January 26, 2013 (JUBA) - Police in South Sudan’s Warrap state have arrested a traditional leader for allegedly recruiting and establishing a training camp for his own vigilante group - known as "home guards" - without seeking the consent of the government, sources from the area said Saturday.
Wek Deng Ariec, was arrested on Thursday 24 January after Gogrial West County commissioner, Makuc Aru Luac, reportedly visited the area to personally verify the reports.
The long-serving traditional leader, has been at odds with the state authorities due to repeated reports alleging that he has been mobilising his community to support a campaign for his area to be annexed to neighbouring Western Bahr el Ghazal state.
Wek Deng Ariec’s relatives and area MPs in the Warrap and Juba based-central government denied that the chief was recruiting and establishing training camp without the knowledge of the state authorities.
“I am not aware of this development. I have never heard that the chief Wek Deng Ariec has been recruiting and opened training camp for community police. Such charges appear to be a new tactic by authorities. This is just a political propaganda. There is nothing substantive about these reports”, an MP who represents the area at the national parliament in Juba told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
The legislator questioned the basis on which the arrest was made - chiefs are given immunity not to be arbitrarily arrested without following clear legal and administrative procedures under South Sudan’s Local Government Act.
Machok Majong, another national-level MP from the area said Saturday that he did not want to make comments about the incident because he only had “crude information about the incident”.
Sudan Tribune was unable to reach Warrap’s minister of local government, Atem Atem, for comment on the incident, however, relatives claimed chief Ariec was arrested on the orders of the Warrap state governor, Nyandeng Malek.
A relative, who wished to remain anonymous told Sudan Tribune: “We want to tell you that Chief Wek Deng Ariec from Kuac South Payam, Wunkueldit boma under Gogrial West County has been arrested in Mangar military barrack since Thursday.
The directives for arrest came from the state governor and were enforced by the county commissioner who visited the area on Thursday."
Speaking from Kuacjok town, the capital of Warrap State on Friday the Ariec’s relative said: "We do not know the reason but they are claiming that he has recruited and opened police camp to train home guards without consent and approval of the state authorities.”
Vigilante groups in South Sudan are often known as "Home Guards". The most well known are the "Arrow Boys" from Western Equatoria state where young men organised themselves to protect the communities from the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group.
The Arrow Boys began with just bow and arrows but were later armed and recognised by the government.