‘You said what!,” Use of the word ‘stupid’ to become a criminal offence

Kiir loyalists in government are drafting a bill to be presented in parliament that criminalizes the use of the word ‘stupid’ with the intention to insult, sources in Juba tell Saakam.

The bill also proposes that offenders be charged with petty treason – a charge slightly lower than high treason – as the insult constitutes to disloyalty to the presidency, the government and to the people of South Sudan.

According to political observers and autobiographers of some of the most prominent loyalists, the bill is expected to be passed immediately and the President will sign it into law soon after the passing sometime this week.

This development comes just days after the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir and his antagonist rebel leader Dr. Riek Machar were called ‘stupid’ by an IGAD official for seemingly seeking a military victory rather than a mediated peaceful settlement to the crisis in the country.

If the bill is passed into law, sentences for offenders could vary from death by hanging for insulting a sworn loyalist or a high-ranking government official; a couple years imprisonment for insulting less senior officials; or indefinite detention at one of the many undisclosed national security centres.

Once sentenced, offenders can only be freed by a presidential pardon.

However, according to legal advisors who are not in the service of the loyalists, the bill does not include the use of other words or gestures that can inflict the same embarrassing damage as the insult itself, or mean the same or even worse than use of the English word ‘stupid’.

“You can still call someone ‘foolish’ or use one of the many synonyms of the word in other languages or dialects,” said Hawa Gom, a law student from the Juba University of Bor, Jonglei State.

“There are many ways and gestures for insulting someone as ‘stupid’. What this law does is reserve the use of the word for them and only them – the big guys.”

The only safe and inoffensive use of the word is when used to describe an act or person that is already at odds with the authorities. An example, taken from the draft bill, includes “stupid rebels”.