Gov’t asked to uphold free civic space during the roadmap period

A representative of the South Sudan Bar Association has called for freedom of expression for all South Sudanese as the country enters a new era of the roadmap.

The South Sudan transitional constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but this right is not respected in practice, according to UN agencies.
The government reportedly censors, harasses, and arrests journalists, especially those who criticize it or report on corruption or sanctions.
“There is a need for the leadership to provide the civic and political space for South Sudanese to speak even if it means speaking against the things that they do like the failure to implement the roadmap itself. “So let the space be open,” Wani Steven told reporters on the sidelines of the roadmap commencement conference in Juba on Tuesday.
Though the constitution allows citizens to express their disappointments in government through peaceful demonstrations, it often deploys heavily armed soldiers and detain perceived ringleaders.
In August 2021, the government arrested Kuel Aguer, a politician and former governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, for co-founding an alleged anti-government movement.
In December 2022, a special court in Juba dismissed the case and ordered for his immediate release, citing lack of evidence.

“The civic space for people who are not within any political party should also be opened so that people can speak out and exercise their civic and political rights without necessarily being part of any political party,” said Steven, who is also a managing partner at Witness Law Advocates.

Two weeks ago, the US ambassador to South Sudan Michael J. Adler also made a similar call on the government to open civic space and allow the journalists do their work without the fear of harassment or intimidation as the country heading toward the time it expect the general elections.

President Salva Kiir and opposition groups signed a peace agreement in 2018 that ended five years of civil war.

In July 2022, the parties to the revitalized peace agreement agreed to extend the transitional coalition government period, because the provisions of the agreement remained largely unimplemented, and the parties placed February 2023 as the end of the transitional period. The 24-month roadmap commences today, February 22.