An open letter to Mr Coly Seck, the President of the Human Rights Council by the Chairman of the IRC – NAS on the successful conduction of the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on the 27th of February 2019
DATE: 01/03/2019 REF: HQ/IRCL/03 OPEN LETTER
Your Excellency, Mr Coly Seck, the President of the Human Rights Council,
Please allow me to congratulate you and your team for the successful conduction of the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on the 27th of February 2019. Although the National Salvation Front (NAS) was not one of the participants in the session, yet it had followed the event very carefully for the following reasons:
Firstly – NAS denounces Human Rights violations wherever they occur and stands firm behind the preservation of the dignity and sanctity of human life.
Secondly – NAS engagement with Human Rights entities is a fundamental part of its duty to expose to the world the atrocities and the ongoing Human Rights abuses committed by the regime in Juba.
Thirdly – It’s also part of our endeavour to urge the international community and the Human Rights organisations to exert pressure on the regime in Juba to desist from committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The South Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Nhial Deng Nhial, gave a misleading account regarding the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS); claiming that it’s being implemented and celebrated by the people across the country. The realities on the ground show that there’s no peace in the country and fighting is going on as we speak. Perhaps the current tragedy in the Yei River area where tens of thousands of civilians fled their homes seeking safety in the neighbouring countries refutes the Government’s false claims.
NAS didn’t sign the R-ARCSS because of the numerous flaws within it. It fell short of addressing the root causes of the conflict. The majority of the South Sudanese people want the adoption of federalism as the system of governance that would facilitate the devolution of powers to the states and people. The R-ARCSS maintains the so-called Decentralised system of governance which is nothing but a dictatorship in disguise. Moreover, the deal does not facilitate the total overhaul of the security sector which is dominated by one ethnicity out of 64. Most worryingly, accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity has been completely ignored.
Innocent civilians have been subjected to wanton killings, rape and looting of their properties. Despite denial by the government, our sources confirmed the validity of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) report which does not give the whole story as the number of victims is more than the reported 125 women and girls. The former Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) which has been renamed as South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF) is notorious for committing rape crimes. In March 2016, India Today TV reported that the SPLA sanctioned its forces to rape women and loot civilian properties instead of their wages that the government failed to pay. Further, in July 2016, SPLA elements raped foreign aid workers at the Terrain Hotel in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. The SSPDF is not a national army in the real sense of the word but rather a tribal one commanded by warlords. Its rules of engagement, if at all such rules are in place, do not conform to international norms. Brutality against unarmed civilians, rape, and looting seem to be a flourishing culture within the SSPDF. Rape crimes are bound to happen as long as the SSPDF remains in its current form.
Furthermore, the South Sudanese Minister accused NAS of violating the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) and “attacking, terrorising, and displacing civilians”. These allegations are false. The fact of the matter is that civilians seek safety in the areas controlled by NAS forces as reported by several media outlets.
The government’s violation of CoHA is well documented and starts with none other than the monitoring body itself – the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM). The government forces assaulted a team of 4 members belonging to CTSAMVM in the Luri area near Juba on 18/12/2018. A female Colonel from the Ethiopian Army was forced to remove her clothes entirely and remain naked. The men were ordered to strip and left with their underwear. It raises serious questions regarding the government’s commitment to the CoHA.
In a Press Conference on 17/01/2019, the Chief of Staff of the SSPDF, General Gabriel Jok Riak and the Deputy Chief of Staff of the SPLM IO General James Koang Ranley agreed to carry out joint attacks against NAS. It was another violation of CoHA. Following that Press Conference, a military build-up by the SSPDF and its militia (Mathiang Anyoor) was reported in Yei River area, Lob’onok, and parts of Western Equatoria. The NAS forces have since come under relentless attacks by the SSPDF and the militia affiliated to it. The activities carried out by the NAS forces were legitimate and done in self-defence and for the sake of protecting the civil population and their properties.
Juba’s Human Rights records are quite appalling. The African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS) report that was completed in October 2015 and numerous reports from relief and Human Rights organisations; are testimonies to that effect. It’s worth mentioning that the Chief of Staff of the SSPDF, General Gabriel Jok Riak, the Deputy Minister of Defense, General Malek Reuben, the Commander of the Ground Forces, General Santino Deng , the former Commander of the Presidential Guards, General Marial Chanuong , and the Information Minister, Mr Michael Makuei are all under United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions. They are being held responsible for committing or instigating atrocities and human rights abuses. Moreover, on the 27th of May 2018; the UNSC slapped sanctions against the Minister of Defense, General Kuol Manyang Juk and the Cabinet Affairs Minister, Dr Martin Elia Lomuro for similar reasons.
The National Salvation Front is a people’s Movement that regards their safety and well-being as a priority. It explains why the ordinary South Sudanese feel secure in the areas under NAS control. NAS forces follow strict rules of engagement that are internationally recognised. It’s the reason that no incidences of atrocities or human rights abuses have been recorded against NAS forces so far.
I thank you
Dr Lako Jada Kwajok
Chairman of the IRC – NAS