Why did Kenyan Police disrupt South Sudan Students’ meeting in Nairobi?

By Dak Buoth,

Nairobi, Kenya.

Members of South Sudan Students Association in Kenya gather for a press briefing in Nairobi, Kenya(Photo: file/supplied/Nyamilepedia)

Members of South Sudan Students Association in Kenya gather for a press briefing in Nairobi, Kenya(Photo: file/supplied/Nyamilepedia)

May 13th, 2018(Nyamilepedia) — The South Sudanese Students in Kenya were never treated as mere foreigners until yesterday afternoon when we were mishandled and denied our constitutional rights of association and assembly by the Kenyan police officers. What the Kenyan police officers did to us yesterday was not known to law.

We may be aliens by name but we are not foreigners in the eye of the law of Kenya. If at all there was anywhere we had gone wrong, they could have informed us beforehand through our leaders, and we could have appreciated it.

I do think it was not proper for trained police officers to come abruptly and blocked a meeting of about hundred or so students who have come from far and spent money and time to attend meeting of registered student welfare association.

I am fully convinced that the Kenyan police officers acted in breach of the bill of rights under chapter four of the constitution of Kenya 2010 and other International statutes such as the African union youth charter 2006 et cetera. To be specific, Article 4 subsection 33 (a), 36 (1) and 37 of Kenya constitution stipulates clearly that: every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes- freedom to seek, received or impart information or ideas.

We all know very well that people often acquired ideas or information through consultation and or meeting and so on and so forth. The same law says every person has the right to freedom of association, which includes the rights to form, join or participate in the activities of an association of any kind.

Try to see and quote the phrase ‘every person’ in the above-mentioned clauses. You will find and appreciate that the law does not says every person should enjoys the constitutional rights except foreigners or none locals.

We are all equal under the same law. The constitution of Kenya was crafted by brilliant drafters to protect and frees every person within its jurisdiction, and South Sudanese are no exception. Thus, what happened yesterday should not occur again. It was the third time in months that South Sudanese community meetings have been interfered with for no good reason at all.

In fact we are really crying foul following what happened yesterday in Nairobi Town. Fortnight ago, I was informed that Kenya police interrupted South Sudanese women’s meeting somewhere around Nairobi.

The Kenyan police went and stopped those women from carrying on with their peaceful meeting. When they were asked, I learned the police officers responded verbally that they were told these women did not notified the Embassy of South Sudan. Who said South Sudan embassy should be inform and give permission to south Sudanese in whatever they do?

Also, in March this year, almost six police officers stormed the unity state community in Kenya’s meeting at Pal restaurant along Tom Mboya Street, Nairobi. Though they left after serious talk, but we felt very unhappy with the way we were mishandled on that day.

We are feeling discriminated and don’t deserved this for sure. Up to now we are still wondering and asking what went wrong? Everybody ought to know that by virtue of us being close neighbors, we are an integral part of the Kenyan society. In this regard therefore South Sudanese students did not come to Kenya on condition to rent houses and study without reorganizing themselves in a meeting to befriend and share their reflections both in Kenya and South Sudan.

These behaviors of disrupting south Sudanese gatherings should stop forthwith because they are not helping us in any way. Such mistreatment only caused undesirable mistrust among our people. As from now, we should treat these cases as gone cases and move forward. I know many of our Kenyan friends including the President Kenyatta are not privy to this continues harassment of South Sudanese communities in Kenya.

President Uhuru as Rapporteur of IGAD on peace in South Sudan knows very well that the prevailing situations in Africa and South Sudan in particular require frequent discussions and dialogues every day and night until we find way forward.

I beg to reiterate that the Kenya constitution was not meant to be discriminative against aliens. We all respect the Kenyan police officers but those few who interfered with our peaceful activities yesterday are not law-abiding government officers, and they should be reminded and made aware of their constitutional duty to protect and provide adequate security to all citizens.

Nobody was born to be alien and remain so forever. And should anyone think so, he is highly mistaken. Somebody became an alien through circumstances that are common to Africa and the world generally.

HISTORY OF THE MEETING

Early last week but one, I met the SSSAK Chairman Mr. Ayuel Taupiny, Secretary General, Gatluak Chan and Organizing secretary Matai Muon. I later spoke to the council speaker, Mr Gatmai on the same. The trio and the latter gave me a brief that they were going to organized special meeting whose theme was ‘‘mentorship of students in hardship and welfare’’ at six eighty hotel, Nairobi.

