South Sudan Shuts Down Internet As Activists Plan “Mass Protests” Against Kiir
Internet access in South Sudan has been severely curtailed and phone services limited as the authorities scuttle a planned nationwide protest against the country’s political leadership.
Internet monitoring site NetBlocks confirmed the disruption.
There’s a heavy deployment of the military in the capital Juba.
A coalition of activist groups reiterated their call on Sunday for rallies demanding Kiir’s resignation. However, there was no sign by mid-afternoon of big street gatherings in Juba. Some activists told Reuters they were in hiding for security reasons.
The activists accuse Kiir’s government of corruption and failing to protect the population or provide basic services. The government has repeatedly denied allegations from rights and advocacy groups of abuses and corruption.
Rights groups in South Sudan say security forces have arrested several people, including activists and a bishop, ahead of planned protests on Monday. A police spokesman denied the arrests.
Police said the activists had not sought permission to protest and therefore any large demonstration would be illegal.
“We deployed the forces at least to keep order in case of any problem. Those forces are in the streets for your safety,” police spokesperson Daniel Justin Boulogne said.
Activists said authorities in are clearly worried about Monday’s demonstrations.
Addressing lawmakers as he opened a new session of parliament, Kiir termed those behind the calls as people “who wish us ill”.
“Improving the wellbeing of our people is our priority,” he said.
Civil society groups say a bishop in the town of Yei has been detained for alleged links to the protest organisers.
A radio station was also forced off air in Jonglei state over fears it would be used to mobilise people. Many in South Sudan blame the feuding politicians for what’s gone wrong since independence a decade ago.
That includes the civil war and staggering levels of corruption. The failure to implement a peace deal has also left the country extremely precarious and still at risk of further conflict.
The same politicians are keen to stop the protests gaining any momentum.