Wau — South Sudanese police have arrested seven suspects, most of whom are local paramount chiefs, in relation to the violence following the deadly protests in Wau last week, Western Bahr el Ghazal State's minister of Information and Communications said Monday.
State officials, including minister Derik Alfred Uya have said that at least eight people died, in clashes a week ago, between the Police and protestors, who were marching to protest the state government's decision to transfer Wau county headquarters to Bagari, located 12 miles southwest of Wau town.
Western Bahr el Ghazal State's Governor, Rizik Zachariah Hassan has denied anyone was killed, the United Nations have reported that 10 people died, while an ex-Wau Commissioner has claimed that at least 25 protestors were killed. South Sudan's army - the SPLA - who have been implicated in the violence also claim that no one died in the incident.
Minister Uya said the government has formed a nine-member security committee, drawn from key security organs, tasked with clear responsibility to investigate the circumstances leading to blocking of the three major roads connecting the state with Western Equatoria State as well as Bagari and Raja County.
The clashes between protestors and members of South Sudan's security forces began when the police attempted to dismantle the road blocks established by the protestors.
The committee tasked with investigating the incident is headed by the state security advisor, Rizik Dominic Samuel, according to the state minister.
Other members of the committee include the commissioners of Wau and Jur River counties, the state's Police commissioner and director of criminal investigation department, as well as a representative from the national security services, the army and other organized forces and relevant institutions.
"We also have other independent committees. We have a committee from the national legislative assembly and committee from United Nations Mission in South Sudan. They are conducting their own independent investigation. The objective of all these committees to establish the facts", Uya explained.
He said the government is conducting a "methodical" investigation into the all the killings and damages caused after eruption of a conflict arising from a dispute over the administrative dispute.
The state minister said that he expected that more arrests will be made in addition to seven suspects, who have been arrested in the week since the armed forces were accused of firing on protestors.
Uya claimed that some people have a "hidden agenda" and are trying to cause confusion and havoc in the state.
"The truth will be found. We called on our people to remain calm", he said.
"The slogan of the state government since the youth started to express their concerns in regards to the transfer of the county headquarters has always been peaceful dialogue, discussion and lawful means, Derik Alfred Uya, Minister of information and communications," told Sudan Tribune on Monday.
The bishop of Episcopal Church of Sudan, Wau diocese, reverend Moses Deng Bol, told Sudan Tribune on Monday he personally visited Wau teaching hospital and found six dead bodies in the mortuary.
"I saw six dead bodies in the mortuary today when I visited the hospital;" Bishop Bol said, adding that he had a meeting with community members from Wau in Baggari, south west of Wau town with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Wau diocese, Rudolf Deng Majak.
"We had a very meeting today with them in the place where they buried those who lost lives during protest. We went with the message of peace and open dialogue. They talked to us and we listened to them," he said.