February 28, 2014 (JUBA) – The paramount chief of Duk county in Jonglei state has been detained by rebels who overran several payams [districts] this week, the area lawmaker told Sudan Tribune Friday.
Philip Thon Leek, the MP representing Duk county in South Sudan’s Parliament said James Cuei Leek was detained by opposition forces on Wednesday in Duk Payuel, located about 200km north of Bor, the capital of Jonglei state.
"They abducted him in front of his children in Duk Payuel,” said Leek in an interview with Sudan Tribune in Juba.
Duk county authorities have accuse rebels of attacking villages earlier this week after allegedly being repulsed away by government forces from Gadiang, a military base in Jonglei.
Rebel spokesman, Lul Ruai Koang, accused the government forces of targeting Duk county civilians, though this has being refuted by the county authorities.
Duk county’s payams of Payuel, Patuonoi, Ager, Padiet and Mareng have been overrun by anti-government forces this week, commissioner Elijah Mocnom told Sudan Tribune on Thursday from Bor after escaping being arrested by rebels.
The traditional chief was arrested and detained for failing to show support for the rebels, MP Leek claimed.
The paramount chief’s wife was the last to see him on Thursday, Leek said.
"We urged the rebels not to harm the traditional chief," he appealed.
Duk Lost Boys clinic, the sole health facility in Duk county and neighboring Uror and Twic East counties, has been ransacked, MP Leek said.
"That clinic was the only (health) unit providing health facilities to a wide range of society," Leek said.
Duk Lost Boys clinic is being funded by South Sudanese in the United States, known as Lost Boys. The clinic is known for eye surgery.
Sudan Tribune was unable to reach the rebels for comment.
Duk county commissioner, Elijah Mocnom and MP Leek denied "false" claims by rebels that villages in the county were burned by government forces for mistaking them as being owned by members of the Nuer tribe.
Although the conflict began following political tension between senior members of South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM), much of the fighting has been between members President Salva Kiir’s Dinka tribe and the Nuer tribe of his ex-deputy Riek Machar, who now leads the rebellion.
Machar denies attempting to oust Kiir in an alleged coup attempt on December 15. President Kiir’s critics, however, claim he used the split in the army (SPLA) to silence his opponents.
The conflict spread to Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states, which all have significant Nuer populations. Both sides have been accused of committing atrocities against civilians.
"The SPLA are fighting rebels in Gadiang and there is no SPLA unit in Duk county," said Leek when asked who destroyed the villages of Mareng, Payuel and Ager in Jonglei on Tuesday.
When asked for a comment, South Sudan army spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer said government forces were focusing on protecting major towns.
He accused the rebels forces of burning villages in Duk county.
A second round of negotiations in Addis Ababa were due to have started over a week ago, but have been stalled due to rebel demands that Juba releases four political detainees and ask the Ugandan military to withdraw from the country.