November 3, 2012 (JUBA) - Community leaders from South Sudan’s Twic County in Warrap state have strongly protested against the arrest of a youth leader by state government officials over household taxes.
The arrest of Atem Ayuen Atem, sources told Sudan Tribune, drew fury from community leaders, mainly chiefs and faith based groups in the county. Atem is a youth leader from Wunrok Payam [district].
Deng Ayuel, a member of the county’s youth executive council said Atem was “forcefully” picked up on Thursday evening by police allegedly acting under the directive of the Payam administrator, who was reportedly irked by a question the youth leader asked on the decision to impose “double” household tax.
Neither an arrest warrant, Ayuel said, was issued nor was the youth council reportedly informed prior to Atem’s forceful arrest.
“We were not notified. We were just surprised seeing him being forcefully pushed into the cell and have been denied talking to him since he was arrested. It is now going to three days,” Ayuel told Sudan Tribune by phone from Wunrok on Saturday.
Deng Ayuel Atem, in a separate interview, also confirmed the arrest of the youth leader, whom he said had been transferred from Wunrok to the Twic county.
“His arrest sounds like a joke, simply because it surprises someone can be arrested for asking a question. I actually did not believe when I heard it because I was not there until when I saw him in the cell,” he said.
He described his brother’s arrest by as an “attempt by the authorities to silence people”.
Majok Deng Aguer, the Wunrok Payam administrator on Saturday confirmed Atem’s arrest, but denied reports it was linked to the issue of household taxes.
The youth leader’s arrest, Aguer told Sudan Tribune, was allegedly because the former wanted to create “chaos” and used “disobedient and inappropriate words” during a community meeting.
“Those who you told [you] that he [Atem] has been arrested because of a question he asked about tax are lying. They have not told you the truth. The truth is that he was misbehaving in the meeting to the extent that some of the participants were complaining. Others left because of the noise he was making. Actually people told us that he is not mentally stable,” the Payam administrator said by phone.
Meanwhile, Malek Ring Makuei, the Twic County Commissioner also confirmed the youth leader’s arrest, saying efforts are underway to resolve the matter.
“I asked his transfer to Turalei after I received information that he was arrested because he wanted to fight [the] Payam administrator in the meeting”, said Makuei.
However, in another interview with Sudan Tribune, chief Ayuel Deng Longar denied reports that Atem tried to cause disorder at the meeting, an account which sharply contradicts earlier information provided by the state officials.
Atem’s arrest, he added, occurred in the aftermath of a 1 November meeting held in Wunrok payam. The meeting, with an agenda to discuss tax collection and amalgamation of chiefs in accordance with the local government orders, was attended by all executive chiefs and sub-chiefs from the area.