On February 12, 2020, the University of Juba reportedly suspended Taban Lo Liyong, a professor of literary criticism, after he wrote an opinion article concerning the number of states currently in South Sudan.
Lo Liyong has publicly criticized a decision by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s government to dissolve the ten states that previously constituted the country, and reorganize the country into 32 states. According to Lo Liyong, the proposed division would lead to an inequitable and unlawful distribution of resources. In response to the article, the university accused Lo Liyong of inciting ethnic hatred and “bringing the university into disrepute.” He was reportedly placed on administrative leave without pay.
Scholars At Risk is concerned about disciplinary actions against a scholar in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression—conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. University authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with academic freedom or expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliation intended to punish such activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.