The Office of the South Sudan President says it is in “disbelief and utter puzzlement” due to “utopian reports” that Juba killed over 600 political prisoners.
At the close of last month, South Sudan’s armed opposition leader, Riek Machar, accused President Salva Kiir’s government of allegedly “slaughtering hundreds of political prisoners” in the country.
Speaking at a press conference held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Machar alleged that the South Sudanese government killed nearly 600 political prisoners on 25 August, the day before president Kiir signed the final peace deal to end the conflict.
“They were political prisoners in custody under the government’s military intelligence,” Machar said.
“We question the political will of the government. Is the government serious to implement the agreement or do they have divisions?”
Machar asked the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-Plus and the international community to look into the matter.
The Office of the President has issued a statement describing the report as “utopian and exceedingly farfetched and wanting”.
The report quoted by National Courier, says South Sudan has no political detainees since the release of former 10 SPLM members.
The statement challenges the rebel leader to disclose the names of the alleged political detainees, their families and where they were kept.
The statement concludes that “it is unfortunate for the rebel leader to accuse the government of slaughtering non-existing political detainees.”
Delays ceasefire workshop
Meanwhile, Machar has written a letter asking the head of the IGAD mediation team to suspend a ceasefire workshop that aims to bring together senior military and rebel officials to discuss the security arrangements of a new peace agreement.
In the 3 September letter addressed to IGAD Special Envoy Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin, and quoted by Radio Tamazuj, Machar explained that his group needed to conduct internal consultations before nominating officers to participate in the ceasefire workshop.
“We are requesting adjournment of the workshop until when the [SPLM-IO] National Liberation Council has adopted the agreement in a meeting we have scheduled for 10th September, 2015,” Machar’s letter reads in part.
But the government minister of information and broadcasting Michael Makuei Lueth told reporters on Friday that he had received an e-mail message from the mediation claiming that the delay of the workshop resulted from a delay in sending the list of the participants to IGAD and logistical problems.
The IGAD timetable requires holding ceasefire workshop within 14 days of the signing of the peace agreement.
It would be the platform at which the two sides would determine the declaration of disposition of their forces down to battalion level and establish demilitarized areas as well as withdrawal routes and cantonment.
The workshop would also determine assembly areas for their troops.
Other functions of the workshop will be to determine the size of forces to provide security in selected towns.