Sunday, August 23, 2015

South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State Assembly Speaker Killed
August 22, 2015 (JUBA) - The speaker of South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state legislative assembly has been killed by unknown gunmen in what an officials described as an "assassination".

Western Equatoria state’s information minister Charles Kisanga said James Bage Elias was shot dead by assailants outside the capital, Yambio on Friday.

“I can confirm as spokesperson WES (Western Equatoria state) Government that the speaker of WES legislative assembly was assassinated this [Friday] evening," he said.

The state spokesman said the deceased was killed as he drove his car before it was sprayed with bullets on Uze River Bridge a few kilometres from Yambio at about 8 pm.

His bodyguard escaped and ran all the way to break the news to authorities and the family.

“It was not until 12 midnight when youth were able to reach the site and found him dead in the car. His body is now brought to his house and Acting Governor and other senior leadership are in attendance,” Charles narrated.

“More information on the incident will be coming tomorrow [Saturday]," Kisanga further informed.

It is a second time in three days that unknown gunmen killed a senior official after a journalist was killed in Juba on Wednesday.

It also came days after the former governor of the state, Joseph Bangasi Bakosoro was unexpectedly dismissed by president Salva Kiir’s decree and a day later on arrested and detained for four days before his release on Friday.

The killers have not been apprehended and their motive for the assassination of the top state legislator was not clear.

Last month, state authorities announced the disappearence of Bage at a time when tensions were high as fighting pitting members of Dinka and members of the Azande community, from which the ex-speaker hailed, created a national security concern.

He later returned to the town and said he was only visiting his village on Friday and could not return on time due to security concerns. Sources said Bage had informed his fellow colleagues in the state assembly, police authorities and government operatives in the state that some people approached him while meeting some members of his constituents and allegedly threatened to kill him. He did not reveal the identity of those who threatened him, but allegedly accused some people in government of conspiracy.

Other sources claimed the former speaker organised a party at his residence in the aftermath of the decision by presdent Salva Kiir to sack elected governor, Joseph Bakosoro. Although the intention of the party was not clear, some people interpreted this to mean Bage had openly shown support for the newly-appointed caretaker governor.

The deceased, who hailed from Yambio county, was one of the politicians critical of the manner in which appointments were being made as it allegedly ignored people from his area.

He also sought several unsuccessful nominations for the position of the state governorship This, according to many local sources from the area, had annoyed him.

A group of rebels operating separately from the armed opposition faction of former vice president, Riek Machar, also claim to be fighting against president Kiir’s government.

Western Equatoria state has also plunged into tribal conflict pitting youth from the host community of Azande, Moro and the resettling armed pastoralists from the Dinka ethnic group, where deadly clashes occurred in the state last month.


South Sudan’s Kiir denies issuing threats to kill journalists

August 22, 2015 (JUBA) - The office of the South Sudanese presidency has denied reports that the country’s leader threatened to kill journalists working against the state.

The presidency said president Salva Kiir “was quoted out of context”.

“However, the office of the president would like to categorically reject this attribution of such dangerous statement to the President of the Republic in what appeared to be smearing campaign against President Salva Kiir Mayardit,” partly reads the statement.

The spokesperson the presidency, Ateny Wek Ateny, said Kiir, while addressing reporters last week, only urged journalists to observe ethics when doing their work.

“And that they must not forget at the end of the day that South Sudan was their country. They should not betray the country which killed people during the liberation struggle,” explained Ateny.

President Kiir, his spokesperson stressed, was a keen protector of the right to freedom of expression and fundamental human rights.

“We therefore, would like to assure the international community and all journalists to discard this serious misquote of the president’s intention. Nothing shall harm a journalist when going about journalistic profession,” said the presidency spokesperson.

He said journalistic reporting is based on professional ethics and journalism codes of conduct and that the government cherishes freedom of expression and will protect all journalists in the country.

“The President of the republic didn’t have any intention to threat, or to effect killing of any life. If a journalist has failed to render journalistic duties in accordance with professional practice of Journalism, the best place for them is to face a libel either in tort or criminal law”, said Ateny.

The statement from the presidency comes days after a South Sudanese journalist, Moi Julius Peter, was gunned down by unknown assailants in the capital, Juba.

The presidency statement did not, however, mention anything regarding the killing.

President Kiir’s latest remarks allegedly targeting journalists as attracted serious criticisms from media freedom groups and diplomats from across the world.

The Committee to Protect Journalists’ representative in East Africa, Tom Rhodes said, “The leader of any country threatening to kill journalists is extremely dangerous and utterly unacceptable”

“We call on President Salva Kiir to retract his comments immediately” he added.


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