A renowned South Sudanese scholar has been placed on administrative leave by the University of Juba following an article he wrote critical of the government’s support for the current number of states.
Professor Taban Lo Liong was suspended without pay, pending an internal investigation by a committee yet to be constituted.
The university administration cited a recent public letter written by Profesor Lo Liyong as a reason for his temporary dismissal.
In a long article published by various media outlets last week, Lo Liyong wrote about his objection on the current number of states.
In the public letter, the professor criticized the rationale behind the creation and backing of the current 32 states.
In a subsequent interview with Eye Radio, Lo Liyong called on President Salva Kiir to reverse the decision for creating the 32 states, arguing that dissolving the previous 10 states was “illegal and uncalled for.”
He contended that the creation of the 32 states was purported by politicians to control resources, grab land and deprive other communities of their rights to own resources.
“There are people who created this to corner the resources of the country to help them and look up to their political and economic affairs… [but] constitution doesn’t work like that,” said Professor Lo Liyong.
The Professor made public his views at a time when the U.S Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau of African Affairs, Ambassador Tibor P. Nagy was visiting Juba.
Lo Liyong called on the Trump administration to exert more pressure on Kiir’s government to revert to 10 states inherited from Khartoum in 2011.
In reponse, the administration of the University of Juba suspended Professor Lo Liyong from his duties.
In a letter seen by Eye Radio, the administration described Lo Liyong’s views as an abuse of the right to self-expression because the comments “amount to incitement of ethnic hatred.”
It also charges the professor for “bringing the name of the University of Juba into disrepute.”
“Based on the above concerns, the Vice-Chancellor has directed your suspension from your duties…pending investigation by a committee to be constituted to look into the case,” the letter reads.
The letter which was signed by the Director of Human Resource Management, Edward Lado Ayira noted that the suspension begins on February 10th, 2020.
Professor Taban Lo Liyong is the author of several books, opinion articles and poems.
He is described as one of Africa’s well-known poets and writers of fiction and literary criticism.
His political views, as well as his on-going denigration of the post-colonial system of education in East Africa, have inspired criticism and controversy since the late 1960s
His letter on the determination of the number and boundaries of the states comes at a time when South Sudanese leaders have failed to agree on a political compromise.
President has often insisted that more states would promote self-governance, self-reliance, and self-development across the country.
Determining the number of states is among the tasks that are meant to be completed before the formation of a government of national unity next week.
Professor Taban Lo Liyong believes the stalemate over the number and boundaries of states is because “some people are pushing President Kiir to cover illegality so that they get resources and give them to a particular community.”
Taban Lo Liyong lectures at the School of Education at the University of Juba, South Sudan.
President Salva Kiir is the Chancellor of the University of Juba and other public universities in the country.
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