(OurSouthSudan) – A South Sudan army faction loyal to president Salva Kiir (SPLA-Kiir) has arrested at least 17 children in Greater Mundri Counties of Western Equatoria State on allegations of being “criminal gangs.”
According to residents, the children are between the age of 15 to 20 years old, mostly boys and one girl under the age of 18 years.
Responding to the allegations, the deputy spokesman of SPLA, said the children were reported by their relatives to SPLA-Kiir and accused of being “criminal gangs” or loyal to SPLA-IO.
“These children have well known and respected families and their relatives are the ones who informed the army about their activities. The army will hand them to the police,” said SPLA Deputy Spokesman Santa Domic
It is yet unclear if any investigation has been conducted to prove the allegations but Dominic said the accused will be handed over to police to investigate the matter.
According to resident, the SPLA-IG is recruiting child soldiers in Greater Mundri and these children may not be returned to their parents any time soon.
Speaking on behave of the Greater Mundri Counties and the citizens of Western Equatoria, Dr. Wesley Bokati calls on the SPLA to release the children immediately and unconditionally.
“On behalf of the citizens of Greater Mundri Counties and citizens, I appeal to SPLA Military in Mundri who arrested these 16 boys and 1 girl to immediately and unconditionally release them and allow them to go back to their families.” Dr. Wesley said.
According to Dr. Wesley, the allegations given by the SPLA forces were not sufficient enough for the army to intervene.
“This is because, the reasons given below are not convincing to me all. Secondly, it is the duty of police to arrest individuals, investigate them and if found guilty be taken to court for trial but not the army to effect arrests.” He continue.
Greater Mundri has experienced very little peace for the last two years. Due to mistrust between the forces and the location populations, the youth in the area have been constantly arrested, kidnapped or killed by members of SPLA-Kiir.
Politicians, including the former governor of Western Equatoria, Joseph Bakosoro, have also been arrested and tortured by the forces.
Journalists and activists have also been targeted, killed or arbitrarily arrested by the government soldiers.
Most have remain in illegal detentions in unknown locations but some have been released without charges.