May 30, 2019
It’s time for Kenya, South Sudan to account for the enforced disappearance of Samuel Dong and Aggrey Idri
As news of the death of Samuel Dong Luak and Aggrey Ezboni Idri circulated recently, I felt extremely saddened and concerned about the region we live in. The enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killing of two outspoken critics of the South Sudanese government, by South Sudanese security services allegedly with the acquiescence of Kenyan authorities, and both states’ continuous denial of responsibilities, signals a worrying trend of disrespect for human life and insecurity for those who dare to speak up and challenge power.
Samuel Dong Luak was a prominent human rights lawyer, Secretary General of the South Sudan Law Society for over ten years, as well as a member of the South Sudan Constitutional Review Commission. Aggrey Ezboni Idri was an opposition leader, and member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO). In 2013, after receiving death threats for providing legal assistance to the former Secretary General of South Sudan’s governing party, Pagan Amum, who had been accused of “treason” by President Salva Kiir, Dong fled South Sudan and sought refuge in Kenya, where he was granted refugee status. The same year, Aggrey also relocated to Kenya after South Sudan descended into conflict.
The deceased lived with their families in the capital, Nairobi, until they were disappeared on 23 and 24 January 2017, respectively. Amnesty International, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and other human rights groups called on the governments of Kenya and South Sudan to reveal the fate or whereabouts of the two men, suspected to be held by Kenyan authorities before deportation. The families of the disappeared also mobilised; petitioning Kenya’s High Court to produce the two men in court, but the petition was dismissed as Kenya denied having them in its custody. The family later asked the police to conduct a thorough investigation, but a final judgment in January 2019 confirmed the dismissal of their petition and ended judicial oversight into police action with regard to the case. Yet, the Court had noted that the police investigation fell short of seeking information from South Sudanese authorities and potential key witnesses.