South Sudan’s peace activists have called on the government to exert more efforts to tackle hate speech, which is rife since the East African nation pledged into civil war in December 2013.
Speaking during a one-day forum on hate speech Tuesday evening, the activists drawn from civil society, academia, law , diplomatic missions and humanitarian agencies said online and offline hate speech in South Sudan has increased violence, ethnic divisions and caused significant damage to stability of the war-torn country.
James Bidal, Communication Manager of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), said a recent survey shows that most of the hate speech came from South Sudanese living overseas who often share inflammatory posts and photos on social media networks.
The survey further reveals that hate speech increased levels of ethnic incitement, violence and panic among south Sudanese communities.
Bidal called for collective efforts from the government, civil society and the citizens to combat hate speech.
“Countering hate speech is a collective responsibility and all South Sudanese need to come together as ambassadors to tell people about dangers of hate speech and mitigate it from tiring our social fabric,” Bidal said.
Justine De Mayen, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said hate speech is a major cause of violence and disunity in South Sudan that must urgently be addressed.
“Hate speech is our number one enemy today. As people of South Sudan, our destiny is one. We can fight, we can quarrel but we need to put our differences behind us and put our country first,” Mayen said.
“Let’s do the right thing by discouraging hate speech and work for unity in South Sudan,” he added.
Nicodemus Ajak Bior, Commissioner of South Sudan Information Commission (SSIC), said the fight against hate speech needs to be expanded beyond the country to enable inter-state partnership in combating hate speech and also reinforce the legal system with relevant laws to punish perpetrators of hate speech.
“We have to enact legislations within our constitutional framework and harmonize our existing laws to counter hate speech,” Bior said.
In 2016, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein warned that rising ethnic expression, hate speech and incitement to violence against certain ethnic groups in South Sudan is highly dangerous and could result in mass atrocities if not reined in by community and political leaders at the highest levels. Enditem