Civil society in South Sudan raises alarm on human rights abuses
South Sudan, which is entering its 12th year as an independent state, is experiencing an increase in human rights abuses, corruption and political instability that continues unabated in 2022.
Aid agencies operating in the country – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network – say it is because Africa’s newest sovereign country inherited a legacy of prolonged civil war and severe underdevelopment.
Two years into independence, South Sudan was plunged into civil conflict, but a peace deal was reached in 2015, which only lasted for a year.
In September 2018, warring parties signed the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. This led to a Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity, which came into place in 2020.
But the delay in coming up with the new government led to the deterioration of conditions in the country.
“These delays and gaps in governance and security have led to increased fighting at state, local and community levels, yet often stirred up by national-level politics and supported by senior government and opposition, political and or military officials,” the three rights groups said in a joint statement.
Human rights defenders accuse the establishment of President Salva Kiir Mayardit of gross misappropriation of public funds, which they say is the reason for poor living conditions and a lack of access to basic needs for the public.
“The government has squandered opportunities to ensure human rights and improve the lives of South Sudanese by failing to prioritise public service provision and to stem widespread corruption and embezzlement of public funds by government officials, senior military and political figures. This has impacted the maximum available public resources for realisation of rights,” they said.
Civil society in South Sudan says corruption is the reason why basic service delivery, which ordinarily should be every government’s responsibility, is mostly run by non-governmental organisations and the United Nations.
Humanitarian aid givers are constantly under attack by state actors and insurgents.
“Since December 2013, at least 129 aid workers, most of them South Sudanese, have been killed mainly by government forces, armed opposition groups and affiliated militias, as well as armed youth groups,” said Amnesty International.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network tabled the following demands:
An end to unlawful killings, such as the government committing to abolish the death penalty and promptly taking interim steps to achieve that, including implementing an official moratorium on all executions;
The government to guarantee all communities have unconditional access to humanitarian aid, such as food and clean water, and take measures to hold accountable state agents as well as individuals from opposition non-state armed groups who divert humanitarian assistance;
The government to uphold children’s rights and the Safe Schools Declaration, an inter-governmental political agreement dedicated to protecting education in armed conflict;
The South Sudanese government to evacuate military personnel camped in schools and come up with laws that protect children and their right to schooling.