Q&A: Exiled lawyer says regime change ‘only way forward’ in South Sudan



Prominent civil society activist and lawyer Dong Samuel Luak sits for a Q&A interview in Nairobi on Friday, September 20, 2013 with The New Sudan Vision. NSV Photo.  

NSV: You’re a prominent lawyer and we hear that you’re in Kenya, in Nairobi, because your life was being threatened. This is a huge concern to the public in South Sudan and abroad. So tell us briefly why you’re in Nairobi and not in Juba.

Dong: I am in Nairobi because my life was threatened by the security in Juba and I received [threatening] text messages.  I was also sent individuals and I decided that I should not ignore those messages because that’s how we lost one of our colleaques, Isaiah Abraham, so I came to Nairobi.

NSV: You were saying that you were threatened.  Were they messages that one can just ignore or?


Dong: These messages were not coming just from anybody in South Sudan. They were coming from the top managers of the national security in South Sudan. It would have been unwise to ignore them.

NSV: What led to that?

-What led to that was, of course, it was our petition before the Supreme Court against the Chairman of the SPLM, who’s also the President of the Republic of South Sudan for violating the right and fundamental freedom of the secretary general of the SPLM. He was my client in that petition.  In addition to that was also the vetting process of Telar Ring, who was a nominee of the President for the ministry of justice. That also contributed to my safety [concern] in South Sudan.

NSV: You’re a citizen of South Sudan but you’re not in your country. How does that make you feel, knowing the long struggle that we’ve come from?

Of course I feel bad because we thought that the long struggle of our people, and the sacrifices made. We never thought that we will, again, have a government that will act like this and threaten the lives of its citizens, but it happened, so the only thing that the people have to do is organize and make sure that dictatorship is not allowed in South Sudan and the people of South Sudan should enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined in the transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. So it will be a continuous struggle to make sure that we live in a very democratic, civilized South Sudan.

NSV: What’s your reading about where we’re going? You mentioned dictatorship.

Dong: The future is not really worrying, the future of South Sudan. So if the leadership is not really accommodative to other views and also doesn’t respect the rights and freedoms of others, then definitely the country is going to be in problems. There’s a likelihood that there will be a confrontation between those who are fighting for their rights and those who trying to deny those people their rights.

NSV: Why, knowing the risks involved [in the profession]. Why have you been persistent all along; what’s the objective?

I’m persistent and consistent all along because it has been a long struggle. A lot of sacrifices were made and we can’t relent at the last moment when women and men of South Sudan voted overwhelmingly for them to have an independent country called South Sudan, where freedom of expression, thought and assembly are respected.  So that’s the bottom-line, that we sacrificed so that we have a very democratic country where rule of law prevails and human rights are respected. Less than that, we will not really---me personally I will not relent from those core values and principles. And that’s why I will consistently fight for the space to make sure that each and every citizen of South Sudan enjoy those rights and freedoms to the fullest.  

NSV: How long are you going to stay abroad? When are you going back?

Dong: I will be going back to South Sudan if the situation, which caused me to flee the country, is not any longer there. But as long as the security situation is not improving, I will be away from the country but  I will contribute from outside. 

NSV: What’s your message to civil society and other disgruntled elements?

Dong: The only way forward is that people need to organize themselves, as journalists, as trade unions, against this undemocratic move in South Sudan, where all the voices are being silenced or terminated. So organization is a key to resisting this dictatorship.

NSV: Are you calling for regime change?  

Dong: That’s the only way forward. If Kiir is still in power, I don’t think this country will move anywhere. 

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