Bari Community threatens election boycott over abuses by security forces
JUBA – Frustrated by continuous abuses against their people, Bari Community (BC) leaders in Juba have threatened to boycott the 2024 elections unless the government addresses a litany of atrocities.
In a statement on January 8th, Bari Community Chairman Stephen Pitia Lako condemned recent “deplorable human rights violations” by South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) against Bari residents of Kondokoro under the guise of disarmament.
The BC also reiterated its long standing position to have the capital city relocated from Juba to Ramciel – a plan that was resolved by the National Council of Ministers way back in September 2011.
According to the statement, SSPDF invaded the island in late December under false pretenses. When unable to find weapons, they detained and tortured locals, levying ransoms of up to 1 million South Sudanese pounds for their release.
“After not finding any weapons, SSPDF went on to arrest and kidnap several youths and elders as well as innocent foreigners mainly from East Africa who were working on the island,” the statement said.
Lako also accused security forces of selectively targeting Bari communities for disarmament operations while ignoring other groups.
This follows a long list of alleged land grabs, arrests, intimidation, and violence against the Bari over recent years. In 2011, the National Council of Ministers resolved to relocate the capital from Juba to Ramciel in part due to Bari grievances, but this has not occurred.
“For the way forward, the BC urged the government to address the list of atrocities the community continues to battle with or risk a full boycott of the 2024 elections,” Lako warned.
With national elections just a year away, community leaders hope their electoral threat will finally compel action from the government to address Bari concerns which are similar to the concerns of other communities.