

 “Those incidences have been happening. We have witnessed such cases in Bahr el Ghazal last time and also in Warrap, but this is not a good thing if political parties are not allowed to carry out their activities freely,” Manyang said. 

“This is compromising the implementation of the peace agreement. I want to call upon both sides to allow for civic space for the members to conduct their activities without restriction or intimidation for South Sudan to move forward,” he concluded.