June 30, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese government says rebels under the leadership of former vice-president Riek Machar are demanding $1.5 million in ransom to release a Kenyan pilot it says delivered relief supplies to areas under the control of the opposition group last month.
In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Monday, South Sudan’s embassy in Kenya said rebels had kidnapped the Kenyan pilot and seized his plane while he was delivering food items in Jonglei state.
The embassy described the actions of rebel forces as an “act of terror”.
“It was later on learnt that the rebels wanted ransom of$ 1.5 million in return for the release of the pilot and the plane,” the embassy said in the statement.
“This is an act of terror and the international [community] should come out and fight it to finish whether it is practiced by Riek Machar in South Sudan, Boko Haram in Nigeria or Al-shabaab in Somalia. Terrorism is the same in Tora-Bora (in Afghanistan), as it is now the case in South Sudan, practised by the so-called White Army of Riek Machar,” the statement adds.
The embassy also expressed dismissed the stance taken by some members of the international community, saying it often places a blanket of blame on both sides whenever the rebels violate the ceasefire agreement.
“The embassy seizes this opportunity to appeal to the international community in general, and the countries in the region in particular, to rise to the occasion to fulfil their responsibility as the members of the community of nations to help inform the rebel [forces] of Riek Machar to do the right thing other than the acts of terrorism, killing, destruction and kidnapping,” the statement said.
Rebels said last month that the pilot was captured after they foiled an assassination attempt on its senior command leadership.
They said a charter plane carrying the would-be assassin and pilot Philip Kipkoech Murgor was intercepted on 2 June its return to Lou Nuer areas inside Jonglei state following a meeting with government officials in the capital, Juba.
A statement released by the rebel faction contained allegations that president Salva Kiir and several senior government officials, including foreign affairs minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin, were directly involved in the plot.
The government denied the claims.
The spokesperson for the South Sudanese army (SPLA), Philip Aguer, initially said he had knowledge of a plane being confiscated.