FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2014
- People familiar with the situation in Juba said Dr Akol wants to travel to Nairobi to meet with some of his family members but that request has been rejected.
- On Friday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) added to the criticism saying it would be an infringement on Dr Lam Akol’s rights if it was true that Juba authorities had refuses him to travel out of the country.
- Dr Akol was initially part of the government’s delegation that negotiated with Dr Machar’s representatives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
More by this Author
South Sudan’s government has been put on the spot after reports emerged that it is unlawfully detaining one of its political opponents in Juba.
Dr Lam Akol, who in 2010 contested the presidency against President Salva Kii, is said to be under house arrest and has been denied permission to leave the country.
People familiar with the situation in Juba said Dr Akol wants to travel to Nairobi to meet with some of his family members but that request has been rejected.
They charged that his house arrest is part of Juba’s wider oppression against the dissent.
On Friday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) added to the criticism, saying it would be an infringement on Dr Akol’s rights if it was true that Juba authorities had refused him to travel out of the country.
“It’s an infringement on his basic right to freedom of movement to have seized his passport, without any formal charges laid against him.
“This action appears to have been purely politically motivated,” said Skye Wheeler, South Sudan researcher for Human Rights Watch.
But South Sudan immediately rubbished the claims.
The country’s Ambassador to Nairobi James P Morgan said the allegations were “simply not true.”
“As we speak, Dr Akol is very free, he walks around in the country and it is simply not true that the government confiscated his passport.”
“What is happening now due to the crisis in the country is that one, including myself, requires a letter to travel out of the country. This (letter) is what will enable me to travel out of the country,” he told the Saturday Nation on phone.
“If Dr Lam Akol wants to travel out of the country, what he needs is to inform the security. This has never happened… He is free to travel if he wants to,” said Morgan.
South Sudan was rocked by a bloody conflict last December, pitting supporters of President Kiir and his nemesis Riek Machar. The violence claimed more than 12,000 lives.
More than two million people have been displaced, with a fifth of this number scattered in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan, according to the United Nations.
Human rights groups on Monday marked the conflict’s anniversary by accusing Juba of trying to use the turmoil to suppress the dissent.
They urged sanctions against President Kiir’s administration.
Dr Akol was initially part of the government’s delegation that negotiated with Dr Machar’s representatives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The talks were sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on development (Igad).
LEFT GOVERNMENT DELEGATION
However, when Igad envoy Seyoum Mesfin suggested that the number of parties be increased to include other political parties and stakeholders, Akol is said to have left the government delegation to be the leader of other political parties.
But then there was a problem: Other political parties back home refused to endorse him as their representative and he fell out with them too.
Despite him being Chairman of SPLM splinter party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), he was no longer a member of the negotiating team.
Dr Akol, who served as Foreign Minister in the Sudan unity government before South Sudan split from Khartoum, became critical of South Sudan government, accusing its negotiating team of lacking political will.
He ran against Salva Kiir in the 2010 elections and garnered a paltry 7 per cent of the votes. However, his party won two parliamentary seats, making it the official opposition party in South Sudan.
He continued to live in Nairobi after the polls debacle but Juba accused him of funding rebels against Salva Kiir, an allegation he denies to date.
On Friday, Mr Morgan told the Saturday Nation Dr Akol “has always been the guest of the President and will always remain one.”