Two U.S. senators called on the South Sudanese authorities to release a prominent activist known for his vocal criticism against the government for its lack of seriousness to end the nearly five-year war in the war-ravaged country.
“We are deeply concerned about the reported detention of South Sudanese peace activist Peter Biar Ajak by South Sudan’s National Security Service after his criticism of the direction of the South Sudanese peace process,” said a statement released by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chris Coons (D-DE), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“We are also troubled by reports that President Salva Kiir personally ordered a crackdown on government critics,” further stressed the statement.
Peter Biar Ajak was arrested on Saturday morning at Juba airport while he was on his way to Aweil to attend the Red Army Foundation commemoration day. He is the founding chairman of the group.
Amnesty International in a call for urgent action said Ajak may be held in solitary confinement, adding that he has been denied access to a lawyer.
The two democrats senators said Ajak arrest, at a time when the region and the international community including the US support an inclusive peace, undermines the credibility of the government’s claim that it wants peace.
The statement further mentioned the disappearance from Nairobi in January of 2017 of two South Sudanese human rights activists Dong Samuel Luak, and Aggrey Idri. Both were reportedly detained by South Sudanese security service without charge.
“We call on the Government of South Sudan to release Peter Ajak and other political prisoners immediately, and respect the rule of law and fundamental freedoms that are necessary pillars of peace in South Sudan,” says the statement.
Senator Booker is the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy.
It is worth mentioning that Senator Robert Patrick Casey of Pennsylvania released a twit expressing his support for Ajak and called for his release.
“I am very troubled to hear Peter Biar Ajak – a committed human rights defender educated in Philadelphia – has been detained in South Sudan without access to counsel. Standing with constituents’ calls for justice,” said Casey.
Also, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power was the first American politician to call for Ajak freedom.
“I’ve just learned that the security services in South Sudan have arrested Dr Peter Biar Ajak, a former Kennedy School student who’s working tirelessly to promote peace in his native country. Arrest clearly politically motivated #FREEPETERBIAR,” said Power in a twit message on 30 July.
Senators Booker and Coons called on the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and SPLM-Io leader Riek Machar “to fully commit to truly inclusive negotiations, and to demonstrate the leadership necessary to bring genuine peace and accountable governance to South Sudan.”
© 2018 the Sudan Tribune (Roubaix, France)
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