South Sudan calls for “unconditional” release of 14 officials

September 24, 2017, 10:17 am

(JUBA) – The South Sudanese government on Saturday called for the “unconditional” release of 14 officials captured by rebels on Wednesday near its border with Ethiopia.

Dickson Gatluak, a military spokesman for the armed opposition faction loyal to the First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, said armed youth linked to exiled rebel leader, Riek Machar detained at least 14 members of the peace delegation in Akobo county, Bieh state.

"SPLA-IO is calling for the unconditional release of 14 members of peace mission delegates who went to Akobo purposely to embrace and disseminate peace messages," Gatluak said in a statement.

"These persons are not for military mission but civil administrators who are there on the ground for peace," he added.

Among those held captive, he said, is the commissioner of Akobo county, Tut Chai Riek, stressing that all the detainees’ are civilians.

“We urge the local authority specially the youth from greater Akobo to grantee the safety and health of the detainees. These individuals must be treated as peace makers, but not prisoners of war,” he said.

The armed opposition faction is yet to comment on the fate of those allegedly detained.

The South Sudanese civil war, now in its fourth year, has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions since its eruption in 2013. But a peace agreement signed in August 2015 between the country’s warring parties led to the formation of the much-anticipated Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU).