JMEC chairman accuses South Sudanese minister of curtailing freedoms

June 2, 2016 (JUBA) – Former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, who chairs the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), to oversee and monitor the implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement in South Sudan, has accused the minister of information, Michael Makuei Lueth of violating the freedom of speech and expression in the country.

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South Sudanese information minister Michael Makuei Lueth attends a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 5 January 2014 (Photo: AP/Elias Asmara)

Mogae said he had received “disturbing” report that minister Lueth “harassed” a senior UN lady official and stopped her from organizing national women’s conference for peace and reconciliation.

In his speech on Tuesday during the opening of the JMEC plenary meeting in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, Mogoe, whose JMEC oversees and monitors the implementation of the peace deal signed by President Salva Kiir and First Vice President, Riek Machar, the opposition leader of SPLM-IO, said the action was a violation.

He dismissed the concerns of minister Lueth that the women conference on peace and reconciliation was threatening the sovereignty of South Sudan.

Mogae mocked the minister’s concern over sovereignty of South Sudan, saying the women gathering could not threaten South Sudan’s sovereignty, no matter how fragile it is.

“I am at loss as to why the poor UN woman director was subjected to the harassment to which she became the victim,” the JMEC chairman, Mogae, told the meeting on Tuesday which was attended by foreign diplomats and other peace partners.

“I don’t understand why the Honorable Minister Makuei contended that the getting together of South Sudanese women to talk about the need for peace and reconciliation among themselves and in their country needed authorization of the government,” he added.

Mogae said reconciliation processes among South Sudanese men had become slow and so it was better for the women to kick it off and start it rolling.

The peace agreement signed in August last year has provided for freedom of assembly, speech and expression, but it seems there are hurdles in its implementation in letter and spirit.

Minister Lueth had earlier in his comments on South Sudan TV after re-appointment as information minister, acknowledged that many people saw his attitude as “unbecoming”, but added that he did the negative approach because of the war situation and that if the war ended he would change the approach.

However, complaints about his institution have remained the same, including the opposition of the SPLM-IO alleging that Lueth’s institution could not allow to broadcast public rallies and meetings conducted by the First Vice President, Riek Machar, with various communities at Jebel Kujur site.

Reacting to Mogae’s complaint about him, minister Lueth told the media that he had already told the JMEC’s chairman that the government will not allow assembling of people without an authorization.

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