By Juol Nhomngek Gec
Members of South Sudan’s National Security Service in a pickup vehicle – NSS
JUBA – On September 22, 2020 I learned of the fact that Mr. Kanybil Noon who was arrested and illegally detained sometime back was released from the illegal detention in the Blue House or from National Security Service Headquarters without charges.
The release came after 117 days since he was arrested and detained on May 29, 2020. Kanybil spent all those days illegally behind bars. Sadly, one of the conditions given to him for his release is that he must not speak against the establishment.
With that condition for his release or warning to Mr. Kanybil to keep quiet indefinitely even in the face of the destruction of the country, it has now become clearer now that the National Security service in South Sudan is rather protecting the establishment than South Sudan.
I thought that the National Security Service of South Sudan as the name itself depicts would subscribe to and protect the values of South Sudan, which are reflected in the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 as amended.
Some of the values of South Sudan enshrined in our Constitution referred to above are justice, liberty, prosperity, social contract, fair hearing and respect for human rights. Bill of rights in our Constitution is very clear on some of these values.
It is therefore logical that a body like National Security Service of South Sudan established to protect the National Security is supposed to know that its main duty is to protect the Constitution not the establishment. This means that where the interest of the Establishment contravenes the provisos of the Constitution, the establishment has to be investigated for being against the National Security.
However, despite the existence of the ample pieces of evidence, which show that the establishment is against the National interest, the National is not ready to question the activities of the Establishment that are against the National Interest.
The destruction of Bahr El Ghazal road project, the glaring and deadly corruption that has left the nation economically paralysed or backrupt are some of the instances where we see the establishment poses a real threat to National Security though the National tends to ignore such dangerous acts of establishment.
Instead of dealing with those individuals who are using the establishment to destroy the Nation, the National Security has become complicit to the destruction of the Nation by silencing or destroying the destroying those patriotic citizens who are conscious of f their Constitutional duty while protecting the rotten establishment.
It is an ironical for the body like National Security Service that is the source of insecurity in the country to be called the National Security. It is in fact the national insecurity. As the Human Rights Watch once observed, there is an urgent need to enact reforms of the National Security Service (NSS) to end arbitrary detention and abuse of detainees.
The role of National Security Service since its establishment after the independence of South Sudan has been a negative one. As the Human Rights Watch also observed, “South Sudan’s national security agency has for years carried out a full-blown assault on critics of the government and political opponents in brazen disregard for basic rights,”.
The problem with the National Security is that it has absolute powers that makes it absolutely corrupt. Due to its unlimited powers, the National Security has been involved even in the functions that it has no power to exercise.
The clear example is that it is playing the role of what National Army, the role of the police service, the role of judiciary, the role of private sector. The National Security is in fact everything and holsa all the powers of organized forces in South Sudan.
It is because of that the Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on the South Sudanese authorities to limit NSS powers to intelligence gathering, as envisioned by the Transitional Constitution of 2011, which mandates the agency to “focus on information gathering, analysis and to advise the relevant authorities.”
As explained in the foregoing paragraph, the role of National Security is only to collect the information and then analyze and it is from that information the National Security can advise the relevant authorities on how to deal with the matter as found by the intelligence.
Unfortunately as it has been witnessed several times and in the present case of Kanybil and other South Sudanese who are rotting away in illegal detention centres under the National Security, the National Security ” has increased repression of critics, eroding the space for opposing views and critical public dialogue”.
The arbitrarily detention and abuse of human rights by the National Security is not only limited to Juba but it is being experienced acroaa the country. For instance as the Human Rights Watch reported “In early February 2020, , National Security officers in Maridi allegedly detained a sports journalist for “spreading wrong information against the state” and beat him with a stick and pipe”.
Again in January, 2020, the Human Rights Watch reported that National Security officers arrested Ijoo Bosco, a journalist working with a local radio station in Torit, reportedly for airing news on United States government sanctions against the Former First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, for human rights abuses.
Another report on Bahr El Ghazal was that in December 2019, National Security officers arrested and detained an assistant lecturer at the University of Western Bar el Ghazal in Wau for reportedly mobilizing rebel fighters against the peace agreement’s security arrangements. He was released in January 2020 without charge.
In Juba, it is very clear that hundreds of people are being held in the Blue House, in Juba. Those detained in Blue House include security sector personnel held for disciplinary purposes and civilians held without charges,.
Sadly, they have been detained for long periods as the National Security Act of South Sudan grants the National Security officers broad powers of arrest, detention, search, seizure, and surveillance and to detain citizens beyond the Constitutional period.
The National Security Act does not provide the guarantees to prevent arbitrary detention and torture or other ill-treatment, which are clear violation of South Sudan Constitution, African Charter on Human and People’s Rights the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter of 1945 and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966.
The National Security as an institution is a relic of Sudanese oppression that was intended in Sudan to destroy the Southerners and their Northern sympathizers. It I that law which has been wholesomely copied and pasted in the establishment of South Sudan.
The National Security as an institution is intended to protect the interest of the ruling elites. Hence, South Sudanese ” political elites are benefiting from the relative stability and access to an economy benefits through the role of National Security.
In summary, the National Security has reached the zenith of its abuse of power by being ready to detain any person without charges as long as they deem fit as a way of silencing the critics against the Government. It is the duty of every South Sudan to strong against the illegal exercise of power by the National Security.
All South Sudanese should struggle to make sure that the National Security Service powers are streamlined. Its powers should be reduced do only intelligence gathering, analysing the information based on clear evidence and advise relevant authorities to deal with the threats contained in the information.
The National should be reduced into civilian dressing code instead of having two National armies as it is the case in South Sudan. In South Sudan, South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) is the National Army which should be the only National Army of South Sudan instead of creating another National Army indirectly. This is destruction of South Sudan and shouldn’t be allowed to continue.
The author is a member of the SPLM-IO in Lakes State.
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