• Noah Issa Philip, Wani Michael

OPINION: Is criticism worse than rebellion?

Noah Issa Phillip and Wani Michael, Juba

According to the World Press Freedom index, 15 out of 56 African countries are listed as countries with press freedom. South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya do not make the cut.

As a result, South Sudan’s youths and journalists continue to suffer. A key advocate in this respect is Wani Michael, executive director of Okay Africa Foundation and youth representative to the National Constitution Amendment Committee. Michael is a committed campaigner for the rights of every citizen to freedom of speech and opinions.

In a post on his Facebook page yesterday evening, Wani responded to the recent imprisonment of singer Larson Angok with the view that South Sudanese government treats criticism worse than rebellion.

'In South Sudan, you criticised the government and President Kiir. They come after you with all sort of intimidation, arrest and sometime they’ll even kill you. Whereas, those who pick arms against the government and kill our people are always given heroic welcome. Always rewarded with political positions and resources, some of the people who rebelled against the government are now the billionaires in town', he wrote.

'Absolutely, very sad that government celebrate and reward those who pick arms against them but torture those who use non-violent means to express their frustrations. That’s not the South Sudan we want', Michael argued.

As a member of the National Constitution Amendment Committee, Wani pointed out that South Sudan's constitution explicitly allows for the the right to freedom of expression. However, he lamented the extent to which this is respected by the government.

'Our Constitution guarantee the right to expression and association, there’s absolutely no problem with citizens criticizing and seeking answers from their leaders. It might reach to a point where you might have to arrest millions of innocent angry and hungry people', he said.

In his post, he asserted that the biggest threat to President Kiir is not those who take up arms against the government but instead those suffering citizens who struggle to feed their families.

Wani's comments came following the arrest of singer Larson Angok, who was detained in Wau this week after he wrote a song mocking the government.

'So saddened to hear your arbitrary arrest in Wau Mr. Larson Angok, your only crime is speaking out in a non-violent way and wanting the better South Sudan for all. They might torture your physical body and mind but I know your spirit is high. We demand for Larson Angok immediate release. It is time for the young people to stand in solidarity with each other. Today is Larson, tomorrow might be you or me. We must resist this sort of intimidation!'

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