At the same time, they informed me that they had invited few key South Sudan leaders on both sides of the political divides. After articulate explanations, I responded very positively. I told them it is good idea worth pursuing.

I added that this meeting would at the end of the day restore public confidence among the South Sudanese students in Kenya and that the SSSAK would rejuvenate and reinvent itself once again to be national student’s organization that contribute to nation building.

If I am not wrong, the meeting was designed to achieve two cardinal objectives: one was to create and provide a platform where South Sudanese learners can interact with their Leaders whether they like them or not. This is done to rally ourselves in support of peace back home in South Sudan.

We saw it fit that such gathering can enable students and their leaders to share their diverse views and challenges facing the country of South Sudan. We believe that there could be some sort of testimonies and truth telling in as far as the South Sudanese problem is concern.

Secondly, the student leaders want to use that occasion as fundraising forum. We hope many students would turn up in large number. And whatever amount they would ask audience to contribute on that day can be sufficient for conducting forthcoming student election that is expected in a few months’ time.

However, in our discussion, the only person whom we knew was going to be available was the former Higher education minister Dr. Adwok Nyaba and maybe the immediate former chief of staff, Paul Malong.

Nonetheless, many suspected that it was the latter’s invitation to the meeting that resulted to disruption of the meeting yesterday, and the government fear he would exposed them badly unlike his co-guests. On the other hands, we predict that those whom they invited on government sides or South Sudan embassy would not turn up on the material day for one reason or another.

Moreover, we said this invitation looks somehow like an honor, and should some of them failed to honor the invites, the meeting will go on as early planned. A few of you who have had access to social media starting tuesday evening might have come across or seen the joint banner bearing the photos of Dr. Adwok, Hon. Changson, Hon. Rebecca Nyandeng, Paul Malong, Hon. Pagan Amum not forgetting the Hon. Kim Gai Ruot.

Most of these leaders are in opposition with different parties except Hon. Kim who is now the sitting legislator at the East Africa legislative assembly based in Tanzania.  As soon as the banners went viral, it elicited several reactions. Some guys rushed to conclude that the South Sudan student’s association in Kenya (SSSAK) has now become rebel group. When I learned that no one responded on the government side, I realized there was going to be some counter strategies.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The meeting was scheduled for Saturday 12th May, 2018 at six eighty hotel at 11: 30 am. I left home late around 12: 00 pm. I had some few things to attend to first. And after completing my stuff at home, I left in hurry for the said meeting. While I was still in the vehicle, I soon saw a Facebook post from one colleague Majorous Kulang Jaal. His post reads: that six eighty Hotel which was the venue of the meeting had been seal off by the Kenya police, and that students aren’t allow to enter.

I immediately phoned him and he confirmed the same to me. I then became curious to know what really happened there. After a short while I alighted and waited for comrade Benjamin Ubur who was also coming for the same meeting. Before Ubur arrived, I received another phone call from my colleagues Daniel Yor. He repeated what Majorous said to me early that the police had blocked students from entering the six eighty hotel.

When Benjamin arrived where I waiting for him, I first briefed him about what I had been told by Majorous and Yor. We did not dismiss what the duo said to me. We then decided to walked to six eighty to see with our eyes what was going on there at. We went there with a hope that the matter would be settled down and the meeting would continue.

On arriving at six eighty, we found four Kenyan police officers standing with their guns at the hotel entrance. Unfortunately, we found the student leaders had left the hotel. I and Ubur went as if we were entering but we passed by.

As we turn around, we saw Mr. Adim Adim standing at the entrance of the former simmers hotel. We approached and asked him what happened, and where did the students go? He told us the students went to nation media building to address the press there.

Thereafter we went like we were going to nation center but we didn’t. We just saw them (students) standing in front of nation media building but we didn’t join them. We just passed because we didn’t like them going to the media too soon. As we trek further, we met one of our colleagues who knew what was going on from the beginning.

Three of us walked to nearby Kaldis restaurant and sat there to analyze the factors that prompted the disruption of the meeting and who could be behind the disruption of the students meeting and why. After half an hour, we were joined by Daniel Yor at the hotel. We continue chatting until I received a phone call from student council speaker Mr Gatmai asking our whereabouts. I told him where we were sitting. He then informed me that they were leaving Nation media building for Norwich Union building near Hilton hotel to hold press briefing there while sitting down.

I said it’s okay and that we would come there shortly which we did. We hurriedly finished taking our coffee drink and left for Norwich Union. We reached and found the Hall was full with angry students. Soon after we arrived the Chairman Mr Ayuel started reading out the press statement.

