A Kenyan military officer, one Major Chemjor, is among the South Sudan peace monitors who were detained and tortured by security personnel on Tuesday.
The Kenya Defence Forces officer was in the company of a Colonel in the Sudan Armed Forces and another in the Ethiopian army, all being international peace monitors with Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMVM). A driver who was with the three was also detained.
The agency is a Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM) set-up by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) to monitor the implementation of the cessation of hostilities and peace agreements President Salva Kiir and several opposition groups have recently signed.
The Mechanism reports to the Igad Council of Ministers and the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), the latter headed by another Kenyan, Lt. Gen.
Augostino S.K. Njoroge, on an interim basis since former chairman, retired President of Botswana Festus Mogae left.
In a protest letter to the chairperson of Igad Council of Ministers who is also Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, 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.”
In the letter, Maj. Gen. Ageno says the team was detained for more than four hours when they attempted to access the South Sudan People Defense Force’s Luri Training Centre in Juba.
They had gone to the military training facility to investigate an alleged violation of the 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 team driver for having transported the team to the Luri training facility,” stated the CTSAMVM boss in the letter to Dr Gebeyehu.
The incident is likely to raise questions about Juba’s commitment to cessation of violence and peace agreements President Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar signed.
Moreover, since the peace monitors work for a monitoring and verification set-up of Igad which has been instrumental in seeking to mitigate the humanitarian crisis and cessation of violence in South Sudan, the sanctions if any will likely be severe on South Sudan.
On Thursday Foreign Affairs PS 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.