1 February 2013

South Sudan: 'No Human Rights People' Allowed Into Lakes State Prison

Juba/Rumbek — Young men arrested in relation to recent violence in Lakes state will be held at a special secret prison without access to their own lawyers or human rights officials, the troubled state's new military caretaker governor has said.

Prisoners at the special prison, which is in an unknown location in Rumbek, will only be accessed by a government appointed attorney, Maj-Gen Matur Chut Dhuol said on a visit to Cueibet County on Thursday.

"No human rights people" will be able to visit this prison nor would families be able to visit relatives held there, the acting military governor said.

"You and your God will stay in that prison" added the caretaker Governor, who replaced Chol Tong Mayay on January 22. Mayay was sacked without warning by South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, apparently because he had struggled to maintain security in the state.

Earlier this month, clashes between sections of the Dinka ethnic group erupted in Rumbek Central county, killing 25 people and injuring more than 30.

On Tuesday, Dhuol directed the commissioners of all eight counties in Lakes state to confront cattle raiders in their communities and bring them to justice.

He has also warned members of Lakes state's legislative assembly to stop debating politics in parliament, saying he will shut down parliament if political topics continue.

In a rally at the Cueibet County headquarters on Thursday, Dhuol said he had been appointed to oversee security reform and bring peace back to the state. Those who raided cattle from neighbouring states must immediately to return them, he said, warning that the military would retrieve the cattle by force, if they were not returned.

Dhuol warned that chiefs and commissioner who fail to return looted cows will be sacked and arrested.

DISARMAMENT

Thousands of young men still have illegal firearms in Lakes state, despite a disarmament campaign initiated in 2010. Dhuol has ordered firearms registration to start immediately, but no deadline for the process has been announced.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir directed the Lakes State caretaker Governor to carry out an immediate, comprehensive and unconditional collection of illegal weapons held by civilians and unauthorised groups, according to a senior government official.

Kiir, in a briefing with the new interim governor, reportedly said he does not want to hear any more reports from Lakes state about people being killed in ambushes or by cattle raiders.

"The mission we gave you is to ensure that law and order is restored in Lakes. You have to initiate and draw up clear action plans to bring stability to the area. Our people should learn how to live in peace so that they would be able to enjoy the benefits of being in an independent state. We did not fight for independence so that we could turn against ourselves when freedom we wanted is gained", an aide quoted President Kiir as telling Dhoul over the phone on Friday.

The president also instructed the conduct of thorough searches for weapons in the state and the immediate identification and arrest of ring leaders in connection with an attack in a dispute over grazing land and water in a rural area in the eastern part of the state, between rival clans from the Dinka Agar ethnic group.

"One of your immediate tasks is to form [a] fact finding committee to conduct a full and thorough investigation to establish the root cause. The committee should identify the ring leaders and make necessary recommendations on which the government will act. The law will deal with those who will be found involved. Whatever their political or social status will be, they will have to answer justice. There should be no excuses for inciting violence and killings", added Kiir, during the telephone conversation with the interim military governor.

The caretaker governor, a source at the presidency said, told president that he has held series of meetings with county commissioners and key members of state legislative assembly to chat a way to bring peace and build trust between communities in the area.

In January, armed clansmen with modern weapons, allegedly from Rumbek East County, clashed with members of a rival ethnic group in neigbouring Rumbek Central County, forcing them to retreat into Rumbek town, capital of Lakes state.

The initial attempts by the state authorities, including a night-time curfew and deployment of extra soldiers and police, did not immediately contain the clashes. It is widely believed that this is what could have led to the sacking of the former governor.

Lakes state is one of the many areas in South Sudan were pastoral communities have repeatedly clashed over access to grazing land, water resources and cattle ownership.

Neighbouring Jonglei state has been undergoing a disarmament campaign since March, but cattle raids and insecurity still persist.

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