The moment student leaders finished talking, we were also given chance to comment on the matter. I then raised my hand and talk. Those who did not get live edition can find the live video at the SBS Dinka website. In my comments, I condemned that illegal act wholeheartedly. However, I didn’t want to blame the Kenya government and the South Sudan Embassy too quick as done by other speakers. I just urged the students present to be calm and allow their leaders to establish who was behind the blockage of the meeting.

Justifiably, I narrated from my experience as former leader of SSSAK that the South Sudan students Association in Kenya have been in existence for 13 years now, and the Kenya government and the South Sudan embassy had never interfered with our activities. Thus, I advised that it was too early to point fingers on them now. Some of you know that we have held several meetings, peaceful demonstrations and protest both in town and at the embassy premises without disruption. After two hours deliberation, we left the Norwich union building at 7:00 pm.

SSSAK LEADERS MADE MISTAKE OF WALKING AWAY TOO EARLY

I personally faulted the student leaders Ayuel, Gatmai, Bush, Gatluak, Matai and the rest of executives for rushing to the nation media too early before establishing the root of the matter at six eighty Hotel.

In my view, what they would have done was to remain standing at the entrance of the hotel until certain facts are established first and foremost. I also took blame for arriving late. If I was there early I would have advised that we remain and assemble outside the hotel and wait for all students to arrive first. We could have remained outside quietly without someone forcing his or her way inside the hotel. And after everybody had reached there, we could then seek to be address by the hotel management. The hotel management could have told us why our meeting was blocked at the eleventh hour without prior notice. We could have insisted for that failure to do so we can’t leave.

The police could have first applied teargas or shot in the air for us to know they really intended to do what they did yesterday. We know very well Kenya is liberal country that takes everybody seriously. Sometimes one can go to police station and make claims against certain person or event. And on hearing his or her claim, the police would come and stop the occasion based on what they were told by the complainant. In such occurrence, the people holding the meeting need to take courage talking to the police and disapproved the alleged claims with fact. This was what we can do yesterday.

Perhaps certain people approached the police earlier in the day and said weird things about the meeting, which we can just disapprove with fact, and our meeting can continue yesterday.

Sometimes Kenyan police likes and appreciate someone who knows his or her right, and who is not afraid of him. If we could have remained quiet and wait to be address by them first before walking away, thing could have work. You never know maybe they can say so and so said this and that to them and when we responded we can put it into minced meat. In the end they can allow us to proceed with our meeting. I strongly felt there no reason at all to walk away upon seeing the police at the entrance. We can even protest at the entrance why not. Good enough the hotel was a walking distance from the Governors’ office.

As I stated therein, south Sudanese students’ activities have never been interfered with by the Kenyan police or the embassy. I also know that South Sudan embassy in Nairobi still has great friends of SSSAK, the likes of Elizabeth Adicho, Barnaba Bol, Anyak Lual and Nyahok Puoch. The trio and others have made huge contribution to SSSAK.

Moreover, I said the fact that South Sudan students Association in Kenya is registered as none political organization does not mean its members should refrain from engaging in political discourse. As such, Students have rights to meet anybody that they prefer to consult on any matter. In fact these kinds of meetings are inspired by the recent revered handshake made by President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Right Honorable Raila Odinga.

The People like Adwok, mama Nyandeng, Changson, Paul Malong and the likes are not prisoners here in Kenya. And even if they are inmates which I doubt, they still have a right to be engaged and visited. How many times did President Uhuru and Salva Kiir meet their opponents? If not because President Kiir keeps hiding when he comes to Kenya we would like to meet him also with view to know what is driving our country at speed in the wrong direction. In light of the above, we had agreed and promised yesterday to hold the same meeting any time soon.

WAY FORWARD

Since we know we are doing the rights thing, there is no reason whatsoever to fear anyone. Going forward, the leadership of SSSAK should move with speed and form ‘SSSAK crisis management committee’’ whose mandate shall be to meet all the suspected institutions and groups that we think are behind the disruption of the student meeting yesterday.

That crisis management committee can burn the night oil and bring their report to the students within two weeks’ time. The first people to be approached are the hotel management. If it is found out that it was the South Sudan embassy officials who hired Kenyan police to disrupt the meeting, they owe us answers. We would then draw the line because our activities are not defined by the embassy rules and regulations but by the constitution of Kenya 2010.

The writer is former Leader of the South Sudan Students’ Association in Kenya (SSSAK), he can be reached for comments via eligodakb@yahoo.com


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