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South Sudan Police Warn Against Anti-Government Protests

FILE - South Sudan President Salva Kiir, speaks during a press conference in Juba on July 9, 2021.
FILE - South Sudan President Salva Kiir, speaks during a press conference in Juba on July 9, 2021.

The South Sudan National Police Service has deployed officers on the streets of the capital, Juba, and warned South Sudanese not to take part in the scheduled nationwide Monday protests against the government.

A group calling itself the People’s Coalition for Civil Action is organizing the protests after launching a public campaign for change in July, saying the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity led by President Salva Kiir is doing very little to address the many challenges facing the people of South Sudan.

Abraham Awolic, a member of the group, said it notified the police by letter of the planned protests even though such notification is not required.

“The people of South Sudan are coming out on the 30th to protest, it is their constitutional right," he told VOA's South Sudan in Focus. "You don’t need approval from anyone to exercise that power. … You cannot ask the same state which has aggrieved you to give you permission to protest against it.”

South Sudan police service spokesperson Major General Daniel Justin said the planned protests will “cause public disorder” and will not be tolerated by authorities.

Justin invited protest organizers to meet with the police.

“You have to coordinate with the police to give you protection. And these people, we invite them to come such that we sit and arrange, so it will not be allowed,” Justin told VOA.

South Sudan has been in political turmoil after the leaders of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition, part of the ruling alliance, fired three generals in the command of the Upper Nile state shortly after the generals declared First Vice President Riek Machar had been ousted as head of the movement.

Bol Deng Bol, head of the civil society organization in Jonglei state, said some of South Sudan’s political parties have done more harm by rebelling against the government.

“This time is the right time for us as citizens of this hard-earned country, South Sudan, to express our views, to express our dissatisfaction as long as they are not going to go violent,” Bol told VOA.

Bol said he will attend the protests. Other political leaders are wary.

The South Sudan National Youth Union this week urged young people across the country to stay away from the demonstrations.

Gola Boyoi, chairperson of the Youth Union, condemned the protests, calling them an undemocratic way of toppling a government. He told South Sudan in Focus that the people should give the signatories to the 2018 peace deal ending the country’s civil war a chance to fully implement the agreement.

"We are also calling on the business community and the working class to ignore this uprising and go about their normal duties,” Boyoi said.

Peter Malir, a youth rights activist and a representative of the South Sudan Youth coalition, said that although citizens have the right to hold a peaceful protest, it is not the right time because the country is facing several challenges, including road ambushes and ethnic fighting.

A heavy police presence could be seen along several streets in Juba on Friday. Officers have orders to arrest anyone who takes to the streets to participate in the protests, police spokesperson Justin said.