The situation of a former South Sudanese “Lost Boy” who was educated in Philly and became a political activist before being arrested in his homeland two weeks ago has grown considerably more dire.
Peter Biar Ajak, 34, an outspoken critic of the government of South Sudan, is now facing charges of alleged treason.
Ajak was charged just days ago with “Concealing Treason,” “Insurgency, Banditry, Sabotage or Terrorism,” Harbouring, Concealing or failing to report an Insurgent, Bandit, Saboteur, or Terrorist,” and “Publishing or communicating False Statements Prejudicial to South Sudan,” under the Penal Code Act of 2008, according to his friend and La Salle University classmate Aaron Spence.
Spence previously told Metro that Ajak was arrested on July 28 in Juba when he arrived in South Sudan to attend a youth rally. He was detained in a jail called “The Blue House” and allowed visits by his wife but not formally charged or given access to legal counsel.
The arrest came just days prior to the signing of a new peace treaty and power-sharing agreement by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and former rival leader Riek Machar.
South Sudan was formed in 2011, but descended into civil war shortly thereafter, which the treaty drew to a close.
Nonetheless, Ajak has been unrelentingly critical of South Sudan’s government, and has advocated for a so-called “generational exit,” a movement by young people demanding that older leaders vacate office. He even bashed the peace treaty on Twitter. “Is this supposed to be a joke? There’s nothing new in this document,” he tweeted over a picture of the peace treaty. “People of #SouthSudan should wake up and realize that nothing is coming from Addis Ababa! [the Ethiopian city where peace talks were held]. It’s time mobilize & organize to reclaim our country back!”
Are you serious? This all that you have got? @igadsecretariat, is this supposed to be a joke? There’s nothing new in this document. People of #SouthSudan should wake up and realize that nothing is coming from Addis Ababa! It’s time mobilize & organize to reclaim our country back! pic.twitter.com/Y09DZ716RV
— Peter Biar Ajak (@AjakPeter) May 22, 2018
About Peter Biar Ajak
Ajak studied at La Salle before attending Harvard and Cambridge University, where he is a doctoral candidate. He is a fellow at the International Growth Centre, former World Bank Employee, founder and director of the Sudan-based Center for Strategic Analyses and Research think tank, as well as the CEO of South Sudan Wrestling Entertainment, a wrestling organization which he says was created to help build national unity among Sudanese tribes.
Ajak was one of the 20,000 Lost Boys displaced by civil war in Sudan, 4,000 of whom who came to the U.S. to study. Now, as friends from around the world call for his release, they are increasingly fearful of his future in a nation known for long detentions of political prisoners – some of whom have been released, while others have disappeared or been sentenced to death.
Friends and supporters around the world have mobilized to build support for his release using the #FreePeterBiar hashtag. Some 30,000 people have signed a Change.org petition demanding his release and U.S. Senators Bob Casey, Marco Rubio, Cory Booker, Bob Menendez have expressed their support for his release.
“Peter is probably one of the most aggressive and outspoken individuals about the nature of politics in South Sudan,” Spence previously told Metro. “He’s a peaceful, nonviolent man, he wants what’s best for South Sudan, but to the people in power, it may come across as something different.”