South Sudan jail break standoff resolved

Tuesday October 9 2018



South Sudan. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

South Sudan. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By FRED OLUOCH
More by this Author

The standoff at the South Sudanese high security prison in Juba was resolved following the behind-the-scenes intervention by some Western powers, government sources revealed.

The assurance that the protesting inmates would not be harmed was one of the reasons they agreed to surrender on the evening of October 7, the sources said.

All the prisoners at the National Security Service Headquarters, commonly known as the Blue Room, were also assured of not being separated, or transferred to other security installations.

Political detainees

The prisoners, the sources revealed further, were promised free and fair trials in a court of law, and that their families and lawyers would be allowed to access them.

Another promise was the implementation of the presidential decree of releasing political detainees and prisoners of war.

The standoff started on October 6 when about 200 inmates, led by businessman Kerbino Wol, protested against being detained for long without being tried and for being denied basic human rights, such as sufficient food and medicine and access to families and lawyers.

Aggravated charges

The 200 out of the total 400 Blue Room inmates, overpowered some guards, broke into the armoury and armed themselves.

The action forced the South Sudanese security forces to surround the prison in Jebel Kujur with military trucks and tanks. However, the standoff was resolved less than 24 hours later after the family of Mr Wol and community elders convinced him to surrender.

Later, Interior minister Michael Chiengjiek announced on television that the crisis ended peacefully. However, it was not clear whether Mr Wol was separated from the rest of the prisoners and whether he would face aggravated charges.

Mr Wol—the proprietor of the KAS Security Services—was arrested on April 27 in Juba on allegations of working with rebels, planning a coup and assassinations. His close associates have dismissed the reasons for his arrest as “fabrications” concocted by some high ranking military personnel that were not comfortable with his success in business.