The opposition SPLM-IO in the Greater Bahr el Ghazal region has said its members are routinely intimidated and arbitrarily arrested by security actors under the orders of SPLM party officials.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement In-Opposition (SPLM-IO) party is led by the country’s first vice president Riek Machar.
South Sudan’s President and SPLM Party chairman Salva Kiir, First Vice President 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. General elections are expected to be conducted in December 2024.
Speaking on Monday during the launch of a membership registration drive in Western Bahr el Ghazal State for cadres from Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes, and Western Bahr el Ghazal states, the SPLM-IO officials from the region said it has become increasingly difficult for them to mobilize.
SPLM-IO deputy chairperson in Warrap State, Chuor Aguek Chuor, said their members were arrested last month in Tonj South and Tonj North counties.
“Last month our members were arrested in Tonj South County and Tonj North County but they were eventually released,” he said. “The problem is happening because there are some counties where people take the law into their hands when they see people wearing the blue SPLM-IO colour and they say that we are conducting campaigns.”
Aguek urged the other parties to respect the peace agreement and freedom of expression.
“We have to respect the agreement so that it is implemented the right way and this means nobody can be intimidated or detained and there should be freedom of expression,” he said.
Meanwhile, Aweng Ibrahim, the deputy speaker in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal State Legislative Assembly, said SPLM-IO members were arrested and tortured in the state.
“My message to our partners in the unity government is to respect freedoms. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, it was violence and some of our leaders were unlawfully arrested, tortured, and detained but we managed to establish the SPLM-IO in the state,” said Aweng. “I am asking the ruling party (SPLM) why as the ruling party, they are targeting a young party which is coming up. It is not right.”
For her part, Western Bahr el Ghazal State Governor Sarah Cleto Rial who also doubles as the chairperson of the SPLM-IO in the state said being in opposition does not imply that one is an enemy.
“As you all know, in a new party, there are some challenges and these challenges do not stop our way forward. I want to thank all of our members and comrades and we have to work hard to become promoters of peace, security, law, and order in our states with the very limited means that we have,” she said.
SPLM-IO Secretary General Regina Joseph Kapa said there should be respect for fundamental human rights.
“There should be equality, nobody who is better than the other and there should be no tribe better than another because we are all one people,” she said. “There should be a rule of law. How can others have the right to conduct rallies and campaign and others does not? We do not want such a country and this is our vision in the SPLM-IO.”