OCTOBER – South Sudan president Salva Kiir unexpectedly issued an executive order on Monday pardoning key opposition leaders and a number of former militia commanders.
Those pardoned, according to the state-owned SSTV, include Lam Akol, the leader of the main opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) and Peter Abdel Rahaman Sule, who heads the United Democratic Front (UDF).
While Akol was accused of allegedly supporting a rebellion in his state of Upper Nile to destabilise the country, Sule ran into trouble when he and nine others presently were arrested in November 2011 accused of starting a rebellion in Western Equatoria state.
The president, in a separate order, also extended amnesty to militia leaders notably, Gabriel Tanginye, Gatwech Dual, Mabor Dhol and Simon Gatwech Joak, accused in the past as agents and “mercenaries of Sudan”. General Tanginye and his two colleagues were taken into detention since April 2011 after his forces clashed with South Sudan army (SPLA) in Kaldak area.
It however remains unclear what prompted the president to take this decision, after ignoring several earlier appeals.
In a statement issued Tuesday, South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHURSA) said it welcomes the president’s directive to release the detainees and congratulated him for “listening to the voices that call for justice”.
SSHURSA has, in the past, strongly advocated for the release of these key political figures, claiming they had stayed in illegal military detention for more than three years without charges and neither being taken before a court of law for trial.
“This has been a violation of their rights to fair and speedy trial as enshrined in the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011,” its statement reads in part.
With their release, the president has done exactly what justice requires of him by virtue of his office, because keeping a person in a detention without charges or trial, is ill treatment, inhuman and amounts to complete torture, it added.
Meanwhile, the human right body now demands that Kiir order the immediate trial of those allegedly responsible for the assassination of South Sudanese writer and blogger, Isaiah Diing Abraham Chan Awuol, popularly known as lsaiah Abraham.
Isaiah was killed in December last year by unknown assailants in the outskirts of Juba. His killers have since not been prosecuted, despite their arrest.
The organisation, in its statement, also demands the release of all the nine young men arrested together with Sule and that the national security or military intelligence produce all those who are reported to have disappeared from the Juba and remain under their custody.
“Much as I welcome the decision of the president to pardon those militia leaders, which is a sign of peace and harmony, I do not understand what crime has Lam Akol committed for him to be included”, said a citizen, who preferred anonymity.
“The president is being misled. Being an opposition does not amount to rebellion”, he added.
Simon Deng, a native of Jonglei in Juba said he had never heard what Akol was accused of by the government of be pardoned.
“I have never heard what he was accused of. I thought he was only being criticized for staying in Khartoum. Is the pardon for having been self exiled or what I do not understand? What really has done? Can you help me?" asked Deng.
Akol, a former member of the governing SPLM, previously served as Sudan’s minister of foreign affairs from 2005 to October 2007 under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005.