How, Who and Why of My Arbitrary Arrest in Juba

By Dr. James Okuk

“No civil servant shall be favoured or victimized because of his or her political opinion.” {RSS Interim Constitution, 2011 article 139(l)}.


November 6, 2011 (SSNA) — In the first place I would like to thank all those who have expressed their solidarity with me when I was arrested, detained and imprisoned in Juba for almost two weeks without due legal process as enshrined in the Interim Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan (2011). I also appreciate the views of those who wished me bad situation of carrying my own cross and rotting in the oppressors’ detention cells and prisons for ever.

It was a very difficult moment not worth forgettable, but thank God and my courageous soul that I didn’t break down in those inhumane places that I was locked in. Of course those terrible places are known as “Factories for Manufacturing Manhood” (Masna Elrujal in Arabic) as I read it on one of the colonial detention cell walls still being used by the so-called liberators ruling in South Sudan now. What a continuation of the bad and unfortunate past! God save us from the evil of ourselves and adoption of colonial inhumane practices in the new Republic of South Sudan!

Reading from the comments and articles written in reaction to my case, I couldn’t imagine that I have many supporters and lovers in South Sudan and abroad. I deeply thank all of them from the bottom of my good heart. Thank God that I am alive and kicking normally now as before, though I am still a prisoner inside Juba till further notice. Perhaps, it is high time for me to request naturalization to Bari community man with permanent resident in Juba. Right now I am feeling as if I have risen from among the dead with a new discovery of what I couldn’t have known among the living rational animals in this human world.

With this epigrammatic preamble I have now the pleasure to tell in brief what has happened to me regarding how I was arrested, who did it and why it was done to me arbitrarily with a motive of humiliation and criminal-like mistreatment in Juba.


In the afternoon of October 21, 2011 (Five Hours after my arrival in Juba), some men who verbally called themselves CIDs and Security agents came to the premise of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of South Sudan in a hunt for diplomat called James Okuk. They first got hold of a wrong young man who happened to be tall like me and from the same ethnic community as myself.

When I came to ask about what is happening as I was hearing my name being pronounced as the most wanted one, they immediately rushed at me and one of them snatched my diplomatic passport from my chemise pocket. They ordered me and the diplomat with the mistaken identity to get into a private car parked at the door of the Ministry.

I refused to get into the dark car till they show me their IDs and Warrant of Arrest with official information to the ministry before I could get kidnapped. Immediately pistols were out and cocked with a strict order that I get inside the dark care or else face the consequence of a pulled trigger. Many friends around me advised me to comply with the militant orders to avoid any evil news coming out from the unfortunate situation.

As the dark car and the accompanying ones drove me and my colleague away, I could see diplomats and Ambassadors (who were present at the scene) scared from the situation. They could not tell what will be our fate as the circumstance of our arrest remained mysterious and to un-unknown place where I was kept incommunicado as my cellular phone and diplomatic passport was confiscated by the security agents.

Two days after my lock-up in a very dirty and unhealthy detention cell inside Juba, the Counsel-General of the Government of South Sudan in the Ministry of Justice and an investigator officer called me into an office to take my statement. They carried a file carrying a compilation of five articles associated to the style of my writings in internet websites. One of the articles carries a black and white photo alleged to be mine and with cartoon drawings about police scandal in Rejaf.

The alleged sources that published these articles were,, and The article titled “South Sudan Paradox: Joyful Independence, Sorry Leadership” seems to be the one leading in the complaint that I have been writing against President Salva Kiir. The investigators inquired whether the photo is mine and whether I wrote the alleged articles. They also asked whether I am a member of SPLM-DC and what connection I have with Dr. Lam Akol. I was also investigated whether I know that civil servants are supposed to keep their mouth shut when it comes to the country and its leaders. They also asked me whether I know that my articles are read everywhere in the world on the internet.

I requested that I be allowed to go through those articles but was denied to do so except looking at the titles only. Hence, I confirmed what I saw only to be looking like some articles I wrote in 2010 and before 9th July 2011. But I told them that I cannot guarantee the contents of those articles till I read them properly in a sane environment. I also asked them about the good articles I wrote in praise of President Salva Kiir and why some of them where not compiled for the lawsuit as well in order to make it a fair case.

