January 24, 2012 (SSNA) — Fangak Youth Union (FYU) would like to condemn in the strongest terms possible, the illegal detention of civilians at the SPLA unit’s barrack by the commissioner of Fangak County recently. We totally condemn this act that does not only violate the individual’s rights of these civilians under the law but also the constitution – both the transitional constitution of the republic of South Sudan as well as the Jonglei state constitution, which clearly stipulates that no civilian is to be detained at a military unit or barrack, whatever the circumstances are. Hence, the act is illegal and thus contravenes the letter and spirit of the supreme law of the land – the constitution!
While strongly condemning this illegal act by the commissioner, it might be useful and even relevant to shed some more light into this situation that had precipitated this act which we are now condemning as opposed to condoning it. On Sunday the 8th of January 2012, there was an incident in Phom, the county headquarters, in which a rakuba in the commissioner’s compound was burned down by an unknown person or people at around 12: AM local time. Whoever did this, it was totally wrong and as such it was a criminal act, which no law-abiding citizen would do or encourage people to do under any circumstances. We condemned this ever since. We had expected the commissioner to follow the due/right legal procedures and to let the law take its course by first carrying out a thorough investigation initiated by the criminal investigation department’s agents without any sort of emotionality and hasty generalization, whatsoever. It’s by gathering concrete information from different sources that material evidence would emerge and this would then be followed by arresting the suspects, including those police personnel or the guards who were on duty that night when the incident occurred or took place.
However, and for whatever reasons, this did not happen as we’d initially thought or expected; what happened was something of a different nature. The commissioner, by consent, instead of approaching the case smartly and rightly from the start, his security agents (most said to be untrained) heavily man-handled the case and cracked down on anyone believed to be a dissent or anyone who for political reasons, doesn’t like the political come-back of the commissioner? As a result of the incident that burned down the commissioner’s rakuba destroying public properties (the chairs, TV set, etc), four (4) suspects were arrested and detained at the police custody before being sent to the military intelligence for further investigation into the case. One (1) most wanted man (actually the prime suspect No.1) escaped on hearing about the crackdown. The four suspects accused of involvement in the burning down of the rakuba are now under the hands or detention of military intelligence/SPLA unit in Phom. We wonder which law in South Sudan permits a civil administration to hand over a civilian to military personnel/intelligence. Supposed these men are ill treated and tortured by the SPLA’s MI, as it’s usually the case, who is will be held responsible for this?
There are two or three wrong steps here in regards to this case: firstly, the four suspects are civilians and should never be taken to military detention. Secondly, the law says that any person accused of any wrongdoing should be detained in the police custody for period not exceeding more than twenty four (24 hrs) hours after which he/she should be brought before a competent judge for trial. That is as per the civil and criminal procedures act, 2003 and 2008. The law also says an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty otherwise, and in accordance with the law. Unfortunately, there has grossly been violated! The other most sinful and wrongful act was the burning down of the prime suspect No. 1’s house, setting on fire two other homes belonging to other people by an unknown person/people at 12: AM local on the 19th of January, 2012. It’s commonly believed that the commissioner’ aides might have carried out this sinister move in retaliation to the burning of that rakuba burned down in commissioner’s compound. The peculiarity though is that no single suspect has been detained for questioning over the burning down of these three homes. The details of those whose homes were set on fire at night are as follow: 1. Gatwech Koang Toang (prime suspect No.1) 2. Dobuol Badep Yoah (a JIU soldier) and 3. Dobuol Maet, a trader.
The way forward/way out of this situation:
1. We call on the commissioner to return those currently detained at the SPLA barrack and hand them back over to the police within 24 – 48 hours. Failure to heed to this could lead to a dangerous path unprecedented.
2. We urge the commissioner to allow the law to take its course and determine the fate of or the nature of crime these people have committed and be charged or acquitted in accordance with the law without any political malice or sort.
3. We call upon the commissioner to immediately form a committee (neutral) of inquiry in order to investigate the latest burning down of the three houses and report its findings within the shortest time possible. Apprehend the culprits and let them face the law since no one is above the law. Supposed children who were just innocently sleeping were burned inside the houses, was that not also a crime against humanity?
4. We also urge the commissioner to have a sense of political tolerance and sense of humanity. Suppressing political dissents deemed ‘enemies’ through security apparatus is a dead end and will never succeed. Also, on the same note, any government that fights back with full force and or translates any slight suggestions for change into disapproval of leadership is or will inevitably fail to win support from majority of citizens; and will thus be treated with contempt and suspicion! Besides, the way the commissioner handled this case or acted is not the way a person in authority commands respect from his subjects, neither is it how moral responsibility or authority is claimed; it’s how it’s finally lost and surrendered. Coercing people into obedience through the use of disproportionate force does not work in this 21st century of democratization era!
Finally, we would like to categorically state that what the commissioner has done and continue to do is totally against the spirit of our congratulatory message, which urged him ‘to work for peace, unity and progress for all’ the people of Fangak without distinction on the basis of political differences, camps whatsoever. We would also like to mention that we did not keep quiet over this long period because we condoned what happened on the ground, but we thought the commissioner would use the advice we offered him on the 8th of January, 2012, in order to rectify the situation. We don’t condone the action by those who burned down the commissioner’s rakuba either. This is a situation where we have a less evil and a lesser evil!! We are the voice of our people at the grassroots level, hence, we cannot burry our heads in the sand when people’s rights are blatantly violated and suppressed. It’s noteworthy that the case has now taken a political turn because it’s like the commissioner is arresting or targeting those who are against his leadership or come-back altogether. The commissioner needs to urgently correct the situation now than later for his own political safety and for legitimacy and trust to be restored.
We have to make it crystal clear that this is not a personal vendetta against the commissioner or anybody else; this is all about condemning evil actions by those who chose to act the evil way. We have no problem with the commissioner only if his actions promote peace, unity and cooperation that are most needed amongst our downtrodden community. Unfortunately, such actions enumerated above do not promote peace, unity and cooperation amongst the people of Fangak County. The ball on commissioner’s side now:-
Signed by the Chairperson of Fangak Youth Union
Juba – head office
CC: Chairperson, State office – Bor
CC: Chairperson, coordination office – Malakal
CC: Chairperson, County head office – Phom
CC: FILE – FYU (SG)