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JUBA, South Sudan -- South Sudan has ordered the freezing of bank accounts of five members of a coalition of activists calling for political change.

The People’s Coalition for Civil Action, formed in July, has called for President Salva Kiir and his rival deputy Riek Machar to step down, accusing them of failing the people of South Sudan for a decade of war and fragile peace.

In a letter seen by The Associated Press, the director-general of the government’s banking supervision division on Wednesday directed all commercial banks operating in South Sudan to block accounts belong to the five activists “with immediate effect.”

The statement didn’t give reasons for the order. The Central Bank of South Sudan confirmed the letter. A government spokesman could not be reached.

The order freezes the accounts of Abraham Awolich, former executive director of the Sudd Institute; Rajab Mohandis, executive director for the Organization for Responsive Governance; Wani Michael, former executive director of the Okay Africa Foundation; Jame David Kolok, executive director of the Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance and Kuel Aguer Kuel.

Awolich, a co-founder of the coalition, said they would not be deterred by the government’s order, which he called “a war against civil society in South Sudan.”

“This action is an attempt by the government to weaken the members and the PCCA as an organization,” he told the AP, adding that the action has raised the coalition’s profile.

Michael in a social media post called it “unfortunate.”

South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, is struggling to recover from a five-year civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of people. Former rivals Kiir and Machar now lead a government accused by watchdogs of falling behind on implementation of the peace deal. - DENG MACHOL, Associated Press / ABC News

Members of Parliament attend proceedings in Juba, South Sudan, August 2, 2021. Photo AFP

 

South Sudan media rights groups condemned comments by a key parliament member who said that news organizations could have their licenses revoked if they report on parliamentary expenditures — including lawmaker salaries — without prior authorization from the speaker.

Paul Youane Bonju, who is the chairperson-designate of the information committee in South Sudan's reconstituted National Legislative Assembly, said journalists risk being sued if they do not follow what he termed the proper procedure for reporting on lawmakers' financial transactions.

"Some [reporters] are new in the field and I need to bring them on board by trying to tell them the right procedures if they visit the parliament, because the parliament is a body that enacts laws," he said in a news conference last week.

"If you are coming to engage with such a body, you must also be conversant of how to go about it," Bonju said. "In some instances, some of the media, instead of coming to me or going to the office of the clerk, sometimes they contact either the staffs, or they get the information from sources that are not authorized to release some of the information."

Bonju cited media reports five years ago about $40,000 that was allotted to lawmakers by President Salva Kiir for allowances and car loans.

The reports about the allotment caused a widespread backlash in the world's newest country, where the government owes many workers back salaries and the average teacher makes less than $400 per year.

Media groups say Bonju's comments are an attempt to conceal information from the public as South Sudan attempts for forge a shaky democracy.

Micheal Duku, executive director of the Association for Media Development in South Sudan, said parliamentary members cannot stop the media from reporting on their work which is in the public interest.

"The media is regulated by law and when it comes to information that is categorized, there are classified information and unclassified information," Duku told VOA's South Sudan in Focus. "So long as this falls under unclassified information, the public has the right to know."

Bonju's comments come as South Sudan journalists are facing increasing pressures on their reporting.

Three journalists recently were detained, and a radio station was closed as the government clamped down on efforts by activists to stage what they called a peaceful public uprising.

Agents also detained a government broadcaster after he allegedly declined to report news about recent presidential decrees on the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation airwaves.

South Sudan ranks 139th out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, in which 1 is the freest.

The reconstituted legislature was inaugurated in August this year by Kiir under the leadership of Jemma Nunu Kumba as speaker of the house.

In an interview with South Sudan in Focus, Bonju said his comments were aimed at clarifying parliamentary procedures for press coverage.

"I was telling them, 'Look, I am not warning you, but I am rather cautioning you to be sure that if you want anything to do with emolument of the MPs, please contact the relevant offices, the relevant departments,'" he said. - Waakhe Simon Wudu, Voice of America

 

A seven-judge bench of the appellate court ruled that the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2020 (BBI) is null and void and its processes were unlawful.

The legal battle over the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) set for the Supreme Court has attracted top foreign constitutional law experts. Professors Richard Albert (USA), Yaniv Roznai (Israel), Rosalind Dixon (Australia), David E. Landau (USA) and Gautam Bhatia (India) seek to participate in the case as friends of the court.

Although they claim to be impartial and have no personal or pecuniary interests in the matter or its outcome, they seem to be opposed to the Bill.

Prof Albert says the Bill is not properly understood as a constitutional amendment, but rather as “a constitutional dismemberment” due to the vast number of proposed alterations and the content of the changes.

“The Bill seeks to transform the Constitution of Kenya in a way that exceeds the boundaries of the existing constitution. The Bill is 45 pages in total, it contains 74 amendment articles, and it includes two Schedules appended to the main text,” he says.

