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August 21, 2013

S. Sudan General Detained, Soldiers Probed over Alleged Pibor Abuses

South Sudan army officials have detained the commander in charge of troops in Pibor County in Jonglei state, and are looking into accusations that soldiers under his command killed civilians and committed other human rights abuses, army spokesman Philip Aguer said Wednesday.

“Because of some allegations that some civilians have been killed, some properties were destroyed and looting took place.... the commander of the area has to answer," Aguer said.

General James Otong has been relieved of his command, but will not be formally charged until the investigation into the alleged wrongdoings by his troops has been completed, Aguer said.

In a speech last month, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir ordered army officials to arrest, charge and bring to trial any soldiers accused of committing human rights abuses in Jonglei State.

Aguer said he has so far received information on just one incident in Pibor in which two soldiers allegedly opened fire on four civilians walking to Pibor town in late July. Two women were killed in the attack and the soldiers who allegedly shot at the group were immediately detained, Aguer said, adding that the army was prepared to investigate additional reports of soldiers shooting civilians or looting property. 

Aguer declined to say how many SPLA soldiers are deployed in Jongle state, which, over the past year, has been the site of ongoing clashes between the army and rebels led by rebel leader David Yau Yau, and of interethnic clashes.

Global rights group, Human Rights Watch, released a report last month in whcih it accused the army of South Sudan of committing "serious abuses against civilians in its anti-insurgency campaign in Jonglei state" and of taking sides in a bitter and deadly inter-ethnic conflict in the restive state.

Officials with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have said more than 90,000 people from Pibor County are still hiding in the bush, weeks after they fled interethnic clashes and fighting between the army and rebels.