Protests banned in Juba as South Sudan inaugurates new parliament

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Security forces patrolled South Sudan's capital Juba on Monday and many shops were shut as the authorities warned of a tough crackdown against anyone planning to join a planned protest against the government. This as President Kiir inaugurated the country's new parliament.

“We deployed the forces at least to keep order in case of any problem. Those forces are in the streets for your safety," said police spokesperson Daniel Justin Boulogne. The police said earlier that organizers did not get a permit, so any protest would be illegal.

The demonstration was to coincide with President Salva Kiir's inauguration of a newly created national parliament, a key condition of a 2018 peace deal that ended South Sudan's brutal civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people.

The National Assembly now has 588 MPs from the governing party and rebel factions that signed the truce. The agreement includes a power-sharing deal between former foes Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar.

The People's Coalition for Civil Action (PCCA) -- a broad-based coalition of activists, academics, lawyers, and former government officials -- has described the current regime as "a bankrupt political system that has become so dangerous and has subjected our people to immense suffering".

The government has taken a hard line against the collective and its calls for a peaceful public uprising, arresting at least eight activists and detaining three journalists this month in connection with the demonstrations, according to rights groups.

Although the protest organisers urged the public to come out in force, the mood in Juba on Monday was decidedly subdued, with residents telling AFP they were nervous to leave home.

"The authorities are panicking," said activist Jame David Kolok, of Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance. Kolok and others accuse Kiir’s government of fraud and oppression and disregarding the needs of South Sudanese.

Internet blackout

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Lt Gen. James Pui Yak said Sunday that authorities would not "harm anybody" to break up any demonstrations.

"They are just going to advise people ... to go on with their normal lives, we don’t want any disruption,” he said.

The US embassy in Juba has asked its citizens to avoid the areas where protesters may assemble, urging them to "exercise caution".

Meanwhile, South Sudan has had "significant disruption to internet service in South Sudan beginning Sunday evening, including to leading cellular networks," Alp Toker, director of NetBlocks, a London-based group that monitors internet disruptions said.

Information Minister Michael Makuei dismissed reports of an internet shutdown, after users reported problems with accessing two of the country's main networks, Zain and MTN, saying any issues were due to technical troubles.

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