If the BBI Bill is ultimately adopted, he argues, its dozens of amendment articles will affect almost the entirety of the Constitution, effectively leaving none of the existing laws unchanged either expressly or by implication. That is not the work of a constitutional amendment, he says.

Prof Albert and Prof Roznai intend to address the court on five questions each in relation to the constitutional amendment.

Prof Roznai says the basic structure doctrine is applicable in Kenya and indeed, in the Constitution, several topics may only be amended by the people and not Parliament.

This is contrary to the argument held by Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki, who wants the Supreme Court to declare that the Constitution does not have a basic structure. 

Prof Dixon, Prof Landau and Prof Bhatia also intend to inform the court that the constitution has a basic structure.

“As in other countries around the world, the express limitations and procedures found in Arts 255-57 of the Kenyan Constitution are complements to a basic structure doctrine in Kenya, and in fact provide support for the existence of a basic structure doctrine,” they say.

They want to make joint submissions on six issues to assist the court in its role in the development of law.
On electoral boundary delimitations (proposal to create 70 new constituencies), the scholars suggest that the decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal were correct.

They held that the delimitation of boundaries and apportionment of the proposed constituencies was the role of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

“Comparative experience clearly shows that where electoral districts are drawn by political incumbents, or in a highly partisan manner, this threatens basic principles of electoral democracy by allowing those actors to create a “tilted” playing field that renders elections increasingly unfair,” states their brief.

In their applications filed yesterday, the scholars are seeking to be admitted so as to assist the court in determination of the questions raised in the dispute by the appellants.

The petitions of appeal were filed by the AG, IEBC and lawyers Omoke Morara and Charles Kanjama. The dispute moved to the Supreme Court after a seven-judge bench of the appellate court ruled that the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2020 (BBI) is null and void and its processes were unlawful. 

While describing themselves as “world-renowned scholars, experts and specialists in the area of constitutional amendment”, the professors says they possess the requisite professional skills that can assist the court in determining the dispute.

The Supreme Court judges will convene on October 21 to give directions on the hearing of the appeals.  By Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

 

Kenya has just assumed the rotational Presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the month of October, which brings with it a more influential voice in global affairs but more importantly, the opportunity to advance her foreign policy goals, and articulate Africa’s peace and security agenda.

Kenya was elected as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for two years (2021-2022) in June last year. However, Kenya is not new to UNSC, having previously served two stints at the council, between 1973-74 and 1997-98. Only this time, the global political landscape is markedly different given the emerging threats to international peace and security like terrorism, violent extremism and climate change.

Also to note that Kenya has in recent years significantly strengthened her diplomatic stature with a more strategic geopolitical posture yielding greater visibility and influence in the international arena.

Kenya’s ascendancy to the presidency of the UN Security Council, though on a rotational basis, is therefore not surprising since it is the culmination of a concerted effort in leveraging her regional and global networks to expand her geopolitical influence.

The primary responsibility of the UNSC is maintaining international peace and security in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The council also investigates and proposes ways of resolving disputes or situations that are likely to escalate international tension. It may also impose sanctions on States to avert or punish aggression or even take military action where necessary.

Being at the helm of UNSC affairs (having taken over from Ireland), Kenya is expected to provide leadership as the council deals with multiple crises raging around the world such as the war in Yemen, political instability in Lebanon and Iraq, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the renewed arms race by global military powers.

Closer home on the African continent, there is the civil war in Libya, Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, violence in Central Africa Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, the conflict in Ethiopia and political instability in neighboring South Sudan and Somalia. In addition, violent extremism is on the rise in places like the Sahel and Mozambique.

Kenya campaigned for the security council seat on a ten-point agenda including among other goals, promoting regional peace and security; countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism; and environment and climate change. The non-permanent seat gives Kenya a platform to highlight the urgency in resolving these challenges especially from an African perspective.

Given that Kenya is also a member of the African Union Peace and Security Council for a three-year term ending March 2022, its membership at the UN Security Council, provides a link between the two bodies in prioritizing Africa’s security issues and finding lasting solutions to the conflicts and crises in various parts of the continent.

With perhaps the exception of the conflict in Libya, where major powers are embroiled in proxy wars over the valuable oil resources, other conflicts in Africa have largely been neglected. For instance, the religious violence in Central Africa Republic involving Muslim and Christian groups, has been taking place since 2013.

Kenya has played an important role in attempts to resolve many of these conflicts such as the war in Eastern DRC. Kenya recently deployed troops there as part of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).

The political instability in Ethiopia and South Sudan has profound ramifications for countries in the Horn of Africa and the global community if allowed to escalate into full blown humanitarian crises, with global aid agencies already sounding alarm over famine in the war-ravaged Tigray region of Ethiopia.

Kenya and other African members of the UN Security Council have been pushing for a ceasefire and dialogue to end the crisis in Tigray.  Known as the A3 plus 1 (Kenya, Tunisia, Niger and Saint Vincent and Grenadines) backed an AU inquiry into atrocities committed during the conflict.

