South Sudan: Western Equatoria Set to Free Ex-Minister of Agriculture

Yambio — Western Equatoria state government had released the former state minister of agriculture, who was arrested in the first week of November for allegedly accommodating a relative accused of paying a group of youths to assassinate the state governor, Joseph Bakosor Bangasi and number of his cabinet members, top level state officials said on Friday.

"The former minister was immediately released the following day. He was not kept in the prison. The minister was called by the intelligence [services] to just answer some questions. It was not an arrest," Hana Adu, Deputy in the Western Equatoria State Legislative Assembly told Sudan Tribune on Friday

Adu said the incident took place in the absence of Bangasi and other senior members of the cabinet. "I remember the Governor and other members of the cabinet were in Juba when the former minister was called for questioning by the intelligence," explained the state legislator.

She explained on that on 7 November Bangasi went to Juba in order to meet the national Minister of Roads and Bridges about the issue of making the trunk road from Juba to Yambio and up to Tambura. "The Governor and the accompanying delegation then flew straight to Tambura on Friday the 9 November for the Centenary Cross mass in Tambura. The state Minister of Information and Communications remained in Juba to follow up on other matters relating to his Ministry," said Adu.

State minister of information, communications and tourism, Charles Barnaba Kisanga, also confirmed the release of the minister and asserted that the government did not play any role in the arrest of the ex-minister.

Kisanga told Sudan Tribune that the "Western Equatoria Government had no role to play in the brief detention of former the State Minister of Agriculture, which was stopped immediately the when government learned of it."

Kisanga said the ex-minister was briefly called by the intelligence services to answer some questions inquiring about the whereabouts of a relative who was arrested in October after the intelligence services claimed there was information pertaining to his involvement in a plan to assassinate Bangasi and a number of his cabinet.

The accused, he said, was identified as Sasa Yore, brother of the ex-minister of agriculture.

"Sasa Yore and two others were detained by military Intelligence around 15 October, after the other two alleged that Sasa Yore had paid them to assassinate some Western Equatoria state officials including the Governor," added the source.

After two people turned themselves in, claiming they were paid SSP180,000 (US$41,000) by Yore to assassinate Bangasi, he was arrested but escaped from the prison where investigations were being carried out, "so the the intelligence [services] decided to go and ask the former minister whether he has any information about where he escaped," said Kisanga.

Government sources in the state claimed in series of interviews with Sudan Tribune that in September Yore wrote a petition he distributed to many top officials in central Government of South Sudan, making accusations against Bangasi.

"I personally did not get the letter but those who have seen it said it covered a number of issues including reports about intimidation, mismanagement of public funds and claims that the Governor had connections with the opposition Sudan People's Liberation Movement for Democratic Change during the campaign in 2010 election," an anonymous Juba official told Sudan Tribune on Friday.

According to another source, Sasa Yore, a brother to ex-minister of agriculture was, in late September, arrested in Juba and transferred to Yambio, claiming that the car used did not belong to the police but was from the state Ministry of Commerce. In Yambio, Yore was put into police custody without investigation and his relatives were not told about the case against him.

The anonymous source told Sudan Tribune that no case was filed against Yore and that enquiries about the reason for his arresst were greeted with references to "orders from above".

The official claimed Bakosoro on 10 October in Yambi said that he had "received information that some youths were hired to assassinate him but they have abandoned the mission," and that "one of your boys here hired people by giving them SSP180,000 South Sudanese Pounds to kill me. His name is Sasa Yoere."

The source also claimed that Bakosoro believed that there was antagonism against him because he was perceived as "working to bring foreigners to the state."

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