After the close of the investigators’ questions, I asked them to tell me the charges that provoked my arrest. I also requested from them to tell me exactly who sued me? They declined to give me an answer except that it was not their duty to tell me about the charges and the person who opened the case against me. They only could tell that a Security Lt. Colonel in charge of the Protection Unit of the President of the Republic is the one who signed a letter carrying a heading of the Office of the President, and requesting that I be prosecuted for the compiled five articles allegedly associated with my style of writings.

I asked them whether I have the right to be bailed out but they told me that the case is above them and they have nothing to do in this regard until the judge takes my confession, and perhaps allows me to be released if deemed necessary.

After this I was thrown back to the inhumane detention cell for another three days before I could be taken to a judge for the legal confession. During these days neither food nor water was provided by those who arrested me. I slept on a bare dirty ground without a cover. Rain beat me inside the cell at one of nights so badly. Going to outside toilet (though it was very dirty) at night was not allowed. The prisoner has to release himself inside the cell.

Later after three days, two armed policemen in green uniform together with the investigator came to take me to a court in Juba centre. I told the judge what happened in Arabic language as he could not speak and write in good English. He wrote down my statement and asked me to stamp the lined paper with my blue-inked thumb. He also declined to tell me the charges and the name of the person who sued me. After this the policemen brought me back to the inhumane detention cell near Juba Town Market.

Two hours later, the detention cells’ police guard opened the lock and told me to follow him without any question. Outside the inhumane detention cells, I found the investigator and two armed policemen who accompanied me to the court ready to transfer me to the Juba Central Prison. They handed me to the Prison Police Officers who oriented me on the situation there and how I am going to be put together in one compound with those who were convicted of many crimes (including juveniles and murderers), those waiting trials, and those imprisoned for madness and stripping themselves naked. I was strictly warned not to talk politics to anybody inside the prison.

Then, the prison warders’ police told me to take out my socks and shoe ties before they took me inside. I complied and got in to become prisoner for eight days where we are locked up in the wards at five o’clock in the evening and then locked out after six o’clock in the morning daily. The government provide food here but no clean drinking water.

But it was a terrible experience to eat what you are not used to, drink water and tea whose source you never know, and be together with naked madmen and those wearing chain for being convicted for murder and waiting capital punishment in guillotine for the end of their lives in this world in a very brutal manner as it used to be in the French Revolution. It was an interesting social life as a prisoner and with prisoners at the same time and in the same place in Juba. The law implementation agents have not treated me innocent till proven guilty. I was forced to be in prisoners’ uniform like any other criminal.

Eight days later I was called to the office of the manager officer of the prisons who told me that I am wanted by my investigator at police station. Two policemen were outside to escort me. The investigator told me that the Prosecutor-General of the Government of South Sudan has ordered that I be release but on a strong bail, that I should never travel outside Juba, and that failure of the person who would bail me out to bring me to the court on the day of trial would amount to a fine of 100,000 South Sudanese pound.

A number of individuals were ready to bail me out but most of them were rejected on a ground that they are members of SPLM-DC. At the end a director of one of the banks in South Sudan was accepted to bail me out after seven hours of negotiation with the investigator. Official Police Letters concerning my travel ban were sent to the airport and immigration office in Juba as instructed by the Prosecutor-General.

Finally I was released at 06:00 p.m on 2nd November 2011 and went home to rest as I was suffering from serious flue, perhaps coming from what I was inhaling when in prison. I am now living inside Juba but not different from a prisoner who is permitted to walk alone (dowar Brawo in Arabic) in the city and come back to the prisons anytime when needed to appear.


