Prisoners disarmed guards and seized control of part of a detention centre in South Sudan’s capital Juba, the state security service said, and a detainee said the inmates taking the action were political prisoners seeking freedom.
A National Security Service (NSS) statement said the stand-off started when a prisoner, Captain Keribino Wol, overpowered a guard at the prison’s entrance and seized his weapon on Sunday.
“We’re fed up and we’re protesting systematic injustice and oppression. All political prisoners and detainees need to be released or given fair trial. The lack of trials is illegal,” Wol told Reuters via phone from inside the prison.
The revolt occurred at the detention centre at Blue House, headquarters of the National Security Service.
Wol, the NSS statement said, “mobilised criminals in detention, established a force of 15 and took over part of the prison where he forced prisoners into a human shield to protect him from protection forces.”
The detainees subsequently disarmed five guards. A total of 32 guns and some knives were seized by detainees, the NSS said.
Authorities opted “to engage Captain Keribino to disarm him peacefully for the safety of the other prisoners.”
South Sudan has been gripped by conflict since late 2013 when rivalry between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar deteriorated into clashes between their supporters, then civil war.
Last month Kiir’s government signed a peace agreement to end the war which uprooted a quarter of the country’s 12 million population and devastated the economy.
On October 1 the president’s spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, told local broadcaster Radio Tamazuj all political detainees were released under the terms of a separate agreement.
Wol told Reuters they reached an agreement with authorities.
“We reached an agreement with government to lay down our weapons…we are asking for access to lawyers and to fair trials. We are afraid we will be tortured,” he said.
He said he was detained in April and held without charge since then.