Pagan Amum, a well-known South Sudanese politician who lives in the United States, is suing a member of his country’s diaspora for slander.
Amum says a South Sudanese woman who goes by the name of Amiria Ali posted videos on Facebook where she accused him of committing rape and murder — charges that Amum emphatically denies.
Amum recently got a restraining order against Ali, who lives in the same city he does: Denver, Colorado.
At the heart of his lawsuit, according to Amum, is Ali’s demonization of certain tribes.
“What is really dangerous … is the use of social media platforms, or the abuse rather, of social media platforms to generate hatred and demonization of people or individuals on tribal grounds,” Amum told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus earlier this week.
South Sudan’s ongoing civil war has broken down largely on tribal lines, with opponents of President Salva Kiir accusing him of trying to concentrate power and property in the hands of his Dinka tribe.
Amum, the former secretary-general of the ruling SPLM party, left South Sudan after accusing Kiir’s government of being “a kleptocracy, a system of thieves diverting, stealing and looting the resources of the nation” in 2015.
Amiria Ali denied threatening Amum or anyone else in the disaspora.
“All everybody have to [do is] find my record. I don’t hurt somebody, I don’t kill somebody, why they scared about me?” Ali told VOA. “Me the one, I need the security from Pagan, its not Pagan need security from me.”
Ali is due to appear in a Denver courtroom next Tuesday. She said she has the right to exercise free speech and will make that case in court.
“I have to defend myself. Pagan, he don’t have the right. He talks like he is my leader. He can’t take me to the court, why he don’t call the community first?” Ali asked.
Amum said online media such as Facebook can turn into platforms for hate speech.
“It ceased to become free speech and becomes hate speech when the content is inciting violence, is demonizing and dehumanizing persons for whatever reason they aim,” Amum said.
Amum said he realizes that public figures such as himself are often criticized, but said Ali’s accusations step over the line, and threaten the well-being and safety of his family and others.