Juba chamber of torture, The Blue House must be dissolved!
By. : Suzanne Jambo
The October 2014 National Security Act marked the end of our 50+ years of struggles for freedoms, justice and equality gains. This happened barely 3 years after our independence in 2011 as the world’s youngest nation. The national security services, NSS became the most powerful tool to oppress South Sudanese, to intimidate opponents and gag free press and the media. Thereupon, emerged the most dreaded place, the Blue House—-with the mention of this building name, most South Sudanese shudder and tremble in fear. Once the “unknown gunmen”; a systematic ghost-like security organ personnel are ordered to hand pick an opponent(s) or vocal activists and journalists, often these abductees are never seen again, alive or dead.
The October 2014 Act gives national security officers sweeping powers, including to arrest and detain “suspects”, even though South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution says the NSS should focus on information gathering, analysis and advice. As such this Act does not meet even the minimum safeguards, to ensure that the NSS would be held to regional and international standards in using its authority.
A senseless war broke out in December 2013 over internal power wrangles within the senior ranks of the SPLM/A. This war marked the beginning of endless armed rebellions, violence, as well increasing dissidents, opposition figures, human rights activists and vocal journalists. The Juba regime headed by General President Salva Kiir’s reaction to this opponents and human rights activists is him empowering the NSS with the Oct 2014 brutal Act. This came with horrors, unknown gunmen phenomena where opponents are picked from their homes or in refugee camps and cities of East Africa. Arbitrary detentions became the order of the day, where detainees are kept in the Blue House, tortured, ruthlessly beaten to death. Countless individuals, some publicly known, while many aren’t. In time we shall know who, how many and how they died.
The NSS Blue House in Juba is feared like the most monstrous demon, behemoth, villain. A house of horror ruthlessly bossed by beast General Akol Koor. I am not being emotional in my description, we know what this man is capable of doing, he never shies away from arbitrary detention, torture and killings of challengers; middle-aged, the youth, male and female! This shouldn’t come as a surprise as General Akol Koor was trained by former Sudanese President Bashir “Kizan”; political jihadists of the National Congress Party, NCP. For over 30 years, the NCP has been in a network with the likes of Al Q’ida, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, ISIS etc. Bashir was infamous for how he ruthlessly dealt with his opponents who were kept in notorious “ghost houses” similar to Juba’s Blue House terrorism!
So, now, we are at yet another juncture of “peace” efforts with President Kiir’s sudden interest; thin-curtained efforts to implement the long-over due peace agreement. Overnight, on 9th May 2021 he met with the elders whom he charged with the national dialogue, ND. President Kiir took his time to implement both the R-peace agreement and the ND resolutions. Alas finally he began to “pay attention” (which is very different from implantation) to the ND December 2020 resolutions, and by May 10th, 2021, he finally dissolved the national parliament when this was supposed to have happened in Feb-April 2020. Better late than never, right? Or is this abrupt interest coincidental with the high profile external visit into Juba 8th – 10th May 2021?
It is paramount to guarantee this “May 2021 revived peace” efforts are sustained and true peace is realized (the peace agreement was signed almost two years ago), we need assurances to manifest the spirit of peace! Our basic freedoms as freedom of expression, assembly and movement must be restored. Peace can only be comprehended when we feel safe from “unknown gunmen” and the chamber of torture, Blue House! As such we recommend:
1. South Sudan Presidency must exert and manifest the political will for basic freedoms, free press and multipartism; they must talk and walk this talk!
2. The May 2021 reconstituted national legislature, R-TNLA must immediately dissolve the Oct 2014 NSS Act.
3. R-TNLA to amend all NSS bylaws, to limit its powers to gathering intelligence, in compliance with the Transitional Constitution. The 2014 Act’s unconstitutional powers to the NSS to arrest, detain, conduct searches, seize property, and use force should be fully removed from NSS might;
4. All future NSS policies must ensure compliance, and enshrine explicit guarantee of due process rights and custodial safeguards as required under the Transitional Constitution.
5. Regional and international human rights laws must be inculcated into such NSS reformed polices;
6. Such policies must include; the right to be informed of the reasons for arrest and charges brought, the right to be tried within a constitutional period of time, the right of access, without delay, to a lawyer, the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and punishment, and the right to freely access complaints and oversight mechanisms;
7. Strengthen provisions for parliamentary and judicial oversight by making clear that warrants are required for all acts by NSS that have an effect on protected rights, such as surveillance, conducting searches, and seizing property;
8. Strengthen the proposed parliamentary/judicial oversight mechanism by, for example, requiring the NSS to report to parliament on a regular basis and giving parliament the authority to conduct unrestricted and unannounced visits to all places of detention, compel the production of evidence, and have access to all related files including NSS, premises, personnel, archives, and registers, as necessary for the exercise of its oversight functions.
In conclusion, we must all push the political powers toward a conducive environment to pave way for a peaceful transfer of power and transition to democracy in South Sudan. This can’t happen at the current prevailing oppressive torturous atmosphere. We the people of South Sudan gave selflessly for over 50 years. Millions have died, thousands are physically disabled, thousands are widowed and orphaned, years have been sacrificed in dedication to freedoms—-we gave with all we have for us to live dignified, free from fear, from intimidation, oppression and for equality before the law. We must be empowered to access justice so we base our nationhood on justice and freedoms pillars. The NSS Blue House has turned us into below citizens, below human beings. This must end!
Suzanne Jambo is the founder of Steps, peaceful We64 movement political party