January 19, 2014 (JUBA) - Authorities in South Sudan’s Warrap have arrested a senior community leader after he criticised the state government’s handling of security issues, lawmakers said on Sunday.
Karlos Maluil Makuek, deputy chairperson of the Apuk Padoc community and the lead coordinator of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) youth initiative in Warrap, had accused the state government of failing to tackle security concerns, claiming that fighting in the restive Unity state had spread to Warrap.
Neighbouring Unity state has become a stronghold of rebels aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar fighting to remove the central government under the leadership of president Salva Kiir Mayardit.
“I would like to inform you that comrade Karlos Maluil Makuek has been arrested. The governor ordered his arrest because he criticised her in the statement he released on Thursday”, an official who did not want to be identified told Sudan Tribune on Sunday from the capital, Kuacjok.
His arrest comes as community leaders in Apuk Padoc ordered the long-serving deputy chairman to resign from his post in the wake of remarks he made in the media.
In comments to Sudan Tribune on Thursday, Makuek said troops loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar had launched separate attacks in Warrap on Wednesday, leaving at least two people dead and driving out more than 400 head of cattle.
He said hundreds of women and children believed abducted by rebel fighters following the attacks remained unaccounted for.
Makuek had also called on the central government to deploy troops to protect the region, saying the response by state governor Nyandeng Malek had been inadequate.
A lawmaker in the state legislative assembly said authorities have intensified blatant harassment and intimidation of key critics and civic activists, allegedly as part of the ploy to limit criticisms.
He argued that the state administration had continued to detain and intimidate critics of the government since October 2013, when the governor appointed a cabinet without approval of the state parliament, generating harsh criticisms.
“One thing these people seem not to know is that by escalating the campaign to silence critics, they are emboldening them. They are actually worsening relations with the citizens”, the lawmaker said.
“As the member of parliament I have repeatedly told close ally of the governor that that they need to stop harassing critics and others who are voicing legitimate concerns”, explained the legislator.
Another legislator said Makuek’s arrest has generated political tension and criticism, amid claims the government was taking advantage of the developing security situation to silence critical views.
“This arrest is already creating political divisions and tensions which should be avoided by all means at this point in time. This is the time to forge understanding so that we stand in solidarity with the central government. It is not time to create division again. The government needs to spearhead these processes instead of arresting critics”, he said.
However, other senior community leaders have accused Makuek of making false statements about the alleged attacks.
In statement extended to media on Saturday, Apuk Padoc chairperson Awien Dal Madut, dismissed the incident as “normal cattle raiding activity in the area”, strongly denying any abductions took place.
“This is utterly false; there were no children that were abducted from the villages of Apuk Padoc or beyond”, Madut said.
“There was no fight before the cattle were taken and the two people who died passed on purely on accident grounds as the motive of these cattle thieves was not to kill people but to steal cattle”, he adds.
Madut said as a community leader it was “improper” for Makuek to be making politically motivated statements, accusing him of “gross misuse of executive powers”.
Madut said that information on the ground was that the number of cattle seized was about 15 and that all cattle had since been recovered.
According to the statement from the Apuk Padoc community, a number of Nuer cattle raiders had entered the Cir-kou Agurpiny section of Apuk Padoc at about 1pm (local time) with the purposes of stealing cattle.
The statement said several fishermen in the area were detained and forced to lead the group to the cattle grounds. All were later released unharmed.
Madut said community leaders had held an emergency meeting following the publication of Makuek’s remarks in the media and he had agreed to resign from his position.