8 July 2012

South Sudan: Activist Found Beaten Into a 'Coma' After Disappearance

Juba — The Chairperson of South Sudan's Civil Society Alliance, Deng Athuai, who is a prominent anti-corruption and human rights activist, was on Saturday found by the side of a road in Juba tied in a sack and severely beaten, according to military sources.

A military intelligence source told Sudan Tribune that Athuai was found "crying inside sack along the road side" between Kabur-tit and Gumba forest by the South Sudan security services.

Athuai is reported to have been taken to Juba Teaching Hospital and is in a "coma", according to a nurse who did not wish to be named.

"Athuai is suffering for internal wounds in his stomach, head, eye, feet and throat," the nurse told Sudan Tribune.

The executive director of the Civil Society Alliance, Biel Boutros Biel told South Sudan Radio on Friday that Athuai had disappeared after leaving his residence at Beach Hotel in Juba on Wednesday.

Boutros, who heads the South Sudan Human Rights Advocacy Association (SSHRAA), said that he suspected that his colleague, who has instrumental in anti-corruption campaigning and other issues, had been kidnapped. He refused to speculate over who could be responsible.

Athuai was among the activists that marched to South Sudan's parliament demanding the government publish the names of the officials alleged to have stolen a total of $4 billion since 2005.

South Sudan celebrates it's first year as an independent nation on Monday 9 July, having voted to seceded from Sudan after decades of civil war. Greater human rights, better governance, freedom of expression and association were among the causes the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) stated as it's aims during the 1983-2005 conflict.

The SPLA is now South Sudan's official army, while the SPLM is the country's ruling party. Corruption, human rights abuses and insecurity are some of the major internal issues facing the young nation.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir wrote to 75 senior officials on 3 May asking them to return stolen money.

"We fought for freedom, justice and equality," President 'Kiir's letter reads. "Yet, once we got to power, we forgot what we fought for and began to enrich ourselves at the expense of our people."

Human Rights Watch and other groups are taking the opportunity of South Sudan's first independence anniversary to urge the SPLM to mark the occasion by freeing all unlawfully detained prisoners, guaranteeing freedom of speech, and accelerating ratification of key international human rights treaties.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others of called on Juba to take steps to ensure that security forces are held accountable for human rights abuses.

Major General Mac Paul, the deputy director of military intelligence for South Sudan, told Sudan Tribune that he did not know what had happened to Athuai.

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