December 23, 2013 (JUBA) - At least six officials from Northern Bahr el Ghazel have been arrested over alleged links to former South Sudanese vice president-turned rebel leader, Riek Machar, multiple sources told Sudan Tribune Monday.
Machar was last week accused by president Salva Kiir of being behind an alleged coup plot. The former vice president has has denied the accusations and accused Kiir of failure to carry out democratic reforms of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), South Sudan’s ruling party.
Sources say the officials arrested are: Chief Garang Akoon, Lual Lual Adiem, Aguer Geng Akol, Duer Duer, Akol Geng and Aduong Lual Aduong.
They are reportedly being detained at two separate locations on the orders of Aweil East county commissioner, Awet Kiir Awet.
Five of the officials, all civilians, were arrested in Wunyiik military headquarters, some 12 miles north of the state capital, Aweil. The sixth official was arrested in Warawar, in an illegal facility allegedly created by the Governor Paul Malong Awan for critics of his administration.
State authorities in Northern Bahr el Ghazal are said to have interpreted the critical views expressed by the detained officials to mean support for Riek Machar. The generals in command of South Sudan’s army (SPLA) in Jonglei and Unity state defected last week in opposition to President Kiir.
Machar went on the run after his home in Juba was attacked on last week and now claims to be leading the rebellion from an unknown location. Both sides have agreed to negotiate but no progress has been announced as yet despite a delegation of senior East African being assigned with facilitating the talks.
A local legislator who spoke to Sudan Tribune but did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals said the officials are being detained in Warwar one of the illegal facilities where critics of the state administration are detained.
"You know these places are used by the state administration especially Governor Malong Awan and those close to him as detention centres for their critics. There is another one in Pariak and Majok. These are the places which governor Malong used as prison and detention centres for his opponents when he was the area commander," said the legislator.
"If you are taken to Majok Piny, your family and clan members, if they love you, will be forced to contribute cows and other things to appease Malong before you are released. Now it is used almost for the same purpose. It is now used to silence critics,” the legislator explained.
Meanwhile a local administrative officer told Sudan Tribune in a separate interview that he had differed with the commissioner over accusations labelled against the detained critics of the state administration.
"I differed with him [the commissioner] several times even the day he sent them [detained officials] to Wunyiik. I told him you are a leader you do not need to be emotional to those who point out areas where attention is required."
The official claims he told the commissioner: ’’It does not mean that they do not want you but that they would like to be on the right track. But he refused to listen and decided to interpreted critical views about performance of his administration to mean connection to ex- vice president,” the official who spoke from Wanyjok, the local administrative headquarters, said.
Since fighting broke out at the barracks of the Presidential Guard late on 15 December, 11 senior members of the SPLM have been detained in the capital, Juba.
Read all Sudan Tribune’s coverage of the crisis in South Sudan here:
The latest tweets on the crisis in South Sudan: