The opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Movement In-Opposition (SPLM-IO) says its T-shirts and other promotional materials were seized by the authorities in Ayod County, Jonglei State, last week.
Michael Bol, the SPM-IO secretary-general in Jonglei State, told Radio Tamazuj that the move by Ayod County Commissioner James Chuol– a member of the ruling SPLM party–was intended to block his party’s political activities ahead of general elections next year.
“Since last Sunday, our T-shirts, caps, tents, and plastic sheets, which were supposed to be used for the official launching of our offices there ahead of elections, were impounded by SSPDF soldiers on orders of the county commissioner,” Bol said.
“The soldiers came to the Ayod airstrip and took the materials saying that SPLM-IO activities are not allowed in Ayod. We have since engaged SPLM officials to have our properties released, but nothing has happened,” he added.
The SPLM-IO official condemned the commissioner’s move, saying it harms collegial cooperation stipulated in the 2018 peace agreement and is shrinking political space for other political parties ahead of elections.
When reached by Radio Tamazuj for comment on the matter, Ayod County Commissioner Chuol admitted to confiscating the SPLM-IO promotional materials. He, however, said he ordered the confiscation of the T-shirts and other materials because “the inscription on them are inciting.”
“Truth should be said. SPLM-IO has been operating in Ayod without interference, and some of its officials are part of my government as per the 2018 peace agreement. The reason why those T-shirts and items were confiscated is that writing on them is not good. It doesn’t make sense writing: Ayod County is not just for a single party,” he clarified.
He said SPLM-IO officials were engaged and the compensated items will be freed if the writing is removed.
Civic and political space is shrinking dramatically in South Sudan ahead of possible general elections in December 2024.
A recent report by the UN Commission on Human Rights called on the government to urgently cease unlawful media censorship, end intolerable restrictions on civic and political activities and halt attacks on journalists and human rights defenders as South Sudan considers the prospect of national elections next year.