South Sudan’s opposition leader in parliament said government security forces arrested and beat him and seven other of his party members yesterday, two days before the region becomes independent.
Three party activists were picked up in the regional capital, Juba, while hanging posters calling for South Sudan to guarantee human rights, said Onyoti Adigo Nyikwec, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Democratic Change’s parliamentary leader. Five others were detained at their office, he said. Army spokesman Philip Aguer denied the army ordered their arrest.
“They think we are an enemy of the government,” Nyikwec said in an interview. His lip was swollen, and one of his teeth was broken, injuries that he blamed on the security forces, he said.
The oil-rich Republic of South Sudan becomes independent tomorrow after a 21-year civil war with the north that claimed about 2 million lives. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have urged President Salva Kiir’s government to take action against members of the security forces guilty of rights violations.
“It should make sure that rank-and-file soldiers and their officers, as well as the police service, know and understand their obligations, and are held accountable for violations,” Daniel Bakele, Africa director for New york-based Human Rights Watch, said in a June 30 report.
The arrests came a day after the 171-member parliament passed a transitional constitution that will be in force for at least the first four years after independence. Only five people, including Nyikwec and one member of the ruling party, voted against the document.
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