S. Sudan reporters and MPs arrested in Wau
Nine state legislators and five employees of the government radio and television in the capital of Western Bahr al Ghazal in South Sudan have been arrested in recent days.
The state media employees were arrested Wednesday, radio staff and relatives in Wau told Radio Tamazuj. Other reporters have received death threats by phone or text message.
The wave of arrests without warrants follows a popular uprising in Wau last month against the government’s decision to transfer the Wau County headquarters to the outskirts of Wau in Baggari Payam.
Wau Commissioner John Peter Miskin refused the transfer and resigned in October 2012. In December continuing protests were followed by deadly clashes leaving at least 14 people killed.
For decades before the country’s 2005 peace agreement, Wau was a garrison town of the Sudan Armed Forces. It also served as the capital of Greater Bahr el Ghazal.
Now some politicians of local tribes accuse the SPLM of Bahr el Ghazal of trying to take control of Wau town and relegate the Fertit to the outskirts.
During a recent visit, President Salva Kiir urged the population of Wau to accept the relocation. He also condemned the massacre of Dinka migrant workers carried out in Farajallah south-west of Wau town in an area inhabited by the Balanda (Fertit) tribe.
Just days after the Farajallah killings were uncovered, rioters rampaged through Wau prompting the intervention of the army, which occupied the town in force on 20 December.
Since then the situation has been more stable but prayer services at the Catholic Cathedral to celebrate the new year were postponed owing to fears of insecurity and rumors of a planned attack.
The five arrested journalists were held in detention in Meis al Bahr, a prison of the security service. Among the people arrested were TV Director Alor Deng and his deputy Kamilo Luchiano. Also the director for the state radio Louis Pasquale Aleu and the editor Ashab Khamis Pahal were taken into detention.
“Alor Deng was arrested by the security officers at 1 PM when he was taking his lunch,” a relative confirmed. “At first we didn't know he was arrested, but later a messenger told us that he was arrested by the security and taken to the security detention center in Wau. They have not explained why he was arrested.”
“He was allowed to come home to sleep, but he had to return this morning (Thursday). They kept his phone and his documents. He refused to talk to us about what had happened to him,” the relative explained.
According to a government official who refused to be named, the Wau Radio and TV are blamed by the governor for the bad image the government has gotten with the international community. The security may suspect the local radio and television of alerting international press to cover the issue.
Since the start of the conflict in Wau eight journalists have been arrested, some of whom were later released, including reporters of the Catholic FM station Voice of Hope, the independent shortwave station Radio Tamazuj, and another employee working for the government radio station. “I even do not know why I was arrested,” said one of the journalists after he was released by the security.
Members of state legislature arrested
At least nine state legislators have been arrested in the past days, according to a government source who spoke to Radio Tamazuj. Their names are: John Richard, John Uyu, Hassan Ngor, Cisillo Elias, Hassan Harum, Julius Juma, Lino Marcello, Helen (last name unclear), and Edward Ukungeri who serves as deputy speaker.
The source, a high-ranked official, explained to Radio Tamazuj that although those members of parliament enjoy immunity the state security detained them even without arrest warrants, violating the constitution.
Besides journalists and parliamentarians, also several civilians and government officials have been detained, among whom are Naima Abass of the Directorate of Gender, Silvio, Luka Antony and John Peter Miskin, the former commissioner of Wau.
The official in an interview also accused the state government with backing of the national government of failing to respect the constitutional rights of legislators, reporters and citizens.
He asked the security “to respect the constitution and refrain from clear violation of freedom of the press, respect immunity of legislators and stop intimidating citizens.”
A wife of one of the arrested legislators urged: “Let the government if it is for the people listen to its people. The power belongs to the elected people but not to those who send their security officers to disturb the citizens of this nation.”
The governor of Western Bahr al Ghazal, Rizik Zachariah Hassan, told Radio Tamazuj the arrested people were “involved in the violence against the state.”
He said he did not know whether any of the journalists were arrested. “If that is the case that is because they were also involved,” he said. But he also pointed out that some journalists have been referred to the Information Ministry in Juba for proper regulation.
Photo: A text message sent to a journalist in Wau.
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