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The Long Road to Democracy in South Sudan

Main Stage




  • Peter Ajak explained the circumstances surrounding his imprisonment and release from prison. During his two-year detainment as a political prisoner, he was kept in solitary confinement and routinely subject to torture. Upon his release in early 2020, he travelled to Nairobi, only to learn that the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, was once again after him. He escaped a death squad sent by the president and, a month ago, safely arrived in Washington, D.C., where he currently resides.
  • South Sudan, the world’s newest nation-state, gained independence in 2011. Only two years later, the country descended into a civil war that, according to Ajak, came about as a result of the country’s leaders’ endeavors to exploit ethnic divisions. Since the war began, 12 peace agreements have been signed, but all have been dishonored. The last agreement was signed in 2018; implementation of the terms of this agreement only began in early 2020, and implementation currently remains at an impasse.
  • South Sudan has not had a single presidential election since the country gained its independence. Ajak asserted that President Kiir has continually used the civil war as an excuse to postpone elections.

“If March 2022 comes and there are no elections in South Sudan, we hope that the world will stand with us and force Salva Kiir to exit,” Peter Ajak


Key takeaways & next steps:

  • The latest peace agreement clearly states that presidential elections must be held by March 2022. Ajak called upon all actors to hold President Kiir accountable to this timeline. It is especially vital for states that shepherded South Sudan’s independence—many countries in the African Union, the U.S., the UK, and Norway—to put pressure on President Kiir.


Session Speakers