Several of the SPLM-IO members have been arrested by security forces during the launching of the party’s secretariat in Rumbek town on Sunday, a senior official has said.
The SPLM –IO Political Bureau and Chairperson of the National Mobilization and Organizing Committee, Agok Makur said the team was led by the Secretary-General of the SPLM – IO, Regina Joseph Kaba.
Makur pointed out that some of their supporters were also rounded up and their whereabouts are not known, a claim denied by the spokesperson of the Lakes State government.
He said that the chairperson of the state human rights commission Malok Makol Bol was among those arrested along with other senior staff.
But Bol was later released following an intervention from the deputy governor, Poth Madit Dut.
The others, according to Makur, are still in the detention facilities and some are reportedly missing.
“We were shocked when our member was arrested. He did not commit a crime, he was arrested because he’s the chairperson of the human rights commission in the state here,” said Makur.
“He was arrested by the security forces here, but the deputy governor intervened, and he was released immediately,” he added.
Makur said others are still in the detention facilities, and the rest missing.
On Thursday, the Secretary General of SPLM-IO, Regina Joseph Kaba led a delegation to Lakes State, to launch the party’s office.
Regina Kaba was, however, spared from the arrest.
Prior to the squabble with security organs, Regina Joseph Kaba had said she was delegated by the party chairperson, Dr. Riek Machar to launch the state office.
She said some of their supporters, found wearing the blue T-shirt, were also arrested.
“After we went to the office of the SPLM-IO for the launching of the office of the SPLM – IO in Rumbek, some of the security arrested a big number of the citizens who were wearing blue T-Shirts of the SPLM-IO, but also some are still missing.”
Kaba appealed for political space and freedom of expression in the country.
“I came to see and witness and open the state secretariat, and we want political space, people should feel free and talk. We are in our land and should not be threatened, people should talk,” she said.
In response, the state Minister of Information William Kwoji confirmed the arrest of the official.
Kwoji said the incident was triggered by disagreement between security organs and SPLM-IO members who wanted to slaughter a bull at the airport.
“There were issues in the airport, it is an incident that a bull was to be slaughtered for the coming visitors, but here in the state, it has been a policy that bulls are only slaughtered when the president is the one coming or the governor,” he said.
The SPLM official and state government spokesperson termed the incident a debate that has been resolved.
“So this is what caused the debate between the security members and those who were struggling to slaughter the bull. Otherwise, one of the guys was taken briefly, and based on the directive of the governor, he was released immediately.”
When asked about the SPLM-IO supporters that were also detained, Kwoji said the security officials acted unlawfully, and that they are all freed upon the directives of Acting Governor Poth Madit.
“Some of their members were also intimidated, those who were putting on a blue t-shirt. So yesterday, the deputy governor intervened, because he is the deputy governor here.”
“And finally everything was resolved and nobody is currently in detention. Yesterday, they resumed their meeting and today their meetings are ongoing,” he said.
Four months before the incident, the SPLM-IO Commissioner of Yirol West County resigned from his position due to “humiliation” by the state Governor, Rin Tony.
In his resignation letter dated 14th April, Andrew Acheng informed Dr. Riek Machar as chairman of SPLM-IO and copied Governor Rin Tueny, and his deputy Poth Madit Dut.
Acheng stated that his resignation came as a result of unlawful arrest and unilateral appointment of SPLM-IG politician executive director, who denied him the right to use the residence of the County Commissioner.
He also cited sabotage and responsibility interference, intimidation, security threats, and illegal search of his private residence.
The former commissioner said he was humiliated after he was detained at the Babur-Zeit Military prison and later expelled from the county by the Governor.
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