A Philly man’s detention in Africa shouldn’t be ignored

Published 9:30 am Friday, August 10, 2018

When good people fight for freedom and peace, the rest of us should fight for them.

On July 28, such a man was thrown into a South Sudanese hellhole innocuously called “The Blue House” because of the blue tinting on its windows.

People who know Peter Biar Ajak will tell you he is brilliant. His degrees from LaSalle University, the Harvard Kennedy School, and his now-interrupted doctoral program at the University of Cambridge in England reveal his scholarly abilities.

His work as chairman of the South Sudan Young Leaders Forum and other groups that promote freedom and democracy reveal his nature. And they have made Ajak the target of South Sudan’s corruptocracy.

Recognizing the power of freedom to release the potential of both individuals and democracies, Ajak knows the first step is for peace. These endeavors make him an enemy of the South Sudanese government and a friend to us.

Ajak came to the U.S. as a “Lost Boy,” one of over 40,000 child refugees from the Sudanese civil war that ravaged the country from 1987 to 2005. Benefitting from the generosity of a Philadelphia family, Ajak graduated from Philly’s Central High School, then went onto LaSalle and earned his master’s degree at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“He is a true patriot and humanitarian,” declared Delaware state Sen. Anthony Delcollo, Ajak’s classmate at LaSalle, who said the two spent a great deal of time discussing philosophy and politics

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., is calling for Ajak’s immediate release, stating, “The arrest of Peter Ajak at a time when the United States and its Troika partners, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and the African Union are encouraging a truly inclusive process undermines the credibility of the government’s claim that it wants peace.”

This bipartisan call to action is not and should not fall prey to the typical Democrat versus Republican “gotcha” gamesmanship you see played out on cable and broadcast TV news.

When men and women legally come to our country and work hard to better themselves, their home countries and the relationships between our countries, the debate should be how this will be achieved, not whether they should be jailed for fear that others might follow.

Tyrants like South Sudan president Salva Kiir Mayardit show fear, not strength, when they imprison good people, like Ajak, who promote peace and freedom.

As Americans, we celebrate these expressions every day without fear of government retribution.

No one goes to jail. Ajak envisions a South Sudan where leaders are chosen by honest elections, not bullets. He envisions a world where disagreements lead to understanding and solutions, not torture and arbitrary incarceration.

These beliefs always cause great fear among dictators.

This is why Kiir’s government passed the National Security Act in 2014, allowing the arrest – without cause — of anyone suspected of committing “crimes” against the state.

Ajak is now imprisoned in the notorious Blue House where people whose only crime was to express their opinion have died of starvation.

Imagine if the women on “The View” were to broadcast from Sudan or South Sudan. They would never be heard from again.

South Sudan’s “President,” Kiir, needs a new fear: the fear of total worldwide rejection for his cowardly and autocratic conduct.

You can help to achieve this and, hopefully, secure the release of Ajak along with many others. Call, write and email your representatives in the U.S. Senate and House and tell them to call upon South Sudan to release Peter Biar Ajak immediately.

Should you be successful, I believe we will all watch Ajak achieve peace and prosperity in a country that should be our partner, not our dependent.

RICK JENSEN is an annoying, award-winning Delaware talk show host and equally annoying national columnist. Email rick@DBCMedia.com.