South Sudan: Western Equatoria Denies Link to Arrest of Former Agriculture Minister

Juba — Western Equatoria State has denied reports alleging that it sanctioned the arrest of the state's former Minister of Agriculture, Charles Yoere, claiming that it has no information about the arrest.

The state's Minister of Information and Communications, Charles Barnaba Kisanga, said on Saturday that "the government has no hand in this" unless a criminal act had occurred in the state capital Yambio that he was not aware of.

Kisanga said that if the security services informed the government that there had been an arrest then he would release a statement. Western Equatoria State Governor Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro is currently in Juba

Sudan Tribune was not able to independently verify the actual cause of the arrest although multiple sources from Yambio claim that the manner in which Charles Yoere has been arrested suggests that some "powers from above" ordered his arrest.

Civil society groups and human right defenders in South Sudan repeatedly complain about the arbitrary arrest of individuals by the young nation's security apparatus acting on the directives of the senior government officials wanting to silence their critics or due to lack adherence to constitutional provisions.

A government source in Yambio told Sudan Tribune that Yoere's arrest mirrors that of the former commissioner of Maridi, Adel Sandrai, who was arrested in May 2012. Governor Bakosoro has distanced himself from the former Commissioners arrest, saying he did not order it.

The government source in Yambio said questioned whether such arrests could be made without the approval or knowledge of the state Governor.

"It is constitutionally clear that the governor of the state is the head of the security committee. I am forced to say Western Equatoria will never be same again because the electorate is now witnessing what our leaders are doing."

Officials in Western Equatoria State are "preaching water and drinking wine" the government source said.

He added that "the recurring news of arrests, whether justified or not, will only divide the people of Western Equatoria who have been a model of unity in South Sudan. I am not saying the minister of information or the state governor is responsible for this disturbing situation, but as a government, you are the most informed citizens of the state."

If the Governor and Information Minister do not know what is happening, "then who else has the right information?" asked the source.

"Is Western Equatoria State turning into a police state? I think the question of frequent arrests in the area begs an answer from your cabinet. Silence will only taint the hopes for re-election for some of your cabinet members in the next election", he advised.

Bakosoro was the only independent to win gubernatorial elections in April 2010. He has since rejoined South Sudan's ruling the SPLM.

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