UPDATE – Leading South Sudan editor arrested as tensions simmer


By Parach Mach

JUBA, South Sudan (AA) – The editor of South Sudan’s leading English-language newspaper was arrested late Saturday.

Alfred Taban, editor of the Juba Monitor, was arrested after calling on President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar to step down.

“He was arrested by National Security because they accused of him of incitement after he wrote an opinion article on Friday,” Joseph Lagu, the newspaper’s managing editor told Anadolu Agency.

He said the National Security Service had ordered the newspaper’s immediate closure.

In his column, Taban accused Kiir and Machar of failing the country and lacking the political will to implement a peace deal signed last year to end a two-year civil war between their opposing forces.

Tensions between Kiir and Machar’s supporters rose to the surface last week in fighting between government troops and Machar’s former rebel fighters.

A fragile cease-fire has held since Monday following four days of violence that left more than 300 dead but Machar, who was installed to the unity government in April, remains in hiding.

One local journalist who asked not to be named for safety reasons said the authorities had cracked down on the media as pressure mounts on the parties to implement the peace deal. Eight journalists have been killed in the last five months in South Sudan, including John Gatluak, a radio manager killed in recent fighting.

The crisis is topping the agenda of the African Union summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

Meanwhile, Kenya started evacuating its citizens from South Sudan on Saturday, when a plane carrying 104 Kenyans landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Most complained of going for days without food or water. “We were just hiding under our beds praying that we would live to see tomorrow,” a businesswoman who would only give her name as Jane said.

Others complained of being robbed by soldiers. “They took our money and all our equipment as we were walking on the roads,” John Otieno said. “Some of us were being gunned down. I am just happy to be back home and I will never set foot in South Sudan again.”

Three of those who arrived are now being treated for gunshot wounds. Further evacuation flights will run until Monday, Kenya’s ambassador to South Sudan, Cleland Leshore, said.

* Magdalene Mukami in Nairobi contributed to this report.