U.S. Calls on President Kiir to Release the Detained SPLM Leaders

Washington, DC, January 7, 2014 (SSNA) — The United States has urged the South Sudanese President Salva kiir Mayardiit to release all detained SPLM senior members.

Kiir accuses the imprisoned officials of an “attempted coup”, a claim widely interpreted in South Sudan as an ‘inside job’ intended to eliminate anyone who defies Kiir’s leadership.

“We do believe that to be meaningful and productive, senior SPLM members currently detained in Juba need to be present for discussions on political issues which are happening in Addis,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

“To help move these talks forward, we urge the government of South Sudan to uphold its commitments and release political detainees immediately”, she added.

The U.S. sees the apprehended SPLM leaders as “political detainees” not “coup plotters” and wants them to be part of peace talks in Ethiopia. In another development, the European Union (EU) has on Tuesday joined the U.S. and urged Kiir to let go all SPLM officials who are in custody.

Last month, United States Called for “immediate mediated political talks” in South Sudan and urged the warring factions to come to a negotiating table.

Meanwhile, South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said releasing the arrested officials will send a bad signal.

“There is no way we can be asked to release people who are arrested and charged”, Michael Makuei told reporters.

“Freeing the detainees would set a bad precedent”, he asserted.

Political differences between senior officials of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party went unresolved in the December 14 meeting of the National Liberation Council (NLC).

In that meeting, the senior leaders of the SPLM who do not agree with Kiir’s leadership pulled out of the meeting, labeled the process as "undemocratic", and accused the party Chairman (Kiir) of “dictatorial tendencies”.

Fighting erupted on the 15th of December 2013, in Juba when one unit of the presidential guards was being suspected of an incursion by another group.

The next day (December 16), President Kiir, dressed in full military uniform, declared in a news conference that his political rivals attempted a “coup” and that the plan has been crashed.

At least 1,000 people have been killed and many more are still missing. The United Nations (UN) estimated that more than 200,000 people have been displaced.

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