The Residents of Gondokoro Island of Juba County in Central Equatoria State on Tuesday accused the South Sudan People`s Defense Forces (SSPDF) of massive mistreatment during last week’s disarmament.
They accused the army personnel involved in the exercise of blatant arrests, extortion, and harassment.
Speaking to reporters in Juba, Ramadan Juma Wani, Head Chief of Gondokoro said on Sunday the forces rounded up some 500 youths before mercilessly beat them up.
The administrator alleged that each youth was asked to pay SSP 50,000 ($50) or risk detention in an unknown place.
He said the first group deployed on 24th December was professional while the second group, deployed on 31st December was ruthless and brutal in handling civilians.
“On 31st December, was on Sunday, we had a very big problem, SSPDF soldiers came and started beating up chiefs, youths and extorting money from them. We do not know the whereabouts of 19 people arrested by the forces including four chiefs. We have not heard where they are,” Juma said. Juma said villages have been left empty.
‘I called the executive chief ,Jacob and he told me he was arrested yesterday (Monday) and released this (Tuesday) morning. We are all living in fear, our security is not good, our chief called Martin was fined SSP 500,000 or two cows, we pleaded with them and they told us to pay SSP 250,000 immediately,” Juba stressed.
He said during the operation more than 500 youths and children were frog matched and beaten mercilessly.
‘Some are in hospitals even after they were fined SSP 50,000 each, we have foreigners who were also beaten and fined, some people have been displaced to Juba around Juba na Bari area,” Juma added.
Kandida Juan, women representative said, “what happened to us on 24th December, soldiers came to our area to disarm but did a very professional work, they even borrowed utensils from us and cooked their food and left but the group that came on 31st December were another group who were very violent we don’t know what sort of disarmament it is”.
She said the rogue soldiers did not spare children whom they tied down and whipped. What kind of disarmament is this where even chiefs are arrested, up to now children aged 15 to 16 have been taken to an unknown place, we want to know why they came to mistreat us,” she lamented.
Charles Joseph Wani, Juba County Commissioner condemned the atrocities committed against the civilians and called on relevant authorities to investigate the incident.
“I condemn what happened in Gondokoro in the strongest terms possible because the people who have been given the disarmament job have failed. I want to appeal to the President and the Central Equatoria State’s Governor’s intervention for the immediate release of those who have been detained,” Wani said.
He further demanded investigations against the commander who deployed the unruly soldiers to Gondokoro.
“The assignment is clear, that they should go and disarm, don’t beat civilians, take their property, don’t do anything but they did the reverse, the law is not in their hands, they went and beat children, rape women and youths, detained and the chiefs. This is not what we wanted,” Commissioner Wani said.
Efforts by Radio Tamazuj to reach the SSPDF for comments were futile but the SSPDF Spokesperson Maj. Gen Lul Ruai Koang said by phone that he was not in the country, neither does he have a representative in his absence.