By Taddeo Bwambale
South Sudan will not release the nine detainees held by the Government for allegedly plotting a coup against President Salva Kiir.
The release of the detainees was one the conditions set by ex-vice president Riek Machar’s delegation, at the start of peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Monday.
South Sudan’s ambassador to Uganda, Samuel Luate on Wednesday said the detainees who are members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) were facing corruption charges.
Luate said the detainees were due to face trial by the country’s courts of law after conclusion of investigations into their alleged involvement in corruption and subversive activities.
“The Government is committed to the peace process, but it will not release the nine detainees since they have cases to answer. We are ready for peace talks without preconditions,” he said.
Luate addressed a press conference at the South Sudan embassy in Kampala on Wednesday, where he met the head of Always Be Tolerant (ABETO), a local peace organisation.
Out of 11 politicians arrested in December at the start of the fighting in South Sudan, two officials have since been released.
Machar’s delegation on Monday insisted on the release of the remaining prisoners before the talks could begin, claiming that the prisoners were key members of his working team.
According to Luate, the detainees are among 75 officials probed on orders of President Kiir over alleged corruption that saw the country lose up to $4m.
The envoy accused Machar of deploying children in combat zones, saying government forces had exercised restraint and withdrawn from Jonglei state.
“Machar is using children as young as 12 to turn up in large numbers and fight the SPLA. If we open artillery on them, what message shall we be sending?”
“Our forces withdrew from Jonglei state because Machar deployed a white army of 45,000 children as a shield. If he wants to fight, let him fight the army,” Luate stated.
He said government would take over Jonglei and Unity states held by rebels in a few days.
According to Luate, the security situation in the country’s capital, Juba, has improved and citizens and foreign nationals are free to return and work.
“The country is largely peaceful and life in Juba is normal. Shops and other businesses are open. There is no panic because government has put logistics together to ensure peace,” he said.
The envoy said the Government of South Sudan would soon take over the two states of Jonglei and Unity which are still under control by rebels loyal to ex-vice president, Riek Machar.
ABETO chairperson, Moses Musana condemned the attempted coup in South Sudan, warning that forceful change of power could create unrest similar to the situation in Egypt and Libya.