July 16, 2016 (JUBA) - The South Sudanese government has imposed restrictions on the movement of its nationals, denying them access to their families in neigbouring nations in violation of their constitutional and basic rights to freedom of movement.
- The arrivals of Juba International Airport (File Photo)
It is still unclear as to who issued the directive and for what purpose.
The director of Juba international airport, Kur Kuol confirmed receiving directives from the authorities that no government official should be allowed out of the country without permission.
Even ordinary citizens are said to be affected as they have been turned away at the airport and denied possession of their passports.
A South Sudanese national studying in Uganda could not return for exams as Friday, the day he intended to travel, witnessed deadly clashes the presidential palace said his passport was confiscated.
He was later asked to see security officials for clearance to his destination country, only to be told on arrival that they were not permitting people to travel out of the country at the time of war.
"If you go out, who will fight, who will fight this war, just go home", narrated the student, whose passport was still with state operatives.
"I do not know what to do now. I was supposed to sit exams on Tuesday 12 July, and that was why I wanted to travel on Friday 10th, but there was no seat in the flight. I wanted to use the next available flight was on Sunday 10, but fighting erupted on Friday evening and carried on for four days. When it stopped on Monday 11, I had hoped I would fly normally, [but] unfortunately I was denied travel and my passport was seized", he added.
But Kuol said no official letter from government denied ordinary citizens from traveling out of the country, except for its officials.
"There is no official letter preventing South Sudanese from traveling to various destinations but what I know is that any official from the government who wants to travel has to get permission from his place of work", Kuol told reporters, but did not elaborate further.
The undersecretary in the ministry of transport, Captain Martin declined to comment on the behaviour of the government operatives, when asked in a separate interview.
Amnesty International also said it had received reports from two charter companies that National Security Service officers have ordered them not to carry South Sudanese nationals, particularly men. It has also been told by an entity that one of its South Sudanese staff was prevented from boarding a flight to Uganda.
“This arbitrary conduct by South Sudanese security forces is totally unacceptable. South Sudan must respect people’s right to freedom of movement, including the right to leave their own country,” said Elizabeth Deng, the organisation’s South Sudan researcher.
“It is absolutely critical that both parties to the conflict do not obstruct safe passage of civilians fleeing to places of refuge both inside and outside the country,” she added.
Thousands of South Sudanese have reportedly gathered at the country’s southern border seeking to enter into Uganda, but they are being prevented from crossing over.