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Security agents hunt activists after failed protest, extort money

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September 2, 2021 (JUBA)- Security personnel in South Sudan are hunting for members of the civil society leaders behind mobilizing for a failed mass protest amid reports of extortions for money, causing public outcry and condemnation against repressive acts and exploitations.

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Southern Sudanese police in a convoy on the streets of Juba (UN photo)

Several leaders of the civil society organizations told Sudan Tribune on Thursday they are being hunted for mobilizing for a failed protest and some of their colleagues were forced to pay money in exchange for release if they do not want to disclose their locations of hiding.

“It is quite unfortunate and sad to say that the country which claimed lives of millions of our people fighting for dignity, human rights, equality, justice and freedom has gone to the dogs who are not only willing to destroy but ready to tear it and leave it in ashes. The elements of state are no more”, an activist explained.

The activist, who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisal, said security forces masking as legislators and sometimes present themselves as student leaders are hunting them since Tuesday.

“In some cases, they come as leaders of the student unions. In others, they come as members of parliament and when they feel these strategies are detected and are told the person they are looking for is not available, they get agitated and turn violence and started forcing people into cars they use. Once in the car, they drive around the town with you blindfolded because they want people not to know where they are taking them," explained the activist.

He added, "They will tell you they will go away if you just pay them. And when you pay them, they will just demand more. And so on, and so on. When you get fed up and stop paying, they will call a wife or someone you know, perhaps a boss asking them to pay".

The activist named James David Kolok, Wani Michael, some journalists and politicians as being among the civil society leaders being hunted by operatives.

Opponents argued President Salva Kiir has not delivered on his promises to increase public freedoms and improve his government’s human rights record since getting into the helm of leadership. While his supporters have always painted different image of himself as unifying figure, competitors depict him as oscillating between "a dictator and preserving status quo".

And observers are keen to underline that whether Kiir wanted to be a democrat but was hampered by an entrenched old guard or has been just another ruler unwilling to listen to criticism, the outcome for the people is the same: no freedom, no rights.

They cite his inability to curb rampant insecurity, recurring communal violence, lack of political space, freedom of speech and the right to freely assemble and associate as well as lack of strong political will to build strong institutions to restrain security agencies who detain people without arrest warrants and torture with complete impunity.

(ST)

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