By Steve Paterno
OPINION – In a dramatic fashion, Peter Biar Ajak, a South Sudanese political dissident, wrote an opinion article in World Street Journal (WSJ), published on July 23, 2020, the same day he arrived America as a refugee. The whole episode surrounding his campaign seems to have been well choreographed to coincide with his arrival to exert maximum negative impact. In his article, he wildly alleges, among other things that authorities in South Sudan government ordered for his kidnapping and killing, while in Kenya—the threat, which forced him to escape to America. He demands authorities in South Sudan government to be sanctioned. He also calls for elections to be held to replace the current officials in the government.
However, the real story behind his dramatic escape to America is far different. His first mistake was that he failed to secure American citizenship after spending over 17 years there. His wrong judgment was that obtaining dual citizenship would complicate his bid to become South Sudan president. His inflated ego curtails him right in the beginning.
Even committing more mistakes, he embarked in travelling around the world, without proper travelling documents to get him in and out of the U.S. He started recruiting, allying with some South Sudanese oppositions, including armed groups, holding conferences, conducting interviews, and secretly soliciting the assistance of foreign governments and organizations for interventions of regime change in South Sudan. His strategy was “generational exit,” which, simply means the current old generation in leadership must give power to the young generation. He founded the South Sudan Youth Leaders Forum (SSYLF), a youth movement as a vehicle to achieve his generational exits agenda.
Worse yet, he travelled into South Sudan, where he was detained for suspicion of espionage for spying on behalf of foreign agents against South Sudan government officials, military facilities and functions, using the privileges and accesses of his immediate family members in government and his status as a member of the former Red Army. He was so daring even to the point that he was using military vehicles to facilitate his campaign.
At the time of his arrest, he was caught in possessions of illegal firearms as part of his spying work to report to his handlers the original sources of the weapons’ manufacturers, specifications, models, types and suppliers. He was also implicated in corrupt practices of procurement of food and uniforms for the military. While awaiting investigation in detention, he was accorded with rights such as conjugal visits.
However, he abused those prison privileges by conspiring with some prisoners to stage a politically motivated prison break, whereby they overpowered the guards, armed themselves with court assorted exhibit weapons, contacted international media, and managed to control section of the prison. Their prison break plan was thwarted. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment, while charges against him for initial espionage offence remain pending.
Fortunately, in a peace gesture, he was released in a presidential pardon early this year along with other prisoners, who included his prison co-conspirator Captain Kerubino Wol Agok. Upon his released, besides thanking the president for his freedom, he announced publicly that his immediate plan was to travel abroad for medical checkups. However, for him, he can only travel to America as an asylum seeker by having to demonstrate that his life is in danger.
Then, luckily the situation presented itself, when his co-conspirator of a prison break, Captain Agok rebelled and was quickly killed in an armed confrontation with South Sudan government troops. In short, the killing of his co-conspirator presented his perfect opportunity to lie, in order to expedite his asylum’s applications. Otherwise, with proper travelling documents, Mr Ajak would have immediately travelled to the U.S. without having to lie or let the world know.
The problem is, Mr Ajak does not realize the implications of his obvious lying in public. First, he is promoting contradicting American immigration policies, at the time the current American administration is restricting its immigration entry to genuine asylum seekers, but yet he could lie but granted access. Secondly, he is portraying Kenya as an ungovernable country, whereby kidnapping and killing of dissidents is allowed to be carried out by foreign governments. The fact is, Kenya is home to some of the most dangerous and prominent armed opposition leaders of South Sudan, but yet they are not targeted for kidnapping and killing by the government of South Sudan.
In addition, Mr Ajak father Major General Ajak Deng Biar is a prominent member of South Sudan armed forces, who was the Director of Procurement and currently Deputy Chair of Joint Defense Board of South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF). His father-in-law, the father to his wife, General James Hoth Mai was a former Chief of General Staff of South Sudan armed forces. General Mai is currently Minister of Labour in the transitional government. And the mother of Mr Ajak is an officer in Wildlife Services. It is, therefore, inconceivable that the same government Mr. Ajak is accusing of trying to kidnap and kill him would sanction such an extreme idea.
It is also interesting to note that Mr Ajak is somehow shifting in his regime change campaign strategy because he is now calling for elections, but democratic elections do not discriminate on basis of age set as he envisioned in his generational exit plan. The government of South Sudan that he claims to oppose does not exclude any generation in its structural composition, particularly the youth. Matter of fact, South Sudan laws emphasis very much on the inclusion of youth in governing structures to the point that there are constitutional post holders who are younger than Mr Ajak.
Secondly, President Donald Trump of the USA, whom he praises for granting him asylum, is among the oldest presidents in the world. President Trump is older than the current president of South Sudan and he is the first president of the USA to literally build the wall around American boundaries to block immigrants like Mr Ajak. In short, the world over embrace generational inclusivity in governing structures of the country, not discriminate against generations.
The elections that Mr Ajak is calling for is something that is already stipulated through a peace agreement and mandated by the current transitional government to carry out at the end of the interim period. Hence, all stakeholders of peace in South Sudan, the government being the major partner, are embarking on peace implementation with the end result to conduct and participate in elections.
Therefore, filled with such confusions, it is obvious that Mr Ajak is still a young mind who is undergoing a political metamorphosis of some sort and does not clearly confirm his belief to ongoing realities the country is undergoing. In such short a while, he may succeed in securing asylum status in America through selling sensational stories, but he would surely have a hard time explaining his lies, particularly to young South Sudanese Americans who are his targeted constituency for the presidency of South Sudan. The tricky part is that the current South Sudan transitional government is mandated to hold elections at the end of the interim period. It seems Mr Ajak is already cut himself out by jumpstarting his campaign through lies.
Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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