Political detainees released in South Sudan


South Sudan freed five political detainees and prisoners of war, although none appeared to be senior rebel officials, a category of captive whose release is required by a peace deal signed last month.

South Sudan plunged into war two years after independence from Sudan in 2011 when a dispute between Kiir and then vice-president Riek Machar erupted into armed confrontation. More than 50,000 people were killed in the violence and more than two million have been forced to flee.

On Thursday in Juba, a National Security official who did not give his name told reporters release of the prisoners was in line with the peace deal signed in September in the Ethiopian capital.

According to a Reuters witness, the five men freed did not appear to be senior members of the main rebel faction led by Riek Machar, formerly vice president of South Sudan. Under the peace deal signed by government and several rebel factions, senior officials of the factions should be released.

There is confusion over the fate of detainees, though the issue has long been a sticking point in successive peace deals that failed to end the war.

Some men still detained by the Juba government have been sentenced to death, including Machar’s former spokesman James Gatdek Dak.

On October 1 the president’s spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, told local broadcaster Radio Tamazuj all political detainees had been released under the terms of a separate agreement.

Less than a week later, prisoners at the national security agency’s main detention centre, known locally as “Blue House”, disarmed guards and seized control of part of the centre. A detainee told Reuters the inmates taking action were political prisoners seeking freedom.