WASHINGTON, DCU.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chris Coons (D-DE), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following joint statement on the reported detention of South Sudanese peace activist Peter Ajak. Booker is the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy.

“We are deeply concerned about the reported detention of South Sudanese peace activist Peter Biar Ajak by South Sudan’s National Security Service after his criticism of the direction of the South Sudanese peace process.  We are also troubled by reports that President Salva Kiir personally ordered a crackdown on government critics.

“The views of the South Sudanese people are a critical component of any successful and legitimate peace process in South Sudan.  This includes the participation of civil society, women, religious leaders, and other marginalized groups. A poorly constructed agreement based on the same power sharing formulas that have failed in the past, and that is missing these voices, is a recipe for continued conflict in South Sudan, not peace.  The arrest of Peter Ajak at a time when the United States and its Troika partners, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and the African Union are encouraging a truly inclusive process undermines the credibility of the government’s claim that it wants peace.

“We also continue to be gravely concerned by the forced disappearances of both Dong Samuel Luak, a well-respected South Sudanese human rights lawyer and activist, and Aggrey Idri, a vocal government critic and member of the opposition, from Nairobi in January of 2017, who were reportedly detained by South Sudan’s National Security Service without charge. South Sudanese authorities have failed to acknowledge their detention, bring charges, or release them.

“We call on the Government of South Sudan to release Peter Ajak and other political prisoners immediately, and respect the rule of law and fundamental freedoms that are necessary pillars of peace in South Sudan. We expect the government to implement its commitment during the talks in Khartoum to release detainees immediately. We urge South Sudan’s political leaders, including President Kiir and SPLM-IO leader Machar, to fully commit to truly inclusive negotiations, and to demonstrate the leadership necessary to bring genuine peace and accountable governance to South Sudan.”

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