2016 Tutu Fellow Peter Biar Ajak has been arrested in South Sudan by the South Sudan National Security Service. He has been held since 28 July 2018 without any charges being made public by the South Sudanese government. He is a Harvard and Cambridge graduate who has worked for peace in South Sudan and built bridges using a common passion in the country, wrestling. He recently formed the Center for Strategic Analyses and Research in Juba, South Sudan, a policy think tank that has at times been critical of the government. Peter has called for a grass roots movement to hold the government accountable on peace and has met with a broad range of groups to promote conversations amongst rivals as a means of establishing trust and a pathway to peace.
The ongoing detention of Peter Biar Ajak has been widely condemned and the South Sudanese government has been asked to charge or release him. In Juba, the Heads of Mission of Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have issued a statement saying they were 'deeply troubled by the arrest and ongoing detention,' and reminded the South Sudanese government of its own constitution that guarantees all citizens of the country liberty and security of person, due process, and freedom of expression and association.
Other organisations, including the South Sudan Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, the International Growth Center, the University of Cambridge, and the Atlantic Council, of which Biar Ajak is a Fellow, have called on the government to charge or release him. The hashtag #FreePeterBiar is trending upward on Twitter. Peter's family say that it is becoming increasingly difficult to gain access to him.
AFLI issued a statement on Twitter the day after he was arrested on behalf of the Archbishop Tutu Fellows. The statement reads:
The Archbishop Tutu Fellows of the African Leadership Institute are a diverse group of young leaders from 42 African countries working at the forefront of positive change on the African continent. The Tutu Fellows are deeply disturbed to learn that Dr Peter Biar Ajak, their fellow 2016 Tutu Fellow, was arrested on 28 July 2018 in South Sudan. Dr Ajak is a renowned rights defender, known for his activism for the achievement of peace, for which he has worked tirelessly and selflessly. Dr Ajak is the coordinator of South Sudan Young Leaders Forum; Senior Adviser for the International Growth Centre; and Founder of the Juba-based Centre for Strategic Analyses and Research. He has also been instrumental to the development of the South Sudan Development Plan; the South Sudan Growth Strategy; and South Sudan Vision 2040, among others.
We stand in solidarity with Dr Peter Biar Ajak and request his safe and immediate release.
South Sudan is a landlocked country in Eastern central Africa. It gained its independence from the Republic of Sudan in 2011 after a referendum that passed almost unanimously. It has seen years of ethnic violence and been in a civil war since 2013. Human rights organisations say that South Sudan’s government has a poor track record of tolerating dissent.