A Kenyan military officer is among four peace monitors who were detained and tortured by South Sudanese security agents on Tuesday.
The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldier, identified as Major Chemjor, was in the company of a Sudan Armed Forces officer and another from the Ethiopian army. Their driver was also detained.
They are international peace monitors with the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMVM), the agency setup by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) to monitor the implementation of the cessation of hostilities and peace agreements that President Salva Kiir and several opposition groups signed recently.
The Mechanism reports to both the Igad Council of Ministers, chaired by Ethiopian Foreign Affairs minister Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, and the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) headed by a Kenyan, Lt-Gen Augostino S.K. Njoroge, on an interim basis after its chairman, former Botswanan president Festus Mogae resigned.
In a protest letter to the Igad Council of Ministers chair Dr Workneh, the CTSAMVM chairman Maj-Gen Desta Abiche Ageno called on Igad to “publicly condemn the incident and demand that the TGoNU (Transitional Government of National Unity) immediately investigate the crime and hold the perpetrators to account.”
Maj-Gen Ageno said the team was detained for more than four hours when they attempted to access a South Sudanese’s People Defence Force training facility in Juba. They had visited the centre to investigate an alleged violation of the peace deal when the incident occurred.
“During their detention, the CTSAMVM team was physically assaulted and abused by being blindfolded and handcuffed, kicked and stripped down of their clothing,” the letter reads.
“The perpetrators of this grave assault — a total of approximately 10 men, some of whom were in military uniforms — deprived team members of their money and items such as a silver wedding ring and threatened to kill the driver for having transported the team to the Luri training facility,” Maj-Gen Ageno wrote.
The incident is likely to raise questions about Juba’s commitment to cessation of violence and peace agreements that President Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar signed.
On Thursday, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs principal secretary Macharia Kamau expressed shock over the incident.
“We are shocked and appalled at the reports that we are getting. We are still investigating the matter to determine the integrity of the information that we have received,” he said.
“Should this information be found to be true…we shall take the necessary and resolute action commensurate with the nature of the occurrence,” Mr Kamau went on.