A relative said that on February 4, 2023, armed men, reportedly wearing Kenyan police uniforms, abducted Morris Mabior Awikjok Bak from his home in Nairobi and beat up his wife.
Two days later, a local newspaper in South Sudan, The Dawn, reported that Bak had been “extradited to Juba to face charges” for abusing government officials, citing sources in South Sudan’s National Security Service.
Efforts by family members in Kenya and South Sudan to find Bak have failed. Both governments have remained silent on the matter.
“When you approach someone for answers, and they give you nothing, … It leaves you feeling vulnerable,” one of Bak’s four wives said. “It is terrible. Like you have no rights.”
Bak, a former oil company employee and father of 22 children, fled South Sudan for Kenya in April 2021. He had reportedly been receiving threats from officials and leaders from his home area of Tonj, in Warrap state, whom he criticized. When he went missing in Nairobi, he was a refugee registered with Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs.
Kenya, a party to the 1951 United Nations and 1969 African refugee conventions, has committed to upholding the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. The principle of non-refoulement is the cornerstone of both conventions, prohibiting the forced return of refugees to a country where they would face threats to their lives or freedom on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. Countries hosting refugees and asylum seekers are also responsible for providing protection and ensuring their physical security.
Should South Sudan wish to extradite someone, the extradition process should be legal and transparent, conducted before an independent and impartial court, and should comply with the principle of non-refoulement.
If Kenyan authorities were involved in Bak’s “disappearance,” and if they facilitated his forced return to South Sudan, Kenya would be violating its obligations toward refugees and undermining its regional image as a country that seeks to protect human rights.
The authorities in both Kenya and South Sudan should come clean on the fate and whereabouts of Morris Mabior Awikjok Bak and end the anguish of his family.