Economics affecting human rights, official says

11 Dec 2012

Economics affecting human rights, official says

10 December 2012 - Growing insecurity in South Sudan was due to economic inequality among its citizens, the country's Human Rights Commission chairman said today in Juba.

"We are seeing the impact of the economic situation on human rights," said Lawrence Korbandy, speaking during Human Rights Day celebrations at Juba's Nyakuron Cultural Centre.

"It is about those who have and those who do not," Mr. Korbundy said, adding that the government must take a heavy hand with criminals to restore peace.

The day's theme this year is "My Voice Counts", aimed at spotlighting people's rights to have their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making.

Civil society representative Edmund Yakani noted that 2012 had registered more cases of human rights violations than last year.

"It is hard for ... human rights defenders to ensure that human rights are respected," said Mr. Yakani. "What (does it mean that) my voice counts (but) I receive threats (when I speak)?"

Mr. Yakani said media houses were often threatened and journalists arbitrarily arrested, adding that some individuals had been misusing powers of public office to their advantage.

Reading a message from President Salva Kiir, Presidential Legal Advisor Tilar Deng Ring said the president had ordered a probe into the murder of journalist Isaiah Abraham, who was recently gunned down in Juba.

"We can blame others for the past, but we are responsible for what we do every day as we move on building this country," said President Kiir.

Special Representative of the Secretary General Hilde F. Johnson said fighting for human rights lay at the very heart of South Sudan's liberation struggle, including the right to have a voice and be heard.

Ms. Johnson also read Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's message for the day.

"In several parts of the world, we have seen alarming threats to hard-won gains in democratic governance," said Mr. Ban. "Civil society groups often faced growing pressures and restrictions with legislations introduced specifically targeting civil society organizations making it almost impossible for them to operate."

In other states across South Sudan, dance and drama dominated celebrations organized by UNMISS Human Rights units in partnership with state governments.

Local theatre groups in the Upper Nile State capital Malakal demonstrated human rights violations through traditional dances and drama performances. Acting Upper Nile Governor John Ebo Montu urged communities to end practices violating women's rights.

In Bentiu, Unity State, 31 civil society representatives participated in a three-day human rights training course. UNMISS Human Rights Unit opened a Human Rights Resource Centre at the State Assembly building and launched weekly human rights classes at Bentiu Lich University.

At a public gathering in Rumbek, Lakes State, Minister of Rural Development Daniel Chol Koknyin said South Sudan's independence had been achieved so that people could build their nation and be treated equally, rather than die in cattle raids.

"There is still long way to go," he said. "We are not fully free from disease, hunger and internal conflict. We (need) to unite against these enemies," he said.

As hundreds of Jonglei State residents commemorated the day in Bor on 9 December, County Commissioner Agot Alier said the government would work hard to create a free and fair environment where women and children lived decent lives.
At Ariathdit Primary School in Aweil, Northern Bahr El-Ghazal, UNMISS Human Rights Officer Shilla Kim urged children and civil societies to work hard to ensure inclusion for all, while Ministry of Social Development Director General Joseph Madut Mou said his ministry would take all measures to prevent early and forced marriage.

In Torit, Eastern Equatoria State, Deputy Governor Jerome Gama Surur called on state citizens to give equal opportunities to girls and boys.

"We should not send boys to school and condemn our daughters to remain at home and do all the household activities, but give both equal chances," he said.