July 30, 2014 (JUBA) – The recent detention of youths with critical views in South Sudan’s border state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, has raised concerns of further tension and defections in the region, where more than 300 youth have already joined the rebel faction led by former vice-president Riek Machar.
Several officials and youth were arrested at their homes by South Sudanese government agents on Monday, the majority of whom are believed to have supported independent candidates who contested the 2010 general elections.
Andrea Ariik Piol, also known in the area as Ariik Ayuol, was among those reported to have been arrested.
Several youth and relatives blamed Dut Ugueth, the director of the state ministry of agriculture, for reporting him to the security personnel, following claims he was linked to General Dau Aturjong, one of several senior military officers who joined the rebellion in May.
However, the claims have been widely disputed, with some youth alleging that Ugueth reported Piol to government agents after failing to retain a party position in the area during a recent meeting, which Piol also attended.
It’s understood the community selected Athian Dut for the position, arguing that Ugueth didn’t have adequate time to run the affairs of the party in the area because of his appointment in the capital, Aweil town.
“Actually the whole thing is about anger and the desire to maintain the position,” one youth told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday from the Dokul area in Aweil East county.
“Ariik Ayuol was reported by Dut Ugueth to security simply because he was one of the participants of the recent meeting in which he (Ugueth) was asked to step down from the position of being SPLM payam (district) chairperson because he is always in Aweil town,” he said, adding that Ugueth had failed to attend party meetings and other activities, even during the campaign period for membership registration.
In a separate interview with Sudan Tribune, a security officer confirmed that Piol had been detained in connection to a report received from county commissioner, Awet Kiir Awet and Ugueth alleging Piol had been in contact with Aturjong.
The officer said they had also investigating claims Piol was mobilising youth to rebel against the government and that threats received by Ugueth were made by youths known to Piol.
“We want conduct [an] investigation so that we know the truth. We have already looked into his phones and we [have] found no evidence that he communicates with General Dau because all the numbers we have tried did not go to Dau,” the security officer told Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity.
A state official claimed the government is carrying out a “relentless campaign of intimidation” against critics, arguing that such activities would increase tension and lead to further insecurity in the state.
“I see that the government is not handling this situation carefully. The clamping down on free expression and peaceful assembly has serious implications for human rights and individual liberties and I would like the caretaker governor to show strong leadership here,” he said.
However, another official claimed the caretaker governor was already fuelling the situation.
The Juba-based MP told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday said that he had received a number of “disturbing reports” over the past few days of government officials reporting people with critical views to security agents, saying some had already been jailed in several locations across the state.
“I want to confirm that the order of the caretaker governor authorises government agents to crackdown on freedom of expression, association and peaceful getting together as friends to exchange ideas on issues of mutual concerns, some of which could be social matters,” he said.
“People are [being] arrested without being informed of the cause of their arrest. Groups and civil society are reportedly being capriciously denied [the] go-ahead by the authorities to meet publicly,” the MP added.