Among the countries that helped end the civil strife in South Sudan, Kenya played an instrumental role by hosting the warring parties in talks leading to independence. The international community should not allow South Sudan to regress into internecine turmoil and should instead support regional efforts to restore political stability in that country.

The international community also needs to urgently support African countries in eradicating armed extremist groups like Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and the various Islamic State and Al-Qaeda affiliates spreading their tentacles on the continent. With the recent events in Afghanistan, the threat posed by these groups to regional stability requires serious attention.

As a country that has suffered attacks by terrorists in the past, Kenya has stepped up counter-terrorism efforts including prevention of violent extremism. Through its UNSC leadership role, Kenya is better positioned to lobby greater international cooperation in the confronting and defeating extremism on African soil.

Then there is the simmering row over the Grand Renaissance Ethiopian Dam (GERD) pitting Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, and which is linked to the decades-long dispute over the sharing of the waters of the River Nile. Kenya recently backed AU-mediated talks and has even urged the UN to allow for an AU-led process to resolve the GERD dispute.

Climate change is now considered among the greatest threats to global security. In 2007, the UN security council recognized climate change as a core security issue. Again, this is one area where Kenya’s contribution as a non-permanent member of the UNSC will matter in terms of highlighting the concerns of the developing nations who are increasingly shouldering the worst impacts of the unfolding global climate crisis including food insecurity, extreme weather events and water scarcity.

In campaigning for the security council seat, Kenya committed to act as a bridge and consensus builder between the powerful group comprising the five permanent members –US, UK, Russia, China and France – who also hold veto powers over the council’s decision, and the non-permanent member States as well as the Peacebuilding Commission, and the UN General Assembly.

This consensus-building role will be crucial in ensuring that the interests of African nations and the Global South at large are integrated into the highest level of the UNSC decision-making process.

While her influence at the UNSC may be limited by dint of being a non-permanent member, holding the rotational presidency of one of the UN’s most powerful organs accords Kenya the perfect opportunity to articulate the African agenda and get the world to take the continent’s security challenges more seriously and urgently.

Having played a major role in mediating conflicts in the East and Central Africa region and contributing troops to peacekeeping missions around the world, Kenya has a discernible track record in promoting international peace and security.

In a nutshell, Kenya can use her stewardship at the UNSC to push for closer cooperation between the international community and African countries in sustainably tackling the continent’s and the world’s most pressing security challenges.

Mr. Choto is a legal and policy analyst based in Nairobi. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

United Green Movement (UGM) party has protested plans by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to enrol Kenyans in select countries to take part in the 2022 General Election.

The party said all Kenyans across the world are entitled to vote back home and should be given a chance to do so because it is their democratic right.

Augustine Neto, a co-party leader of UGM said the move by the electoral body to list new voters from 6 countries over and above the five listed in the 2017 election will deny hundreds of thousands of voters in the other countries a chance to exercise their right as enshrined in the Constitution.

“Nothing stops the IEBC from having a Returning Officer in each of the Kenya’s Foreign Missions and Embassies abroad, albeit periodically, or even through secondment to deal with the issues of diaspora voter registration, apart from its ineptitude and the lack of will power to think out of the box,” said Neto who is a former MP for Ndhiwa.

IEBC said it plans to list new voters in South Sudan, USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates which met the minimum requirement of 3,000 voters.

The six new voting stations in the diaspora, have now been classified as Kenya’s 48th county.

The six are additional to the existing Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Africa, which participated in the 2017 presidential election.

With IEBC undertaking an enhanced Mass Voter Registration exercise targeting six million voters, Neto said that target can be achieved easily if all eligible Kenyans abroad are included.

 

According to the 2019 World Bank report, majority of Kenyans in the diaspora were in the USA (600,000), while the UK had 300,000, Canada 200,000, European Union at 100,000, as South Africa and South Sudan each had 8,000.

The former Ndhiwa MP has also threatened a class action suit suing the Registrar of Person for delaying in the issuance of identity cards to youth in Garissa, Lamu and Tana River counties years after they filed their applications.

“We were in Garissa County where we were doing a tour. Young people in the county as well as in Lamu and Tana River have been denied access to identification cards due to the stereotype that people with Somali descent as well as those living in the coastal line are linked to terrorism activities,” Neto said.

In particular he pointed out that while Section 5 of the Registration of Person Act stipulates 30 days as the waiting period, some applicants have waited for long to receive the document that will ensure they register as voters.

The UGM party has called on the electoral commission chaired by Wafula Chebukati to find innovative ways to mobilize Kenyans to register as voters, especially the youth.

IEBC last week said it aims to register six million new voters who have attained the age if 18 years and have acquired national identification cards or have valid passports, or other citizens who were not registered in previous registrations. By Irene Mwangi, Capital News

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