Press Statement From Isaiah Chol Aruai After His Release.
Feb, 6/2015 (Nyamilepedia) — [This is the transcript of press briefing by Isaiah Chol Aruai, the chairman for South Sudan’s National Bureau of statistics to reporters in Juba on Thursday.]
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank God first of all for having saved our lives. We also want to take this opportunity to thank our communities, the people of South Sudan for the warm reception that they have accorded us. We are also happy to have our Archbishop [Daniel Deng Bul] with us here and having prayed for peace in general for South Sudan. As for us – we are three.
Two of my colleagues [Jacob Aleer Longar and Mading Akueth] are employees of the Lutherans World Federation [LWF] and myself; I work for the government as the chairman of the National Bureau of Statistics.
It happened that we were all in Panyagoor [Twoc East county, Jonglei state] and we were booked to come to Juba. Instead of coming to Juba, the helicopter decided to take the SPLA/SPLM in Opposition area and we landed in a place called Jiech. That place is purely controlled by the forces of Riek Machar. And we were received and we were asked to identify ourselves.
We did identify ourselves. But after they realized that we were from the Dinka ethnic group, we were told that there is an outstanding order, there is an outstanding order in the area by the military governor that Ugandans and Dinkas are not supposed to access their areas for whatever reasons – for various reasons. But in short, we were arrested and we were investigated but we were humanely treated. We were not mistreated. There was no question of torturing, we were not tortured but we were humanely treated. After we were investigated, of course there were some local people.
The SPLA [in oppositions] soldiers who were there, were very good. They handed us professionally. But then there were some youths around. You know this area is inhabited by people whose sons might have been killed during the struggle. So they feeling is still very high; particularly for me when they know that I am a government employee it created some serious concern.
The rest of my colleagues simply because they work with the UN but their crime was been from Dinka ethnic group. But in any case the officer who was in command, a Lieutenant colonel called Gatjang, decided to control the situation to the extent that he took us to his own house for protection. At about 8pm, they communicated with the military governor Gabriel Duop Lam who was in another station. So he gave orders that we should not be mishandled and he went to the extent of calling me from his radio and I talked with him. He assured us that nothing will happen to us. And advised that we should, because that place according to him was not secured, so he gave orders that we have to walk. In fact we walked the whole night.
We started at eight in the evening. And that was the difficult the difficult part of it. Some of us have not walked for quite a while after the peace [in 2005]. So we walked. We started at 8pm and we arrived the station where he is at 8am, the following day. So we were exhausted. He went and met us. He talked to us and he assured us that we were secured and that he would communicate chairperson who is Dr. Riek Machar. Riek personally called us and I talked to him and he assured us that we will be safe. So there were a lot of pressures, people talking. Our people also, Dr. Majak [D’Agot] talked, Taban Deng and many others talked. So in fact, we are safe.
We are happy to back. It was a very serious situation where we were but I think God works in a very mysterious way. The place where we were supposed to be landed, we were not going to be us. If there were not radio, we were going to finish from there. But we went to another place called Jiech where there was radio so it was easy to communicate with overall commander. The acting commissioner of Ayod was also very good in reporting to the military governor in a very short time. I think that is all that we want to say that we were treated well. Even today, when we left they have to slaughter a goat for us as a farewell. When we came to the airport, the military governor also came to the airport.
He waited for us until we took off. That is the time he left the airport. So we appreciate, we thank him for his humane way he was treating us. We are also thanking the leadership of the SPLM in Opposition in the person of Dr. Riek for having quickly acted on our request. We also thank our people and the government for having given pressure to the UN system because we were actually brought by the UN security team that went to bring us. So we are thankful to everybody including the press. We thank you very much the coverage that you are doing. Thank you very much.
Question from a news reporter: Do you think there is something South Sudanese can learn from the experience you went through?
“I think there is a lot to be learnt. One is the issue of using the UN flight. One must be sure of where you are going. You have to make sure that you know the direction and the destination you are going so that you don’t fall in the same problem we felt in.
Two, we have realized that many of our people are distinguishing civilians especially SPLM leadership. They have made a distinction between the civilians and the armed soldiers. And that is why we were spared. Otherwise if they were to act indiscriminately, we would have been killed. So they gave us the chance to explain ourselves because they realized that we were civilians. But the general suspicion was there because how come we would go to the area of the SPLM in Opposition without any permission from any source. So it has given us the idea that South Sudanese are South Sudanese.
At the end of the day, there is an idea of peace will come. The question is when? And everybody is yearning for peace. You go to the soldiers I think they are looking for peace. You go to the civilians they are looking for peace. So they are trying to see one day South Sudanese will come together regardless of their ethnic background. So I think that is the lesson we have learnt from that. Thank you.”