South Sudan: Kiir Defies Global Pressure to Release Political Detainees

Juba — South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has defied mounting international pressure on him to unconditionally release political detainees who were arrested last month following an alleged coup attempt last month.

Martin Elia Lomuro, minister of cabinet affairs told reporters on Friday that Kiir has no problem with releasing the politicians so long as others could be held to "account for crimes committed as the result of the failed coup attempt is produced."

Rebels who are fighting the government are demanding that the political detainees be released before a ceasefire deal can be agreed upon.

"These people have causes to answer and now the international community wants them to be set free without due process. They will be released in accordance with the constitution and our laws", the minister said.

Kiir has accused his former deputy Riek Machar of staging an alleged coup but this has been strongly denied. At talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa a delegation from the rebel groups has insisted that the detainees be released prior to agreeing to cease hostilities.

However, according to mediators from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that detainees - all senior members of the ruling SPLM many of whom were sacked from senior positions last year - said that their release should should an obstacle to attempts to reach a ceasefire agreement.

IGAD mediators received the assurances from the detainees on a visit to Juba on January 8.

In spite of this the rebel delegation led by Taban Deng Gai - the former Governor of Unity state - have continued to insist upon their release.

On January 9, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on South Sudan crisis that political prisoners arrested in connection with the violence in Juba "must" be released to enhance the ongoing negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny, also confirmed that the political detainees would be released only after all the legal processes compatible with South Sudan's transitional constitution and laws of the country are completed.

Ateny did not elaborate on the types of processes the government wants to be undertaken prior to releasing the political detainees.

A senior government official with close ties to president Kiir said on Friday that South Sudan would not accept to be blackmailed and scared by the threat of sanctions.

"South Sudan is an independent country. We expect members of the international community to show respect to its leaders, including President Salva Kiir. As the government, we do not reject advice and cooperation but that these relations should not be abused", an official who did not want to be named told Sudan Tribune on Friday.

Initially there were 13 detainees but Peter Adwok Nyaba and Deng Deng Akoon have already been released.

Those still is custody are:

Deng Alor, former minister of cabinet affairs

Pagan Amum, former SPLM secretary general

Cirino Iteng, former minister of culture

Madut Biar Yel, former minister for telecommunication and postal services

Oyai Deng Ajak, former minister for national security in the office of the president

Majak D' Agoot, former deputy minister of defence

Chol Tong Magay, former governor of Lakes state

Ezekiel Gatkuoth Lul, former ambassador to the United States

John Luk Jok, former justice minister

Kosti Manibe, former minister of finance

Gier Chuang Aluong, former minister of roads and bridges

(ST)

ST - US official dismisses alleged failed 'coup' in South Sudan

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