South Sudan govt frees five more political detainees ahead of peace celebrations

By Deng Machol

Gov. Marko Lochapio
Gov. Marko Lochapio

Juba – South Sudan’s national security service on Thursday freed the last batch of political detainees ahead of the revitalized peace deal’s celebrations.

The release is in line with the September revitalized peace deal. It also compliance with the presidential directive.

In the aftermath of  signing  the revitalized peace deal, president Kiir administration early this month said it had allegedly freed atleast 20 political detainees and PoWs as  a gesture of goodwill.

A national security officer who declined to be named said the men were the last group of political detainees, who were being held by the national security service.

The Internal Security Bureau (ISB) said the release of the last remaining five POWs and detainees is part of trust building within the parties to the new peace deal.

“The South Sudan National Security Service (SSNSS) and Internal Security Bureau (ISB) do hereby inform the general public and the media that today, set free the prisoners of war, political detainees who were arrested and detained in connection to the insurgency and rebellion against the state,” ISB said in a statement issued in Juba.

It said the latest developments resonate with president Kiir order and the parties’ quest for peace building in the East Africa young nation.

“The ISB acting on the order of the president is releasing its last remaining political detainees and prisoners of the war, who have been arrested in connection with insurgency and rebellion against the state,” statement said in part.

The latest released also comes after the opposition leader Machar accepted to attend the peace celebrations but further asked president Kiir to release the remaining political detainees and prisoners of the war.

Among the freed, is SPLM – IO senior member Marko Lokidor Lochapio, who was the former rebel governor of Kapoeta State, in former Eastern Equatoria State. Lokidor was reportedly kidnapped from Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya last year.

Lokidor, who spoke on behalf of the released five POWs and political detainees, expressed their gratitude to President Kiir for his directive to release all the detainees in the country.

“Today we are very grateful as political detainees and we also want to thank the national security institution for protecting all the detainees,” Lokidor said. Adding that “We are happy for the signing of the revitalized agreement.”

Lokidor further urged the international community, including the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to fully support the implementation of the signed revitalized peace deal to return the country into peace and stability.

President Kiir, designated first vice president Machar, leader of the SPLM-iO, former detainees and several rebel groups on Sept. 12 signed a new power-sharing deal in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, aimed at ending five years of conflict that has killed tenth thousands of peace and has displaced 2.5 million prople from their homes, and further devastated the world’s youngest nation.

The new deal demanded the parties to free all prisoners detained, and further mentioned the ICRC as key facilitor for the release of people detained in relation to the conflict. But at the released on Thursday in the National Security premise, sometimes known as ‘blue house,’ there was no presence of the ICRC team.

However, the well-known political detainees, such as James Gatdet, activists Peter Biar, Samuel Dong and Aggrey Idris plus the young entrepreneur Kerbino Wol are reportedly still being held by the national security service without access to justice.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013 over the power struggling between president Kiir and his rival deputy Machar in the ruling party, SPLM, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world. The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

Kiir and Machar first signed a peace deal in August 2015, but collapsed within a months in July 2016, following renewed violence in the capital, Juba. The progress of the signed revitalized peace deal is yet to be determined.

Kiir administrations has scheduled the celebration of the revitalized peace deal on October 30 in Juba, Machar and other rebels leaders and plus the IGAD Head of the States are expected  to attend the celebrations.

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