December 8, 2013 (RUMBEK) - Authorities in Lakes state’s Rumbek Central county have announced the release of three traditional chiefs who have been detained since 16 November after reportedly criticising the military caretaker governor.
During a meeting held at Akon Buoi town hall, governor Matur Chut Dhuol requested that local chiefs speak with their respective clans to try and calm the cycle of cattle raiding and violence in the region.
However, the chiefs responded by questioning the legality of the governor’s tenure and accused him for making disparaging comments about the women of Malek payam (district).
On Friday, Rumbek Central county commissioner Abraham Mayen Kuc, announced that the chiefs had been released, without providing any further details about whether charges had been laid.
Mayen said the chiefs had initially refused to hand over suspects in murder cases from their communities, but have now agreed to do so.
“We have released them, and they are going to fulfil the mandate given to them by local government. The reason for their arrest was the fact that it is connected with security concerns. So they failed to hand in the culprits who killed people”, he said.
However, Mayen did not provide further details about the circumstances of the alleged killings or the numbers of youth suspected to be involved.
The claim was strongly rejected by lawmakers in Lakes state’s legislative assembly, who maintained the detention of the chiefs was political.
Mabor Alier, one of the chiefs detained at Langcok military prison, told reporters that no charges had been laid against them.
“They military custody guards told us in the morning that we are free – they told us ‘you go home and continue your normal duties’ - they did not tell us what mistake we had committed”, said Alier.
Alier alleged they had been beaten and mistreated while in custody, and had also witnessed other inhuman conditions and treatment.
“The administration in Langcok is acting as [though] they are receiving instruction from heaven … and everyone is frustrated completely, and some are crying of why [people are] voting the SPLM into power”, he added.
Alier urged South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayrdit to review policies imposed on Lakes state populations, saying the current situation was likely to bring an “explosion of frustration” unless change was implemented.
“We three chiefs taken for arrest at Langcok were mistreated, they chained us like criminal. This is what we have seen, and those prisoners detained are being beaten; detained suspects of crimes are always beaten because of crime they committed,” he said.
He called on lawmakers and activists to step up efforts to end military rule, calling on authorities to immediately end arbitrary arrests and other policies in violation of human rights.