Though any citizen or government has a right to sue a matured citizen for a criminal or civil charge, I think the due legal process has not been followed in my case, and perhaps, in many other cases. There is nothing in the civilized world called a case from the office of the president should be treated above the law itself. Where is the Equality of law for everyone in South Sudan even when he is not the President? When did the Security men who are supposed to be responsible for physical safety of the President became legal counsels to ask for legal suit for someone perceived to have gone critical on the president? Is there no legal advisor of the President to take care of such specialized matters if they are really genuine?

There is nothing in the interim constitution of the new republic that prevent a civil servant of expression his opinion as a citizen as long as he does not use his position in the government to support the opinion. In my articles on internet and some that have been published by newspapers, I have never alluded by any chance that I write as a diplomatic representative of the government. Where does the question of a civil servant criticizing his president and the government arises here? Even article 139(l) of the Interim Constitution of South Sudan allows civil servants to express their opinions without being discriminated nor victimized for doing so. I quote: “no civil servant shall be favored or victimized because of his or her political opinion.”

Not only this, but also if it becomes a cross-cutting rule that civil servants in South Sudan are not supposed to be associated with political parties or politicians, will not most of the government employees be dismissed in their current positions as a big number of them are registered members of SPLM party? Will multi-party democracy makes sense and where will South Sudan get enough voters and political mobilizers from?

Let those who want me to resign or have the ill motive to dismiss me from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation look for a credible reason for their action. After all they should rest assured that a highly qualified young man like me has many avenues of employment inside South Sudan and even abroad if pushed to a forced exile.

If some of my writings are seen to be against the former president of the government of Southern Sudan, H.E. Gen. Salva Kiir, I expected to have been approached for an apology as it is commonly known in the media world. This could have been done long time ago in 2010 or early 2011 when the articles I wrote were still fresh to make contextual and milieu sense. Since South Sudan became an Independent state I have never written any article on the president or against South Sudan as it is being propagated by those running after my sincere soul these days in Juba. I know my borders and write on what I critically know.

If those articles went personal against Mr. Salva Kiir as a citizen, why was it not clearly indicated even by the judge who took my legal confession that it was Mr. Kiir who sued me for damaging his image? If it is a police case why should the security agents keep my cellular phone and diplomatic passport up to now since the day of my release on bail?


I doubt whether President Salva Kiir can lower himself down to sue a young Southerner who is a PhD holder like me and from a different generation. President Kiir is the generation of my father and nothing would have made me to write against his leadership style if he were not the top boss of the government of Southern Sudan by then.

Also my critique to his leadership was not meant for harm but improvement as all human beings are born to make mistakes and learn from them. I am one of the people who want to see President Kiir a very successful leader to be recorded in South Sudan history apart from independence achievement resulting from the overwhelming votes of Southerners in 2011 referendum.

I am sure our dear President Kiir has benefited from my free-of-charge articles because I also wrote positive articles about his leadership. I am sorry if some of those articles have hurt him as a person but until I hear this from him directly. What has been said and done could have been put into his mouth without his knowledge and by those who may think that doing so will please the President to keep them in the job or reward them with promotions. Some of those flatterers could be from my very own Collo (Shilluk ethnic community) acting behind the scene by using foxily someone working in a very sensitive security area in the President’s Office.

Time will tell and the whole truth will come out sooner or later. If I wronged the President I will be ready to rot in prisons and let my children become street children as no one would take good care of them as I would have done. I will also be ready to apologize and demand amnesty and mercy from the President’s kindness with a promise that I will stop being a writer.

All in all, what has happened and what is still being awaited to happen is part of the challenges of the building of the new nation. I will consider it a sacrifice worth paying for. Genuine calls for public reforms are said to be generated by abuse and mess-ups of government powers. Perhaps my case would become part and parcel of the causes that will provoke reform of the law implementation agencies in the Republic of South Sudan. I am not going to take it as a personal issue nor will I develop hatred against anyone involved negatively in this case even if he is a judge.

I love my country, South Sudan. I will remain and work for its betterment whatsoever comes on my way. I will never get intimidated or discouraged even if mistreated and humiliated. It is a commitment if not a promise!

Dr. James Okuk is South Sudanese and a PhD holder from University of Nairobi. He is now residing in Juba and could be reached at [email protected]

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