South Sudan activists say intimidated for meeting diplomats

2016-09-08 19:34

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudanese activists say they face government intimidation in retaliation for meeting with the visiting U.N. Security Council last weekend.

At least three local organizations have been told by South Sudan's government they cannot operate. On Wednesday, the U.S. envoy to South Sudan, Donald Booth, told Congress the number of blacklisted groups could be as high as 40.

The U.N. mission in South Sudan said in a statement Thursday it is "deeply concerned" by reports of harassment and intimidation against some civil society members who met with the diplomats in the capital, Juba. The statement does not mention the source of intimidation.

"On Monday, we started receiving information about security threats and to our lives and that we were wanted by the National Security," said one activist who was at the meeting with the U.N. diplomats.

Some people have fled the country, the activist said.

Another activist who attended the meeting said the government harassment is in response to position papers that supported an arms embargo on South Sudan or a new regional protection force. The government dislikes both.

Heads of organizations have been ordered to report to the government "but fear to report because they don't know what will happen," the activist said.

The two activists spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of further retaliation.

The head of one organization, Edmund Yakani, told The Associated Press he was prevented from attending the Security Council meeting. In addition, a letter from the government to his Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, obtained by the AP, orders his group to shut down within two weeks or be considered "illegal.'

Government officials were not immediately available for comment Thursday.

South Sudan is struggling to recover from civil war that began in December 2013 and killed tens of thousands. Fighting in several places has continued despite a year-old peace deal, and gunfire that erupted in the capital in July left hundreds dead and led the United States and the rest of the Security Council to approve an additional 4,000 regional peacekeepers to protect civilians.

Officials and diplomats have said it will take more than two months for the extra peacekeepers to arrive, and South Sudan this week signaled that none will be allowed in if the government can't dictate which countries contribute to the force and what arms they can carry.

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