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Participants during CPA’s project launched in Juba, South Sudan (17th, May, 2024)

May 17th, 2024 (Juba) – The Center for Peace and Advocacy has launched a workshop titled “Strengthening Engagement with Stakeholders on Freedom of Expression, Assembly, and Association” in preparation for the general election in South Sudan.

Mr. Pam Bayoch Gatluak, Assistant Executive Director of CPA, extended a warm welcome to all the distinguished guests representing various chairpersons in the parliament, National Elections Commission, Political Parties Council, National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC), CSO leaders, media outlets, and partners, on behalf of the Center for Peace and Advocacy (CPA).

I am pleased to announce the launch of our new project, which aims to foster meaningful engagement with stakeholders on the important topics of freedom of expression, assembly, and association. This initiative is particularly significant as it will pave the way for the upcoming general election in South Sudan.

Objectives of the Launch Meeting: Key stakeholders, including CSOs, journalists, youth leaders, parliamentarians, Media Authority members, Ministry of Information Communication and Postal Services members, police officers, and the Civil Society Coalition on Defense of Civic Space (CSCDCS), will convene to discuss project objectives, activities, and encourage participation from all stakeholders. An advocacy strategy will be developed and jointly agreed upon.

Consultative meeting with parliamentarians: CSOs will directly meet with members of parliament, specifically the members of the Special Committee on National Security, to discuss the National Security Service Act 2014 and push for its amendment.

CSO Workshop: A workshop on advocacy best practices related to association and assembly issues will be conducted, with 25 participants from selected CSOs and media groups attending. Key concerns regarding FOAA restrictions will be highlighted, along with the existing legal frameworks for FOAA protection.

Decision Maker workshop: A workshop will be held for 25 participants from government and decision-making bodies, where they can share their experiences related to Article 25 of South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution 2011. Proposed amendments to laws will be discussed, and a set of amendments to further protect FOAA will be agreed upon.

Radio Talk Show: CSOs will conduct an ongoing radio talk show to raise awareness about the importance of protected FOAA, especially in the lead-up to local and general elections.

Overall project overview: Civic space in South Sudan is severely restricted, with the country being rated “Not Free” in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Report 2024, receiving a Global Freedom Score of only 1/100. Sections 54 and 55 of the National Security Service Act 2014 Amendment Bill of 2023 are of particular concern for FOAA, as they grant security personnel broad powers to arrest, detain, monitor individuals, and search and seize property without a warrant. These powers are used to suppress CSOs, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, opinion leaders, and opposition leaders who criticize current policies and practices.

General elections are scheduled in South Sudan for December 2024. It is crucial that these restrictive laws be amended before the elections to allow CSOs and the public to voice their concerns and promote democratic transitions. Open lines of communication between civil society and security forces are also important to ensure awareness of the legal protections in place for FOAA and to encourage security forces to respect civil society and public demonstrations, especially in the lead-up to the elections. Strengthening relationships between civil society and decision-makers is necessary to gain support from decision-makers in reducing legislative restrictions to FOAA, particularly before the 2024 general elections.

In order to have meaningful engagement, the facilitator from the South Sudan Human Rights Commission emphasized the importance of engaging in both positive and negative discussions. These discussions will help shape the future of South Sudan.

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