South Sudan: Civilians Working For IGAD Arrested At Malakal Airport

By George W. Mut, corresponent, Bentiu

Updated at 8:25PM, July 27, 2014(PST).

Malakal Town before the current conflict. The town is  located in Upper Nile State in northern South Sudan, 521 Kilometres from Juba(Photo: Fortune of Africa)

Malakal Town before the current conflict. The town is located in Upper Nile State in northern South Sudan, 521 Kilometers from Juba, the national capital(Photo: Fortune of Africa)

July 27, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — Reports obtained by Nyamilepedia’s Editorial Team in Malakal confirm that upto Six civilians, who were hired to offload the Intergovernmental Authority on Development [IGAD] luggage at Malakal airport, were arrested on Friday afternoon.

According to the IGAD representative, interviewed by Nyamilepedia’s correspondent, the civilians were arrested to be interrogated because they were identified as members of Nuer ethnic group. The government soldiers accused them of spying on their operations in Malakal.

In an interview with Hatim Hassen Abdalla, the team leader of the IGAD monitoring and verification team who is currently in Malakal to observe the violators of the secession of hostility agreement, the correspondent has learn that the young people were hired by the IGAD team to offload a plane to a nearby truck.

“I was telephoned that there is a problem between the soldiers of the government of South Sudan and the people we hired in the airport to take baggage and luggage from the plane to the car” reported the IGAD team representative at the airport that time.

Mr. Abdala said he went immediately  to meet the commander in charge of Malakal to intervene and present him his account, however, the commander hesitated claiming that the men are spies.

Mr. Abdala believes that the laborers ran when the rain start to shelter at the airport terminals where they coincidentally met the soldiers, who were waiting a flight to Nasir.

“They found the SPLA Soldiers sitting at the airport terminals drinking tea and asked them why are you coming here?” Abdala recalls.

“because it is raining and when the rain stop we will return to our work” answered the terrified Nuer civilians. “No no you are espies” added the soldiers who immediately arrest them.

The six civilians were later released after IGAD intervention. They are taken to the UNMISS camp in Malakal, alll safe and sound.

In a separate interview with the people at Malakal airport they say they were arrested mainly because of the re-enforcement that was being airlifted to Nassir at the time.

Puok Gatluak one of the laborer who was arrested said the soldiers described him as a person “bearing death marks” referring to the Nuer forehead traditional marks before the IGAD secured their release.He said that he will never accept to do anything beyond the UN gate again until the end of the crisis.

Fighting erupted in Juba in mid December after forceful disarmament of members of presidential guards, who were alleged to be body guards of Dr. Riek Machar, the former vice president. Machar denied any connection with the guards saying that the presidential guard unit is under one command of Salva Kiir, the president.

The conflict later spread to 8 out of ten states, affecting mostly the three states of the oil rich Greater Upper Nile region.

The conflict runs along ethnic dimension with majority of the Nuer supporting the former vice president, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, and the majority of dinka tribe supporting president Salva Kiir. Others tribes, majority of which are either neutral or support either side.

Regional and international community have put pressure to both parties to stop the civil war and commit to the IGAD mediated peace talks but very little has been achieved.

The stalled peace talks will reopen at the end of this month, however, the objective of forming an interim government of national unity within 60 days seems unlikely to be achieved within the intended time frame.

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