South Sudan celebrates SPLA Day, but what about human rights?

On May 16, South Sudan commemorated the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). On top of fighting a 22 year-long war that secured South Sudan’s independence last year, the SPLA will now protect the country in the event that the low-intensity conflict with Sudan escalates. While South Sudan’s security forces had already espoused a culture of impunity as a result of their role in the country’s creation, so long as the conflict with Sudan remains unresolved, the SPLA will have a pretext to allow this culture to persist.

South Sudan celebrates SPLA Day at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum, SOURCE: http://www.goss-online.org/

This means that the SPLA will continue to suffer the legacy of a liberation army, and its human rights violations will continue. Yes, we have heard about indiscriminate violence in areas where the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) and the resurgent White Army have operated. But the SPLA, South Sudan Police Service (SSPS), and other organs of the state security apparatus have also abused civilians as they go about their daily routines in the new state. Civilians have been:

  • Executed after a driver failed to stop while the flag was being lowered at the Dr. John Garang mausoleum in Juba
  • Detained and beaten for reporting on a protest in which the security forces had indiscriminately fired into the crowd in Bentiu
  • Brutally beaten and almost blinded after arriving at the airport in Wau

When we talk about what South Sudan needs/doesn’t need to protect itself from Khartoum, we shouldn’t take our eye off this underlying human rights issue within the security forces. I hope that when the SPLA celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, that its mission to protect South Sudan’s territorial integrity would have evolved to include protecting her citizens as well.

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3 responses

  1. […] Lesley Anne Warner expresses concern about human rights issues within the armed forces of South Sudan. […]

  2. Edwin Starr “War” Song, said it then about Vietnam war and it still holds true and will always. War is only good for the undertaker and those in military hardware business, I may add. Where there is war, human rights are secondary. My opinion is that we should focus on conflict resolution first, then we can talk about human rights next.

    Security and human rights can never exist in the absence of conflict resolution. Truth and Reconciliation worked between blacks and whites in S.Africa; it can work between African Arabs and African Blacks just as well. Gacaca in Rwanda which is similar to S.African ‘s “Truth and Reconciliation” worked after the genocide.

    So when I read about countries that have had conflicts for a long period being expected to have human rights ahead of conflict resolution, I always think of how difficult it must be in those third world countries when USA herself found it difficult to abide within human rights requirements in Iraq, case in point- Abu Ghraib prisoners mistreatment.
    Such expectations as well meant as they may be, I find them unrealistic and impracticable. Please, don’t think I mean human rights are not important, it is how practical can one be under these circumstances without talking about “Truth and reconciliation”.

  3. Sam,

    You’ve got some good points in there. Just so I’m clear, are you talking about resolving the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan as being a prerequisite for a focus on human rights, or are you talking about resolving the South-South conflicts, which also come into play here? Or do you think both of these need to be resolved in order for South Sudan’s security forces to be held accountable for their actions?

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