South Sudan

Country Profile

Despite several attempted ceasefires, violence in South Sudan has increasingly split along ethnic lines, with massive human rights violations being committed by nearly every armed group involved in the conflict. Rape and sexual violence have been described as widespread weapons of war. The Agreement on the Resolution of Conflicts in South Sudan has effectively collapsed, and neither it nor the proposed national dialogue have brought about a shred of transitional justice to the country.

More than 2 million refugees have fled to six neighbouring countries, though most of them are in Uganda, while more than 4 million have been displaced by the fighting. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has warned that another US$1.4 billion is needed to provide “life-saving aid” to refugees until the end of the year, highlighting the very real possibility of a famine that could kill thousands.[1]

[1]    UNHCR, “Over US$1.4 billion needed for South Sudan refugees in 2017,” 15 May 2017,, Accessed 29 September 2017.

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Freedom of Association

On 22 May 2017, President Salva Kiir announced that he was no longer running the national dialogue he initiated in December 2016. Both international and domestic observers have criticised Kiir’s decision to act as “patron” of the dialogue – he abdicated this role so citizens would have more faith in the process.[1]

A report issued by Human Rights Watch on 31 May 2017 outlined how people with disabilities and older citizens in South Sudan face greater risks of being caught in fighting and greater challenges in getting necessary humanitarian assistance. Throughout the conflict, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases of people with disabilities and older people being shot, hacked to death, or burned alive in their houses by belligerents.[2]

On 19 August 2017, unknown armed men briefly abducted South Sudan rebel spokesman Paul Lam Gabriel in Uganda, but released him after police intervened.[3]

Freedom of Expression

On 8 June 2017, the South Sudan Media Authority banned 20 foreign journalists from entering or operating in the country for “unsubstantiated and unrealistic stories” with the potential to incite hate and violence in the country. The authority did not provide specific names or agencies included in the ban.[4] The ban was lifted in late June.[5]

Adil Faris Mayat, head of South Sudan’s state-owned national TV broadcaster SSBC, was arrested on 10 July 2017 for not providing live coverage of President Kiir’s speech on 9 July commemorating independence. Although Mayat attributed the failure to technical problems, the government considered it a “clear case of sabotage.” He was held incommunicado until his release on 19 July and was later fired from his position on 25 July.[6]

On 17 July 2017, South Sudanese authorities blocked access to several online news sites and blogs, including Paris-based Sudan Tribune and Dutch-backed Radio Tamazuj, as well as the popular blogs Nyamilepedia and Paanluel Wel. Minister of Information Michael Makuei Lueth accused the online news resources of publishing “subversive” content.[7]

American journalist Christopher Allen was killed on 26 August 2017 while reporting on fighting between government and rebel forces in Kaya, near the borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Allen had been embedded with opposition forces for two weeks. South Sudan army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said journalists who enter the country with rebel forces would not be protected stating that “anybody who comes attacking us with hostile forces will meet his fate.”[8]

[1]    Voice of America, “President No Longer Runs South Sudan National Dialogue,” 1 June 2017,, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[2]    Human Rights Watch, “South Sudan: People with Disabilities, Older People Face Danger,” 31 May 2017,, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[3]    Sudan Tribune, “S. Sudan rebel spokesperson abducted in Uganda, released,” 19 August 2017,, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[4] Reporters Without Borders, “South Sudan closes its borders to foreign reporters,” 12 June 2017,, Accessed 24 October 2017.

[5]    News 24, “S Sudan to lift ban on foreign journalists: media official,” 22 June 2017,, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[6]    Reporters Without Borders, “Journalist held incommunicado for past week in South Sudan,” 18 July 2017,, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[7]    Committee to Protect Journalists, “South Sudan authorities block access to at least four media websites,” 20 July 2017,, Accessed 29 September 2017.

[8]    Committee to Protect Journalists, “US freelancer Christopher Allen killed while reporting in South Sudan,” 29 August 2017,, Accessed 29 September 2017.

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“This Is Our Freedom. These Are Our Rights” Human rights defenders in South Sudan since July 2016

DefendDefenders examines the state of human rights defenders in South Sudan.

26 April 2018
Don’t Shoot the Messenger! Journalists as Human Rights Defenders in the East and Horn of Africa

DefendDefenders examines the challenges journalists face, and provides an overview of the various strategies they have used to circumvent and continue their work amid these restrictions

2 November 2017
Safeguarding Civil Society

A joint report with contributions from DefendDefenders' Technology team assesses Internet freedom and the digital resilience of civil society.

17 March 2017